Home Canada Places to Visit on a Road Trip from Sault Ste. Marie to Thunder Bay

Places to Visit on a Road Trip from Sault Ste. Marie to Thunder Bay

by Valerie Vanr

Explore 7 provincial parks, 1 national park and towns in between the regional cities of Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay along the north shore of Lake Superior.

We have the details on the best ways to experience the parks and towns on our road trip from Sault Ste Marie to Thunder Bay. This route is just one part our complete series of Northern Ontario Road Trips.

Sault Ste. Marie to Thunder Bay Road Trip

The distance between Sault Ste Marie and Thunder Bay is 700 km. This road trip travels the rugged shores of Lake Superior.  There are many great places to see with hiking trails, waterfalls and beaches to discover along the way.

We’ve picked the best spots to stop on your road trip. The distance noted in parentheses is the driving distance from the previous stop. We recommend a minimum of 4 days to travel from Sault Ste Marie to Thunder Bay and a day for each end point.

Sault Ste Marie to Thunder Bay Road Trip Map

Sault Ste. Marie to Thunder Bay Road Trip Map
Click on the above Sault Ste Marie to Thunder Bay map for an interactive version.

Group of Seven Easels

The Group of Seven artists were inspired by the water and landscapes of the Lake Superior shore.  These artists visited the area annually in the first half of the 20th century to paint the incredible landscapes. Their paintings brought this part of the Canadian North to the attention of people worldwide at a time when it was very difficult to get to the area.

The local tourism board has created 20+ interpretive installations of an artist’s easel and chair in spectacular locations along the north shore of Lake Superior from Sault Ste. Marie to Nipigon. Each installation highlights an aspect of the paintings of Group of Seven.

These are a few of our favourite Group of Seven interpretive installations:

For more information, visit the Moments of Algoma website.

Photo collage artists' easels chair installations
Group of Seven interpretive installations have been placed in 20 spots between Sault Ste. Marie and Nipigon to showcase the artists and their works.

Sault Ste. Marie

Learn about the 19th century events which led to the Sault Ste. Marie Canal’s construction at the National Historic Site. Just down the street, at the Ermatinger Clergue National Historic Site, learn about the growth of the city around the canal and several of its affluent citizens. Just across the street, visit the one-of-a-kind Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre.  The Agawa Canyon Tour Train departs from the station in the Canal District, the city’s entertainment hub, on full-day excursions into the wilderness of the Canadian Shield to Agawa Canyon Park. We highly recommend spending a day or two in Sault Ste. Marie.

Be sure to check out our full article Top Things to do in Sault Ste. Marie for the complete list of places to visit in Sault Ste. Marie.

Canal lock surrounded by parkland bridge distance

Travelling west on the Trans-Canada Highway from Sault Ste. Marie there are three provincial parks in about 140 kilometres (1.5 hours).  These parks are the perfect introduction to the stunning scenery of Lake Superior’s northern shore.

Batchawana Bay Provincial Park

Enjoy the 2-kilometre long, sandy beach at Batchawana Bay. The shallow water is typically the warmest on the Lake Superior shore. The bay is sheltered by some of the highest hills in Ontario, with heights over 630 metres above sea level. There are lots of picnic tables along the beach.

For boaters, access to the bay is either by hand over the beach or from the launch site east of the park at the mouth of the Batchawana River. Fishing is permitted (in season of course).

Open from early May to late October, this park is for day-use only. To guarantee a day-use spot, get a daily vehicle permit in advance from Ontario Parks Reservations. They can be purchased at the park if available.

People on beach edge Batchwana Bay
Enjoy a walk on the 2-kilometre long beach at Batchawana Bay Provincial Park.

Approaching the park’s southern boundary, the Chippewa Falls Rest Area is on the right. The Chippewa River flows over the pink granite of the Canadian Shield dropping about 20 metres at Chippewa Falls.  When water levels are low, the two cascades making up the falls appear more distinct. A great photo spot is the centre of the walkway on the highway bridge. Take a longer break to have fun scrambling over the rocks to the edge of the falls.

This is the mid-point of the Trans-Canada Highway, the longest national highway in the world. This section of the highway, considered to be one of the most rugged and scenic sections, was completed last. The highway officially opened in 1960.

Forest surrounds Chippewa Falls over pink rocks
The Chippewa River flows over the pink granite of the Canadian Shield.

Pancake Bay Provincial Park

This part of Lake Superior, beyond the shelter of the bay, is known as the “graveyard of the Great Lakes”. The Great Lakes freighter, SS Edmund Fitzgerald, sank in a fierce Superior storm in 1975. All 29 crew members were lost. It is the worst single accident ever on Lake Superior.

