Length of stay: 1 day
Visited: February 2017
Blue Mountain is the largest “mountain” in southern Ontario and is situated along the highest part of the Niagara Escarpment. Due to its sheer size and placement along Ontario’s snowbelt region, every winter thousands of people flock up to the Blue Mountains to alpine ski. But there are a few options in the area for cross-country skiing.
Since learning to cross-country ski in New Hampshire, we were hooked. So much so that the following weekend we went down to the Blue Mountains for more action. Located in the heart of the Blue Mountains, Scenic Caves offers 27km of groomed cross-country ski trails and 10km of snowshoe trails.
We actually cross-country skied at Scenic Caves once before a few years ago. But we were kinda dumb and decided to skip the lessons since we thought it was super basic after watching a series of YouTube videos on how to cross-country ski. What? They made it look super easy just gliding through the snow so effortlessly and all that we thought hey, how hard can it be? And when the terrain is relatively flat, it’s not that hard to shimmy around on your skis. But it takes skill and practice to tackle going up and down hills. Something we didn’t think we’d encounter much of. But news flash: there are hills everywhere.
But this time we were ready.
We checked into the nordic centre bright and early to get our trail pass and rental gear. There was a lot of fresh snow on the trails and it was still lightly snowing by the time we checked in. For the first part of the morning we were practically the only people on the trails.
We started off on Lemon Squeezy which intersects with Easy Peesy (2.2km loop). Both trails are rated beginner and provided a nice way to warm up before tackling something a bit more challenging. Many of the other trails all intersect towards the end of Easy Peesy. We first veered north-east and took the Lookout Point (1.1km) trail. As the name suggests there is a nice lookout spot here at the top of the escarpment overlooking Georgian Bay. There is also a Nordic Warm-up Hut Cafe accessible from the trail, but we were about an hour shy of it opening.
At the lookout point we met up again with this really nice cross-country ski veteran who gave us a helpful hint about how put our gloves properly through the loops of our ski poles when we were first putting our skis on just outside the chalet. After chatting about the trails for a bit, he offered to take us through his usual route. It was awesome because it was like having a personal tour guide who all the while provided helpful hints about proper form and how to strategically maneuver around challenging bits of terrain.
From the Lookout Point trail we scoped out the North West Passage, which winds through an open field. We covered the a small section of the trail, but headed back to the tree cover because it was quite blustery outside. We looped back with the Lookout Point to get to the Escarpment Run trail (3 km). It starts with this super steep hill to climb up. Easily the most difficult hill of the day. But hey, if we weren’t warmed up before this, we sure were afterwards. We defiantly got those abductors working. From there it’s a leisurely ski along the escarpment. It was probably our most favourite trail of the day.
Eagle’s Flight / Georgian Return trail (5km) were a close second. These trails connect at the end of the Escarpment Run and essentially lead back to the chalet. We took off our skis, returned them at the stop, and said our goodbyes to our skiing friend. We then went to the car to grab our snowshoes and scarf down an energy bar.
To “cool down” we went for a leisurely stroll in our snowshoes. The trails are quite gentle as they weave in and around the forest. There are some hilly sections, but they were no match for our rugged backcountry snowshoes.
We started at the Lookout trail to get to the Deep Woods Trail (2km). We didn’t complete the entire loop of the Lookout Trail since we had already seen the lookout over Georgian Bay while cross-country skiing.
At the end of the trail we took the suspension bridge across and then snowshoed back to the chalet along the Creekside Trail (0.5km) and then the rest of the Suspension Bridge Trail.
Whoever said winter is the worst clearly hasn’t tried cross-country skiing or snowshoeing before.
L & K