Kawartha Highlands - Long Lake

Our cold tent setup

Our cold tent setup


Total Distance: 9km out and back (4.5 each way)

Hiking Difficulty: Easy-Moderate (When there was a path it was easy, crunchy snow made it challenging)

Overall Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Time: 1-4 days (can be as short or as long as you like)

The conversation started with Noah asking me if I wanted to ditch the tent and only bring tarps to sleep under…

This is what typically sparks the excitement when we are getting ready for our next adventure. We decided it was time to leave the tent behind, and just bring the tarps with us.

Now, it was time to determine where we were going to go. Since we were only going for one night, we wanted something closer to the city, but far enough that there would still be a decent amount of snow. Kawartha Highlands it is!

I had done a trip here in the fall just before the ice started setting in. I’m learning that this park is a great destination in the off-season as there are not nearly as many people as the summer. 

We left at the crack of dawn on Saturday morning. Making a few stops for coffee and gas on the way, we arrived at the Long Lake launch at 10:00am. We packed our sleds and were on the lake just after 11:00am.

Our game plan was to make our way down Long Lake towards Loucks Lake. Once making it here we were going to find a path through the forests that would take us to a more remote location for the night.

The trek down Long Lake started well, but the crunchy thin layer of ice on the surface of the snow was not making it very easy on us. Each step we would sink in and have to pull our snowshoes back out. You do this for 20 minutes or so and your legs are starting to feel it.

Shortly into our hike, a snow mobile came flying past us, clearing a perfect trail of packed down snow to follow! Luckily he was headed in the same direction as us. This significantly picked up our speed and we were able to crush kilometers allowing us to make good time on our way down Long Lake.

Noah and I were both eager to get to our site to have a good amount of time to actually get a solid setup. You know…since we were planning on sleeping under a couple of tarps…

We made it pretty close to Loucks Lake but decided to make an early entry into the forest to get to a site a little sooner. We would have been directly on the other side of the lake from the 340m portage into Buzzard Lake.

We hiked through the forest for about 45 minutes looking for the perfect place to set up camp for the night. After evaluating a few spots we settled on a pad we found between two large rock formations that would significantly reduce the amount of wind we would experience. This area also had no shortage of dead hardwood that we could use to start a fire.

Noah collected wood and split it all while I prepared the area for us to set up our tarps. First stomping down all the snow, then adding more snow to flatten the area out. We were lucky to have a dead pine tree next to us that must have fallen not too long ago. We were able to take a few branches off of it to use as a base layer under our tarp, to keep us off the snow a bit more.

We then lay the tarps down on the ground to sleep on and added a tarp overtop as a roof in the event we saw some precipitation. The tarps were set just high enough for us to get in without our sleeping bags touching the top tarp.

A little snowfall on our cold tents

A little snowfall on our cold tents

For the majority of the afternoon we had a fire that was about 8ft from our tarps. Just before bed we moved this fire even closer so that we could add wood to the fire throughout the night. I myself woke up once and added most of the wood that I had. Noah slept solid through the entire night and did not contribute to keeping the fire going.

I must say that both Noah and I were very warm sleeping in our individual cold tents. We both recently purchased Teton sleeping bags that are rated to -32°C and we were not even slightly cold. The only issue with these bags is they do not pack up very small or light but in the winter, we really don’t notice the size and weight on a sled.

Frozen faces

Frozen faces

Shortly after waking up in the morning the snow started to come down making it a little more difficult to keep everything dry while we packed up. It kept snowing pretty much the entire duration back to the car. The hike back was really nice with all the snow falling and no sign of anyone else on the lake. At one point we had to stop and take a picture of each other because of how much snow and ice had built up on both of our faces.

We were back at the launch by about 2pm making it another successful trip under our belts! And we didn’t even need a tent!!