The full Lookout Trail is a moderate, 14-kilometre loop through lush forest with lookouts giving amazing views of Lake Superior and Pancake Bay.  The hike to the Edmund Fitzgerald Lookout and back is 7 kilometres. See inland lakes, scenic Pancake River Falls and maybe some local wildlife.

The Pancake Bay Nature Trail explores the shoreline, beach ridges and a wetland with interpretive signs explaining each area. It’s an easy, 3.5-kilometre loop next to the campground.

Camping is available for large RVs to car campers. The campground parallels the shore of Pancake Bay. The bay is sheltered, perfect for enjoying the beautiful sand beach with its stunning clear blue water or canoeing along the shore of Lake Superior. Camping reservations and day-use daily vehicle permits for Pancake Bay are available in advance from Ontario Parks Reservations.

Lake Superior Provincial Park

The park is more than twice the size of the City of Toronto stretching along the shore of Lake Superior from Agawa Bay to almost Wawa. Fur trading posts were established in the area in the 18th and early 19th centuries. By the 1840s beavers had been trapped to almost extinction so the posts were abandoned and the communities disappeared. The area is once again pristine wilderness with a variety of landscapes from rocky shores and beaches to inland lakes and rivers surrounded by forests, wetlands and hills.

For those intending to camp in the park, there are two serviced campgrounds for RVs and car campers and about 200 backcountry campsites. Camping reservations and day-use daily vehicle permits for Lake Superior Provincial Park are available in advance from Ontario Parks Reservations.

The park is known for some of the best Brook Trout fishing in Ontario. Rainbow Trout and several species of salmon spawn in the larger rivers.

Canoeists and hikers enjoy the trek along the Superior shoreline and into the rugged park. There are canoe routes in the park, ranging from easy day trips to the more than 50-kilometre-long Sand River.

There are marked hiking trails of varying distances and difficulties. Sturdy footwear is recommended. The longest and most challenging is the Coastal Trail, part of the Voyageur Trail.

Portages and trails can be steep and uneven and weather unpredictable. Be sure to prepare carefully. For detailed information about canoe routes and hiking trails, visit the Lake Superior Provincial Park Activities webpage or the Visitor Centre.

At the Visitor Centre, the Group of Seven installation highlights the work of several artists including Arthur Lismer. He was eager to experience the Canadian landscape of rock, pines, water and sky abundant in the area. The Algoma Central Railway line ran along what is now the eastern border of the park. This train was the only way to reach the wilderness in the early 20th century.

Check out Agawa Bay’s beach, just steps away from the Visitor Centre.

The Trans-Canada Highway runs 90 kilometres (1 hour) through the centre of the park. There are a number of great stops along the way.

Val looking at red rock paintings
I managed to get a close up look at some of the red ochre paintings by the Ojibwe on Agawa Rock. They record events in their lives, their dreams and their visions.

Agawa Rock Pictographs

See iron-rich, red ochre paintings on the 30-metre-tall, granite cliff called Agawa Rock. Generations of Ojibwe people painted the mystical beings, animals and humans to explain events in their lives, their dreams and their visions.

It is believed that the cliff was used for over 2000 years. Today’s visible pictographs are between 150 and 400 years old. Agawa Rock is one of the few places in Ontario where visitors can walk to and see pictographs up close. Please respect this site which is sacred to Indigenous People.  

Val at waters-edge camera aimed at rock cliff
The pictographs can be seen from the water’s edge though photographing them was tricky without ending up in the lake. Walk out on the angled rock ledge only if Lake Superior is calm.
Val on the rocky path narrow steep-sided rock cut
While the trail from the parking lot to the pictographs is short, it is narrow, through a rock cut and covered with broken bits of rock and small boulders.

To get close to the pictographs, clamber out on a rock ledge at the edge of Lake Superior. This should only be attempted when the lake is calm between mid-May and mid-September.  We were lucky the day we visited. It was a stunning, calm, sunny day.

The trail from the parking lot to the lake is short but quite rugged. Descend 30 metres in elevation over the 400-metre trail, through rock cuts and over broken boulders.

Sand River Falls

The Sand River has a series of falls and rapids. Follow the Pinguisibi Trail from the parking lot to see four waterfalls. It is a linear, 3-kilometre trail, with steep grades and often wet, uneven terrain. The Ojibwe people called the river “Pinguisibi” or river of fine white sand. The trail follows their canoe and hunting route up the river. One waterfall is very close to the parking lot.

