Distance hiked: 10.5km
Location: Neys Provincial Park, Ontario
Date: July 2, 2020
The Group of Seven refers to a group of Canadian artists who are best known for painting Canada’s rugged landscape. Many of the members were inspired by Lake Superior’s northern shore and painted landscapes that are now a part of Neys Provincial Park. The most notable of these landscapes is Pic Island, which inspired Lawren Harris’ most famous work, Pic Island, in 1924.
There is a hiking trail, or rather series of connected hiking trails that form a loop, in Neys Provincial Park that provides sweeping vistas of Lake Superior, including Pic Island. These include:
- Pic Island Overlook Trail (4.5km one-way, rated difficult)
- Kopa Cove Trail (2.6km one-way, rated very difficult)
- Under the Volcano Trail (2.5km one-way, rated difficult)
- Point Trail (1.0km one-way, rated easy)
When we registered at the campground yesterday, the park ranger recommended starting at the Pic Island Overlook Trail (rather than at the Point Trail), so that’s what we did. There’s a small parking lot for the Pic Island Overlook Trail off the main road through the campground near the railroad.
The path is along an old dirt road and isn’t particularly all that interesting. It’s a steady incline the entire way. At the end of the trail, the path leads to a clearing in the trees to a gazebo that overlooks Pic Island and Thompson Channel.
There is a “Moments of Algoma” interpretive sign here noting that this was one of Lawren Harris’ favourite places to sketch. He used multiple vantage points of Pic Island and the surrounding area to create his iconic painting of Pic Island.
We took a break on the benches inside the gazebo and ate a snack while admiring the stunning views.
From here, the trail turns into the Kopa Cove Trail. This is easily the most challenging section of the hike and it became abundantly clear to us as to why the park ranger recommended hiking it from this way. It’s a steep descent along rugged terrain to the shore.
At this point the trail becomes well marked by a series of blue markers, which we were thankful for as sometimes it wasn’t abundantly clear where the path was.
Kopa Cove ends at a small sandy beach along the shore of Lake Superior. There’s a sign here to indicate that we are now on the Under the Volcano Trail.
There is also a backcountry campsite sign and picnic table here. We walked down to the beach and sat on an old piece of driftwood to eat a snack.
The path along the Under the Volcano Trail is still rugged, but is incredibly scenic and follows along the shoreline. And it isn’t nearly as steep as Kopa Cove. The trail passes through an area that, 1 billion years ago, used to be an active shield volcano. this geological formation is apparently unique to the Canadian Shield because of syenite, a pinkish rock that broke into the older gabbro rock.
Since the path hugs the rocky coastline, there were naturally some scenic lookouts along the way of Lake Superior.
Under the Volcano ends at a rocky point jutting out on Lake Superior. This marks the start (or end, depending which way you hike this trail) of the Point Trail. There are a few old boats scattered on the rocky outcrop with an interpretive sign that explains more about their history. These boats were used in the mid 1940s by the Pigeon River Timber Company to haul workers and supplies to logging camps that were located up the Pic and Little Pic rivers. Prisoners of war from Neys Camp 100 (which is now Neys Provincial Park) provided some of the labour for logging in this area.
From here it’s a relatively short and easy walk through the shaded forest to Prisoners’s Cove, which marks the end of the Pic Island Overlook to Point Trail. Except the trail itself doesn’t form a complete loop. Instead, we had to walk (mostly uphill) along the road for a couple of kilometres back to the parking lot for the trailhead for the Pic Island Overlook Trail.
Afterwards we headed back to our campsite to eat some lunch and go swimming at the beach. This trail was a great way to see many of the unique landscapes and geological formations in Neys Provincial Park.
My progress on the 52 Hike Challenge can be found here