With almost 5,000 square kilometres of rugged terrain, more than 1,600 lakes and an abundance of wildlife, Muskoka is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream destination. From family-friendly trails to rugged backcountry routes, the region offers something for all ages and abilities.
BY DAWN HUDDLESTONE
ON SOLID GROUND
One of the best ways to experience Muskoka’s natural beauty is on foot. Urban pathways provide an accessible wilderness experience in the region’s historic towns. The Rotary Algonquin Regiment Fitness Trail in Parry Sound is a well-maintained five-kilometre trail that follows the shore of Georgian Bay. More adventurous hikers can continue to the north on the adjoining 2.5-kilometre North Shore Rugged Hiking Trail. In Huntsville, the Hunters Bay Trail is a moderate 3.8-kilometre waterfront trail that includes a floating pathway over a section of Hunters Bay.
For further exploration, there are a variety of trail networks like the Bracebridge Resource Management Centre, which offers 16.5 kilometres of hiking and mountain biking trails. Limberlost Forest and Wildlife Reserve has more than 70 kilometres of trails including a canoe route that traverses five lakes. Hardy Lake Provincial Park in Torrance has two challenging wilderness hiking routes. The Cranberry Marsh Trails in Bala are five scenic loops ranging from one to five kilometres in length.
WHEELIE POPPIN’ FUN
Both off- and on-road cyclists can find challenging routes along Muskoka’s rugged and hilly terrain. Buckwallow Cycling Centre between Bracebridge and Gravenhurst is a mountain biker’s mecca with more than 30 kilometres of single- and double-track trails. Devil’s Gap Trail in Gravenhurst has a 16-kilometre mountain bike extension that runs all the way to Torrance. More advanced riders will enjoy Porcupine Ridge Mountain Bike Park in Bracebridge, which also boasts a stunning view of Lake Muskoka.
Road cyclists can test their mettle on one of the Spin the Lakes routes in the Lake of Bays area. For more family-friendly cycling, try the 10-kilometre Old Railway Bike Trail in Algonquin Park or Huntsville’s Fairy Vista Trail, a paved 3.4-kilometre path that meanders through both forests and wetlands.
WET AND WILD
With more than 1,600 lakes and access to the waters of Georgian Bay, Muskoka is a paddlers’ paradise. Canoe or kayak to Franklin Island, a conservation reserve on Georgian Bay to explore its many outer shoals, inland lakes and narrow channels. Take a leisurely trip down the Big East River Canoe Route from Huntsville or enjoy scenic views along the south branch of the Muskoka River from Bracebridge to Muskoka Falls. For both single- and multi-day paddling trips, explore the extensive waterways in Algonquin Park. There’s even a water taxi on Opeongo Lake that offers quick access to some of the routes. Any calm lake in Muskoka will suffice for stand-up paddleboarding, an increasingly popular activity that is a cross between surfing and canoeing. Whether you choose to explore Muskoka by land or by water, on your own or as part of a guided tour, it’s an experience you’ll likely never forget.
Dawn Huddlestone is a freelance writer and social media manager. She lives in Muskoka and revels in the fresh air, towering trees and dark night skies.