Many folks love to hide inside and hygge it up or even escape to the tropics but winter is honestly one of the best times of the year for hiking! With fewer people to contend with, no bugs and the added beauty of a blanket of snow, it’s the perfect way to get outside in the colder months. There is no shortage of awesome trails to be explored so throw on your boots and check out these awesome Ontario winter hikes!
BEFORE YOU BEGIN: Make sure you’re prepared for your winter adventure. Temperatures can fluctuate and you may not realize just how quickly you can get cold when the temperature drops! Be sure to have the proper winter hiking gear and if you’re new to winter hiking, take a look at these winter hiking tips for beginners.
Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links where I may receive a kickback at no extra cost to you. It helps keep IBB alive so thank you!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Arrowhead Provincial Park’s Stubbs Falls
While Arrowhead Provincial Park is a popular winter destination in Ontario thanks to its skating trail, it also has some great snowshoe trails, cross country skiing opportunities and, of course, plenty of winter trails! One of my favourites in the park is the Stubbs Falls Trail. Why? It’s not overly strenuous yet there’s plenty of natural beauty to enjoy. That’s a win-win in my books!
The Stubbs Falls Trail is a 2.6 km long loop which takes you across the Little East River where you’ll find the trail’s namesake waterfall. Cross the bridge and follow the trail down along the river’s edge to enjoy the beautiful view as the river flows down a beautiful rock chute. Once you’re done, continue along the trail as you meander through tall forests of maple and pine. It’s a calm, relaxing hike that will make you feel reconnected with nature.
SINCE YOU’RE HERE… don’t forget to stop by Big Bend as well! It’s less than a kilometre from the Stubbs Falls trailhead and is a must-visit whenever you find yourself in Arrowhead Provincial Park.
The Bruce Trail
It may feel like I include The Bruce Trail in pretty much every hiking guide I’ve written about in Ontario, but the trail is just so epic I have to include it! Though at +900km long, not to mention the side trails, it can be overwhelming to know where to hike. There are certainly some spots along the Bruce Trail that are tough in the best conditions, making it treacherous come winter. However, there are plenty of great spots to explore that won’t overwhelm you. Some of my favourites on this list are a part of The Bruce Trail or its side trails!
The important thing about The Bruce Trail is to come prepared. I highly recommend scoping out sections that are at your skill level. The AllTrails app is great for this, as well as Facebook groups or even fellow friends who love to hike! In the meantime, here are a few spots along The Bruce Trail to get you started.
- Woodend Conservation Area in Niagara-on-the-Lake
- Beamer Memorial Conservation Area in Grimsby
- Chedoke Radial Trail in Hamilton
- Limehouse Conservation Area near Halton Hills
- Forks of the Credit Provincial Park in Caledon
- Hockley Valley Provincial Nature Reserve in Laurel
- Kolpore Uplands in The Blue Mountains
- Skinners Bluff near Wiarton
RELATED: Looking to connect with other folks who love hiking, kayaking, camping and more in Ontario? Check out the Ontario Outdoors Facebook Group! It’s a great spot to ask questions and get inspiration for more outdoor adventures across the province.
Bruce Peninsula National Park’s Grotto
Bruce Peninsula National Park is a hotspot for tourist activity in the summer months, though many don’t realize just how gorgeous it is once the snow falls. Head north along Highway 6 towards Tobermory for some of the most brilliant views you’ll find in Southern Ontario!
If you think the turquoise waters of Georgian Bay are magical in the summer months, wait until you see it contrasting against the brilliant white snow. The fluffy white stuff honestly adds a whole other dimension to the area, nevermind the brilliant ice formations along the edges of the Niagara Escarpment. While it’s still gorgeous on a cloudy day, keep your fingers crossed for some sunshine and blue skies as this is when the area truly shines. Pictures honestly don’t do it justice so just plan a trip and see it for yourself!
While the quickest way to The Grotto is via the Georgian Bay Trail which you can take both out and back, I recommend making a loop. Head in along the Marr Lake Trail where you’ll enjoy beautiful views of Boulder Beach as you make your way to The Grotto. You’ll definitely want to take some time enjoying the views along Indian Head Cove (this name really needs to change, IMO) and make your way over to Halfway Rock Point. Then, follow the Bruce Trail as it loops back around towards The Grotto and take the Georgian Bay Trail back to your car.
RELATED: For everything you need to know about visiting the famous Tobermory Grotto, check out my guide to Bruce Peninsula National Park.
