Grey Bruce Loops Deliver Southwestern Ontario’s Best Snowmobiling…
There are many reasons you should snowmobile Grey Bruce loops for your next Ontario snowmobile tour vacation…the Grey Bruce area is favourably sandwiched between Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. For snowmobilers, these lake effect snowmakers generate some of southern Ontario’s best snow conditions, pushing white streamers to bury the land even when other areas aren’t getting any. Our snowmobile magazine crew – Craig & Dawn Irwin, Dan Carty, Brent Murphy and I – were first hand beneficiaries of this bounty as it snowed four of the five days we visited what is also the northern part of District 9 of the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC) and of the tourism region Grey Bruce Simcoe. Meanwhile, if you’re interested in other Ontario snowmobile tour destinations, check out the rest of my Ontario ride articles and the snowmobile video below.
Grey Bruce Loops from Owen Sound
The Grey Bruce Region includes Grey County and Bruce County. They have many assets – and none are more important in winter than District 9’s more than 3,500 kilometres of OFSC snowmobile trails. We staged out of the region’s largest centre, Owen Sound, population 22,000 for our Ontario snowmobile tour. Located at the base of the famous Bruce Peninsula, Owen Sound provides snowmobilers with small town hospitality and big city amenities. It’s also home to one mighty fine, snowmobile-friendly hotel, the Best Western Inn On The Bay, where we stayed for four nights while doing day loops (see “Hotel Spotlight”).
“Ride More Drive Less” is District 9’s slogan and truer words were never spoken. Owen Sound is only a hop, skip and jump north of the 401 corridor in Southwestern Ontario, little more than two hours from much of the Golden Horseshoe and Greater Toronto Area, and close to both the Michigan and New York border crossings. This proximity makes the Grey Bruce Region and Owen Sound the no brainer first choice of snowmobilers looking for a quick day ride, an easy long weekend getaway or a great Ontario snowmobile tour. After all, the name of the game is to do as much sledding and as little trailering as possible, right?
Grey Bruce Loops As Good As Quebec
Speaking of sledding, our been-there, done-that snowmobile magazine crew is pretty hard to impress. But by the end of this Ontario snowmobile tour, everyone agreed that the trail riding just doesn’t get any better than this. As Craig Irwin commented, “If I didn’t know where I was, the sledding is so good here that we could’ve been riding Quebec trails!” That snowmobile trails in Grey Bruce earn such high praise is first and foremost a testament to the extraordinary efforts of District 9 clubs and volunteers, whose trail prep and grooming is second to none. It’s also proof positive that a recent district-wide shift to centralized trail and grooming operations is already paying off for visiting snowmobilers.
Getting Around Grey Bruce Loops
Hopefully, the district approach will soon bring the same much needed consistency and uniformity to District 9’s directional and information signage as is already present in its well-done field staking and many intersection signboards. But too much of the Grey Bruce is signed for locals who know their way around, not for visitors to navigate as easily as possible. One particular aggravation for us was uncertainty about how far and in what direction to go in places where a road running is the only connection between two sections of trail. Some were well marked; others less so, even though most roads are helpfully named on the trail map.
I also had to re-orient my own trail navigation approach somewhat on this Ontario snowmobile tour. In District 9, only the TOP (Trans Ontario Provincial) Trails are numbered on the district map and on the snow. This leaves a whack of club trails with no numbers. However, all intersections are numbered on the map (but not 100% on the snow), so I had to learn to find my way from intersection to intersection rather than by knowing for sure what trail I was on at any given time by watching for a trail number. It seems to me that the best system would be to have both intersection and trail numbers, but it’s not a perfect world – trail distances on the map would also be a big help to newcomers that have no sense of distance perspective. I’d also appreciate more marking for gas stations.
All that being said, signage in District 9 is a massive undertaking. Because the majority of trails are on private farmland, most of the thousands of trail signs and many more thousands of field stakes have to be taken down by volunteers at the end of each season…and put up all over again the next fall – all the more reason for a more centralized approach to better coordinate more visitor friendly signage.
