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In Search of Gold: Ontario's Gold Rush Tour

The Gold Rush Tour in Ontario didn’t pan out in the traditional sense, but we found plenty of white gold along the way!
RELATED TOPICS: TRAVEL | SNOWMOBILE TRAVEL | CANADA
Gold Rush Tour Ontario Canada snowmobile
When mid-season hits, why not pack up the sleds and head north of the Canadian border for some spectacular riding? The 440-mile (710km) Gold Rush Tour is one of 35 snow tours in Ontario. Located in Northeastern Ontario, the quest for gold has snowmobilers coming back to this area time and time again. The loop can be done in as little as two days, or at a more scenic pace of three to five days.

I met up with an old high school friend, Jon, to encircle the Gold Rush Tour in 48 hours. We made our way up from the Kawartha Lakes region to New Liskeard. A five-hour drive from Toronto, New Liskeard is a great starting point for snowmobilers. With over 100 inches of annual snowfall, you’ll usually have no shortage of well-maintained trails in the area. We rolled into the Quality Inn New Liskeard by early afternoon and decided to take the sleds out for a little rip to kick off the trip. A quick blast had us back to the hotel before snow squalls hit the area that evening. Relaxing in the hot tub, sauna and pool left us refreshed for what would be two long days on the trails.

Waking up to sunny skies and about five inches of fresh snow, we were more than pumped for the day’s ride. Leaving out of New Liskeard, we headed west as we were looping the Gold Rush Tour in a clockwise direction. We caught the local river for a few miles until picking up the A trail, which brought us through some local farmers’ fields. The blustery wind and accumulation of snow made for some big drifts across the trail. With Jon leading, we did what any snowmobiler would do when met with soft drifts and two turbo sleds at our disposal: Squeeze the throttle and get the sleds dancing through some fresh powder!
Gold Rush Tour Ontario Canada snowmobile
■ First day fun
Once we got back into the trees, the trails tightened up for only a short while before picking up a rail line which allowed us to quickly cover some ground. Our first gas stop was at the Elk Lake Eco Centre where we were met by the friendly staff. This would be a wonderful place to grab a bite to eat or spend the night if you’re taking multiple days to complete the tour. Knowing that we had to cover a lot of ground on our first day, we jumped on the A107C trail and continued west towards the small community of Gowganda. As the day rolled on we realized that this portion of the Gold Rush Tour offers some wide-open, high-speed and well-maintained trails.

Surprisingly, we never met any other sleds throughout the day, so we had the trail to ourselves. Reaching Gowganda Lake, we gave a slight nod at one another before both sleds had it pinned to the bar and we were side-by-side, dancing across the hard-packed ice. Easing up on the throttle, we arrived at Auld Reekie Lodge, which would be our lunch stop.

Mid-season conditions along with an on-point grooming schedule made the trail coming into Shining Tree one of the best that I have ridden this year. Some of the smaller snowmobile clubs here in Ontario depend on donations, volunteer hours and funding from the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC). Shining Tree is the only place to get fuel running up the west side of the Gold Rush Loop. As a snowmobiler who puts on a ton of miles each season, it is important to recognize that trail maintenance comes at a cost. Ten cents from every liter of fuel sold is donated to the Shining Tree snowmobile club. Snowmobiling is an expensive sport, so a few extra dollars donated on every fill-up goes along way to keep the trails in top-notch condition.
Gold Rush Tour Ontario Canada snowmobile
■ Look out moose!
Jon took the lead as we left Shining Tree, making our way north towards Timmins. We picked up a long section of hydro cut which had a lot of elevation changes, beautiful scenery and some tricky corners to navigate. With about an hour of daylight remaining, we pressed on to our destination of Timmins, Ontario. As dusk approached, I saw Jon’s taillight light up, accompanied by an abrupt stop in the middle of the trail. About 50 yards in front of the snowmobiles stood a large Canadian moose out for an evening stroll. When Bullwinkle eventually allowed us to pass, we still had approximately 30 miles (50km) before reaching the Comfort Inn in Timmins.

One of the only cities in Ontario that has an intricate trail system that runs throughout its borders, Timmins makes for a very sledder-friendly location as it is possible to navigate to almost every attraction that the city offers without leaving the trail system. After a long day of riding, dinner and a few beverages helped us to relax before calling it a night. One of the perks of staying at the Comfort Inn is that you can pull the snowmobiles right up to the walkout of your room. This gives you piece of mind and added security during your overnight stay.
Gold Rush Tour Ontario Canada snowmobile
■ Cold finish
Waking up to a frosty -20F morning, grabbing breakfast at the hotel before departure sounded like a clever idea. The sleds took a little longer than usual to get to operating temperature, but it wasn’t long before we left Timmins and started heading back to New Liskeard. Since we covered a lot of ground on the first day, it was going to be a shorter day on the trails. The A111C took us east towards the main A trail. Our handlebar warmers were cranked on high, but it wasn’t long until we reached the A108 trail as we made our way to Kirkland Lake, a gold-mining town that dates to the early 1900s. With an annual snowfall of close to 120 inches, this area is a snowmobiler’s paradise that has fantastic elevation changes and no shortage of Canadian shield rock.
Gold Rush Tour Ontario Canada snowmobile
We continued on our last section of the trip. The A108 took us through some small logging towns such as Englehart and Earlton. The A trail on which we started yesterday had us squeezing the throttle across some of the farmers’ fields back to New Liskeard. Our sleds pulled into the Quality Inn, where our truck and trailer waited. Jon and I were all smiles as we discussed the many highlights of our trip during the ride home. We both agreed that we would be back to ride the 440-mile loop again.

Even though we didn’t find any actual gold during our adventure, the real treasure was our collective experience. For us, striking gold meant table-top smooth trails, minimal sled traffic, great friends and a trip that won’t soon be forgotten. Nothing beats heading north for the “white gold” that every snowmobiler is in search of. The Gold Rush Tour is one loop where you’ll hit the motherlode!

FOR MORE: Follow the author’s social media pages @CanuckPowersports on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for more photos and stories.
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