Running along the Eastern part of Ontario’s Highlands is the ultimate snowmobile journey known to few as the Voyageur Route. In short, the ride starts as far east as Arnprior and follows the Ottawa Valley River all the way past Petawawa. Following the historic ventures of the voyageurs, this trip is no easy venture. With a grand total of 350kms in length, it takes a good 1-2 days to complete and sets you in a good position to carry on and explore many other highlighted routes of Snow Country.
During our ride we staged from the Best Western and made our way through the clearly marked town of Renfrew. Not a map reader, not a problem! A bonus about the Voyageur Route is its simple path and clearly marked trails (you almost always follow the A Trail unless you take a turn off for lunch or an overnight stay).
If you can’t handle the entire trip down a historians dream, at the very least we recommend completing the Lookout Loop. According to locals, this is an understated route that makes the snowmobile ride really worth the trip. Instead of following the A Trail all the way along, take a turn up the 114 near Cobden and follow it up the arm and around to Westmeath (Trail 116). This detour features plenty of old farm houses, churches and one-horse towns, but the view of the Ottawa River below and the Quebec Laurentian Mountain Range in the horizon will make it worth your time. Clear blue skies on this day will only enhance your view. Just be cautious of your gas level and rumbling bellies during this added arm; fuel stops and restaurants are far and few between. We do know that La Passe Café located in La Passe welcomes snowmobilers with open arms and a gas station/store in Westmeath has a friendly pooch waiting to greet you upon your arrival.
It is on your way through Cobden and over through to Pembroke where you will find yourself in the middle of the Renfrew County Forest. This clean trail situated between the tall trees encompass the forest and make for some great pictures as the snow covered limbs form a ride-able passage overhead. The historian will love this trip for two reasons. One, the sights of some very unique and old farm fields, many of which are still standing and two, the mixture of land you ride through. Farmer’s fields are obvious, but the pipelines, tight twisting forests and scenic vistas are the perfect combination to bring the excitement back into snowmobiling.
The history along the Voyageur Route continues as you take notice of the trail following the old abandoned rail lines. You will notice how small villages that were once booming during the early 1900’s are now clumped together surrounding acres and acres of land that if it isn’t still, once revolved around the logging industry. In the future the local clubs and the overall district (OFSC District 6) hope to secure the old rail line and use it as a direct route into Quebec and the continuation of ‘highway’ trails going through local towns in Snow Country.
For your accommodation needs, you will find several snowmobile-friendly hotels in Pembroke and Petawawa; we stayed at the newly built Quality Inn & Suites in Petawawa which has easy access to stores, restaurants, gas and snowmobile dealers – in the off chance you need to make a visit.
It is just past Petawawa however where the daredevils in the sport will get their fix. Say goodbye to the farm fields and big cities and say hello to the wide open pipelines that, if you dare, give you some air and tame that itching throttle thumb. Just remember that the speed limit on OFSC trails is 50km/h. The Voyageur Route carries all the way into Deep River and beyond, turning into what many people know as the RAP tour.
Ontarians are all too familiar with the now common definition of “winter”. However, during our drive from Southern Ontario the snow banks grew larger and the sights of trailers heading north increased. That’s a good indication that you’re in for something good! While the luxury of riding from your house is slowly fading, traveling a mere 2-3 hours in search of the snow that the Ontario’s Highlands delivers will only reassure your love for the sport. Overall this is a great ride to take with your family that allows you to learn a little something along the way. It’s a win-win if you are looking for a family day weekend activity or hope to squeeze in a trip during March Break, in which case we recommend staying at the amazing LogoLand – you’ll know why when you arrive. Whichever you choose, we invite you explore what this voyage has to offer as you Come to Know Snowmobiling in the Ontario’s Highlands.