Horse-drawn sleigh ride

Located between the picturesque towns of Almonte and Pakenham, Fulton’s Pancake House and Sugar Bush is one of the biggest sugar camps in Lanark County. And with the property being in the Fulton family for over 160 years, the current generation is tapping some of the same maple trees that their ancestors tapped in the 1840’s!

You may want to start your visit in the restaurant, where you can fill yourself up with enough sugar and carbohydrates to keep you going for the rest of the day. Unlike many other sugar bushes (especially in Quebec), you don’t need a reservation, so you can just come in, order your food, and sit down at one of the many long tables in the 120-seat restaurant.

Your food choices include pancakes, sausages, beans, and various desserts and drinks. Gluten-free pancakes are available, and if you need to bring your own food because of dietary restrictions, Fulton’s will be happy to heat it up for you.

The food service is cafeteria-style, with beverage stations and a maple syrup centre where you can apply as much maple syrup as you like. It’s been a while since I’ve had pancakes, so I was shocked at how quickly the pancakes absorb the syrup, and had to make a second trip to get more! The whole meal was delicious, and I was glad that I’d arrived hungry!

Loaded up on sugar, you can now explore the rest of the sugar camp. Be sure to stop at the Maple Shoppe gift shop, where you can sample and purchase a wide variety of maple products. The shop includes Fulton’s new Maple Luscious products – a wonderful-smelling bath and body care line made with Fulton’s maple syrup.

In a hallway between the restaurant and gift shop, you’ll find a display rack with various brochures. If you plan to walk the Fulton sugar bush trails, take a copy of the tour guide, which provides additional information about points along the way. You can also ask for the guide at the Information Booth or the Maple Shoppe.

Fulton’s has two self-guided tours, both of which are historically interesting and very well interpreted. The first is the Sugar Maple Tour, which focuses on the history of maple syrup production, including displays of aboriginal and pioneer maple syrup methods. There are two options for this tour – the shorter 15-minute version (great for kids), and the longer 40-minute trail.

The second tour is “Barney’s Nature Tour”, which focuses on nature, wildlife, and forest management. There are markers pointing out the various types of trees in the forest – a helpful and educational touch, especially in the winter when it is harder to identify tree species. One of the most interesting parts of the trail is “Barney’s grave”, the lone gravesite of a mid-1800’s pioneer. You’ll have to read the brochure to find out how this Irish immigrant came to rest in a grave beside his house, rather than in the Catholic church cemetery.

It should be noted that visitors are not allowed to bring their own dogs on the trails. However, you may still have some canine company; Fulton’s “Playground Ambassador”, a black lab named Clyde, likes to go for walks with whoever is exploring the trails. He also likes to hang out with the kids in the playground, and greet people as they go in and out of the buildings. It’s a good thing he wears a special vest saying who he is, or he’d be mistaken for a really friendly stray dog!

Two more fun outdoor activities await visitors. On weekends, you can enjoy a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the forest for only $2/person. And if you still have room from lunch, you can purchase maple taffy on snow – a treat that is very popular with the children.

Fulton’s is open daily until April 25th, with extra activities on weekends and during March Break. The facilities are open year-round for groups with reservations, and you can visit the Maple Shoppe outside of the maple syrup season on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10am to 3pm.

Location:  399 Sugar Bush Rd, Pakenham (off County/Regional Road 29 between Almonte and Pakenham – see the Fulton’s site for directions before heading out)

Website: http://www.fultons.ca

Reservations: Not required, except for pre-paid groups

Hours: Daily until April 25th; see website for activity and restaurant times

Cost: Free parking and admission to the grounds