Andy on rock in falls of Sand River
The Ojibwe tribe called the Sand River, the Pinguisibi or river of fine white sand. This pretty waterfall, close to the parking lot, highlights beautiful pink granite.

Katherine Cove

This is a great picnic stop with a fine sand beach. The waters of the cove are warm and shallow, in the shelter of the Lizard Islands. The cove is a great starting spot to explore Lake Superior by foot, canoe or kayak. The Coastal Trail in this area has some very steep grades, wet and slippery parts and uneven terrains.

Rocky shore pools beach and kayaks background
The shallow waters around Katherine Cove in Lake Superior Provincial Park are a great place to explore with a canoe or kayak.

The Group of Seven Installation at the Katherine Cove picnic area discusses the artists desire to capture the north with its water, morning mists and boreal forests. Before low-cost colour photography allowed us to bring the magic home, paintings were the only way to capture the beauty and serenity of this nature.

Old Woman Bay

Search the bay’s south cliffs for the face of an old woman overlooking the bay. See stunning views of Lake Superior and the forested hills and sharp cliffs that define Lake Superior Provincial Park. Hike the Nokomis Trail, a 4.5-kilometre, moderate loop for a panoramic view of the bay. The trailhead is on the opposite (north) side of the highway.

Andy balancing on large log beach Old Woman Bay
The bay is named for a cliff outcrop on the south side which, to some, looks like the face of an old woman.

Things to Do in Wawa

The Heritage Walk at Wawa Lake provides information about Wawa’s history in the mining, forestry and tourism industries on a series of information boards.

For centuries, descendants of the Ojibwe Tribe camped on the shores of Wawagonk, “the place of clear water”. It was a prime fishing spot. In the 19th century “gentlemen” fishermen hired Ojibwe Tribe members as wilderness guides to fish the quiet, clear lake, they called Wawa Lake, and nearby rivers. In 1897 gold was discovered at the lake and the area changed forever.

Prospectors arrived, scouring the lake and the hills around it. The hills, part of a massive volcano formed 2.75 billion years ago, hold many minerals and precious metals. Over the centuries, Indigenous people created tools, trade items and decorations with them. Artifacts made of local copper have been found around the continent.

A year after the gold discovery, the prospectors found iron ore in rocks north of the lake. The resulting Helen/MacLeod Iron Mines successfully operated for 100 years. Many businesses and communities in the area and south to Sault Ste. Marie owe their success to these mines. Today, the chance of finding gold, diamonds and other minerals in the area continues to attract prospectors.

Huge goose on boulder Canadian flag
The 8.5-metre tall Wawa Goose sits beside the Wawa Tourist Information Centre.

Wawa Goose

The Lake Superior section of the Trans-Canada Highway opened in 1960 bypassing Wawa’s business section. The town installed a giant statue of a Canada Goose to bring people into town. The original, plaster goose didn’t last long in the nasty winter winds and cold temperatures. It was replaced in 1963 with the current 8.5-metre-tall, steel statue. The Wawa Tourist Information Centre is located beside the goose.

But why a goose? Over time, many translated the name Wawa as “wild goose” versus the Ojibwe word wewe meaning “snow goose”. This led to the goose becoming the symbol of the town. The original goose still exists outside Young’s General Store on the way into town, a more sheltered spot.

Michipicoten River Village

The village was a traditional summer settlement for local Indigenous tribes for centuries. The first European-style settlement in the area was founded by 17th-century fur-trading voyageurs. It was ideally situated. There was access to the Great Lakes for travel east to Montreal or west to the continent’s interior. With its location at the mouth of the Michipicoten River, a route existed north to the Missinabi River and on to Moose Factory and James and Hudson Bays. The Michipicoten was the main canoe route from the upper Great Lakes to Hudson’s Bay.

Scenic High Falls

These falls are very aptly named. The Magpie River drops over 23 metres spilling into a rocky gorge.  The Magpie Falls/Harris Hydroelectric Generating Station, built in 1989, sits just above High Falls. The falls act as an overflow spill weir for the station. Flow and water level changes can occur quickly, and without warning, and change the look of the falls dramatically.

Val and Andy front of very wide waterfall
We’re standing on the viewing platform which gives a commanding view of Scenic High Falls on the Magpie River.

Enjoy a picnic in the park by the falls and learn about the many people who were important in the development of the Wawa area.

