Is Arrowhead On Your Winter Bucket List? Here’s What You Need To Know For A Successful Trip
Arrowhead Provincial Park, located just a few minutes outside of Huntsville, Ontario, is one of my family’s favourite parks for summer camping, fall hiking and winter adventures. While it can get quite busy during hot summer months, the park really comes alive in the winter — with a magical skating trail though the woods, many kilometres of cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails and beautiful scenery throughout. If Arrowhead is on your winter bucket list, read on for tips on making the most of your Arrowhead winter adventure.
Prebook Your Spot: Changes for the 2022 winter season
New for the 2021-2022 winter season, Ontario Parks is requiring Arrowhead visitors to prebooked a day-use vehicle permit. This permit can be booked up to five days in advance of the day you want to visit, can be done online or over the phone (1-888-ONT-PARK), and guarantees you entrance into the park. All of the daily vehicle permits will be available to purchase in advance, which means that if the day is sold out, it is sold out — no drive in traffic will be allowed. While it could prove disappointing for those who are not able to secure a pass for their day of choice, it does mean that you won’t drive hours to get to Arrowhead, only to be turned away at the park gate because the park is at capacity.
Permits cost $21 per vehicle and are valid for one day. Seasonal passes are available, but keep in mind that they do not guarantee entrance if the park has already reached capacity. So if you have a seasonal permit, you still need to prebook a daily permit — you just don’t have to pay for it.
Skating: Muskoka’s most popular trail
The legendary skating trail at Arrowhead is a 1.3 km loop that winds through the snow-covered forest of the park’s East River Campground. Our winter condiditons thus far mean that the skating trail is not yet open, but the staff are ready for when temperatures cooperate and are hoping for a mid-January opening date! We recommend checking the park’s frequent Twitter updates (@arropark) for the latest conditions.
Once open, the skating trail is very popular and can get really busy on weekends. If you’re able to take a mid-week break, we highly recommend going on a weekday where you’ll be able to enjoy the trail in much quieter conditions. When planning your trip, keep in mind that the trail closes from 11:30am until 1pm every day for maintenance. No skates? No problem! You can rent skates at the park on a first-come, first-serve basis for $15 for 3 hours.
Skating: Fire & Ice Nights
The park has tentatively scheduled a return of the very popular Fire & Ice Nights for this winter season. Every Friday and Saturday night starting in late January (weather permitting, of course), the skating trail will be lit up by hundreds of tiki torches for a spectacular skating experience.
To prebook your spot for Fire & Ice Nights, make sure to select the “Day Use + Fire and Ice Evening Skate” when booking your vehicle permit. Again, this is available five days in advance and is very popular, so make sure to book early.
Being so close to Huntsville, there are plenty of accommodation options available if you’d like to make it an overnight stay. Arrowhead does have several cozy cabins that we absolutely love but these tend to book up well in advanced (although cancellations do happen, so check the website often and you might get lucky). There are also a few pull-through camping spots available at the park for RVs or winter camping.
Skiing and Snowshoeing: Lots of Trails at Arrowhead for All Levels
With 28 km of classic ski trails, 16 km of skate ski trails, and 8 km of marked snowshoe trails, there’s no shortage of spaces to head out in the snow at Arrowhead. Trails are available for all experience levels and some of the beginner trials are excellent for families with young kids.
You can bring your own equipment or rent at the park. If you are planning on renting, especially on a busy weekend, be sure to arrive early as rentals are on a first-come, first-serve basis and frequently sell out. Rentals are available in the building beside the Visitor Centre.
Fees are as follows:
- Snowshoes: $15/3 hours
- Adult cross-country skis: $32/full day or $25/half day
- Youth cross-country skis: $25/full day or $18/half day
- Family cross-country skis: $105/full day or $86/half day
This year, skiers will no longer need additional ski permits to access Arrowhead’s vast network of ski trails — just a daily vehicle pass (again, it can be booked up to five days in advance, so plan ahead).
Additional Tips For A Safe Trip:
- Bring your mask! While you won’t have to wear a mask for outdoor activities, a mask is required to access the Park Office, Visitor Centre and the heated washrooms.
- The park is within the Simcoe-Muskoka Health Unit and visitors will be required to follow that health unit restrictions, should any arise.
- The park is open from 8:30 am to 5 pm each day (longer on Fire & Ice Nights)