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An outdoor adventurer's guide to Ontario

An outdoor adventurer's guide to Ontario

Ontario’s cities and epic nature live side-by-side. Shop the major urban centres in the morning and climb a mountain or hit the waterways in the afternoon. It’s that easy. Ontario is an outdoor adventure capital abundant with wilderness escapades and stunning landscapes. 

Venture into the wilds of Ontario with this outdoor adventurer’s guide.

Hiking Algonquin Provincial Park
Hiking at Algonquin Provincial Park

Adventure by land

Ontario boasts 270 provincial parks and six national parks, each one brimming with unique adventures.

Firstly, these parks are the ultimate hub of hikingExternal Link Title. More than 1700 kilometres of hiking trailsExternal Link Title crisscross the province through diverse terrain on short treks, day hikes or week-long trips. Delve into the 100 metre-deep Barron Canyon in Algonquin Provincial ParkExternal Link Title, marvel at the picturesque Chutes Provincial ParkExternal Link Title waterfalls, or test your physical fitness by climbing "The Crack" at Killarney Provincial ParkExternal Link Title, a series of huge tumbled boulders. Each experience will leave you wanting to delve deeper into Ontario's tranquil wilderness.  

For those who like to take it higher, Ontario offers incredible rock climbing and bouldering. Popular climbs include the limestone peaks along the Niagara EscarpmentExternal Link Title and the rock walls of Bon Echo Provincial ParkExternal Link Title. Once you've conquered the mountain facades, head inside for some potholing. Take a cave tour and hunt for fossils at Bonnechere CavesExternal Link Title in Eganville or explore the seven Warsaw CavesExternal Link Title, carved by glaciers during the last ice age.

From two feet, move to two wheels. Similar to hiking, Ontario is blessed with more kilometres of mountain biking trails than you could possibly conquer in one lifetime. Abandoned logging roads, steep descents, deep forest routes; you name it, Ontario has it in spades. Single Tracks has compiled a list of the province's mountain biking trailsExternal Link Title with handy information on the degree of difficulty and length of trail. Not sure where to start? The Bruce Peninsula Mountain Bike Adventure ParkExternal Link Title and Sir Sam's trail networkExternal Link Title are both popular local picks.

Brave the gravity-defying adventures found throughout the province and earn bragging rights back home. Cross the Eagle Canyon Suspension bridgesExternal Link Title, almost 50 metres above the canyon floor, or walk through the tree canopy of the Haliburton Forest and Wildlife ReserveExternal Link Title. Zipline 300 metres over Heart Lake in BramptonExternal Link Title, or strap in for a tandem hang glideExternal Link Title through the skies above Waterloo. Bungee jumpExternal Link Title 45 metres above the Ottawa River, or go skydiving in TorontoExternal Link Title or NiagaraExternal Link Title

Adventure by snow

As the seasons change and the weather gets a little colder, a new group of outdoor adventures become accessible to those who love the snow and ice.

Skiers and snowboarders can hunt down powder across a number of different mountains in the province. If you're visiting Toronto, Blue Mountain ResortExternal Link Title is only a couple hours from the big city, and the largest ski resort in Ontario. If you're in Ottawa, Calabogie Peaks ResortExternal Link Title has the highest vertical slope in Ontario, at almost 240 metres. Multiple mountains and resorts are scattered elsewhere throughout the province, from Mount St. Louis MoonstoneExternal Link Title in Coldwater, to Devil's Elbow Ski AreaExternal Link Title outside of Peterborough, and Horseshoe ResortExternal Link Title in Barrie.

Horseshoe Resort is a great place to try fat biking. This is the mountain biking winter equivalent, allowing you to bike through the snow on two wheels thanks to some extra-wide tires.

There's nothing quite like experiencing a Canadian winter with a team of furry, four-legged friends. Ontario is home to many dogsledding teams, ready to pull your sleigh through the snow at a cracking pace. The real power of these animals is displayed during the province's dogsled races, including Marmora SnofestExternal Link Title near Peterborough and the Kearney Dog Sled RacesExternal Link Title north of Huntsville. If dogsledding sounds a little tame, try your hand at skijoring. Visit Magnetawan's Quiet Bay Log MotelExternal Link Title or Woodland EchoesExternal Link Title, strap some cross-country skis to your feet, and let the dogs take you for a ride.

The vast wilds of Ontario also provide plenty of opportunities for ice climbing. Fasten spiked cleats to your shoes, grab a couple of ice axes, and take off on a 90 metre-high ice route, or stay closer to the ground and learn the ropes. Join Outdoor Skills and ThrillsExternal Link Title for a guided climb of beautiful sites around Thunder Bay, or try ice climbing and winter caving close to Toronto with One Axe PursuitsExternal Link Title.  

Ottawa River Rafting - Credit: OWL Rafting
Ottawa River Rafting - Credit: OWL Rafting

Adventure by water

'Ontario' is an Iroquoian word meaning 'the land of shining waters' which is the perfect description for the province. Over a half million lakes and waterways can be found within Ontario, meaning there are about a half million ways to have an adventure on the water.

If you love to get out onto white water, the Ottawa River is a great place to start. In fact, the Ottawa Valley is known as the Whitewater Capital of Canada. Choose one of the local rafting companiesExternal Link Title and, with experienced guides at the helm, safely splash and roll through one of the world's great whitewater routes. Whitewater canoeing is also available on six different rivers at Algonquin Provincial ParkExternal Link Title. These incredible rivers take on new life during the spring melt when the water levels rise.

Algonquin Park - Credit: Voyageur Quest
Algonquin Park - Credit: Voyageur Quest

For a completely different way to power through whitewater, sign up for a Whirlpool Jet Boat TourExternal Link Title of the gorge on the lower Niagara.

Experience Ontario's many waterways from under the water's surface. Head to the 1,000 IslandsExternal Link Title region, strap on your scuba gear, and dive the region's 200 shipwrecks. Fathom Five National Marine ParkExternal Link Title in Tobermory is also home to over 20 shipwrecks, and is one of the most popular scuba destinationsExternal Link Title in Canada.  

Kiteboarding is a 'must do' on the list of water adventures. Take advantage of the wind and waves in Georgian Bay and become a pro with Blue Mountain KiteboardingExternal Link Title. You can also take lessons from the Toronto Kite ClubExternal Link Title without leaving the comforts of the city. 

Ready to start planning your adventure? Visit the Ontario Travel website.