21 FEB 2018: Ontario Parks is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year, and there are literally hundreds of special events planned throughout the year, including cultural heritage programmes, stewardship activities, a concert series, and a series of legacy projects. This is in addition to their numerous recurring annual events that are offered across their expansive network. It all started in 1893 with the creation of Canada's first provincial park, Algonquin. Today, Ontario Parks protects 340 provincial parks, which encompass just under eight percent of Ontario, an area larger than both Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island combined!  

While many may think of parks as places to visit during the summer months for camping, hiking, and swimming, there's actually quite a few within the network that are open all year round. So, while there is still quite a bit of winter ahead in Ontario, why not bundle up and get outside to enjoy some winter adventures.

One park that has been fully embracing the winter season for many years now is Arrowhead.

Located less than three hours drive from Toronto, just outside Huntsville in beautiful Muskoka, this paradise has quickly become a winter escape for many city dwellers. They have always offered cross-country skiing and snowshoeing for day users, but with the recent addition of winterized cabins, and other activities like tubing and ice-skating trail, the park has seen winter visitation numbers skyrocket. Park Superintendent, Peter Briand, said the "increase has been tenfold since the first year of the skating trail being introduced".

The 1.3 km ice skating trail running through the woods is well maintained by way of a Zamboni, guaranteeing plenty of smooth trailing.

It's advisable to go during the week if possible, to avoid the influx of weekend warriors. The newly introduced night skating has also been quite the hit. The Fire and Ice Nights allow skaters to make their rounds along the Tiki-lit trail a few nights each season. 2018 Fire and Ice dates are Thursday, February 22, Saturday, March 3, Saturday, March 17. Also, an insider tip - anyone staying overnight in one of the cabins can venture out under the evening stars and moonlight, for a completely surreal experience of their own.

Arrowhead grooms and maintains more than 33 km of cross-country ski trails designed for classic skiing or skate skiing, along with 8 km of marked snow trails. Each trail is rated for difficulty and ranges from beginner to expert. Also, why not let the inner child in you try one of the best tubing hills in the province. At the top of the hill, there's an open fire pit to warm up, and tubes are provided at the hill. It's advisable to bring a copy of the trail map as the trail markings are not always that clear when the ground is covered in snow, especially when making fresh tracks after a recent snowfall.

www.ontarioparks.com

Current trail conditions are listed in the latest ski report

Briand also mentioned they are looking at incorporating some fat bike options for winter, and already have three bikes onsite. Annual events in the park include the Muskoka Loppet (www.arrowheadnordic.ca), and this year the town of Huntsville had their inaugural Muskoka Winter Bike Festival, which was well attended, and the organizers are promising to be back in 2019 (www.winterbikefest.com).

Staying in one of the 10 winterized cabins is what one would refer to as glamping - glamorous camping.

There cozy, rustic cabins are located pretty much midpoint between the various ski and snowshoe trails, and directly adjacent to the ice-skating trail. Each unit comes equipped with a gas/propane fireplace, electric heater, one queen bed and one single/double bunk bed, dining table and chairs, Kuerig coffee machine (pods available at camp store), kettle, microwave, mini-fridge, screened in porch with Muskoka chairs, and a Weber BBQ and fire pit outdoors. Bring your own bedding and other utensils, dishes, or cookware items, There's no WIFI either, so take the time to disconnect and enjoy a digital detox. This is the perfect opportunity to break out those board games that were tucked away many years ago, or make a dent in that novel you've been wanting to read.

There's designated overnight parking near the cabins, with tub toboggans are on hand to help you transport items to your overnight haven. Winter accommodations are available until March 26, 2018, with all outdoor activities being weather dependent. Ski, skate, and snowshoe rentals are available onsite. There's a Food Basics grocery store near the intersection of Highways 60 and 11 at Huntsville, just south of the park entrance.

Arrowhead Provincial Park, Huntsville

www.ontarioparks.com/park/arrowhead

Ontario 125 Special Events Highlights

Long-time camper faves "The Wakami Wailers" are named after the northern Ontario park where the group of musicians met as park staff in the late 1980s. The group will be performing new music this summer.

An exciting new art-based programme designed to connect people with nature through hands-on art activities, will be offered in parks across the province.

The public will be invited to give back, learn, and participate in stewardship programs to help protect biodiversity in provincial parks. Stewardship programs include BioBlitz events, invasive species removal, and wildlife monitoring to name a few.

A travelling exhibit will make its way around Ontario that includes highlights of Ontario Parks' achievements in protection, recreation, education, and science over the past 125 years.

Complete Event Listing Guide

Then and Now Historical Image Gallery

Historical Timeline of Growth

Ontario Parks

Winter Parks information

Roofed Accommodation

 

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