SINCE YOU’RE HERE… there are a number of other great spots to hike along the Bruce Peninsula. I highly recommend hiking to the Devil’s Monument, exploring the trails at Lion’s Head Provincial Park and heading across to Black Creek Provincial Park on the western side.
The Crack in Killarney Provincial Park
While it’s hard to pick which of these is the best winter hiking trail in Ontario, The Crack in Killarney Provincial Park is definitely a top contender. This trail is epic no matter the season but the adventure you’ll have in the winter months as you scale huge granite rocks and chunks of the Canadian Shield make it one you’ll never forget.
This is definitely one of the harder winter hikes on this list, so you’ll definitely want to be prepared for it. Layers are key, along with proper footwear, mittens, a toque and crampons. I can’t stress enough how important they are as the Canadian Shield will be covered in ice. Without them, I would have never made it to the top and missed out on that iconic Killarney view!
The Crack is also one of the longer hikes listed here and with the shorter days of winter, you’ll want to be cognisant of your start time. Expect the trail to take you approximately 5 hours as chances are you’ll need a few rest stops with the steady incline. Plus you’ll want to make sure you have time to enjoy the views after putting in all that effort!
RELATED: If you want to read the whole story of my adventure tackling The Crack, check out my post where I spill all my tips for scaling Killarney’s famous trail!
SINCE YOU’RE HERE… if The Crack seems a little too daunting, the Granite Ridge Trail is a perfect alternative in Killarney Provincial Park. It offers some great views too and isn’t nearly as intense! You can always try winter camping in the park so that you can get an early start and have plenty of time to tackle the trail.
Dundas Peak in Hamilton
What’s often referred to as Hamilton’s riskiest selfie spot, it’s a top destination for fall hiking in Ontario. However, once the colours fade and the trees are bare, the crowds disperse and it’s my favourite time to check out Dundas Peak. Once you see these views, you’ll quickly understand why it’s one of the best hikes in Hamilton.
Let’s be honest, the entire Spencer Gorge Conservation Area is beautiful. Its namesake, the Spencer Gorge, is the main feature as this y-shaped gorge features at least ten bowl-shaped basins that are stacked, indicating earlier positions of waterfalls along the gorge. It is said the oldest bowls measure over 350 metres and approximately 60 metres deep… making them comparable to Niagara’s Horseshoe Falls! Be sure to take in the sights and the views overlooking the town of Dundas as you explore the trails along the top of the Escarpment.
RELATED: For the full lowdown on this iconic trail, be sure to check out my full guide to hiking Dundas Peak!
Don’t forget to stop by Tew’s Falls before leaving the Spencer Gorge Conservation Area. While she can have a disappointing flow in the summer months, winter is when she truly shines! You’ll be amazed at the beautiful ice formations of this 41 metre tall ribbon waterfall.
SINCE YOU’RE HERE… you may want to pop in to see Webster’s Falls as well. While there used to be a link along the Bruce Trail to connect Tews Falls to Websters Falls, this is no longer the case. There are also a number of other great waterfalls in Hamilton you might want to check out as well!
Hoggs Falls in Flesherton
Honestly, all of Grey County’s waterfalls are gorgeous in the winter months but there’s just something about Hoggs Falls that makes it next level. Maybe it’s how she’s so perfectly framed by the trees that surround her? Actually, I think it’s the fact that you can get up close and personal with this natural beauty.
From the parking lot, the trek is only about 15 minutes to Hogg’s Falls, but you should be able to hear her the whole way. Just follow the sound of the water! I highly recommend wearing some snow or slush pants as you don’t want to miss climbing down to the edge of the Boyne River. You may have to dig around in the snow a bit but there is a rope that some kind soul left to help us avid waterfall chasers! While you can see her from the top of the escarpment, you really will be missing out if you don’t climb down as the views are just spectacular from the riverbed.
SINCE YOU’RE HERE… Eugenia Falls is just at 7 minute drive away, so why not plan a quick stop? You can also visit her the hard way by hiking along the Bruce Trail. Be warned though, this is quite the trek at 14 kilometres there and back!
Nokiidaa Trail in Aurora, Newmarket & East Gwillimbury
Nokiidaa, meaning “walking together” in Ojibway, connects Aurora, Newmarket and East Gwillimbury as it follows the East Holland River. At 20 kilometres in length, it’s certainly quite the trek but its length and lack of elevation make it a popular spot not just for a winter hike but for cyclists as well!
You won’t find any waterfalls or lookouts along the Nokiidaa Trail, but the views of the East Holland River are gorgeous. I have to admit that I’ve only done a small portion of the Nokiidaa Trail in East Gwillimbury but I immediately fell in love. You’ll walk through rows of towering trees, cross over and under bridges and even see odes to the history of the area. There is also interpretive signage along the way for the history buffs as well as some beautiful public art with Indigenous imagery. I’m already excited for when I can explore more!
With plenty of trail to tackle and relatively flat terrain, I’d say the Nokiidaa Trail is one of the best winter hikes near Toronto, hands down!
SINCE YOU’RE HERE… depending on what section of the trail you explore, there are plenty of other great options for hiking trails close by. Right now I’m eyeing the Sheppard’s Bush Conservation Area in Aurora and the Oak Ridges Trail just south of town in Newmarket.
Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area in Milton
With thousand-year-old cedars, the not-so-common Hackberry tree and adorable little Chickadees, let’s just say you’re guaranteed to have a great winter adventure at Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area. Book your reservation online and then get ready to explore!
Rattlesnake Point has three main trails, all of which offer some pretty spectacular views. The first is the Vista Adventure Trail which is the shortest of them all at just 1.2 kilometres in length. Chances are this won’t be enough winter hiking for you so tack on the Buffalo Crag Trail. This is where you’ll enjoy some of my favourite views across Halton Hills as you follow along the edge of the Niagara Escarpment. I’d say this is the most popular trail and at 3 kilometres long, is the perfect way to spend a winter afternoon.
You’ll also find some great views on the 7.2 kilometre long Nassagaweya Trail which connects to the Crawford Lake Conservation Area. Right now this connection is closed due to the reservation system so you won’t be able to hike it entirely but that just means you’ll have to return for another visit!
SINCE YOU’RE HERE… I highly recommend checking out Hilton Falls Conservation Area as well since it’s less than 10 minutes from Rattlesnake Point. Currently, reservations are required so you’ll have to plan accordingly!
Robertson Cliffs near Sault Ste Marie
If you’re looking for winter hiking trails in Ontario, you better believe there are some pretty fantastic ones in Northern Ontario. Hop on the Trans Canada Highway due north and you’ll find what’s probably my favourite trail on this list, the Robertson Cliffs. Located just 30 minutes outside of town, it’s the perfect way to spend a winter day when visiting Sault Ste Marie!
The trails to the Robertson Cliffs are a part of Algoma Highlands Conservancy who’s mission is to conserve the ecological integrity within key areas of the Algoma Highlands Region. They help maintain the area and preserve it so folks like us can continue to enjoy its beauty for years to come. Follow Robertson Lake Road which is off of Old Highway 17 where you’ll find a few parking lots. You’ll want to look for the second one as this is the closest trailhead to the Robertson Cliffs Loop.
Now, it’s time for an uphill battle! The elevation will get your legs burning on a normal day but with the added possibility of breaking trail – you’re in for a pretty serious workout. This hike isn’t as popular once the snow falls so I highly recommend bringing a pair of snowshoes with you. After about 300 metres you should see white blazes to your left which you’ll follow to the three lookouts and giving you spectacular views of Algoma Country.
SINCE YOU’RE HERE… I recommend stopping in for a peek at Crystal Falls in the Hiawatha Highlands. They also have groomed cross country ski trails that are easily some of the best around!
Rockway Falls in Lincoln
Nestled in the town of Lincoln, you’ll find what’s easily one of my favourite winter hikes in Niagara. Rockway Falls may not look like much in the summer season but she’s absolutely magnificent come winter!
Head to the Rockway Community Centre where you’ll find the entrance to the Rockway Falls Side Trail. Yep, another Bruce Trail beauty! The route can be slick at first since you’ll be scaling down the Niagara Escarpment so I recommend having some ice cleats/crampons to help with your footing. Once the trail levels out, you’ll meet up with the Bruce Trail which is what you’ll want to follow to actually get to Rockway Falls. Chances are you’ll be able to hear the sound of the water but in case you’re not sure where to go, I’ve got all the details in my guide to hiking Rockway Falls.
Yes, I know, the Rockway Falls Side Trail doesn’t actually lead to the falls. It annoys me too. However, it does lead to the lower falls which you can explore before you make your way back up to your car.
SINCE YOU’RE HERE… why not check out a few of the other waterfalls in the Niagara Region? There are many more to explore than just the Horseshoe Falls in Niagara Falls. Be sure to check out my Niagara waterfall guide which shares where you can find all of these natural beauties.
