Gatineau Park, Quebec
Within 40 minutes of leaving Ottawa’s airport, you can be in the heart of Gatineau Park and strapping on a pair of cross-country skis. With a network of more than 200 kilometres of trails, the hard part will be deciding which one of the 50 trails is right for you. Ski through the Mackenzie King Estate, check out the homes of early settlers repurposed as warming huts or test your fitness on trails used for Canada’s largest cross-country ski event, the Gatineau Loppet.
Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario
With a choice of groomed, track-set trails or the full backcountry experience across three trail networks, there is something for every visitor to Algonquin Provincial Park. Intermediate to advanced skiers will love the expansive views of the 15-km Pinetree Loop in the Leaf Lake area, while families will enjoy one of four easy loops close to the Leaf Lake Trailhead. And everyone will appreciate the warming huts, where birdseed is provided to feed the blue jays.
Whiteshell Provincial Park, Manitoba
Rent skis in Winnipeg, drive two hours east and enter a rolling landscape shaped by glaciers thousands of years ago. Rugged Precambrian scenery with plenty of lakes and rivers serves as the backdrop for all 10 trail systems scattered across the park. Two of the best, Alfred Hole-Goose Sanctuary Loop and the Pine Point Rapids Loop, offer 7 km and 6.5 km, respectively, of track-set trails and lots of animal tracks.
Lake Windermere Whiteway, B.C.
Sure, the Lake Windermere Whiteway is meant primarily for ice skating (at 29.9 km, it’s the longest naturally frozen skating trail in the world), but it’s just as enjoyable on cross-country skis. And you don’t have to ski the whole thing to get a taste of the Columbia Valley’s beauty—shorter loops are perfect for families or those short on time.