With lots of parking, don’t hesitate to leave the vehicle and hike a 3-kilometre section of the Voyageur Trail. It starts behind the viewing platform and follows the Magpie River to Upper Silver Falls.  The Upper Falls are also visible from the bridge on Michipicoten Harbour Road. Aptly named Middle Falls, seen on the hike, is midway between High Falls and Upper Falls.

Road bridge over river between 2 waterfalls
Mission Falls is in the foreground with Upper Silver Falls in the background.

Mission Falls is visible to the south from the bridge. These falls are the overflow spillway of the Mission Hydroelectric Generating Station.

Lake Superior Scenic Lookout

On a clear day, see Michipicoten Island and its lighthouse about 70 kilometres away from this lookout, further west on Michipicoten Harbour Road. See the splendour of Lake Superior and the coastline of Michipicoten Bay.

Michipicoten Island, a non-operating provincial park, is Lake Superior’s second largest island at 270 square kilometres. The local Ojibwe Tribe believes the island is home to evil spirits. Lake Superior’s first lighthouse was built on the island in 1872. To visit the island, charter a boat from Michipicoten Harbour’s marina.

Sandy Beach

This beach on Michipicoten Bay marks the middle of more than 300 kilometres of wilderness coastline of northeastern Lake Superior. Lake Superior Provincial Park is visible to the south and Pukaskwa National Park to the northwest. The coast’s thick forest and tall cliffs provide habitat for wildlife typically found in more northern locations such as woodland caribou and Peregrine Falcons.

blue waters white sand forests behind
The beautiful blue water and fine white sand on Michipicoten Bay reminded us of the Caribbean (except for the pine trees).

Learn about Lake Superior, its many shipwrecks, lighthouses and history of the Wawa area on the information panels in the pavilion at the parking lot.

Close to the beach, the Group of Seven installation highlights A.Y. Jackson’s Shoreline, Wawa, Lake Superior, c. 1959. Jackson co-owned a cottage near this spot from 1955 until his death in 1974.

From Wawa, the Trans-Canada Highway leaves the shore of Lake Superior and heads north to White River and then west to Marathon, a distance of about 180 kilometres (2 hours).

At this point in the journey, the distance from Wawa to Thunder Bay, and the end of the road trip, is about 500 kilometres.

White River – Winnie the Pooh Memorial

Did you know that a real black bear named Winnie was the inspiration for the classic children’s book series Winnie the Pooh by author A.A. Milne? In 1914 Lt. Harry Colebourn bought Winnie, an orphaned bear cub, at White River’s train station. He took Winnie to England for his WWI deployment, leaving her in the care of the London Zoo while he served in France. When he returned to England in 1919, he gave her to the zoo for permanent keeping. A.A. Milne and his son Christopher visited the zoo regularly and enjoyed seeing Winnie and the other animals. The rest, as they say, is history. Stop at the Winnie the Pooh Memorial on the Trans Canada Highway for a stretch break. Fuel and food options are nearby.

Book-shaped plaque Winnie-the-pooh Tree
The bear cub that inspired the “Winnie the Pooh” children’s stories was found in White River Ontario in 1914.

Pukaskwa National Park

For backcountry adventurers, this wilderness park has a number of hiking and paddling options.

Hikers enjoy both day hikes and longer backpacking routes including the Coastal Hiking Trail, one of Ontario’s best wilderness routes and part of the Voyageur Trail. The White River Suspension Bridge Trail is a section of the Coastal Hiking Trail. It’s a challenging, 18-kilometre-return, day hike to and from the White River Suspension Bridge. The bridge crosses 23 metres above Chigamiwinigum Falls.

Equally challenging, the Mdaabii Miikna Trail, is a 25-kilometre loop and an alternative to the Coastal Hiking Trail.

Day-paddlers can stay close in the quiet of Hattie Cove or Halfway Lake. For the white-water adventurer, paddle the White and Pukaskwa rivers or the Lake Superior coastline.

Moose, American black bear, beaver, and many other animals may be seen on the trails.

The only vehicle access point is from Highway 627, just east of Marathon. The campground, administration office, kiosk and Hattie Cove Campground and Day Use Areas are about 15 kilometres south of the Trans-Canada Highway. In general, depending on weather conditions, the campground is open from May 15 to October 15 and the Visitor Centre from June to August.

For full information about things to do and all aspects of visit planning, check the Pukaskwa National Park website.

For the 180 kilometres (2 hours) from Marathon to Nipigon, the Trans-Canada Highway hugs the Lake Superior shore. The views are incredible. There are lots of places to pull over, step out and enjoy the incredible scenery. For more than a quick stretch, the next 6 places offer some interesting things to do.

