A Canadian winter travel guide for touring Ontario & Quebec in the snow.
Traveling Ontario & Quebec in winter is absolutely incredible. There is so much to get up to from our great outdoors and landscapes blanketed in snow, winter sports and activities, not to mention our beautiful cities like Toronto, Montreal and Quebec City. They have winter charm and festivities galore.
Canada has great winter activities worthy of your time. They include dogsledding, skiing and skating a trail through the forest. We also have outdoor winter music festivals and cities that are otherworldly to explore – cough cough, Quebec City. Touring Canada in winter is incredible. While you may be nervous about the cold weather – with the right winter gear for Canada it won’t be a problem. Some key considerations include having layers, thermals and great toque (winter hat)!
This article is focused on sharing many of our favourite tips and things to get up to in Canada for a winter road-trip tour in eastern Canada – no matter how you travel. We incorporate the majority of this of course in our WinterWild Canada Road Trip Adventure - a 12 night winter tour in Ontario & Quebec departing from Toronto - but these tips are also very helpful to those that are road-tripping Canada in winter on their own or just getting away from the big cities on the weekends.
Explore a variety of different types of regions and areas in winter.
A winter trip in Canada wouldn’t be the same without mixing it up.
Exploring our great outdoors, national parks and beyond along with our cities. Experiencing different cultures from between French and English Canada and beyond. Seeing different geographical wonders from lakes and rivers to a fleuve!
Eating and drinking winter style whether some sortilege to warm you up around a campfire. What about apres ski, or a lumberjack breakfast? Getting outside of the “known” spots.
One example is that we much enjoy skiing at Le Massif in Charlevoix over the more developed Mont Tremblant. It is less expensive, less trafficked and more wondrous views, with a higher vertical drop for those that are inclined!
Great snowshoeing, skating and cross country skiing on your winter tour in Canada
Skating at a rink, on a pond, or along a trail through the woods!
This is what we are talking about on a Canadian winter backpacking trip. There are lots of ways to enjoy it. You can get up to skating after hours of working to build your perfect natural rink shovelling snow out of the way you on a frozen pond or lake! Don't forget to also confirm the ice is thick enough/safe with an expert (and have them join you).
You can go skating in Canada at one of our thousands of indoor or outdoor rinks in our cities and towns. Toronto has a plethora of hockey and skating rinks throughout the city for your enjoyment. Montreal could have even more hockey rinks? What about Quebec City - lots of hockey and skating rinks. The rumour is true. Canadians love their hockey and skating.
You can also skate along the Rideau canal in Ottawa - which is well known for good reason – it is unique and something many locals do to get to work. Did we mention it was free!
There are also some great skating trails in Ontario & Quebec. A skating trail allows you to skate through the forest enjoying your time - including at night with tiki torches lighting the way! Arrowhead provincial park in Ontario for skating is one of our favourites.
Don’t have skates, many of these places offer them for rent for a nominal fee. Don’t know how to skate, take an inexpensive intro lesson OR risk it. Pro tip - don’t use your wrists to break your fall, or you might just break your wrists instead.
Go cross-country skiing in Ontario & Quebec.
You can explore on the lakes, or groomed trails throughout the provinces.
Are you a beginner cross-country skier? You can rent gear, and get lessons at reasonable rates to kick-start your exploration. It’s an amazing cardio workout if you want to push yourself, and you’ll get a great burn in your legs and arms.
You’ll be whizzing through beautiful landscapes in no time – what more can you ask for. You can go cross country skiing in tons of places including Algonquin Park, Arrowhead Park, Charlevoix, Limberlost Forest, Hardwood, Jacques-Cartier National Park and beyond.
Almost all core regions in Canada have a great place nearby to enjoy cross-country skiing. Really into adventure? You can do a multi-day cross-country skiing adventure in Quebec, staying at small cabins along the way. It is like a hiking or canoe trip in the winter by ski!
Snowshoeing is another fun way to enjoy a winter tour in Canada.
It’s a lot like walking with huge shoes – but you are on top of huge swaths of snow! The snowshoes help keep you above the snow. Walk on the lake or uncleared trails without sinking waist deep… or further!
Make sure you know what you are doing. Even if the lake appears frozen solid there are very significant and serious risks. Be with a trained guide that is knowledgeable about the area, snowshoeing and safety.
A great place in Ontario near Toronto for snowshoeing or is Limberlost Forest and Wildlife Preserve, or Algonquin Park. Near Quebec city there are trails nearby along with further east in Baie St. Paul and Le Massif. Like cross-country skiing, you can enjoy snowshoeing almost anywhere in our great outdoors - there will be a place nearby!
More Adventurous Winter Sports in Canada from Dog Sledding, Snowmobiling, to Sledding
One of our favourite things is sledding down a huge track down Mont Liguori.
The folks in Quebec always seem to be up to something adventurous and unique. It is 7.5KM long and boatloads of fun. This is all on a manual wooden sled you and you alone are in full control of!
You’ll be riding down a groomed snow covered trail just made for sledding. There are tight turns and epic views of the Saint Lawrence river throughout. We didn’t even mention that you get to ride an awesome snowcat to the top, and get to enjoy a hot chocolate mid-way through.
The cost is about $55 and well worth it for the 2 hours if your budget can handle it. Who knows when you will be going back - so just do it!