Always Close to Services on Grey Bruce Loops
But when you’re grinning from ear to ear while riding hour after hour on primo trails, signage is a secondary consideration. The Grey Bruce Region provides so many exceptional trail options that connect so many communities that you’re never very far from services and amenities. In fact, one of the pleasures of Grey Bruce snowmobiling is the feeling of being off in the middle of nowhere while you’re really close to everything. Small towns, crossroads villages, farm homesteads and concession roads abound, so unlike many other destinations, assistance is always nearby if needed.
Amazing Diversity and Multiple Choices on Grey Bruce Loops
So what’s the trail riding like in Grey Bruce? It’s an amazing diversity. The region’s prominent geographical feature is the Niagara Escarpment that slices through the area and forms the backbone of the Bruce Peninsula. The Escarpment provides several scenic lookouts like Skinner’s Bluff (just east of Intersection 45 off TOP Trail B107) and the one over Owen Sound (just east of TOP Trail B at Intersection 109), plus the gorgeous Walter’s Falls (just west of Intersection 170). The beautiful trails through the Peninsula tend to be tighter overall than elsewhere in District 9, with many bush trails that lend themselves to a more casual, leisurely ride, like we did on Day One.
Alternatively as we discovered on Day Two and Three riding south from Owen Sound, there’s plenty of wide open sledding across rolling farmland that never seems to end. It’s interspersed with many islands of bush, back-forty river valleys and long winding curves to keep things even more entertaining. The Grey Bruce Region also has its fair share of unopened road allowances and abandoned rail lines to zip up your ride. All in all, there’s something for everyone and always the opportunity to extend or shorten your journey depending on who is riding and how your day is going. What’s more, the trail system is almost entirely land-based, so no ice to cross!
Yes, you can rack up big miles in Grey Bruce if that’s your preference. But it’s not unusual to ride Grey Bruce in fresh powder on top of a hard packed trail as we did for three days. Then too, that lake effect weather can change in the blink of an eye, so suddenly you’re sledding through blizzard-like conditions with blowing snow, white outs and snowdrifts to enhance your adventure. That’s why the field stakes are so important and so ubiquitous throughout the region. Stakes also serve another equally important purpose for clubs…reminding riders to stay on the trail, because wandering off onto farmland is a sure fire way to annoy landowners and lose trail permission.
After three glorious days in Grey Bruce, I highly recommend trying it for yourself. Like our Snow Goer Canada crew, you won’t be disappointed and will quickly discover that great snow is closer than you think! For more on a Grey Bruce Ontario snowmobile tour, check out my previous article on Snow Goer Canada Magazine. #ontariosnowtrails #ridegreybruce #explorethebruce #gosnowmobilingontario
Grey Bruce Loops – Check Out The New Snow Tours
Now there are officially designated, mapped and marked snow tours to ride in Grey Bruce: the Bruce Peninsula Tour, the Walters Falls Tour, the Queen’s Bush Tour and the Saugeen River Tour!
Grey Bruce Loops – Best Western Inn On The Bay
Best Western Inn On The Bay. (519) 371-9200. It’s always a treat at the end of a hard day of sledding to look forward to kicking back at a great hotel. So if you’re looking for a seriously comfortable home away from home with excellent beds and facilities, the very snowmobile-friendly, full service Best Western Inn On The Bay is without a doubt the best place for snowmobilers to stay over and stage from in Owen Sound. Maybe that’s because the manager, Jason Hemstock, is such an avid snowmobiler himself!
The hotel is conveniently located just north of downtown Owen Sound on east side of the bay. There’s ample trailer parking on its east side and direct access by local trail (turn at Intersection Marker 144) off of TOP Trail B on the east side of town.
Not one, but two hot tubs and a sauna ease those end of ride aches and security cameras overlook sled parking. Meanwhile, the licenced on site restaurant provides absolutely scrumptious dinners and a hearty hot breakfast is included with your room.
Fuel and convenience store are accessed at intersection marker 143, just down TOP Trail B from the Best Western Inn On The Bay turn off.
Grey Bruce Loops – Who To Contact
- Ontario Tourism
- BruceGreySimcoe Tourism
- Bruce County Tourism
- Grey County Tourism
- OFSC District 9
- OFSC (for permits and online trail guide)
Grey Bruce Loops Maps Needed
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The tips and advice in this blog are the opinions of the author, may not work in every situation and are intended only for the convenience and interest of the reader, who has the personal responsibility to confirm the validity, accuracy and relevancy of this information prior to putting it to their own use.