BONUS: Tiffany Falls in Hamilton
Okay, so this isn’t much of a hike as it’s only a kilometre out and back, but Tiffany Falls is absolutely magical in the ice and snow. Hamilton can often have some milder winters (as we saw in early January) but when it’s chilly – look out for some serious Elsa vibes. A few years back she froze over completely (as pictured above) and the views were breathtaking! If you’re hoping to catch her with some serious icicle action, I’d recommend visiting after a few days of steady temperatures around the -10C mark. If it’s been chilly for a while, you might even catch a glimpse of some folks ice climbing along the formations!
If you are looking to make this an epic hike, look for the gap in the road barrier on the other side of Wilson Street across from the parking lot. Follow this last piece of the Tiffany Falls Side Trail to the main Bruce Trail and hang a left. Following the main trail will take you to Sherman Falls as well as the Dundas Valley Conservation Area where you’ll find Canterbury Falls. This trek is easily some of my favourite hiking in Southern Ontario!
Looking for More Winter Hikes in Ontario?
As you can imagine, Ontario is a massive province and there are always more amazing winter hikes to explore! If you’re looking for more suggestions, these are a few of the Ontario winter hikes that are on my radar for future adventures.
- Many Ontario Parks – Let’s be honest, there are so many amazing provincial parks in Ontario that offer great trails for winter hiking. I’ve got quite a few on my list including Frontenac Provincial Park, Hardy Lake Provincial Park and Algonquin Provincial Park. I know, I still can’t believe I haven’t really experienced Algonquin either, but Barron Canyon is certainly calling my name! Oh, I can’t forget my love of Northern Ontario as I can’t wait until I can make it to Thunder Bay for a winter adventure at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park and Kakabeka Falls!
- Scenic Caves in the Blue Mountains – This is definitely a popular spot for hiking all year round, though Scenic Caves really shines in the winter with their beautiful trails for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. You won’t want to miss the Million Dollar View from their suspension bridge as you can see right across Georgian Bay on a clear day! The only downfall is that there is a per person entrance fee which could be steep for some folks.
- Limberlost Forest near Huntsville – Every time I see a new photo from the Limberlost Forest it makes me want to visit even more. It offers over 70 kilometres of trails varying in length and difficulty. Whether you’re an avid winter hiker or looking for a spot to get started, there’s a trail here for you. Since I’m an avid waterfall chaser, I’m currently eyeing the Crystal Falls Trail though I’ve also heard there are some amazing views from the Echo Rock Trail!
- Manitou Mountain Trail in Calabogie – This trail is definitely on the more difficult side with over 400 metres of elevation gain and a length of 9 kilometres but to this gal, it sounds like the perfect day of adventure. This loop trail may be a little steep at times but it has a number of lookouts throughout it to keep you motivated as you climb. Another reason I want to do this trail is that it links up with the Eagle’s Nest Lookout which is said to have some of the best views of the area.
- Lake Laurentian Conservation Area in Sudbury – During my first “real” visit to Sudbury back in 2017 (I say “real” because I had been once before in high school but didn’t really explore the city so it doesn’t count), I spent a little bit of time exploring the Chickadee Trail and it was absolutely magical. With waterfront trails and beautiful boardwalks, I’m sure Lake Laurentian Conservation Area would be absolutely magical in the winter months!
What to Pack For Your Winter Hikes
As I mentioned before, it’s important to make sure you’re prepared as winter hiking requires a little more gear than in the summer months. Here’s a quick list of what you should bring with you when you hike:
- Wear layers, including a thermal base layer and an outer layer to cut the frigid winds
- Warm Merino wool socks to keep your feet warm
- Have a solid pair of winter hiking boots that are waterproof like Sorels
- Mittens (or gloves) to keep your hands warm
- Toque or headband to keep your ears from getting frostbite
- Plenty of water to stay hydrated
- Snacks to keep your energy up
- External battery to ensure you have power in case of emergency
For a more in-depth list along with some insider tips which are guaranteed to keep you warm, pop over to my winter hiking gear guide. Here I dive into specifics including
Ready to Tackle These Ontario Winter Hikes?
So now the big question is – which of these hiking trails are you going to explore first? We’re so lucky to have so many beautiful natural spots across the province and I can’t wait to experience each one. I’m sure it goes without saying that these are some of the best Ontario hikes no matter what time of the year it is, but I think they’re extra amazing during the winter months.
As you can imagine, there are plenty of trails to enjoy across the province so I just might have to update this list once I’ve tackled a few more! Stay tuned for updates and more insider information about the best winter hiking in Ontario.
Looking for More Winter Fun in Ontario?
These Are the Top 20 Ways to Experience Ontario in Winter
You Have to Check Out These Awesome Ontario Skate Trails
…or Take a Peek at IBB’s Winter Travel Archives!