If you’re like most people, you’re tired of staying home, social distancing and maybe even feeling sedentary due to the current COVID-19 restrictions. It’s been a rough few months, and all indications are that the mandated limitations that we’re experiencing will continue in some shape or form. That is more reason to get outside and enjoy the outdoors.
In Huntsville, one of Ontario’s most loved four-season destinations, residents enjoy the benefits of a small community nestled amongst the lakes and trees from nearby iconic Algonquin Provincial Park. Due to its natural environment and natural resources, Huntsville is a wonderful destination to explore during the summer months.
Gerry Forestell is a long-time resident of Huntsville and an avid outdoor enthusiast.
Here are 5 spots in Huntsville that he would recommend checking out right now:
Get outside at the Limberlost Forest and Wildlife Reserve:
In Huntsville, check out the Limberlost Forest and Wildlife Reserve , a private, yet publicly accessible year-round wilderness area that has 20 private lakes and more than 10,000 unspoiled acres of mixed forest. You’ll have to sign an online safety waiver prior to your visit, but once you get there you’ll find beautiful scenery, along with hiking and biking trails. At the moment, swimming and boating (including kayaking) are not permitted due to COVID-19 restrictions, but Gerry Forestell mentions that the forest is a “great place to spend a summer afternoon.”
Hike and bike at Arrowhead Provincial Park :
Located in the heart of Muskoka, just north of Huntsville, this scenic park offers several large, treed and private campsites, three sand beaches on Arrowhead Lake, and 15 km of hiking trails, once of which leads to a waterfall. While exploring the park, you’ll see the remains of old homesteads from the 1870’s. And if you don’t bring your own gear, you can easily rent canoes, kayaks and mountain bikes during the summer season.
Ride the Muskoka Mountain Bike Trails :
If mountain biking is a favorite activity, you won’t want to visit Muskoka without spending some time riding the local trails. The area is well-known and highly regarded for its incredible geological diversity that provides something for everyone. Whether your thing is embarking on challenging mountain bike experiences or casual riding on gentle trails that exist in and around all the towns in Muskoka, you will love the many options available. Stop at the local bike shops for information on the trails or join the longstanding Tuesday evening ride that starts by AO ( Algonquin Outfitters). If you did not bring your bike you can rent from one of the local bike shops.
Paddling and other water adventures on the Muskoka River:
Kayaking is one of the most fun activities in which to participate during the summer, and the workout you get can’t be beat. If you don’t own your own water craft, you can rent a kayak, canoe or stand-up paddle board at Algonquin Outfitters , located beside the town dock in downtown Huntsville. From this location you can paddle east along the Muskoka River through town under the former swing bridge to Fairy Lake. Along the way one witl pass Lion’s Lookout, worth the drive or vigorous walk up to get incredible views of Huntsville and surrounding lakes. During the summer there is also the chance of seeing the Portage Flyer steam train moving along the tracks to Camp Kitchen. If one heads west along the river after passing under the Centre street and CNR rail bridge, you will enter Hunter’s Bay. On the south side is Avery Beach, a good place to stop for a swim or farther along at the floating trail. The floating trail is part of the Great Trail network. If one wants to really explore, they can continue on to Lake Vernon.
Float or Stand Paddle Board (SUP) the Big East River:
A few minutes north of Huntsville and running along the boundary of Arrowhead Provincial Park flows the Big East River. In the spring the Big East can be high and fast with melt waters originating in Algonquin Park building with the further melting snow along its route to Lake Vernon. As the water starts to recede in spring the Big East makes for a fun paddle from Williamsport bridge to Arrowhead. If one is in pursuit of white water there the stretch from Distress Dam to Williamsport bridge. Hap Wilson’s guide book , “Canoeing and Hiking Wild Muskoka”, is a great resource.
In the summer as the water level drops and the flow slows down it is a great time to float in rafts or other inflatables along the Big East from the Arrowhead Park entrance to Old North Road. Another option is try an SUP adventure fully guided by Jamie Honderich from Find Your Wild. All equipment and instruction are included with this half or full day adventure.
One bit of advice Forestell offers is that if any of these activities are new to you, especially SUP, kayaking and other sports that provide more excitement than you might be used to, it’s always wise to seek out a class first, so you can learn the basics and safety precautions from a qualified instructor. This will prepare you for your outdoor adventure, and classes of all kinds can be found through a simple Google search.