8 Stunning Spots for Natural Ice Skating in North America

Mounds of snow give way to a frozen lake with dozens of ice skaters on it as snowy mountains loom in the background on a blue-sky afternoon

dancingnomad3 / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

There is something freeing about gliding along a frozen sheet of ice, and only natural ice skating in the great outdoors can provide that full experience. When the days get shorter and the cold temperatures reach the upper regions of North America, lakes and rivers begin their transformation into winter playgrounds. Whether skating on the world’s longest naturally freezing ice rink in Ottawa or playing hockey on Vermont’s Lake Morey, these stunning locations will impress athletes and casual skaters alike.

Here are eight incredible spots for natural ice skating in North America that will thrill winter-sport enthusiasts of all kinds.

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Rideau Canal Skateway, Ottawa, Canada

A snow-covered trail with ice skaters on it curves underneath a bridge in the Ottowa afternoon

Tristan in Ottawa / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

The Rideau Canal runs through the center of downtown Ottawa, and, in winter, the running water freezes over into the world's largest naturally frozen ice skating rink—the Rideau Canal Skateway. At 4.8 miles long, the Skateway offers a scenic view of the city and is home to Winterlude, an annual festival of arts, sporting events, and food tastings. The Rideau Canal Skateway has been in operation since 1970 and the length of each season varies depending on the weather, with the average season lasting 50 days.

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Red River Trail, Winnipeg, Canada

An ice skater glides along the trail under blue skies at Red River Trail in Winnipeg, Canada.

Lorie Shaull / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

The Rideau Canal may be the world's largest natural rink, but the Red River Trail claimed the Guinness World record for the longest, at a length of 5.3 miles. Along with skating, the trail makes room for plenty of other winter activities, from curling and hockey to broomball and walking. The ice on the river trail is groomed each day in the early morning and late at night to ensure that visitors have the best experience possible.

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Keystone Lake, Colorado

A large mountain stands tall behind a frozen Keystone Lake with a layer of fresh snow on top

dion gillard / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Although Colorado is best known for its skiing, the five-acre Keystone Lake gives visitors who aren't so comfortable on the slopes a flatter sporting option. The ice is kept clean and smooth via an ice resurfacer, known as a Zamboni, and the rink offers gorgeous mountain views (plus plenty of room for hockey games) surrounded by the shops and businesses of Keystone Village.

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Mirror Lake, Lake Placid, New York

An evergreen tree stands before a frozen Mirror Lake with mountains in the background on a clear winter day

Chris1093 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Host to the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics, Lake Placid in New York has charmed folks with outdoor winter activities for over a century. Each year when the freezing temperatures arrive, Mirror Lake is transformed into an ice skater’s wonderland, with a two-mile skating track cleared around the lake’s perimeter. The gorgeous lake is also the spot for cross country skiers, hockey players, and even dog sled rides.

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Lake Morey, Vermont

A straight path of ice extends back into the horizon of a setting sun

mararie / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Located on Vermont’s border with New Hampshire, Lake Morey is the place to be for folks looking to ice skate in the crisp winter air. Surrounded by the gorgeous rolling hills of Fairlee Forest and Morey Mountain, the lake is home to the nearly four-and-a-half-mile long Lake Morey Skate Trail, which is monitored daily for safety of use. At 600 acres, the Lake Morey also serves the local hockey contingent with annual tournaments.

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Canyon Ferry Reservoir, Montana

A frozen Canyon Ferry Reservoir stretches into the distance on a cloudy, Montana day

Shea / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

Canyon Ferry Reservoir, east of Helena, Montana, offers ice skating aficionados a smooth surface on which to play hockey, or simply just cruise around, during the frigid winter months. With the nearby Mount Baldy providing a dramatic backdrop, many local folks enjoy traversing out onto the reservoir’s ice with Nordic skates, which are longer than typical blades and allow for longer distances to be traveled with ease.

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Westchester Lagoon, Anchorage, Alaska

A flat sheet of ice stretches back to a line of trees under a pale blue sky

Emma Forsberg / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

In the shadow of the gorgeous Chugach Mountain Front in Anchorage, Alaska, lies the 50-acre ice skating getaway of Westchester Lagoon. A popular spot for locals and tourists alike, the lagoon, also known as Margaret Eagan Sullivan Park, is just a 15-minute walk from downtown Anchorage. The icy surface is hot-mopped every day to keep it smooth and the thickness of the ice is tested regularly to ensure safety. The folks who manage Westchester Lagoon also provide large metal barrels with fires in them for warming up when it gets too cold to skate.

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Arrowhead Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada

Young children and adults skate along a path of ice through an evergreen forest

RichardBH / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Founded in 2012, Ontario’s Ice Skating Trail at Arrowhead Provincial Park loops through nearly one mile of dense, evergreen forest. The short skating path is a perfect activity for families and is especially beautiful following a fresh snowfall. On Saturday nights throughout the winter season, tiki torches lining the route are lit aflame for added rustic charm.