Kawarthas Northumberland offers a tremendous variety of trails year round, with some hiking and biking routes transitioning perfectly to winter sports. A number of dedicated organizations offer rentals and lessons for beginning or occasional cross-country skiers so lack of gear won’t keep you from enjoying the season. Whether you’re interested in classic nordic trails or skate skiing, here are our top picks from the region.
If you’re looking to introduce someone to the joys of cross-country skiing, bring them to Kawartha Nordic. If they’re a longtime skier, bring them to Kawartha Nordic. The premiere destination for skiing in the region has options tailored to all styles and skills, including 46 km of classic ski trails, 27 km dedicated to skate skiing, 9 km of snowshoe trails, and even a 2 km night skiing loop.
Classic skiers can choose between a range of wide, immaculately groomed trails and less-travelled backwoods options, or mix and match between well-marked routes based on time and inclination. Rustic cabins sprinkled throughout the property offer a chance to rest and warm up with a thermos of hot chocolate. It’s also a great place for the athletically minded to train — classes are available for kids as young as four, and courses continue all the way up to the master level.
Ten minutes’ drive from Burleigh Falls, Kawartha Nordic is just far enough north to see more snow than some southern alternatives. In 2018, trails had already opened in November. If you don’t have your own gear, the well-stocked rental shop has packages and day rates for most types of equipment.
Speaking of Burleigh Falls, If you’re coming from a distance look into the Burleigh Bundle from the Burleigh Falls Inn. The package combines cozy accommodations, local food options, and a Kawartha Nordic ski and snowshoe pass for winter weekends between January and March.
These trails aren’t mechanically groomed, but you’d have to get up pretty early in the morning to be the first to break trail. A dedicated core of skiers keeps the Northumberland County Forest Trails track set and ready. The seven core loops range from 1.6 km to 13.3 km, but it’s easy to add onto a custom route or cut things short if your plans were overly ambitious. All trails wind through the serene snow-covered forests of the Oak Ridges Moraine. Many provide a significant challenge thanks to steep hills, especially the Hog’s Back section, which rewards the climber with a striking view of the woodlands below.
With no admission fees and extensive wilderness trails, this is an outdoorsperson’s dream. Just be aware there are no warm-up cabins along the routes, so come dressed for the weather and with any supplies you need for the trail.
Another excellent option north of Port Hope is the Ganaraska Forest Centre. 35 km of trail pass through pine and hardwood forest, including groomed and track-set options. Check out the trail map to plan your route in advance. You can rent both skis and snowshoes from the Centre, which makes this an accessible option for anyone without the requisite gear. There are enough hills and dells to get your heart rate up, too, so you might just entice a downhill fan to join you on this one.
If slogging up a hill herringbone style isn’t your idea of fun, it’s possible to stick to the relatively flat and straight sections of the Trans Canada Trail. Sections run throughout Kawarthas Northumberland and offer a reliable go-to for skiers in the region. You’ll need to arrange a pickup if you’re not turning back to the car, but there are regular access points along the entire length — you’ll run out of steam before you run out of kilometres of trail. The section between Omemee and Peterborough crosses scenic Doube’s Bridge, beloved of cyclists in warmer weather. Trees often grow close to former railbed, so you may find yourself passing through fairytale corridors of snow-covered boughs.
You’ll want to save the spelunking for a less icy season, but Warsaw Caves remains a compelling winter destination thanks to its 13 km of ski trails. The Limestone Plain Trail is particularly well suited to the sport, running alongside a gorge above the Indian River before heading into the cedars for a contemplative woodland experience. The entry fee of $3 is modest, and it’s close enough to Lakefield and Peterborough that you’ll feel like you’re out in the country while still shaving a little time off the winter driving to your accommodation or cafe of choice.
If you read our post on fall trails, you’ll notice another returning recommendation. The same qualities that make Ken Reid Conservation Area great for mountain bikers translate perfectly into ski season. This park offers a genuine woodland experience, but the ups and downs are gentle so it won’t intimidating to anyone who hasn’t mastered their snowplow downhill technique. Loops lead through forests, meadows, and woodlands, punctuated by fine wintry views across Sturgeon Lake. Just minutes from Lindsay, you won’t be far from some warming comfort food when the ski’s over.