It's natural for any driver with a 4x4 off-road vehicle to want to put their truck or SUV through its paces, and maybe hit some off-road trails, but if this isn't something that you've done before, where do you go? Luckily for you, there are plenty of options for people who are looking for off-road trails within the Greater Toronto Area that don't take you too far away from civilization. If this sounds like you, then try one of these off-road trails for your attempt at adventure sports in the GTA.
One thing that’s important to note when considering driving on off-road trails is to prepare for the unexpected and have emergency plans in place. Going off-road means getting away from civilization, including the expected amenities, like just being able to call up a tow-truck and have it arrive when you need roadside assistance. If you’re not experienced with off-road driving, don’t get too ambitious and negotiate terrain you’re not yet ready for. Even in the protection of an off-road vehicle, you can still get into a situation that your truck can’t get itself out of if you don’t respect the land you're driving on.
1. Ganaraska Forest & Oak Ridges Trail
This trail is quite accessible for anyone who’s looking for off-road trails that aren’t too far away. Ganaraska Forest itself is one of the largest in the province, and even if you’re not interested in off-road driving, it offers some spectacular landscapes for hiking and anyone else interested in relaxing in a natural environment outside of the city.
However, for people who are interested in off-road vehicular activities, Ganaraska accommodates. The motor vehicle activities are confined to the west forest and east forest, so if you’re thinking of going with a Jeep, an ATV, or another motorized vehicle like a motorcycle, you can find what you’re looking for here.
Ganaraska is east of the GTA, about an hour away from Toronto, and northeast of Oshawa. This makes it a very easy “starter destination” for people who are looking to give their vehicles a workout without getting too far away from the heart of the GTA. The best part is that you have a couple of options for driving here, between the oak ridges and the forest trails, so there’s a lot of variety for people coming to this area.
2. Gun Mountain Loop Trail
This is a bit further out if you live in Mississauga, but it’s still pretty close for people living in the GTA. The Gun Mountain Loop trail is about 3-4 hours away, up north, near Algonquin Park, close to Barry’s Bay.
Drivers who choose to take on this area must anticipate more inclines, as it can be a steep trail at times. However, it is a very scenic drive once you start seeing the forests surrounding the Madawaska river. People who choose to tackle this area during the drier, more optimal season of summer can look forward to some spectacular views. As with any off-road drive, you’ll be running into more risks if you choose to take this on in early spring or the autumn when the wetter environment can be more challenging.
3. Ahmic Lake Trail
This particular trail is a straight shot up north along the 400, assuming you're willing to pay the occasional toll. You may need to add on an hour or so if you want to take a toll-free route. If you're going to stay here for a day or more, there are plenty of different options, including the Ahmic Lake Resort and various campgrounds.
Once you get here, you can enjoy tackling trails that stretch 42 km. These trails are also great for those just getting started with off-roading. There’s still some gravel and other more established pathways here, but you see a lot of beautiful scenery, including some historical sites.
4. California Road Trail
You can find this trail about four hours northeast of the GTA, near Lake Clear. The area has some pretty great accommodations as well, like the Opeongo Mountain Resort. In general, these trails are recommended for more experienced off-road drivers. The California Road Trail may not be very long, but it packs a lot of punch with some demanding terrain, such as narrow passages, sharp turns, rocks, deep ruts, and more.
This is a rough trail, and there’s no maintenance here, so make sure you’re ready for it. If you like camping, there are many options for campgrounds here as well.
5. Concession Lake Trail
This is one of the more popular off-road trails within the GTA, especially for four-wheel drive enthusiasts. So, if you pick the right time of year, you're unlikely to be alone on the road! It's also closer to the GTA than many of the other options, at about two and a half hours northeast, to get to Concession Lake.
This is another challenging trail and is recommended only for more confident, experienced drivers. The trail has rocky areas and some major changes in elevation. There can also be a lot of mud here depending on the weather, but with its proximity to the GTA, and several campsites and other accommodations nearby, it’s a popular destination for people looking to see what their Jeep can do.
Just remember that when you go off-roading, you must always do so responsibly. Emergencies are more difficult to respond to when you get in trouble off the beaten path. Take precautions when you drive, and if a trail looks like it might more than you’re prepared to handle, don’t try to take it on.