Canada is a land of immense size, indescribable beauty, and endless opportunities to explore untamed territory few will ever know. One of our favorite ways to explore far beyond what most people will ever see is on an ATV, and every ride is an adventure. Snowmobile riders have long known the wild, natural beauty that most often lies outside of town limits here, but in the past few years, more of the communities that have long hosted winter recreation are now finding ATV riders to be welcome explorers as well. Elliot Lake is one such community.
Canada has what most of the planet does not: vast areas that retain their wild beauty, and an attitude that welcomes modern day explorers to wander freely. Although timber stands and mineral deposits were found in many areas, and in some areas are still being harvested, when the railroad and logging road systems are no longer needed for those operations, they make a perfect trail bed and connecting network for todays ATV explorers. Around every turn in the trail there is something new to discover. From British Columbia to Nova Scotia, every province has its own natural treasures, but recently we visited the beautiful town of Elliot Lake, Ontario to see just what the town and the trails had to offer.
Elliot Lake is about 2 hours east of Sault St. Marie on Highway 17, and with good roads the entire way, is quite easy to get to. Basically, follow the edge of Lake Huron, and then turn north on 108 for several miles, and the adventure begins. Actually, it will begin even before you arrive in town, as it is quite common to find moose wandering between marshes on either side of the roads, so drive with caution. One rule of thumb we follow is to watch the big trucks. If they have those immense, fort like steel bars on the front, it’s to protect them from moose damage. If colliding with a moose is so common huge trucks need extra protection, running into Bullwinkle will certainly end your ATV adventure even before you get started. Be watchful on the trail, and on the road!
Once you arrive in town, you will find every amenity you will need to stay for only a night, or for a lifetime. The town has many restaurants, great places to stay, quite a bit of shopping, and most importantly to us, two ATV dealerships. There are both a Polaris dealer and a Honda dealer in town, and both carry parts and accessories for their main brands, but some parts for the other brands as well. We visited them, and the staff was friendly and more than helpful in assisting us on our trail ride. In fact, the owner of the Polaris dealership even went along! Talk about customer service! Here’s a tip he had before heading out onto the trails: Carry a tire repair kit! As it turns out, his advice was correct, because one sharp rock too many, and we needed it.
The first thing you will notice when beginning your ATV adventure in Elliot Lake is that ATVs are completely road legal. Riding past the police station and following traffic lights while mounted on your ATV does take some getting used to, and just like big bucks always seem to know the opening day of deer season, we always expected to hear squealing tires and screaming sirens as Officer DoRight gave chase to another ATV menace, but nobody gave us a second glance in town. Simply follow traffic laws, and you’ll be fine. We even hit the local McDonalds drive through on our ATV, although that does present another problem: just where do you put the food after they give it to you? Some things work better while in our truck.
We chose the Fireside Inn as our “base camp” while in Elliot Lake, primarily because it is immediately on the trail system, (although pretty much every place in town is) and in no small part because our new base camp had a nice restaurant, and a very cozy bar with an outside patio for relaxing at night. There are plenty of other places to stay as well, and most are very accommodating to ATV riders, but it is a good idea to check with the hotel front desk where you can park your trailer. It was almost too easy; simply unload your ATVs in the parking lot, ride to the fuel station (also right next to a trail) and off you go for the days adventure.
TO THE TRAIL!
It’s going to take much more than one day to explore all of the ATV trails in the Elliot Lake community. In fact, there are over 200 miles of trails all within 30 miles of the town limits, and those are just the ones listed on the official map! Before you head out on any of the trails however, get a copy of the Elliot Lake Recreational Trail Map. It’s an excellent resource for planning your adventure, and graphically shows the trails, distances, local roads, access points, hundreds of absolutely beautiful lakes, and a wealth of other very valuable information. The map even includes a detailed description of what you can expect on each trail, and GPS coordinates as well! Without a doubt, the Elliot Lake Recreational Trail Map is one of the best trail maps we’ve seen anywhere, and just like the guy says in the commercial, don’t leave home without it.
Riders who chose to explore the Elliot Lake trail system can expect to find a little bit of everything. Some trails are fast and wide open fire and mining haul roads, some are part of the snowmobile system, and some wind tightly through the trees and up and down the hills. One thing riders can expect on every trail is the inescapable wild beauty of nature. There are hundreds of scenic lakes of all sizes, but each begs a rider to stop and drink in the view, like cool water on a sweltering summer day. We wanted to swim, fish, and hunt from the shores of every one, and they make the Elliot Lake trail system unforgettable. We’ve been riding all over the planet, but this area will be one we come back to. Part of what makes the Elliot Lake trail system great is its natural, wild beauty, but be aware that you will be far away from town at some points, so take along a few essentials for your trip. We always bring a few supplies like bottled water, a few snacks, a small tool kit, and just as Dave at the Polaris dealer wisely suggested, a tire repair kit. In our case, we needed it after an encounter with a sharp rock.
It’s a great thing to be welcomed into a community, and the Elliot Lake community has opened its arms, its trails, and its beautiful wilderness to ATV explorers, and we like to think that most Canadians still have a little of that rugged, “explorer” blood in them at heart. Although the mining and timber industry are a part of the towns history, and more than likely will play a part in the future, with an area this beautiful, so will recreation, and a part of that will be ATV riding. Plan your own mission of discovery; you won’t be disappointed.
For more information on the Elliot Lake community and trail system, check out the following web sites: