Mattawa – The Ultimate Off-Road Buddy Trip Destination!

By Virgil Knapp November 10, 2015

In my teenage years I had two close friends who were a regular part of my riding group. We were all dirt bike fiends and it was our weekly ritual to head out into the forests after school in search of the next great off-road adventure. Sure, we didn’t have the greatest trails but the competitive spirit between the three of us was what kept it entertaining.

We’d constantly challenge each other to see who could climb the steepest cliff, wheelie the biggest log or power through that deep mud hole first. There’s something so primal about guys and their two-wheel toys out in nature competing for bragging rights; it’s male camaraderie at its finest.

We all know that the journey into adulthood is filled with responsibility and obligations making it difficult to get together with the boys, like the days of old. The wives, families, work and all the other “curve balls” life throws our way make those buddies trips seem more and more like a distant memory.

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Reflecting on the good ol’ days got me thinking . . . what if I could plan the ultimate off-road adventure ride where you and the guys could reunite and turn back the clock to simpler times? Where to go? Where to stay? As I pondered these questions the answers became clear.

If you’ve read any of my other articles I often speak about my adventures shooting photos for Ontario Tourism as we travel the north in search of the best powersports riding in the province. In my five years on the job, I’d be hard pressed to find a better off-road riding mecca for the ultimate buddies trip than the Voyageur Multi-Use Trail System (or VMUTS for short) located in picturesque Mattawa, ON.

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I’ve done multiple trips to this quaint community in Northeastern Ontario for off-road / ATV shoots and it’s always presented our group with stunning locations and challenging terrain with no shortage of variety. While the riding location is key, any good buddies trip starts with the right accommodations. For that, look no further than Mattawa Adventure Camp located just outside of town on the pristine Ottawa River. Fully equipped cottages dot the banks of the river with spectacular photo ops of the Laurentian Mountains bordering the river everywhere you look (especially during the fall season when the foliage starts to change). A quarter of the camp’s business comes from snowmobile and ATV/off-road enthusiasts, which is no surprise after having stayed there.

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Each time I’ve ridden VMUTS, the day begins at Trail 11 Trailhead. A big overhead wooden archway marks the entrance with a “Welcome to VMUTS “sign. Thankfully this isn’t far from town and is the gateway to over 300 km of some of the best trail riding you’ll find in the province. Not to mention the entire system is signed, maintained and mapped out. Sure, a VMUTS trail pass is required to have access, but for all that value the price is very reasonable. It costs $12/day, $20/ three days and $30/ week. Another cool feature of the area is how welcoming the town of Mattawa is to off-road vehicles. It’s perfectly acceptable to ride through town to access various trailheads. This is a huge bonus.

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Once on the trails, your riding troop has a seemingly endless variety of conditions to test the skills of the group. Sand, dirt and bare rock faces are just some of the surfaces you’ll encounter. A big selling feature of VMUTS is its width. You can ride anything from dirt bikes to UTVs in all of the trails. In addition to the great riding there are some local landmarks that are a must see. The Bird’s Eye lookout is the quintessential location for a group “selfie,” sitting several hundred feet above the thick canopy of forest below. Any time of year it looks spectacular but if you catch it in early fall when the leaves start their transformation to brilliant red and orange tones it would border on a religious experience.

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Another must see attraction is the abandoned mica mine located on trail 62. As you venture inside, the temperature immediately drops 10 degrees and any hint of natural daylight disappears. If you dare to explore farther inside, be prepared to encounter bats, spiders and any other creepy cave dwellers that live in total darkness. If you happen to be claustrophobic like me, I don’t recommend this part but it would be another great measuring stick to test the most daring one in the group.

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Generally we spend two to three days riding VMUTS but have never covered close to all 300 km of trails. If time wasn’t a factor you could easily spend five days up here and never see the same trail twice. The wide variety of trails, elevation and conditions will challenge anyone from beginner to experienced vets. With great lodgings and endless riding choice it’s a no brainer to consider the Voyageur Multi-Use Trail System for your next ultimate buddies riding adventure!

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