Follow This Rainbow to Great Sledding!
Staging from Sudbury, Ontario
Story by Craig Nicholson, The Intrepid Snowmobiler, Photography by Craig Nicholson, Jan 18, 2010
When you’re considering a destination for a long weekend snowmobiling getaway, priority criteria includes good snow and lots of trails within easy trailering distance. Ontario offers many outstanding choices for staging destinations, such as Owen Sound, Bancroft and Pembroke, while the Sudbury region is also a good bet because it’s one of the handiest gateways to northern Ontario.
Located centrally in Ontario, Canada, as part of the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs’ District 12, Sudbury’s about a four-hour tow north of the Greater Toronto Area by four lane highway, and a little more than three hours east of the border crossing at Sault Ste. Marie. The tourism region is called Rainbow Country and there’s certainly a pot of gold waiting at this rainbow’s end for snowmobilers!
With a population of almost 160,000, Greater Sudbury is a major urban centre that’s home to the Sudbury Trail Plan (STP), one of the oldest and best-organized snowmobiling associations in the province. A cooperative effort by the area’s eight local snowmobile clubs since the early 1990s, STP operates about 1,200 kilometres (745 miles) of integrated trails. These form a network of well-groomed loops around the city proper, most feeding out from the STP Ring Trail, which, as its name implies, circles Sudbury. The STP trails also connect to neighboring trail systems at all points of the compass (check out trail guides for OFSC Districts 10, 11, 13 and 14), so there’s no shortage of great trail riding for those who really want to rack up the miles.
The Sudbury region offers snowmobilers many choices, ranging from urban adventure to backcountry day-tripping or mini tour saddle bagging. If your preference is to combine your sledding with big city attractions and nightlife, you can stay at trail accessible lodgings in the city core, including the Travelway Inn or the Travelodge Hotel. Both are snowmobile-friendly and close to the renowned Science North; an easy drive or cab ride will take you to cinemas or great restaurants like Respect is Burning, to shopping at the Sudbury Metro Centre, or for an evening’s entertainment with OLG Slots at Sudbury Downs. This access to big city amenities also makes staying in town a good choice for family members who don’t want to ride every day. Sled rental is available at Sudbury Cycle & Marine, and there’s even downhill skiing at nearby Capreol!
Alternatively, you can avoid the big city entirely and concentrate exclusively on your day tripping by staying at one of the periphery lodges catering to sledders. My personal favorite is the Sportsman’s Wilderness Lodge, located at the intersection of TOP Trails C105 and C206D northeast of town. With its rustic log buildings, home-cooked meals and on-site fuel, the Sportsman’s is an ideal staging base. From there, you can ride day trips, looping south though Estaire, north around Wanapitei Lake (be sure to check out the view from Wolf Mountain!) or west to visit communities like Chelmsford and Lively. And if you’re looking for a great destination for a quick up-and-back, two-day overnighter, head north on Trans Ontario Provincial (TOP C) to try the hot tub at Auld Reekie Lodge. Find out for yourself why Sudbury is a prime gateway to points north!
Mini tours are also an option. Last winter, I staged from Sudbury for three different, four-day mini tours. The northern loop was a 750-kilometre (466 mile) ride through Gowganda, Elk Lake, New Liskeard and Marten River. Westward, we rode about 790 klicks (490 miles) that took in Elliot Lake, Manitoulin Island and Killarney. On our southern loop, we snowmobiled 850 kilometers (528 miles) through Parry Sound and North Bay, on what is known as the Northern Snowmobile Tour. For lodgings on this tour, try Pleasant Cove Resort, Pointe au Baril, the Quality Inn, Parry Sound and the Travelodge Lakeshore, North Bay.
In addition to reasons already stated, Sudbury is an excellent base for these mini-tours if you want to ensure your valuable trip won’t be wasted. This is an especially important consideration when you have limited time or if the weather is wonky, like it can be toward season’s end. For example, if your plan is to ride a certain loop from Sudbury, but snow conditions turn out at the last minute not to be optimal in that direction, you can change your itinerary in a snap and head where the snow’s better.
You can discover all of your Sudbury choices on the 2010 STP Trail Guide, or see the District 12 guide for an overview of the larger area. Whatever you decide, Rainbow Country and Sudbury will deliver a remarkable sledding experience that will live in your memory for years to come!
Craig Nicholson is the author of “Canada’s Best Snowmobiling — Your Ultimate Ride Guide”. His syndicated column “The Intrepid Snowmobiler” appears in newspapers throughout North America. He also hosts “The Intrepid Snowmobiler on Radio” and appears regularly on Snowmobiler Television. For more info, click IntrepidSnowmobiler.com.