When the skiing is good and the sun is out, Silent Lake is the place to be to enjoy nature and explore the 22 km of trails.
This somewhat unknown Provincial Park south of Bancroft in the Kawartha Highlands attracts cross-country skiers to its beauty and well laid out trail system. Paths tend to be narrow so only classic tracked skiing exists, going one way.
Four loops emanate from the main day-use parking lot by the lake. Here you will find the only heated washroom and change area; a typical park comfort station. Along the routes are a few other outhouses and warming shelters.
The Green 2.5 km loop is a good beginner track with few hills that traverse the lakefront through the cedar groves and across the pond.
The Red 6 km loop uses half this path and goes beyond on access roads through the closed campgrounds. The return hiking trail from signpost D to A is a wonderful highlight. If the snow is fast you will wind and glide down a few long descents that are a joy to cruise.
The Yellow loop at 13 km, encompasses the Red route and goes on to make another loop of moderate difficulty through the woods. This would be what most seasoned skiers pick.
At signpost F those with energy wishing to explore more Ontario winter wilderness can set off on the remaining 11 km of the Blue loop around the lake. Here you will find solitude and a more rustic rougher track. A longer route but not necessarily as hilly as the Yellow section.
This is a backcountry Nordic ski experience, so give yourself a few hours and pack well as you may be on your own. A warming hut halfway might find others en route.
My wife did the 3 km Snowshoe trail and found it enjoyable and not too strenuous. She tells me the path has a gentle climb to a 50 m cliff view of the lake and surrounding area.
A chat recently with the park staff, revealed ongoing improvements to signage, safety and to widen the paths a bit. Now you can Snowshoe on the Yellow loop alongside skiers for 6 more km.
One of the unique features of this park is the ability to stay over in the winter at a yurt, cabin or even camp. We are returning this winter to try a yurt. I’ll update you on that adventure.
Few amenities exist here or in the immediate area in the winter so pack a lunch. Grooming is done when weather permits. The ski season seems short up there even when the snow base appears adequate. So first check conditions and visit midseason.
Plan your day early to visit, or stay over, as for most of us it will take a few hours to get there, but it is so worth it. (And remember the days are short in the winter.)