Length of stay: 1 day
Visited: July 2020
Neys Provincial Park is located on the northern shore of Lake Superior. Its rocky shores are home to many subarctic plants because of the cold and rough water of the lake. Despite the frigid water, the park features a gorgeous sandy beach. There are also a number of hiking trails that weave their way across different landscapes in the park, including ancient dunes, dense forests, pebble beaches, and rocky overcrops. These rugged landscapes of Neys provided much inspiration to the Group of Seven painters, most notably Lawren Harris’ and his most famous piece, Pic Island.
Neys also has a rich history. During World War II, the area that is now Neys Provincial Park was used to hold mostly German prisoners of war between 1941 to 1946. Prisoners of war from Neys Camp 100 provided some of the labour for logging in this area in the Pic and Little Pic River valleys.
We arrived at Neys just before 6p.m. We managed to book one of the coveted sites close to the beach (#65) and had our own pathway that led to the beach. We could even hear the waves from our campsite. We set up our tent and made some gnocchi on our camping stove for dinner. Afterwards we checked out the beach and made a fire.
We woke up around 7a.m and wasted no time getting up. After breakfast we set out on an ambitious hike from Pic Island Overlook to the Point Trail (10.5km loop, rated moderate with some difficult sections). The trail consists of four separate trails that connect together, along with a small road portion, to form a larger loop.
We started at the trailhead for the Pic Island Overlook Trail (4.5km one-way, rated moderate). It was a steady ascent up an old dirt road that leads to a Gazebo overlooking Pic Island. This island, and surrounding landscape inspired The Group of Seven’s Lawren Harris’ famous painting, Pic Island, in 1924.
From the overlook, the trail turns into the Kopa Cove Trail (2.6km one-way, rated very difficult). This is easily the most challenging section of the hike and is a steep descent through the forest to the shoreline. The trail ends at a small sandy beach covered in driftwood and turns into the Under the Volcano Trail (2.5km one-way, rated difficult).
The trail is still rugged, but is much more scenic and provides great views of Lake Superior along the way. One billion years ago, the area along the Under the Volcano Trail used to be an active shield volcano. When the glaciers receded, the top layers of the volcano were stripped away.
The Under the Volcano ends at a rocky point jutting out on Lake Superior and turns into the Point Trail (1.0km one-way, rated easy). There are a few old boats scattered here that 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 to Prisoners’s Cove, which marks the end of the trail. But not the end of the loop. We had to walk along the road for a couple of kilometres back to the parking lot for the Pic Island Overlook Trail.
We finished up our hike shortly after 12p.m and returned to our campsite for some lunch and to take a break. In the mid-afternoon, we headed back out to hike along the remaining two hikes in the park, both of which are relatively short.
We first hiked along the Dune Trail (1.3km, rated easy), which loops around a sand dune system. The trail features some of the unique plants of the dune environment. Towards the end of the loop, the landscape changes from a sand dune system to be more representative of the boreal forest.
After that we hiked along the Lookout Trail (1.6km, rated moderate). The trail leads up onto scenic rocky highlands and provides a nice view overlooking Ashburton Bay. The trail weaves through a variety of habitats including thick spruce forests, bare rocky exposures and sandy dunes.
Afterwards we returned to our campsite to go for a (well deserved) swim in Lake Superior. It was cold, but surprisingly not as frigid as Pancake Bay. There was a warm layer of water at the top and colder on the bottom.
We walked back to our site along our private path to the beach, got changed, and started a fire to make dinner. We hung around the campsite for the remainder of the evening and went to bed around 9p.m.