Must-skate situations: Scenic rinks, icy trails and frozen lakes across the country
Glide and gaze at the beauty of Canada's prettiest winter wonderlands
This article was originally published in January 2020 and has not been updated to reflect 2021 hours or current COVID-19 regulations, though all the spots listed below appear to be open for the 2021 season, pending conditions and availability.
The weather outside might be frightful, but it's worth braving for one of Canada's favourite winter pastimes: ice skating.
There are a plethora of places across the country to lace up your skates, take in breathtaking views and some fresh air, cold-weather fun and fitness. Add some hot chocolate — or a hot toddy — into the mix, and you've got a winter wonderland situation.
Go ahead and bundle up in your warmest coat, scarf, mittens and toque, and set out to these ice-skating destinations with a view.
Great Slave Lake, Northwest Territories
As the 10th largest lake in the world, Great Slave Lake turns into an expansive natural ice rink for close to six months out of the year. With no shortage of space to play on, this lake — depending on the spot — may also offer views of the aurora borealis and colourful houseboats frozen into the ice.
Windy Arm, Tagish Lake, Yukon
At 100-kilometres long, Tagish Lake crosses into British Columbia — an ice to satisfy even the strongest of skaters. Windy Arm, surrounded by mountains is an hour's drive from Whitehorse, where you can enjoy some family-friendly dining, making it both a remote yet convenient ice-skating destination.
Outdoor Ice Oval, Prince George, British Columbia
Fun fact: The city of Prince George has been home to a number of NHL players, including Dustin Byfuglien of the Winnipeg Jets and Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara. It's likely they would have done some laps around the 400-metre Outdoor Ice Oval in northern B.C.'s largest city.
Lake Windermere Whiteway, Lake Windermere, British Columbia
Named the longest skating trail in the world by the Guinness World Records in 2014, Lake Windermere Whiteway is an ice skater's dream. The Whiteway is a groomed track that runs all around the lake, which is set in the serene Columbia Valley. Cross-country skiers are also welcome.
Skating Pond at Grouse Mountain, North Vancouver, British Columbia
Bragging rights go to those who get to ice skate on a mountain top. The almost 750-square-metre rink on the peak of Grouse Mountain is only one of many winter activities to enjoy on this North Shore mountain: from skiing to ziplining to snowshoeing, there's something for everyone here.
Pyramid Lake, Alberta
Skating in Canada's largest national park, Jasper National Park, offers a panorama of stunning mountain ranges, pristine white snow and a Douglas fir forest. You may even see sightings of bighorn sheep or elk en route to Pyramid Lake.
Mildred Lake, Alberta
With a view of Whistlers Mountain, Mildred Lake is a prime spot for those looking for a little aprés-skate indulgence. Relax with a eucalyptus steam at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge's spa or cozy up near the fire in its Emerald Lounge after an afternoon of skating on the round-the-lake oval or playing a pick-up game on the hockey rink.
Lake Louise, Alberta
Probably Canada's most famously scenic place to lace up one's skates, Lake Louise welcomes thousands of people every winter to enjoy the sport while staring up at snowy, breathtaking peaks. Tip: Time your visit to coincide with the Ice Magic festival to see some of the most astounding ice sculptures at the same time.
Two Jack Lake, Alberta
A hop and a skip away from its more popular cousin, Lake Louise, Two Jack Lake boasts similarly incredible views with way fewer tourists. The perks: a quieter destination and lots and lots of ice to play on.
Red River Mutual Trail, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Winnipeg's river trail at The Forks offers ice skaters cityscape views and in January, a chance to admire the Warming Huts — winning designs in a worldwide art and architectural competition — that are showcased on the trail.
FortWhyte Alive, Winnipeg, Manitoba
With over 250 hectares of urban greenspace, FortWhyte Alive is an environmentally focused recreation centre that provides a host of outdoor activities, including eco-tours and winter hiking. Ice skaters can take advantage of the small ice rink, as well as a long loop that winds over two frozen lakes.
Ice Skating Trail at Arrowhead Provincial Park, Ontario
Muskoka may be best known for its summer cottages and beautiful fall foliage, but its idyllic winter landscapes are also hard to beat. This ice skating trail takes you through the trees of Arrowhead Provincial Park, and on a Fire & Ice night, is illuminated by hundreds of torches.
The Bentway Skate Trail, Toronto, Ontario
There's no shortage of entertainment in The Six, and when the temperature drops, you'll find many Torontonians on the 220-metre-long skate trail under the Gardiner Expressway. In the evening, enjoy the view of the glittering city lights and the glow of the CN Tower.
Rideau Canal Skateway, Ottawa, Ontario
The most famous skating spot in Canada's capital is on the Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Skateway was named the world's largest naturally frozen ice rink by Guinness World Records thanks to its impressive size (equivalent to about 90 Olympic-sized hockey rinks!).
Domaine de la Forêt Perdue, Notre-Dame-du-Mont-Carmel, Quebec
Loosely translated as "Domain of the Lost Forest," one can certainly get lost skating the day away on this charming frozen trail surrounded by pine trees at the Domaine Enchanteur recreation centre. Kids may also want to stop by the animal park to look at llamas, alpacas, goats and more.
Parc La Fontaine, Montreal, Quebec
One of Montreal's popular parks, Parc La Fontaine, offers pretty reprieve from busy urban life. On winter evenings, visitors can skate on the rink nestled in the heart of the park under sparkling, fairy light–draped trees.
Patinage en Forêt, Lac-des-Loups, Quebec
Next to Gatineau Park, well known for its cross-country skiing trails, there's a three-kilometre path where ice skaters can glide surrounded by evergreens, before resting at the chalet for a hot bevvie with family and friends.
Roulston Lake, Plaster Rock, New Brunswick
In winter, Plaster Rock has an event worth travelling for: every February, the World Pond Hockey Championship attracts 120 teams from around the world to compete at Roulston Lake. Not a competitive hockey player? The ice at this serene spot, surrounded by soaring pine trees, is also open to the public when the tournament is running.
Mill River, Bloomfield, Prince Edward Island
For the family who enjoys being in the outdoors from morning to night, Mill River resort in P.E.I. offers plenty of activities to keep everyone occupied, from ice skating to tubing to cross-country skiing.
Oathill Lake, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia
Near downtown Dartmouth, Oathill Lake is a charming spot to strap on the skates for a game of shinny or spend a chill afternoon with the kids.
Humber River, Deer Lake, Newfoundland
Humber River is the spot to be for ice-skating enthusiasts looking to relish in the natural beauty of Newfoundland. The community of Deer Lake has many more outdoor activities to entertain during the cold winter months, too: snowmobiling is a popular sport thanks to countless deep-powder trails, as is ice fishing. And don't be surprised if you come across woodland caribou when you're exploring the area!
Janet Ho is a writer who spends her time enjoying big-city living and small-town life. Follow her at @janetlynho.