Spring has arrived across Muskoka, and the combination of warmer days and cool nights means that the sap is flowing and maple syrup season is here once more. Listen…and you will hear the steady drip-drip-drip as buckets are filled and sap lines wind through the region’s forests on their way to the sugar shack. Pause and breathe in the sweet aroma of boiling sap as it mingles with the traditional smell of a wood burning fire, drifting gently through the trees. And at last, delight your taste buds with this decadent, thickened syrup drizzled over snow or pancakes, featured in delicious recipes or even brewed into seasonal beer. The annual Muskoka Maple Festival kicks off every year with the Muskoka Maple Trail, a carefully curated set of experiences designed to immerse you in the tastes, sounds and scents of this unique season. With over 30 locations to choose from, head to Muskoka and spend a day or a weekend following your senses as you pursue your own maple inspired itinerary.
You’ve heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and nowhere is this more true than on the Maple Trail. The sweetness of maple syrup makes both traditional and modern breakfast items come to life. Across the region you can find maple themed breakfast menus guaranteed to satisfy your hunger and your sweet tooth. You can’t go wrong with traditional syrup pairings like pancakes and french toast, but there is so much more here to offer. Special Maple Trail recipes include muffins, cakes, signature hot drinks and even a maple breakfast poutine! Starting your day at any one of these cafés and restaurants will ensure you have the energy you need to taste your way across the region.
After a sweet and tasty breakfast it is time to head straight to the source. Travel to one of the region’s many sugar bushes and follow your nose to the open vats of simmering sugary goodness. It requires almost 40 litres of sap to produce 1 litre of maple syrup, so the collecting and boiling lasts for days! As the sun shines through the trees and the smoke traces lines across the sky, sugar shacks large and small will be open for tours and, better yet, for tasting. Just outside of Bracebridge, Brooklands Farm has been in operation since the year 1900. Take their tour and witness old world values mix with modern technology to produce delicious syrup. Head north to the town of Sundridge and visit Hubbert’s Maple Products. With 18,000 taps and 100 km of tubing, Hubbert’s produces up to 15,000 litres of syrup per season along with a full range of delicious maple treats. Take their tour and sample their amazing maple butter and maple taffy for yourself. At Johnston’s Cranberry Marsh and Muskoka Lakes Winery in Bala you can sample creations from both their maple syrup and cranberry harvests. After a walk through the sugar bush, enjoy such bespoke creations as Red Maple Dessert Wine, Maple Mulled Wine and local maple cheeses and preserves. Maple Bluff Farm in Huntsville harvests sap from over 3000 taps and uses it to create mouthwatering syrup and other products including their famous maple candy. Also in Huntsville, Mark’s Muskoka Maple has been producing syrup for more than 40 years from their scenic sugar bush. Knowledgeable and entertaining, Mark and his wife will give you a hands on tour which ends with melt-in-your-mouth maple candy. Collecting sap from the maple forest overlooking Deerhurst Resort, Sweet Muskoka’s syrup is the product of farmer Brian O’Donahue, who has over 30 years of experience. You can sample the syrup at the sugar shack itself, or enjoy it in Deerhurst’s restaurants all year long. With a new facility where the sap is boiled in a traditional wood-fired evaporator, Sweetwater Maple Syrup Supplies and Sugar Bush offers an up close and personal experience. Wander amongst the trees before enjoying the sweet sugar smell and sampling straight from the pan.
After your sugar bush tour it’s time for a maple coffee, latte, tea or hot chocolate. Warm your hands around a steaming mug as the smells of syrup, cinnamon and other traditional spices take you back to your Grandmother’s kitchen. Fresh out of the oven you can try maple-inspired pastries, brownies, cakes, butter tarts and so much more. They are guaranteed to make your mouth water while you contemplate your decision. Muskoka is home to variety of cafés, coffee shops and bakeries packed with maple goodies and piping hot bevvies. Stop in at one of the following locations – you won’t be disappointed!