Neys Provincial Park

During World War II, what is now Neys Provincial Park was a prisoner of war camp (known as Neys Camp 100) for high-ranking German POWs. It operated from 1941 to 1946. After the war, the prisoners were returned to Germany but many found their way back to Canada as immigrants. The Canadian Pacific Railway was the only direct access to the site, bringing prisoners and supplies.

The camp consisted of 27 buildings and a rectangular compound with barracks. This was surrounded by three rows of barbed wire fencing, 10-feet tall, with a guard tower at each corner. At the Visitor Centre, see a model of a POW camp. Very little evidence of the camp remains today.

The park is just to the west of Little Pic River on Ashburton Bay. All facilities are in the northwest corner of the park, along the Trans-Canada Highway, including the Visitor Centre. The park is open from mid-May to mid-September. Car camping and RV sites are available. Camping reservations and day-use daily vehicle permits for Neys Provincial Park are available in advance from Ontario Parks Reservations.

Ashburton Bay is shallow, helping to warm up the cold Lake Superior water a bit for swimming along the 2-kilometre-long beach. For warmer water, enjoy the Little Pic River. Canoe or boat the river or Lake Superior. Fishing is permitted in season.

There are hiking trails ranging from easy to difficult and between 2 and 9 kilometres round-trip.

Aerial view red-roofed Terrace Bay Lighthouse
Climb to the top of the Terrace Bay Lighthouse for a great view of Lake Superior. At its base, check out the Group of Seven installation.

Terrace Bay

At the base of the Terrace Bay Lighthouse, the Group of Seven installation discusses the Group of Seven’s visits to the area in the 1920’s. There were no roads at that time, so travel was by train. They often jumped off a moving train when they found a spot to explore. Their paintings are famous for capturing the forests, hills, lakes and sky of this wilderness.

Climb to the top of the 15-metre-high lighthouse for great views of Lake Superior and the Slate Islands to the southeast and the landscape made famous by the Group of Seven.

At Terrace Bay Beach, enjoy the sandy public beach. There are boat launch and docking facilities. The Aguasabon River enters the bay with a cascade waterfall, the lower Aguasabon Falls. There is trail access for the Casques Isles Trail, part of the Voyageur Trail, from the parking lot.

Aguasabon Falls

The Aguasabon River drops more than 30 metres at Aguasabon Falls, flowing over 2.5-billion-year-old igneous rocks into a narrow canyon. It is quite stunning. The location of the gorge and waterfall have not changed much since the last ice age due to the hard rock resisting erosion.  

Waterfall pouring into tree-lined narrow river canyon
The Aguasabon River flows over erosion-resistant igneous rock and drops into a narrow canyon on its way to Lake Superior.

In the late 1940’s, the water flow over the falls changed greatly due to the construction of the Aguasabon Generating Station and its associated structures. The river was dammed three kilometres upstream and water diverted by an underground tunnel to the generating station about three kilometres west.

To reach the falls, take Aguasabon Gorge Road about 750 metres to a parking lot. A short pathway and boardwalk leads to the falls and gorge overlook.


Schreiber began as a support town for the building of the railway through the area in 1885. The Schreiber Discovery Centre & Railway Museum celebrates the rich local Indigenous culture and the town’s railroad heritage. It is filled with Canadian Pacific artifacts and information about the railway.

Andy standing on train locomotive under building roof
Andy climbed up on the Canadian Pacific Railway locomotive at the Schreiber Discovery Centre and Railway Museum.

Rainbow Falls Provincial Park

Hike the Rainbow Falls Trail, one of the park’s most scenic hiking trails. A number of information plaques point out interesting natural features along the trail. Be sure to climb to the lookout for a panoramic view of the surrounding area and Lake Superior. Pretty Rainbow Falls is a series of small waterfalls on the river flowing from Whitesand Lake to Lake Superior. The river has cut through the pink granite of the area creating the waterfalls.

The park has two other short trails and access to the long-distance Casques Isles Trail.

Recreational boating, canoeing and swimming are permitted on Whitesand Lake. Car camping and RV sites are available late May to early October. Camping reservations and day-use daily vehicle permits for Rainbow Falls Provincial Park are available in advance from Ontario Parks Reservations.

Val and Andy beside water rocks Rainbow Falls
Behind us, beautiful Rainbow Falls flow over the pink granite of the Canadian Shield.


