As we pull into the quiet lot next to the ice skating rink, I can hear the swish of fresh snow under my tires. I step out and take a deep breath. The air is crisp and cold. It feels like it might even start to snow again today. We are the first of the group to arrive. Taking a look around, I notice the wide groomed path in the field in front of the pavilion. The beautiful fresh groomed tracks beckon to me. I can’t wait to get moving!
I open the back door of my car and my two dogs bound out, immediately wanting to check out all the new smells here. That’s right! I brought my dogs because Fern Park in Inlet is dog friendly! (In fact, the whole town of Inlet is pet friendly!)
I loop my dogs’ leashes onto a long lead and get out my snowshoes. The dogs sit in the snow patiently waiting for me to gear up. I can almost hear them thinking, “silly two legger!” Once I have my boots on, I clip the lead to my waist and we make our way over to the kiosk to pick up a map.
There are a full 22 kilometers of free (that’s right, FREE!) groomed trails here at Fern Park. The beginner, intermediate, and expert trails all wind through a variety of gorgeous terrain. There are spectacular cliff views, challenging climbs (if you’re in the mood), and even some trails for skiers only. An intermediate trail connects the Fern Park Trails over to Limekiln Lake Campground, where skiers and snowshoers can find another 5 kilometers of trails to explore.
Using the map, I plan out some possible routes for today’s excursion as I wait for my trail companions. I use the time to hike around the base area and peek into the pavilion. A sign on the building says “Skating Rink is Open." The covered ice rink looks great and ready for skaters. Of course, the skating here is free, too. In the pavilion, I see there is also a warming room and heated restrooms. Opposite the pavilion and field is a stellar looking sledding hill. Sledding is open and free to everyone. At Inlet’s annual Frozen Fire and Lights Festival, the sledding hill at Fern Park is the scene for Cardboard Sled Races — a super fun family event.
I hear the sound of tires on snow and turn to see that my friends have arrived. The dogs give them an enthusiastic greeting. Then, the two of them gear up and we set out. It's no surprise, but the trails are gorgeous! This is obviously not the groomer’s first rodeo. I make a mental note to return in the near future for some cross-country skiing. In most places, the trails are wide enough for all three of us to walk abreast. Some of the hills are steep but nothing feels unsafe. We are even able to find some smaller side trails through the woods that are just pure powder. The dogs couldn’t be happier.
There’s no way we can cover all 22 kilometers today so we simply wind our way around, enjoying the views and the blissful quiet of the woods. The dogs have a great time romping through the snow on their long tether line. We make our way back to the cars and pack up. We head over to the pavilion for a quick warmup and to watch a few skaters try out their moves on the ice — the perfect way to end our perfect day.
Gear tip: Forgot your snowshoes? No worries! Inlet’s got you covered! Zip on over to Pedals and Petals for a great selection of outdoor winter adventure gear to peruse. Also, check the weather conditions before setting out; cold temperatures for you mean cold temps for your pup as well. I always toss a lightweight insulated tarp into my backpack. That way, when we stop for a snack, we can all get a little break from having our boots (and paws) in the snow. Keep in mind that you can stock up on dog and human treats, too, at several Inlet shops. And don’t forget water! That snow can be pretty chilly for your dogs to munch on.
And if you visit Fern Park without a pooch in tow, Inlet also has some great choices for winding down your trail trek with a drink and some munchies!
Want to plan an overnight stay in Inlet? Check out their quaint cottages and beautiful hotel choices.
So come on over to wintry Inlet and check out beautiful Fern Park!