Monday, 21 January 2013

Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve

Located in the corner of Ontario’s Highlands is a true diamond in terms of snowmobiling that if it wasn’t on your bucket list before, will certainly make top of the list now. Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve is the reality that all snowmobilers hope for. Situated on 70,000 acres of land, this privately owned forest hosts 300km of snowmobile trails which are maintained to perfection. It not only makes a great place to ride with your friends, but it can be turned into a winter vacation given all the amenities and onsite activities.

The entrance to the forest totally built our anticipation level - just like when you were a kid arriving at an amusement park. You could see teams of dog sleds gearing up for a run to your left and historic buildings and snow covered trails filling in the rest of your 180 degree view. The huge parking lot housed several trailers with eager riders already anxiously waiting to hit the trails.
The main lodge dead ahead of you is where you will be able to purchase your daily trail pass, which will only set you back a mere $44. It’s a minimal fee to pay for the restoration of your faith in the sport - considering the lower-than-usual snow fall so far this year. It is also here where you can purchase gas, check into your onsite accommodations or take a look around at their homemade wooden paddles – produced from the trees in the forest and milled on the grounds. It is also a good idea to grab a trail map and plan all the hot spots you want to cover during your ride – there are plenty to choose from.
Sight-seeing is a must when you’re in the forests limits. The map provides you with an exact location of where the lookouts are and how to get there. But it isn’t until you’ve reached the top that you’ll understand why they are made easy for you to find. The views are amazing!

The change in elevation throughout the forest is one of the reasons why you can expect to always find snowy trail conditions here when everywhere else is on par or minimal. The slight change in temperature often found in the higher elevation of the forest is what can make the slight difference in rain fall to snow fall. At one time the forest staff did make their own snow to help with coverage in areas that are more subjected to sun, but have gone back to relying on Mother Nature once and for all.
As you ride on the trails, it isn’t hard to spot freshly groomed tracks; something that is considered much of a rarity on provincially run trails. With maintenance crews and groomers running and working on a daily, even hourly, basis it isn’t uncommon to be the first snowmobiler to put tracks on the trail.  If you love the "all-natural" approach that suits the surroundings, you'll appreciate the handmade wooden trail signs with hand painted lettering as trail markers. It brings back a sense of hominess as you navigate your way on to the next lookout point. The ice gorge is a sight you’ll not want to miss. If at any point you get cold during your ride or wish to heat up a sandwich you packed, take advantage of the five warm up cabins on the grounds.
The Forest is a great place to enjoy a peaceful ride with your family without encountering the weekend warriors that you might meet on more heavily travelled trails. It helps that the secluded riding environment is bordered on the north side by Algonquin Park. The park even puts a limit on how many day permits they can sell, which means there are never more than 100 people riding in the park on single day passes at any given time. The only exceptions are the one day they hold their annual poker run in support of the local fire department, and the riding privileges that come as a season pass holder.

Need a little break from snowmobiling? Why not head over to the famous Wolf Centre and learn about the mysterious native animal. Their collection of animals and knowledge resources, all Canadian based, are sure to answer any questions you might have had. If not, ask one of the employees, sit in on their documentary film or take a seat in the observation lounge to watch the pack of wolves roam the 15 acres set aside for them. The Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve is full of animals; they even have a 2-year-old bull moose named Hershe and several hogs that make sure no food goes to waste from their onsite restaurant, The Cookhouse. Whatever your reason is for going, there is plenty to see, do and explore. Be sure to check out their website and ask plenty of questions while you’re there, we only just skimmed the surface of what is there for you to enjoy and learn. 

A brief history
In the late 1800’s Thomas Chandler Haliburton sold the land to a London based “Canadian Land and Emigration Company”. They had planned to break down the property and sell it in 100 acre lots to immigrants as farmland. However, due to the lack of suitable agriculture, the plan was squashed and the forest was used as winter logging camps and eventually a sawmill yard. Over the years, the timber was over-harvested and in 1962, a German citizen, Baron von Fuerstenberg, acquired the property.
Logging still takes place on the property, but with a whole different approach. Today it has been awarded Canada’s first Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) environmental certification for great leadership in sustainable forestry practices. In 2009 it’s sawmill was reopened and a year later a wood shop was added where they sell raw lumber and custom designed furniture to the public. For a more detailed version of the history, please visit their website.
Make plans now for your Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve adventure; come to know snowmobiling in Ontario’s Highlands!


  1. Great article, thanks for the detailed description of this fantastic place!

  2. Wonderful post ! i like it . i am also like to make my assignment in custom scholarship essays writing

  3. Is there fuel on the trail?....or will I have to travel with gas or come.back to the lodge everytime ?

    Thanks greatly,
    Mark Lytle