The Group of Seven installation in Rossport Community Park highlights the first visit of A.Y. Jackson and Lauren Harris in 1921 this far west on Superior’s shore. Commercial and recreational fishing flourished in the waters protected by the offshore islands. The area provided lots of opportunity for the painters. The beauty they captured and the promise of good fishing brought many people to the area which continues today.

At the community park, there is a sheltered beach and playground. Parking is available for users of the Lake Superior Water Trail, the Casques Isles Trail (part of the Voyageur Trail) and the Rossport Coastal Trail.

Aerial view Rossport village on Lake Superior
The community of Rossport began as a supply stop during the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway across Canada in the late 1800s. Today it is a summer tourist destination.

Boat charters are available from the local marina. Rossport is home to several B&Bs and shops for summer tourists. It is a historic community named after a contractor responsible for the construction of the area’s Canadian Pacific Railway line, Walter Ross. Several turn-of-the-century churches have been maintained.

Seventy kilometres west of Rossport, cross the Nipigon River into Nipigon which is about 115 kilometres from Thunder Bay.

Path connects Nipigon Lookout Tower and River Bridge
Get a unique perspective of the Nipigon River Bridge from the top of the Lookout Tower.


The stunning Nipigon River Bridge carries 4 lanes of the Trans-Canada Highway over the Nipigon River. It is a double span, cable-stayed bridge which opened fully in 2018. The bridge is 75 metres high.

Nipigon makes a great base to explore the many attractions nearby. There are a number of accommodation options along the Trans-Canada Highway.

From the top of the 20-metre high Nipigon Lookout Tower see Lake Superior in the distance, Nipigon Bay and the Nipigon River with the town in the valley.

Check out the nearby Group of Seven installation to learn a bit about Frank Johnston who was a founding member of the group until leaving in 1924. He particularly enjoyed the Nipigon area.

Exterior of Nipigon Historical Museum
In downtown Nipigon, visit the Nipigon Historical Museum to learn more about the area’s use by Indigenous people and European fur traders.

In the heart of town, visit the Nipigon Historical Museum to learn about this community which began as a fur trading post in the early 1700s. The town of Nipigon was incorporated in 1909 but the area at the mouth of the Nipigon River on Lake Superior has supported Indigenous people for millennia. Nipigon, in the heart of Canada’s boreal forest, continues to provide unspoiled nature for tourists and locals alike.  Stroll through town to see the plaques installed at various sites of historical significance.

Just south of the museum, on 3rd Street, Paddle-to-the-Sea Park and Splash Pad is the first of a number of “playground stations” between downtown and the waterfront. The stations depict the 1941 children’s book Paddle-to-the-Sea, by Holling C. Holling. On a hot day, the kids can enjoy the park’s splash pad. But why is it here? Don’t know the story? It’s the adventures of a wooden carving of a man in a canoe as it travels the Great Lakes from Nipigon to the Atlantic Ocean. Check out the National Film Board of Canada’s 1966 film adaptation.

Andy sits with a carved man in a wooden canoe
Andy took a break in Paddle-to-the-Sea Park in downtown Nipigon. There is a splash pad for the kids.

The Nipigon Marina is a full-service marina on a deep water channel from Lake Superior on the Nipigon River. Campsites are also available with facilities for RV camping. It operates June 1st to Labour Day. The Nipigon River is famous for Brook Trout with fishermen coming from around the world to try their luck. Programs are in place protecting the river’s fish species from over fishing and protecting their spawning sites.

The Alexander Dam and Falls Overlook is 15 kilometres north of the Trans-Canada Highway on the Nipigon River. See the 5-unit Alexander Generating Station, the dam and the falls. The first 3 units were built in 1930/31 to provide power to the growing Thunder Bay area. The last 2 units were added in 1945 and 1958. Note a slight difference in the colour of the brick between the original and addition.

There are three generating stations harnessing the Nipigon River’s power with a total capacity of about 300 megawatts. The other two stations are the 7-unit Cameron Falls and the 4-unit Pine Portage, both further upriver.

River above and below generating station dam rock
The Alexander Generating Station on the Nipigon River was built in 1930/31. It expanded in the 1945 and 1958. This is one of 3 generating stations built on the river.

Nipigon Area Hiking

The area has a number of challenging hiking trails. These 3 showcase the area’s boreal forest and unspoiled nature.

Nipigon River Recreational Trail

The 10-kilometre-long Nipigon River Recreation Trail follows the Nipigon River connecting the marinas in Nipigon and Red Rock. It is part of the Voyageur Trail.

