My Winter Adventure In The Haliburton Highlands
When my good friend Olivia and I decided we needed a girls weekend away, we opted against spa treatments in favour of something a little more adventurous. And that is how I found myself, at -30℃, strapped to a safety harness, staring up at a 50-foot wall of sheer ice. Was it too late to go to the spa after all?
Just kidding! This snowy Haliburton adventure was the perfect blend of relaxation, good food and wine and amazing outdoor fun. We couldn’t have asked for a better girls weekend away.
Visiting a Winter Wonderland
For our winter adventures, Olivia and I travelled from Toronto to the Haliburton Highlands. Although just 2.5 hours north of the GTA, Haliburton feels like a world away. As we drove north, we traded the traffic and noise of the city for the peace of snow-covered fields, icy lakes and beautiful forests. In the winter, the Highlands are a wonderland of white and make a great destination for those looking for winter fun. Even though the temperatures were set to hover around the -30℃ mark for our entire weekend, we were looking forward to our guided activities. After all, there’s nothing better than an evening of food, wine and relaxing by the fire after you’ve spent the day being active outdoors.
Snowshoeing the Log Chute
Our first taste of a Haliburton winter activity was probably my favourite of the weekend. We met our guide at the Hawk Lake Log Chute entrance and strapped on snowshoes for our hike. Despite the frigid temperatures, we were quite comfortable as we set off to explore.
The Hawk Lake Log Chute is historically significant because it contains the last remaining log chute of its kind in Ontario. Log chutes were developed in Canada in 1829 as a way to carry logs from the forest to the sawmill. The chutes were wooded troughs used to help the logs move through rough waters and there were once thousands of them in Ontario but now only this one remains. I make a note to visit here again in the summer. As we carefully snowshoe along the trail, I’m amazed at the stillness of the surrounding forest — there’s not a sound other than the crunching of snow as we move along. We don’t meet another soul on the walk. It is just us and the incredible, stunning scenery. At the end of it, we are all feeling peaceful and refreshed. There are many beautiful trails on which to snowshoe throughout the Highlands and our guide was able to tailor the walk to our needs.
Learning to Ski, Nordic style!
With one amazing winter activity under our belts, we next moved to cross-country skiing. This time we met our instructor at Glebe Park, which is located on the north shore of Head Lake in the charming village of Haliburton. The park has 175 acres of woodlands and rolling hills with a big network of trails. As this was my first time on nordic skiis, I didn’t venture far but these lessons are tailored to your level of comfort so even more experienced skiiers would benefit and enjoy this experience. For me, the lesson was perfect: I learned how to walk up small hills, how to properly hold my posture, how to stop. By the end of it, I was having so much fun that I’ve already made plans with Olivia to go cross-country skiing again!
Ice Climbing for Beginners
I’ll preface this by saying that I have never been ice climbing before, nor have I ever felt a hankering to grab an axe and climb a wall of sheer ice. But I am an adventurous spirit and the challenge of it propelled me to say yes to this daring activity. Haliburton has the highest man-made ice wall in the province and at 15-metres (50 feet), it is quite formidable looking. One side of the wall is a more vertical, and therefore more challenging, while the other side has a more gradual incline. As we strapped on our crampons (metal spikes attached to your boots) and our harness, I started to feel excited about the adventure. It was definitely hard work! The hardest part was getting the axe to dig into the ice wall and this was likely due to the extremely cold temperatures. But despite the height and the sheer drop to the bottom, we felt safe and secure during our entire climb. If ice climbing is on your list of must-try winter activities, I highly recommend starting here. The instructors are fantastic and at the end of your lesson, you’ll feel like you’ve conquered Everest!
Tips for visiting the Haliburton Highlands:
- If you visit Glebe Park, be sure to check out the Haliburton Sculpture Forest. The beautiful sculptures throughout the park are stunning year round and give you a taste of the artistic community that resides in Haliburton and the surrounding region.
- We loved our visit to the Castle Antiques Cafe, which is part antique store/part art gallery/part vegan cafe and 100% amazing. We loved the food and the curated goods for sale. Well worth a stop.
- While it is always recommended that you dress in layers when heading for any outdoor adventure, especially in the colder months, I would personally also suggest packing Hand and Feet warmers (small, single-use heat packs) to slide into your socks and gloves during your outdoor activities. Your feet and hands will thank you, I promise!
Ready to head out for some winter fun in the Highlands?
Check out our amazing 3-day Snow Country Fun package or reach out to me directly to set up your own Haliburton adventure! I’d love to help. You can reach me by email at email@example.com or call me at 437-836-8607.