Staging Eastern Ontario Day Loops…
Related: Ride Upper Canada Snowmobile Region
Our Supertrax crew chose to snowmobile Smiths Falls for a quick three-day long weekend in mid-winter. It’s a snowmobile-friendly destination that’s not too crowded. That’s one reason we picked it and here’s the rest of the story…
The Province of Ontario is huge. In fact, its million square kilometre land mass makes Ontario larger than either Alaska or Texas. The province also has over 30,000 kilometres of maintained snowmobile trails, often cited as “the world’s largest recreational trail system”. So, when it comes to planning a short Ontario snowmobile adventure, your first decision is where to ride. After all, you can’t do the whole thing in one trip!
Discover Eastern Ontario
One good choice for a quick getaway is Eastern Ontario. It’s home to about 20% of the provincial trail system operated by the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC). This heartland of rural Ontario is located in the southeast corner of the province. It’s bounded on the south by the St. Lawrence River, and to the north by the Ottawa River and Algonquin Park. On the south side, it also shares the international border with the State of New York, and its eastern boundary is with Quebec.
From a snowmobiling perspective, Eastern Ontario includes two active and dedicated entities. The more southerly one is the Upper Canada Snowmobile Region (OFSC District 1). The one to the north is the Snow Country Snowmobile Region (OFSC District 6). These two adjacent regions are linked by Trans Ontario Provincial (TOP) Trails. Each also provides a myriad of local trails ripe for exploration and generally decent snow conditions in a normal winter.
Destination Smiths Falls
But even Eastern Ontario is too much territory to ride in a short visit. Even for an experienced group like ours, comprised of Al & Andrew Fletcher, Dan Carty & Jim Heintzman. So, with only three days available, we looked at what self-guided loops are available staging from one central location. This narrowed our destination choice to the Town of Smiths Falls in Lanark County. With a population of 8,780, Smiths Falls is big enough to offer a full range of amenities and services for snowmobilers. It also retains its hospitable, small town friendliness and a charming, vibrant downtown.
Most important, TOP Trail E runs right through town. This trunk trail provides easy access to interesting day loops in every direction. And best of all for our three-day visit, it also offers direct trail access to a convenient and well-appointed staging hotel.
Staging From Best Western
We stayed at the Best Western Smiths Falls (See Where We Stayed) for four nights and three days of riding. The Best Western Smiths Falls provides ample truck & trailer parking, plus sled parking in front of its ground floor rooms. Reservations include a complimentary hot breakfast, and there’s a gas station right across the street. Each room also has its own mini-fridge and reliable Wi-Fi. And the front desk is open 24/7.
Smiths Falls Restaurants
Meanwhile for a town its size, Smiths Falls boasts a plethora of tasty eateries. They all appeared to be doing a bustling business. In fact, with so many outstanding choices, we wondered aloud if any residents ever stayed home for dinner!
We hungry snowmobilers sampled several great restaurants for our nightly diners (See Where We Ate). Each location was about a five-minute drive from the Best Western. What’s more, our treat-loving group were thrilled to discover a Dairy Queen right across the street from the hotel. It quickly became our nightly go to for frozen goodies!
Where We Rode
We selected three day lop rides with additional trail options available to extend each ride if so desired. Each loop also offered numerous lunch-stop choices and no shortage of places to gas up as needed.
Moreover, each of the Upper Canada Snowmobile Region and Snow Country Snowmobile Region publish excellent paper trail guides to assist with navigation. In addition, both regions show trail updates and conditions on the OFSC Interactive Trail Guide, also available as an app.
From the Best Western, we snowmobiled three loops. Our 286-kilometre Day One started going south around Athens towards Brockville and the St. Lawrence River. Then, our route swung east and north to within a stone’s throw of the Ottawa Airport. We lunched at the popular Red Dot Café in Osgoode, where we also fuelled up. Afterwards, we hightailed it southwest past Kemptville and Merrickville on our way back into Smiths Falls.
Day Two, we travelled 288 kilometres, including northbound on north on TOP Trail A. Between Ottawa and Arnprior, we swung east on local trails towards Constance Bay. Then we stopped at Pakenham for fuel after lunching at Bridges Grill & Pub. From there, it’s an easy ride south through Carleton Place back to the Best Western Smiths Falls.
We couldn’t leave Lanark County without a meal at the famous Wheeler’s Pancake House. So, our 221-kilometre Day Three found us westbound through Lanark towards Wheeler’s location on Local Trail 1 south of MacDonald’s Corners. After a maple syrup infused lunch and sugar camp museum tour, we steered our sleds east again through Perth to Smiths Falls. This brought us back early enough for some of our group to trailer home that night.
Of our three loops, this one had the fewest towns & services on route. But each of Lanark, Sharbot Lake and Perth have gas stations. And Wheeler’s is a unique lunch stop!
More Reasons To Snowmobile Smiths Falls
I highly recommend Smiths Falls as a staging destination for day loops. Thanks to multiple trail choices, each of our rides could easily have been either shorter or longer to suit our daily preference. While our expectation was to ride plenty of farm country in Eastern Ontario, we were pleasantly surprised at the diversity, including woodlands, bush lots and variable terrain. Meanwhile, with good signage everywhere, navigation was never an issue. Nor was there any feeling of being too far from help if needed, thanks to the reassuring presence of countless farms, businesses, roads, rural villages and friendly people.
Eastern Ontario is most certainly an appealing place to snowmobile in Ontario’s Highlands. Plus, its proximity to the U.S. border, combined with good highway access, make it a serious contender for your next long weekend getaway in Ontario.
Who To Contact
Where We Stayed
Where We Ate
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The tips and advice in this blog are the opinions of the author, may not work in every situation and are intended only for the convenience and interest of the reader, who has the personal responsibility to confirm the validity, accuracy and relevancy of this information prior to putting it to their own use.