Travel: Abitibi Canyon Tour

Get your snowmobiling fix in Cochrane, Ontario
Abitibi Canyon Tour Ontario snowmobile
Snowmobile enthusiasts look forward to the summer coming to an end. It’s true! Then we get to plan our vacations around the winter months we love! We pray to the snow gods so that we can enjoy all that snowmobiling has to offer.
Abitibi Canyon Tour Ontario snowmobile map route
Abitibi Canyon Tour Ontario snowmobile trail loop
Trail scenery is of the premium variety along the canyon loop, but there’s also lots of opportunity to test your powder-riding abilities! Bring extra fuel, you won’t want the fun to end!
The best place to ride is here!
With the sleds loaded up in the trailer, we got an early start to our 7-hour drive north of Toronto, Ontario, heading up Highway 11 to the town of Cochrane. This is our annual trip to Northern Ontario, and we always look forward to riding in the Polar Bear Riders Club area. With a yearly snowfall average of about 300cm (120 inches) and well-maintained trails (that are more like six-lane highways), sledders can cover a lot of miles over the course of a day. You can choose what you want to ride, too. We think it is simply the best place in Ontario for snowmobiling!

We made a pit stop at XYZ Performance in North Bay, where we asked Martin to add a few ponies to my old Arctic Cat 9000 turbo for this trip. An ECU flash, full exhaust, air intake and some clutch work were the mods we finished up before hitting the road for our final destination.

We arrived that evening at Cochrane’s Thriftlodge, a budget-friendly hotel with trail access across the road. After grabbing a bite to eat at one of the local restaurants, we soaked in the hot tub as we discussed our route up to Abitibi Canyon Loop, one of the most northern groomed trails in Ontario.  

Ontario has many “must do” loops that range from single-day rides to multiday saddlebag tours. The Abitibi Canyon Loop is a 300-kilometer (185-mile) day ride starting from Cochrane.

Waking up to some fresh snow, we made our way up the east side of the A103 trail. This east side is definitely the most scenic, with trails ranging from tight turns to higher speed sections with some long straightaways and gradual sweepers. You realize how remote you really are as the sleds trek thru pine trees and frozen swamps with nothing but wilderness around you. Deer and moose may be seen at any time, as well as an abundance of tracks in the fresh fallen snow.

Around noon, we arrived at the outpost at the top of the loop to gas up. This is about the halfway point, approximately 150km (95 miles) from Cochrane. Gas is more expensive here than your usual pump price since everything has to be trucked in on remote roads. Expect to pay around $2.50 per liter ($9 per gallon) for regular fuel, which is all that is available. To those running sleds that require premium gas, I suggest bringing your own fuel or some octane boost to add to the tank. Food is available from the outpost, but we usually eat a big breakfast and bring some snacks to get us through until we get back down to the bottom of the west side of the A103 trail into Smooth Rock Falls.
Abitibi Canyon Tour Ontario snowmobile fuel remote
You’re riding remote areas along the Abitibi Canyon Loop, so bring some food, tools, oil, etc. Emergency stops to replenish are a good distance apart.
Abitibi Canyon Tour Ontario snowmobile sign
One of the highlights of this loop is when the trail crosses over the top of a power-generating dam that was built in the early 1930s. Here is where backcountry sledders will want to venture further north into the Canyon for some incredible off-trail riding. Just west of the dam, the Canyon has everything from steep hillclimbs to lower bowls of deep powder. You may be able to navigate with a shorter track sled, but snow conditions should be your guide. This is big snow country and not a place to go exploring without a proper powder machine. Still, there is often a beaten down path that you can follow if it hasn’t snowed in a couple of days.  

After playing in the Canyon, we made our way down the west side of the A103 toward Smooth Rock Falls. This run is about  85km (50 miles) down a hydro cut. There isn’t as much shelter along this side, but the trails are wide and fast. It’s a great place to let out some of that horsepower! There is a gas station and a restaurant along the trail – a great place to stop for a rest and a bite to eat. After fueling up, we headed east along the A trail for another 70km (40 miles) back toward Cochrane. We pulled into the Thriftlodge before dark after completing what I would rank as one of the best trails that Ontario has to offer.

Just do it!
If you have never had the chance to ride the Abitibi Canyon Loop, just do it! Bring a camera, as there are many amazing photo ops for your group along the way. The sled-friendly town of Cochrane welcomes you with hospitality and open arms. In fact, the parking lots usually have more snowmobiles than vehicles during winter months. There are also a few local snowmobile shops in the area if you forget anything or need something for the sleds.

Ontario offers approximately 30,000km (18,000 miles) of groomed trails in its system, with great signage and an abundance of accommodations regardless of where you choose to snowmobile. Grab your riding buddies and make the trip north. You’ll be glad you did!

For more info about Ontario, trail permits and an interactive trail map: Plus, follow some of my other adventures on Twitter: @sleddincanuck. Enjoy the trails!
Abitibi Canyon Tour Ontario snowmobile trail stop
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