If you’re looking for a physical outdoor adventure with friends, family or co-workers, there are a number of agencies in southern Ontario that offer unique activities that are simple to book and easy to take part in.
Take advantage of the province’s picturesque scenery from land, water or the air with these nature experiences offering professional guidance and an activity level that fits you.
Ziplines have become more commonplace in southern Ontario in recent years, with several conservation areas giving the green light to a number of aerial courses.
Also known as ropeways, foefie slides or flying foxes depending on what part of the world you’re in, ziplines have been a method of transport in many mountainous countries for thousands of years.
A zipline typically involves an inclined metal cable mounted between two slopes, allowing cargo or a person attached by a moving pulley to be propelled by gravity from top to bottom.
The practice is now used by the tourism industry to show off a country’s natural landscape.
Treetop Trekking is one Ontario organization that offers zip-lining at six adventure parks across the province in Hamilton, Brampton, Stouffville, Barrie, Peterborough and Huntsville, with three of the courses in conservation areas.
Zipline adventures can range anywhere from a half-hour experience to a three-hour trip involving a number of start and stop points.
A harness, helmet and safety orientation are typically all an individual needs to take part at most Ontario courses.
One Axe Pursuits zipline offering in Elora is a simple program for ages three and up. The trip is a short one over the Grand River in Victoria Park.
However, it does offer a little more for those groups who want to try something a little more extreme — the thrill of rappelling down the side of a gorge.
“It’s for about six to eight people and it’s a full day,” says One Axe’s Frederick Schuett. “We train you in the morning to rappel down the cliffs beside an instructor, then afterward you get held beside each other and rappel off the zipline 80 feet off the gorge into the river.”
Rafting isn’t necessarily as intense as you see in some documentaries and movies in which paddlers fight off dangerous waves and deadly rocks.
In Ontario, there are a number of family and group offerings that involve cruising along much calmer waters.
An inflatable raft, aluminum/polyethylene oar, life-jacket, and a shallow river are typically what is needed when hooking up with a rafting outfit like Grand River Rafting in Paris, Ont.
“Our trips are along the Grand River, which averages about a metre to two metres in depth,” says owner Garth Potruff. “Many first-time canoe, kayak, stand-up paddleboard clients prefer this route as it makes for a relaxing day or the perfect introduction to rafting via a scenic paddle from Paris.”
Potruff says the river has moving shallow rapids at about the one-kilometre mark of the ride, but for the most part, it’s easy going after that.
“Some of the highlights are drinkable spring water and perfect swimming areas,” say Potruff. “There are picnic stops and portable washrooms at the nine-kilometre mark.”
Booking a trip is as easy as a couple of clicks online by selecting a river trip and the type of boat you want, adding a lesson or a guide if you need one, and selecting a date.
Riding a horse is not limited to trained jockeys, police and fox hunters. A multitude of ranches across the province offer non-competitive recreational riding along trails through the countryside.
The offerings are also not far from many city limits and often include qualified staff and scenic routes through tree-lined fields and forests.
For 40 years, The Ranch in Oakville has offered guided trail rides for able-bodied riders over the age of 10 with various “walk-jog” paces depending on skill level.
“We have a whole range of different breeds of horses, mostly ones well suited for easygoing trail rides,” said owner Vanessa Warren. “We have lots of quarter-horses, Clydesdales, draft horses and others that will take you on a nice, leisurely, one-hour trail ride.”
Signing up for a horseback ride can typically be done online involving a waiver, deposit, date and time, and choosing the type of ride you want.
It’s best to arrive a half-hour before your ride since you’ll need to sign in, pick your horse and ride-approved helmet and go through a short riding lesson with your horse.
Also, appropriate attire is a must, particularly footwear. A riding boot is the gold standard, but any shoe with a small heel is acceptable. Flip flops or sandals are a no-no. Long pants and a jacket are also recommended.
Most companies also ride rain or shine but will allow cancellations due to weather with advance notice.
Outdoor rock climbing
Although a popular indoor sport nowadays, with artificially constructed walls, grips and boards with holes drilled into them, you can try the real thing outdoors in southern Ontario.
There are a number of types of climbing, the most common being free climbing, which relies on one’s own physical strength with equipment limited to just safety gear.
Typically, climbers work in pairs using belay, rope and anchor systems for safety as they scale the side of a large rockface.
Top rope climbing is the most widely exercised type of climbing for beginners. It uses a safety protocol called a belay system that uses a pulley at the top of a climb as an anchor.
One Axe’s Schuett says the rope runs from the belayer on the ground, through the pulley, to the climber on the ground.
“As the person rock climbs up the wall, the rope is constantly being pulled tight by their belayer,” said Schuett.
“If the person wants to sit back on the rope, the rope is always going to be more or less tight on them, so they can sit on the rope, let go from the wall and take a break and look down — decide if they want to keep going.”
Top rope climbing provides significant safety compared to most climbing techniques, as a potential fall is a short distance, usually no more than a metre.
One Axe Pursuits offers programs for the experienced climber or something a little more basic for first-timers, according to Schuett.
“Our adventure takes place near the Niagara Escarpment in Halton on Rattlesnake point, on a real rock face,” Schuett said. “The cost is roughly about $200 plus tax per person and equipment, including helmets, harnesses and climbing shoes, is provided, as well as an experienced instructor on hand at all times.”
If you’re looking for a unique way to experience Niagara’s finest wineries and breweries, the Pedal Pub may be an option for your group.
The trendy new transport has swept Nashville’s bar scene and is now an option in Niagara-On-The-Lake for travel from winery to winery.
“It’s for up to up to 15 people per bike and it’s an eco-friendly way to experience the beauty of Niagara-on-the-Lake,” said Marlo Staganski, office manager of the Pedal Pub.
“We have the old town tours where our guests get to visit Two Sisters Winery, Peller Estates Winery and the Exchange Brewery, while our other tour takes you past multiple vineyards with stops at Jackson Triggs and Stratus Winery for a complimentary wine tasting.”
Staganski says the ride is generally as simple as pedalling a regular bike but it does hit a couple of hills that require intermediate to advanced pedalling.
Two bikes are available accommodating groups of up to 30 people with five non-pedalling spots on each bike.
All riders must be 16 years of age or older and have to present valid identification. Signing a waiver is required and there is no drinking allowed during the ride.