Mazukama Falls Loop

The trailhead of the Mazukama Falls Loop Trail is about 20 kilometres east of Nipigon. Travel north on the Camp 81 Road for about 200 metres. The trail climbs steadily over massive fern-covered boulders and talus slopes. It is well marked with ropes to assist where needed.  We hiked along Mazukama Creek to Mazukama Falls, a short, 1.6-kilometre “out and back” route. The full loop is 3.1 kilometres and climbs 120 metres in elevation.

Andy holding rope stepping over rushing creek
The Mazukama Falls Loop trail is well marked and crossings over the creek have ropes to assist with crossing.
Twin waterfalls over red rocks
Beautiful Mazukama Falls is about 25 metres high. The trail can be challenging and very wet.

Mazukama Falls, at 25 metres high, is the highest of the creek’s cascades and waterfalls. The creek flows over the red rocks of the Kama Cliffs which are covered in old growth cedar forest.

For a panoramic view of Nipigon Bay, hike to Wingtip Lookout ascending steeply another 250 metres in elevation. The full return hike is 6.7 kilometres.

Kama Cliffs Trail

The trailhead for the Kama Cliffs Trail is 5 kilometres further east on the Trans-Canada Highway. At Kama Bay Road, parking is on the south side just off the Trans-Canada. Walk back across the highway and find the trailhead about 100 metres to the west.

This 7.3-kilometre, loop trail is classified as difficult and is suitable for hiking and mountain biking. The trail goes to the top of the Kama Cliffs overlooking Nipigon Bay. Enjoy the view and a picnic at the top.

Ouimet Canyon Region

This region, located midway between Nipigon and Thunder Bay, has a number of stunning canyons and impressive rock formations. Over thousands of years, the rocks have broken down along vertical lines into blocks and columns.  The canyon floors are littered with these blocks. The columns which have resisted breaking are called pinnacles.

On these 3 outdoor adventures, visit stunning canyons and see rock pinnacles.

Ouimet Canyon Provincial Park

Ouimet Canyon is day-use provincial park is worth the 15-minute drive from the Trans-Canada Highway.

The 100-metre deep canyon is only 150 metres wide with such steep sides that the canyon floor gets very little sunlight. This creates a very cold environment on the canyon floor. Plants normally found in arctic regions are the only ones which survive there.

Steep-sided boulder-strewn floor Ouiment Canyon
Visitors to Ouimet Canyon Provincial Park cannot hike to the canyon floor. Look down into the canyon from the two viewing platforms at the canyon’s edge.

A 1-kilometre trail begins in the parking lot at the end of Ouimet Canyon Road. The very well-marked trail travels over small, wooden bridges and gravel paths. The two lookout platforms are connected by a boardwalk. While you cannot visit the canyon floor, the panoramic view is very impressive. The canyon was cut through volcanic rock by glaciers more than a million years ago.

Eagle Canyon Adventures

Looking for a bit more action? Eagle Canyon Adventures is on Valley Road, just off Ouimet Canyon Road.

Eagle Canyon operates one of Canada’s longest zip lines down the centre of the canyon. Travel its 800-metre length in about 1 minute at almost 70 kilometres an hour.  There are two suspension bridges. Canada’s longest, at 180 metres long, hangs 50 metres above the canyon floor. A smaller bridge, only 90 metres long, is 38 metres above the canyon floor. There are a number of wilderness trails and access to the canyon floor.

Dorion Pinnacles Trail and Tower

Pinnacles Trail is a linear, well-marked trail. It is about 1.8 kilometres long and considered easy to moderate. The trail ends with amazing views of the pinnacles and the Dorion Tower. The Tower is well known with rock climbers.

The trailhead is a bit off the beaten path and a vehicle with higher clearance will make the last section possible. Follow Ouimet Canyon Road for 3.6 kilometres from the Trans-Canada Highway. Turn right onto Valley Road for 3.3 kilometres. On your left is Tower Road, a cellular tower access road. Follow it to its ends near the cell tower building. The marked trailhead is on the opposite side of the road. If you are past Eagle Canyon Adventures, you are too far down Valley Road.

Panorama Amethyst Mine

Discovered in 1955, the Panorama Mine is the largest amethyst mine in North America and continues to operate today on a seasonal basis, typically early May through late October. Mine tours and the gift shop open June 1st annually.

Amethyst is purple quartz, a semi-precious stone and the birthstone for February. The area around Thunder Bay has a number of amethyst deposits. They formed over a billion years ago as veins of amethyst through the granite bedrock.

