Winter Getaway in Haliburton, Ontario
Take a trip to northern Ontario and enjoy a Dogsledding experience and a Wolf Centre.
Back in December an advertisement popped up on my instagram about a dogsledding experience in Haliburton. I thought this would be a cool gift for my dog loving boyfriend Ryan for his birthday. So in short, I did research on the company called, Winterdance Dogsled Tours and booked a tour for March 8th.
About Winterdance Dogsled Tours
Winterdance Dogsled Tours was created from a husband and wife named Hank and Tanya. Their passion for the Huskies began when they bought one as a pet over 25 years ago. They noticed that the Husky was getting bored in the house because it was not getting enough attention to what it was bred to do.
For those who are not familiar with this breed, Huskies enjoy to run and trust me you can hear the dogs excitement when they are about to head out to the trail.
Over the years Hank and Tanya decided to get more Huskies and get the dogs out in the winter and began to dogsled. This led to the couple opening up their very own dogsledding touring company in Haliburton, Ontario. They have 157 purebred Siberian Huskies and know each one of their furry friends by name. Winterdance Dogsled Tours run on their very own 2,200 acres of private wilderness located between Haliburton Lake and the doorstep of Algonquin Park.
To learn more about Winterdance Dogsled Tours Click here
Types of Tours
Winterdance Dogsled Tours offers a selection of different tour types which are:
2 Hour Tour
Half day Tour
Full Day Tour
Click here for more information on the different tours offered
The tour we did was the Half day Tour. The Half Day Tour runs for approximately 2-2.5 hours and gives you additional time for photos and spending time with the Huskies. This tour also provides you with a midway break for snacks and hot chocolate (provided by the company). This tour personally was a perfect amount of time to enjoy the dogsledding experience and it gave you just enough time to have those 'kodak moments'.
TIP: For the Half Day Tour it is recommended to be in at least average physical shape. Dogsledding is a lot harder than it looks. Be prepared to be a little sore if you are like me and haven't worked out in over a year :)
Below is a video of me running up a hill while I burn out a lung
First Half of the tour
When we got there we checked in and waited outside for our next steps. The dogs begin to arrive from the kennel which is 20 minutes from the dogsledding tour location. Once the dogs arrive they begin to 'scream/talk'. Huskies don't bark like other breeds but instead they have a screaming/talking sound. On our tour there were 60 dogs. At first, the tour guide gives you the 101 lesson on dogsledding and some facts about the Siberian Husky breed such like, they are born to run!
After the briefing, the tour guide leads us to our sled and asks if at least one stays at the front of the rope (where the lead dogs will be). They ask you to do this because one of you will need to hold onto the lead dogs harness to make sure they don't tangle the rope or interact with near by dogs. Like I mention before, the employees treat each dog individually and understands each of their personalities. That being said the tour guide will set your group of dogs based on who gets along with who.
Once you get your first lead dog the tour guide will tell you his/her name and age. They will continue to do this for every dog on your team.
We had a team of 5 dogs. Our 'lead dogs' were Nome (5 yrs) and Gillam (6 yrs). In the middle we had Gus (6 yrs) who was our 'swing dog'. Lastly, in the back closest to the sled we had our 'wheel dogs' named Eowyn (5 yrs) and Gwendolyn (5 yrs) who were sisters and also my fan favs;)
Lead Dogs: Top Left Gillam (beside Ryan) & Nome/ Swing Dog: Top right Gus/ Wheel dogs: bottom left Eowyn bottom right Gwendolyn
Once you have all your dogs lined up you will then either get on the sled or take the driving position. For the first half Ryan drove and I sat on the sled.
The tour takes you through a beautiful scenery of surrounding trees and lake views. The trail has a few hills, this is where you have to help out the dogs by running and pushing the sled.
The dogs are doing majority of the work, you are just there to just assist when needed. There are also some sharp turns where if you are going too fast you might catch air (saying this out of experience). You will definitely get the hang of it and learn from your team of dogs.
Second Half of the Tour
The first half was about 45 mins of riding through the trails, then we took a break where the tour gives you a chance to take some pictures with your team of dogs while they serve you hot chocolate (nut free) and cookies.
After our break was over it was time for me to ride and Ryan to be on the sled. Once the dogs know you are getting back on the sled they begin to get excited to continue running. So we hit the trails again and this time I was driving.
At the beginning I was a tad nervous because I wasn't sure what to expect but once you familiarize yourself with the brake and moving your body weight on the turns it is smooth sailing.
I am not going to lie we had a few times we almost flew off or bumped into a tree...but that is all part of the experience.
Enjoy a clip of Ryan and I going downhill and almost smoking a tree :D).
After riding for another 45 mins we end at our start point and this is where the guide and team of dogs help you park your sled. After the sled is parked the tour guide will give you a bowl of water and ask to give each dog a chance to drink.
TIP: Gratuity for the tour guides is not included in the tour price.
Haliburton Forest Wolf Centre
The Haliburton Forest Wolf Centre is an amazing experience to see a wolf/wolf pack.
About Haliburton Forest wolf Centre
The Wolf Centre is an indoor facility where you can view the wolves from an observatory. In 1993 the original wolves were donated to Haliburton Forest. It took a year to build the current 15 acre double fenced enclosure. These wolves were born in captivity so this is what they know. If they were to get released, their likeliness to survive is low. They have wolf instincts but lack the knowledge which wild wolves would have, like how to hunt. The wolves are fed full carcasses to stimulate natural feeding. They are fed beavers (the most common meal that comes from local trappers), deers or even a moose (rarely). The wolves are fed 5-10 days on a randomized schedule designed to mimic the feeding patterns of a wild pack.
To watch a video about the Wolf Centre click here
The wolves are viewed through one-way glass from the inside of the building. If the wolves are not hanging about near the windows, there are live wolfcams located within the grounds. We were able to see the whole pack of 7 wolves. This was a very cool experience because you are able to see behaviour of a wolf pack up close. It was very cool experience and highly recommend it.
Click here for online reservations.
Click here for the Wolf Centre Podcast called Praising Wolves
TIP: If you have time there is a 40 min trail located around the Wolf Centre.
Where to Stay in Haliburton
Haliburton is approximately 3 hours from Toronto so deciding to get a place to stay and making it a little getaway is the best option.
I got us an Airbnb that was tucked away in a forest. It had an electric fireplace inside the cabin and a fire pit outside near the front lawn. There was one bedroom and a pullout couch (if needed). It was an open concept so it made it very cozy.
Click here for Airbnb