Go snowmobiling. If you’re near the lake, or know the trails, you get some serious adrenaline! No experience… well that is most of us! There are many snowmobile companies all across Northern Ontario and Quebec that can help you out with training and a guide to take you out.
Dog sledding is a definite must when travelling in Ontario and Quebec in winter.
It is awesome! These dogs love running and pulling you through the snow not to mention a nice pet before you get going. The most important thing is make sure you go to a place that treats the dogs well. We recommend sharing the sled with another person and taking turns driving! Oh and the cost is super reasonable on the east coast!
There are great mountains for Skiing and Snowboarding in Eastern Canada!
There are many options for skiing and snowboarding on a trip right from Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City and beyond! While if you are an advanced skier and simply hunting powder all winter – and that is the primary part of your journey – then you already know there are more tailored locations in Canada for you. For just about everyone, these will more than blow you away!
Do you love Cirque du Soleil and skiing? One of the founders of Cirque decided they loved their outdoor skiing sport so much they founded Le Massif. It is an incredible ski mountain experience right near Baie St. Paul, just 45 minutes east of Quebec City. You have incredible runs, huge vertical drops over 2500 feet, along with ridiculous views of the Saint Lawrence . It is almost as though you are skiing directly into this massive river. You’ll get powdery snow given their five-year average of 645 cm of snow, glorious mountain views and great food! Once you are done, there are some spas in nearby towns that are definitely worth a visit to unwind in.
Mont Tremblant is the most well known ski resort in Eastern Canada & Quebec. For good reason. There are 102 trails, tons of amenities and accommodations nearby and it has the fun of a pedestrian ski village at the base. It is also just a short hour and a half drive north of Montreal so it sees lots of action. Oh and the Laurentians are breathtaking as well!
Another great ski option near Quebec City is Mont-Sainte Anne. The mountain has a 625 meter vertical drop, ~550 acres of skiable terrain, 530cm of natural annual snowfall, and our favourite… night skiing on 19 trails! For the more advanced tricksters, they have a rail park and boardercross to test your skills. Don’t worry there are tons of beginner and relaxed trails for everyone.
Ontario isn’t the most known for amazing ski resorts. It is true that they don’t compare to the other options listed above. If you are getting started and want to enjoy a nice day on the slopes there are many great ski hill options near Toronto or Ottawa. You have Mount St. Louis Moonstone, Blue Mountain (note: it isn’t really a mountain, but you get amenities like a true resort), and Horseshoe. Many have additional things like the aforementioned snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. One of our favourites though is snow tubing which is always a good time!
Some other funky things to not miss on a winter road-trip in Canada!
For the brave, go for a “polar swim”! Plunging into the frozen lake during winter should be done with caution. It’s not for everyone, but it’s exhilarating. Sometimes there are festivals going on in small towns that facilitate the experience and raise money for charity. They prep it all, ensuring there is a hole in the frozen lake so that you can get in to the chilly water below!
Quebec City! Explore it in winter. You must. You have to go on a winter tour in Quebec. You don’t have to be there only for Christmas to soak it in. There is so much to do there. And the feeling of the city as you wander the streets is so special. One tip is that you might want to time your visit Quebec City Winter Carnival because of all the festivities and activity. We don’t want to rehash the general exploration guidelines we recommend for your time in Quebec City– but if you are interested to reach out and we might just write something up and share it with you.
Montreal! Beyond exploring this incredible city, one of our favourite things to do there is to enjoy our time at Igloofest! This is an annual outdoor music festival done Montreal style. Electronic music and beyond… all outside in the middle of winter! There are activities, food, beverages and more. Most turn it into a funky event dressed in their most ridiculous 80’s winter gear while jamming to the tunes.
An outdoor hot tub is a great end to a great day in winter— and is an old-time pleasure for many. If you don’t have one at your accommodations, you can always pop by a Nordik style spa in Quebec City, North Ontario, Ottawa and beyond. Enjoying hot tubs, saunas and more during the winter in Canada (both inside and outside) is a great way to soothe the muscles after a day exploring.
Hockey time in Canada – hockey country. Enjoy yourself at a hockey game in Canada!
What Canada winter trip article would be complete without discussing hockey? None! There are many ways to experience hockey in Canada. You can go to a hockey game in Ontario or Quebec, visit the hockey hall of fame or play a game of “shinny” (one of those skating rinks mentioned before).
One important thing to know… it is just called “hockey”. There is only hockey and then there is field hockey. There is no such thing as “ice hockey” just hockey. Want to get a Canadian a bit upset (yes it is a rare sight to see!) call it “ice hockey”. Actually, please don’t.
While many will send you to the nearest NHL game to get your taste of hockey, it can be unnecessarily expensive in some places (cough cough Toronto) and there are lots of additional options. It is definitely a great time and can be quite affordable in say Ottawa, and Montreal (if they are having a tough season).
If the dates don’t line up with your visit, or you want something a little more budget friendly, you can always check out the QMJHL team in Quebec City, the Remparts de Québec. As they don’t have an NHL team, it is a pretty big deal there and tons of fun! There are also lots of other options beyond to experience a hockey game in Canada with the many leagues.
As Tom Connor's and most Canadians would proudly say
"The good old hockey game is the best game you can name, and the best game you can name is the good old hockey game."
Lace em up,
The Out Here Crew