Sleeping Giant Provincial Park

Sleeping Giant is known for fantastic hiking with more than 100 kilometres of hiking trails. The park is most of the forty-kilometre-long Sibley Peninsula. Panoramic views of Lake Superior are plentiful with one of the best from The Top of the Giant Trail. On the trails watch for wildlife such as deer, fox, lynx and many bird species. Many hikers use the park’s backcountry campsites. Car and RV campsites are available as well. Camping reservations and day-use daily vehicle permits for Sleeping Giant Provincial Park are available in advance from Ontario Parks Reservations.

Be sure to check out our article Hiking Sleeping Giant – Best Day Hike in Ontario for complete details about hiking in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park.

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Thunder Bay

Enjoy a few days in beautiful Thunder Bay.  Learn how the area has been a base for explorers for generations at Fort William Historical Park, a replica of the North West Company headquarters from the 1800s. See magnificent Kakabeka Falls, second only to Niagara as the highest waterfall in Ontario. Enjoy a relaxing hike in the boreal forest. Explore the Thunder Bay waterfront’s marina, parkland and outdoor entertainment spaces.

Be sure to check out our full article Best Things To Do in Thunder Bay for the complete list of places to see in Thunder Bay.

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Thunder Bay to Toronto

When it is time to head back home, there are several options to get from Thunder Bay to Toronto.  Follow the same route back or take a more northern route. At Nipigon head north on Highway 11, also the Trans-Canada Highway, through Hearst to Timmins. From Timmins travel south to North Bay and back to Toronto.

Long-Distance Trails – Water and Hiking

In Canada, the Great Trail (aka the Trans Canada Trail) is over 24,000 kilometres long reaching from the Atlantic to the Pacific to the Arctic Oceans. It is the world’s longest recreational trail network, composed of small trail sections maintained at the local level. Along the Lake Superior shore between Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay, there are two main long-distance trails, a water trail and a hiking trail. The shoreline is rugged and weather is often changeable and unpredictable. To hike or paddle them, be sure to plan carefully and carry lots of water, bug spray, sunscreen, first-aid supplies and weatherproof gear.

Lake Superior Water Trail

This trail is part of an ancient water route to the continent’s interior. The Lake Superior Water Trail is 1,000 kilometres along the Lake Superior shore between Gros Cap Marina Park on Whitefish Bay at Sault Ste. Marie and Fisherman’s Park, Thunder Bay. Known for its wild landscapes and cultural history, paddling the trail makes an unforgettable experience.

For detailed information visit the Lake Superior Water Trail website. Advance planning is needed to travel all or a piece of this trail.

Many of the access points of the Water Trail connect to the Voyageur Hiking Trail.

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Batchewana Bay Provincial Park is a great place to experience the Lake Superior Water Trail.

Voyageur Trail

Like the Great Trail, the Voyageur Trail is a network of challenging, locally-maintained trails. Eventually the trail will be a continuous wilderness hiking trail from Sudbury to Thunder Bay paralleling the shores of Lake Huron and Lake Superior. The following trails are along Lake Superior.

Lake Superior Provincial Park’s Coastal Trail is along the high cliffs and rocky beaches of Lake Superior. It runs 65 kilometres from Agawa Bay to Chalfant Cove. For detailed information, visit the Lake Superior Provincial Park Activities page.

Pukaskwa National Park’s Coastal Hiking Trail parallels a section of the longest undeveloped shoreline on the Great Lakes. It is 60 kilometres long and showcases the beauty of the national park. For detailed information visit the Pukaskwa National Park Backcountry Hiking page.

The Group of Seven Trail explores locations where the Group of Seven painted during their visits to the area between 1921 and 1928. Ultimately the trail will connect Pukaskwa National Park to Neys Provincial Park. Currently it is 20 kilometres long from Pukaskwa to Carden Cove Beach. Check the Group of Seven Trail Map for more information.

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Aguasabon Falls, on the Casque Isles Trail, are very impressive today. We tried to imagine what they looked like before the construction of a generating station nearby in the 1940s which diverted water away from the falls.

The Casque Isles Trail follows Lake Superior’s shoreline past old gold mines, trappers’ cabins and caves with evidence of occupation by First Nations peoples. The rugged trail is 53 kilometres long from Terrace Bay to Rossport. For more information visit the Terrace Bay’s Casque Isles Trail page.

The Nipigon River Recreational Trail follows the Nipigon River to Nipigon Bay on Lake Superior. It is 10 kilometres long from Nipigon Marina to Red Rock Marina. Check the Nipigon River Recreation Trail page for more details.

Be sure to check out our Ultimate Guide to Northern Ontario for even more road trips and destinations in Northern Ontario.

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