7 things to do this winter in Hastings County
Some argue that Hastings is at its best when the temperatures drop and everything is covered in a thick blanket of snow. Part of their reasoning has to do with all of the things you can do around here when winter hits. From leisurely skates on outdoor rinks to healthy snowmobile rips on backcountry trails, here are seven ways to experience exactly what they mean.
Go cross-country skiing at Vanderwater
You’ll find ski trails criss-crossing most of Hastings, but it’s tough to beat the 16 kilometres of ungroomed tracks at Vanderwater Conservation Area. The five trails here vary in length (1 km to 7 km), but they all take you deep into the property’s 635 acres of mature forest. Some traverse steep ridges and hardwoods. Others cut through flat terrain and thick cedars. But almost all of them pass alongside Vanderwater’s big draw: the peaceful Moira River, where the water cascades over a series of limestone steps.
Learn more and explore: quinteconservation.ca
Hit the snowmobile trails near Bancroft
One of Ontario’s prime snowmobile destinations has always been Bancroft — and for good reason. The surrounding area boasts over 350 kilometres of groomed trails that pass in and around the quaint communities of Glen Alda, McArthurs Mills, Coe Hill, and Gilmour. Nicknamed “The Maze”, these trails also connect with other networks to take you further into the winter wonderland that is the Ontario Highlands. When it’s time to fuel up, head back to Bancroft for upscale comfort food at The Granite. Get your trail permits and maps online at the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC).
Learn more and explore: ofsc.on.ca
Drop a line in Moira Lake
Ice fishing is a beloved pastime in Hastings and Moira Lake is one of the most popular spots. On any given winter weekend, you could find a hundred people out on the 8-kilometre-long lake, bobbing for a wide variety of fish, including largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, northern pike, muskie, walleye, and yellow perch. The best access is the boat launch just off Highway 62 south of Madoc, if looking to stock up on fishing gear and supplies check out Chris’ Live Bait in Marmora. If you’re sticking around for longer than a weekend, check out two other Hastings honey holes: Limerick Lake and Stoco Lake.
Pitch a tent at Silent Lake Provincial Park
Silent Lake is another ice fishing hotspot and just a blast of a winter destination in general. The provincial park that surrounds it is open all year long and boasts 34 kilometres of groomed cross-country ski trails and eight kilometres of snowshoe trails. It also has electric and non-electric campsites available all winter long, as well as ten camp cabins and eight yurts with beds and stoves. There is a winterized comfort station here as well with showers, drinking water, and a dishwashing station.
Learn more and explore: ontarioparks.com/park/silentlake
Lace-up the skates across Hastings
No winter is complete without going for a skate at least once. Luckily, you have a few options to do so across the region. If you want to feel the cold wind on your cheek, check out the outdoor rinks in Tyendinaga, Coe Hill, and L’Amable. If you’d rather be indoors while doing your best Connor McDavid, go for the public skating at Deseronto Community Centre, Tweed Hungerford Community Centre, North Hastings Community Centre, Marmora Community Centre and Arena, Madoc and District Recreation Centre, or Stirling Rawdon and District Recreation Centre.
Take a horse-drawn sleigh ride near Madoc
For something a little less active but just as magical as the other activities listed here, consider a horse-drawn sleigh ride at Littlebrook Farm near Madoc. Canadian geldings Guinness and Cocoa will be your muscle, gliding you on a thorough tour of backcountry trails on a 150-year-old sleigh. And if you ask ahead of time, they might even stop so that you can warm up with a bonfire and hot chocolate. The nearby O’Hara Mill Homestead and Conservation Area also periodically offers equine sleigh tours. Keep your eye on its event calendar, especially around Family Day.
Catch a live show in Stirling and Bancroft
Maybe you’re not one for the cold outdoors. Or maybe you just need to warm up before heading back out. Either way, the community theatres in Stirling and Bancroft have solid lineups of live shows this winter. At the Stirling Festival Theatre, the bill includes local country star Robyn Scott (January 20), The Great White North Improv Comedy Tour (January 27), covers supergroup Dwayne Gretzky (February 23), and Great Big Sea’s Sean McCann (March 15). At the Village Playhouse in Bancroft, it’s Tommy Youngsteen playing Neil Young (February 3) and alt-country legends Elliott Brood (February 17).