- Affogato Café and Gelato
- Farmer’s Daughter
- JW Marriott
- Seven Main Café
- The Bakery
- The Pasta Shoppe
- Whimsical Bakery
Ready to try something new? Spend your afternoon taking in one or more of the Maple Trail’s Signature Experiences. Our partners have created these sensory escapades just for you. Need to unwind after a trip to the sugar bush? JW Marriott the Rosseau Muskoka Resort and Spa will ensure you feel refreshed and rejuvenated as you discover that the sugar maple tree can be used for more than just tasty treats. Head to the shores of beautiful Lake Rosseau to experience their Maple Season Ritual massage and bath or their Maple Body Experience scrub and express facial. You can also enjoy their maple syrup tour, tap and taste demonstrations Saturdays from 12 – 1pm. Would you like to see the sugar bush in an entirely new way? Back of Beyond Equine Centre offers private sleigh or wagon rides through their maple forest. Immerse yourself in the tradition and adventure of sliding over the snow, keeping warm under blankets as the mist from your breath mixes with the shadows of the trees. After your tour, savour a hot beverage and some sweet maple snacks around a crackling campfire. Johnston’s Cranberry Marsh and Muskoka Lakes Winery’s Bog to Bottle tour is already recognized as an official Canadian Signature Experience, but for the Muskoka Maple Trail the tour takes a sugary twist. Combining the uniqueness of the region’s two major harvests, you will enjoy a guided farm tour and wine tasting that fuses the traditions of maple syrup and wine making into a delectable adventure. With the opportunity to literally taste your way through the transformation from sap to syrup to wine, you may never want to leave. Are you yearning for even more seasonal flavours? Then you must make the trip to Yummies in a Jar Art Gallery and Store in Baysville. Your inner chef will be inspired with such favourites as Maple Beer BBQ Sauce or their top selling Balsamic and Maple Vinaigrette. Their unique flavoured maple syrups pair traditional sweetness with brandy, rum or butterscotch liqueur to create the ultimate decadent flavour. After a day of outdoor maple adventure, Muskoka’s only indoor shopping centre wants to help you warm up while keeping the spirit alive! The Huntsville Place Mall will host the Muskoka Maple Market April 20 and 21. Shop till you drop as vendors and exhibitors display everything from maple inspired food, apparel, home furnishings and decor.
From the tree to the table, you’ve immersed yourself in the local maple culture. But wait, there’s beer! Pancake Breakfast Specialty Maple Ale. This limited edition brew is the result of a collaboration between Muskoka’s four craft breweries. With a doughy malt centre, gentle aromas of cinnamon and vanilla greet you while the maple syrup provides a rich body and a lingering sweet finish. With maple sap collected from Maple Bluff Farm and pure Muskoka maple syrup created by Sweetwater Maple Syrup Supplies and Sugar Bush, this special beer has a local flair that makes it fresh and absolutely delicious. Take a drive to one of the participating breweries to sample the hottest maple creation before it sells out, or enjoy it at the Muskoka Maple Festival’s Beer Garden.
The day might be almost over but our local chefs are just getting started. The now familiar maple aroma is the inspiration for unforgettable culinary experiences that will challenge and delight your palate. Algonquin Café and Deli has reworked classics such as maple infused smoked brisket and maple smoked beans while the JW Marriott offers up a Maple Bourbon BBQ Burger or their Maple Cranberry Salad topped with maple chili pecans. Back by overwhelming demand, Huntsville’s own Chef Jeff Suddaby will be serving up his legendary Charred Pork Back Ribs with Muskoka Maple Molasses BBQ sauce with Muskoka Maple Pecan Pie at 3 Guys And A Stove (you can even purchase the sauce to take home with you!) Or try Deerhurst Resort’s Table D’hôte menu which includes inspired dishes like their Maple Flavoured Butternut Squash Soup or Maple Chicken Stuffed with Asiago and Spinach.
After a day (and a stomach) filled with adventure, it’s time to relax and unwind. With all of that fresh air and activity, it’s time to drift gently to sleep with sweet maple dreams at one of our accommodation partners including Deerhurst Resort, Holiday Inn, JW Marriott, or the Lone Pine Inn.
Head to Muskoka from now until April 20 to create your unique Maple Trail adventure. Experience the sights, scents and tastes of the season as you witness first hand the labour and the love that goes into creating one of nature’s sweetest bounties. Be sure head to Huntsville’s Historic Downtown April 21 for the Muskoka Maple Festival, a free family friendly event featuring an all-day pancake breakfast, maple syrup producers, arts & crafts vendors, unique maple items and gifts, live music, a beer garden, street performers, interactive events and more! Follow all the excitement on Facebook.
You can find the complete Maple Trail Map online here, or visit one of the following locations to get a print copy: