By Drew Gurman
Late last fall while we were waiting for the seasons to change and for the snow to arrive we were hoping to be able to squeeze one more ride on the ATVs. For our last fall ride we were prepared to ride in any conditions no matter what. We partnered with Destination Ontario and the Algoma Region to ride in one of the top ATV destinations in Canada, making our way to Dunlop Lake Lodge in Elliot Lake. We were going to make Dunlop Lake Lodge our home base for the next four days. Simply put this place over delivers!
Our adventure started in Willow Beach with Logan, Brent and I loading up our Suzuki KingQuad 750 and the Yamaha Grizzly and then heading to Maxxim Motorsports in Barrie to pick up one of CF Moto’s Side-by-Sides the Z Force 1000. It was a short five hours up the highway from Barrie to Dunlop Lake Lodge where we were meeting Jeff Steenbakkers. Convientley, both trucks pulled in at 6pm where we were greeted by our hosts Tricia and Jess MacDonald (owners of the Dunlop Lake Lodge). If you have never stayed at Dunlop Lake Lodge, we can tell you that as soon as you park your truck you immediately we feel right at home.
The rooms at Dunlop Lake are very warm and cozy with Wifi and satellite TV. This really helped us to keep in touch with the office and allowed to kick back at night to watch a hockey game in our room. Another cool feature that we used a few times a day at the Lodge was the Nespresso Bar that had couches and coffee tables. My personal favorite thing about this area was the massive wood stove that was always heating the room. The burning fire in the woodstove reminded me of being at the cottage as a child.
Even though this was our first time here we immediately felt like family with the home cooked meals that were prepared for us. We spent our first night with Jess and Tricia going over the area and what the Elliot Lake area has to offer off-road enthuisates like us.
It wouldn’t have been right if we left for our first day of riding from Dunlop Lake Lodge, without a huge big breakfast behind the belt. Funny how we eat light breakfasts during the work week and then when you go away – BOOM. For me this was the perfect way for us to start our first day of riding, which started off without a hitch, the sun was shining and it was stimulating minus 5 celcius. Needless to say we wore our snowmobile suits.
We left right from the Lodge and were excited to explore the Elliot Lake area. Elliot Lake is famous in the ATV and Side-by-Side community because it was one of the first towns in Ontario to full out welcome and allow ATVs and Side-by-Sides to drive on their roads. We chose to do the “Prospects Run” which if we had been here a few weeks earlier it would have been even more stunning with all of the fall colours. The trails were dusted with snow and frozen puddles were a common sight. Sometimes you forget just how much fun it is to ride this time of year.
We were having a blast, riding to the town of Elliot Lake for lunch and once we made our way through some of the obsatcles all we could think about was warming up and eating. We decided to leave the trail and head down the road to miss some of the extra deep water on the trial and being in the Elliot Lake area it is completely ATV/Side-by-Side road friendly.
After fuelling the ATVs, our lunch stop the Fireside Classic Grill was right there. Even though we were in our snowmobile gear and the sun was out, there was still a chill riding down the road. Even our server could tell that we were feeling the temperatures so he sat us next to the fireplace.
After lunch we redressed for the trails and headed back to the Lodge and to another woodstove. It was a quick ride back as we took the road making it back for sunset.
One of the great qualities of Dunlop Lake Lodge is the live entertainment. Every Thursday there its “Open Mic Night”. We were surprised to see Mike the Lodge’s head chef take the stage with his guitar and start to take requests from the crowd. Mike isn’t just another guy going to sing karaoke, he’s a trained musician/singer and did an amazing job keeping us all entertained. Applause all around by the time he finished, then to our surprise he went back to the kitchen until it closed.
After we enjoyed a couple of pops at the bar, we were looking forward to another meal at the lodge. Good food is a big thing at Dunlop Lake Lodge and their speacials do not disappoint, the evening’s special was fish ‘n’ chips. None of us had the will power to pass on beer battered halibut and fresh cut fries. Needless to say after this type of day and meals we didn’t make to far into the evening before our beds were calling.
Our second day of riding began the same way the day previous did, with a monster breakfast in the lounge and some discussion with Jess and Tricia for todays ride itinary which they gave us some needed insight of where to go and what to take in. One thing was for sure that guests at the Lodge, can feel the passion that these two have for both the sport, the lodge and each other. During our entire stay we always felt like we were at our own home.
By the time we left to hit the trails with some of the Elliot Lake ATV Club (ELATV) members we had a total of 9 ATVs and Side-by-Sides ready to go. Considering the cold weather and the time of year we were excited to see so many others join us. The ELATV members took us down the collector trail to an old mining road that brought us to a scenic overlook of the town. The views from there were stunning. We couldn’t believe how many lakes and how dense the forest looked from above. We would like to thank the club members for taking us here, as without them we would never been able to find this special lookout.
Our guides kept us moving to ELATV Trail 3 A.K.A. “Cyr’s Boreal Run” to the Connector Trail and onto ELATV Trail 2 or “Boardwalk run”. This took us to Elliot Lake Falls which is a must see. The Falls connect Elliot Lake to Quimby Lake, this area was our faveourite scenic scenery on the ride. Even though it was late Fall and most of the leaves were all long but gone from the trees, the water rushing over the rocks would stop you in your tracks.
Continuing down the “Boardwalk Run” trail takes you along the side of Quimby Lake and then towards Elliot Lake. The constant changing terrain was amazing and at times challenging. We were riding on everything from rocks, water/ice, leaves, mud and sand. It was an amazing day on the trails and before we knew it we were once again chasing the sun down. On our way back we visited the Uranium Mining Monument right in the heart of Elliot Lake. Over the years, most of the mining industry has left Elliot Lake, we were surprised to learn from the monument that Elliot Lake was once considered the “Uranium Capital of the World”.
Waking up on our last day was just as expected. A few inches of snow fell overnight which changed the complete riding experience. It was so fresh outside that was only comparable to waking up on Christmas morning. Oh and another monster breakfast was served.
The last day was the day that we really went exploring in the back country. Jess, his son Hank and Art Trudeau from Mukwa Adventures took us to an area off the trail map. You know the type of ride in the woods that if you have to know someone that knew someone who heard of a legend type of individual 125 years ago. We left right from the parking lot and headed north. We felt like we went where no man had been before, clearly Jess, Hank and Art have been there. The snow provided some interesting photos as it blanketed many obstacles on the trail. We can safely say that we got some fun video and pictures. After pushing our and the machines limits all morning we stopped for a trailside cookout for lunch. These guys clearly thought of everything. But that’s what you come to expect when you stay Dunlop Lake Lodge. They treat you like family.
Ontario’s Algoma Region is a place that I will never forget and I encourage everyone to check out this area at least once. From the people we met along the way to the gorgeous landscape and rich history of the region this is a go to area for ATV/Side-by-Side riders of all skill levels. Trust us when we say put this trip on your bucket list. No matter what you are looking for, riding ATVs or snowmobiling Elliot Lake in Algoma Country has you covered!