Skating Trails Are Canada's New and Amazing Outdoor Trend

Visiting the Unesco-listed Rideau Canal is a must when in Ottawa
Visiting the Unesco-listed Rideau Canal is a must when in Ottawa | © Vlad Ghiea / Alamy Stock Photo

Move aside ice rinks – skating trails are coming through. There’s been a trend in recent years towards outdoor ice skating trails, where you can skate along frozen rivers, lakes and through forests. It’s an adventurous outdoor activity for the whole family and continues to grow across the country. Here are the best skating trails across Canada, from British Columbia to Quebec.
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Rideau Canal in Ottawa, Ontario

Winterlude skaters on Rideau Canal skate-way, Ottawa Canada.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Rideau Canal is nicknamed the world’s largest ice skating rink. It runs from Dow’s Lake to downtown Ottawa, and this is its 47th year in operation. It usually opens in January or February, once the canal freezes over and the ice is 30 centimeters (one foot) thick. The Rideau Canal trail is 7.8 kilometers (4.8 miles) long and actually becomes a busy thoroughfare for commuters, as it connects a lot of the city. It hosts the Winterlude festival for three weekends in February as well.

IceWay in Edmonton, Alberta

IceWay is a new ice skating trail in Canada, having opened in late 2015. It’s similar to the Gatineau Park canal in Quebec in that it’s three kilometers (1.9 miles) long and stretches through a forest. In this case, the forest belongs to Victoria Park in Edmonton, the capital of Alberta. The idea originated from architect Matt Gibbs, who submitted the proposal for his master’s thesis and then went on to win the COLDSCAPES International Urban Design Competition. Future plans involve eventually transforming it into an 11-kilometer (6.8-mile) skating trail.

Red River Mutual Trail in Winnipeg, Manitoba

This track actually holds a Guinness World Record for the longest naturally frozen ice skating trail at five kilometers (three miles). Skaters can cross between the frozen Assiniboine and Red Rivers in Winnipeg, Manitoba’s capital. The Red River Trail brings a bit of fun into the lives of the city’s freezing residents. There are multiple access points and warming huts along the river. Visitors can also rent skates, if necessary, from nearby Forks Market.

Valens Lake in Hamilton, Ontario

The staff at the Hamilton Conservation Authority actually created this 425-metre (1,394-foot) new skating trail in Ontario out of a campground road. It takes skaters on a journey through a cedar, spruce and pine forest at the Valens Lake Conservation Area campground. Previously, Hamilton residents had to drive three hours to Huntsville to enjoy Arrowhead’s ice skating trail.

Lake Windermere in Invermere, British Columbia

Lake Windermere is in the Columbia River Valley in southeastern British Columbia. Every winter, residents groom a massive 34-kilometer (21-mile) trail around the lake, which is then divided into three sections. The areas are for skating, skate-skiing and cross-country skiing. The long track actually connects the two small towns of Invermere and Windermere as well. It’s a beautiful spot surrounded by mountains.

Shipyards Skating Loop in Whitehorse, Yukon

Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of time to enjoy this skating trail, as there are less than six hours of daylight in Whitehorse in January. Shipyards Park is a public park located along the banks of the Yukon River, which in the summertime is home to a rollerblading and bicycle trail. It’s then converted into a skating loop in winter, with warming huts and fire pits on-site.

Lac des Loups, Quebec

Lac des Loups, Quebec, Canada

Located less than an hour’s drive north-west of Ottawa on the edge of the Gatineau Park, Lac des Loups skating trail is the new kid on the block. The three-kilometre (1.9-mile) trail goes through the forest in the heart of the picturesque village of Lac des Loups. In its first week of opening in 2017, 8,000 people skated the trail. There is a large heated changing shack on site offering snacks, hot and cold drinks, soup, chilli, hotdogs as well as a boutique featuring local arts and crafts. In addition to skating they offer groomed walking and snowshoe trails. There’s an admission fee, and it’s open every day of the week, as long as the weather cooperates. Narcity thinks it’s like “you’re in a romcom.”

Arrowhead Provincial Park in Huntsville, Ontario

The trail at Arrowhead Provincial Park is Ontario’s longest man-made ice skating trail. It opened in 2012, and it stretches for 1.3 kilometers (0.8 miles) and goes through forests and the camping grounds. It’s now one of the most popular wintertime activities in Ontario, with the trail filling with people on the weekends. In order to avoid disappointment, you should get to the park early. Arrowhead also hosts Fire and Ice Nights, when tiki torches line the trail.

Rivière l’Assomption in Joliette, Quebec

Joliette is a small town located 50 kilometers (31 miles) northeast of Montreal. Its main river, the Assomption, is the longest river skating trail in North America at nine kilometers long (5.6 miles). It has been used as a skateway for over 30 years and hosts the Festi-Glace every February. Skaters must bring their own skates as there are no rental services. There’s also a walking trail beside the river for spectators.

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