Lake Superior Provincial Park

Length of stay: 2 days
Visited: July 2020

Lake Superior Provincial Park is one of the largest provincial parks in Ontario. It is nestled along the eastern coast of Lake Superior and spans between Sault Ste. Marie and Wawa. It features lush forests, rocky overcrops, cliffs, lakes, ponds, waterfalls and beautiful sandy beaches.

Day 1: Views of Lake Superior

We left Neys Provincial Park just before 8:30a.m and drove about 2.5 hours to Lake Superior Provincial Park. Even though it was early, it was already hot and humid. According to the weather forecast, there was a heat warning in effect and the temperature was expected to climb to 28°C (feel like 36°C with the humidity).

There are two main campgrounds in Lake Superior, Agawa Bay (147 sites) at the southern end of the park and Rabbit Blanket Campground (60 sites) at the northern end. We opted to stay at the latter as it’s smaller and the sites are more private. We arrived at the Rabbit Blanket Campground at 11:30a.m, but our site was still occupied. Instead we went for a hike.

We parked at the Old Woman Bay Day-Use area and crossed the road to get to the trailhead for Nokomis (5.0km loop, rated moderate). The path gets down to business right away and is a steady (and rocky) ascent through the forest up to a series of scenic lookouts of Lake Superior. The views were beautiful, but we didn’t linger long at the lookouts as it was hot and there were often no trees for coverage from the sun. We hiked counter-clockwise along the trail, which turned out to be a good call as the descent was quite steep.

After our hike we drove back to our campsite to set up our tent, make a late lunch, take a break, and drink lots of water. We snagged an awesome site (R39), which was very secluded and spacious with a flat spot for our tent. It also has its own path from the campsite down to the lake.

We headed back out at 2:30p.m to hike along Orphan Lake (8km loop, rated moderate). The trail weaves through the forest and provides a few scenic lookouts along the way. The first couple of kilometres were gradually uphill, but the path is wide and relatively gentle. We reached a junction where the path forms a loop around Orphan Lake, which we hiked clockwise. This is where the terrain becomes progressive more rugged.

There are three scenic lookouts along the loop, including one that gives a birds eye view above Orphan Lake and the others that provide sweeping vistas of Lake Superior.

The trail then follows the shoreline of Orphan Lake before heading down (key word being down) to a pebble beach on Lake Superior. The path contains several steep downhill sections and lots of roots and rocks to hop over, on and around.

Here the path overlaps with the Coastal Trail for a few hundred metres, before it weaves back through the forest. The trail then follows the eastern shore of Orphan Lake, steadily making its way back up to the junction. When we reached the junction, we walked back along the path to the parking lot.

Once we got back to the car, we drove to the other side of the park to the Agawa Bay Campground to go swimming. The beach on Agawa Bay was a mix between sand and pebbles, which made for an interesting walk down into the water without sandals. The water was wavy and super frigid, there were lots of pebbles near the shore, and it looked like it sloped down pretty quickly. We dipped our toes in for a minute before aborting our mission to go swimming.

Instead we returned to our campsite and started a fire to make dinner. The previous people that were on this site left half a bag of firewood behind, which was very lovely.

Day 2: Encounter with a Moose

We had another early start to our day. Initially we planned to hike Peat Mountain, but were concerned with the “demanding” rating. To be honest, the two trails we hiked yesterday were both rated as moderate, but felt much harder than that. Maybe it was because of the heat. Either way, we decided to skip Peat Mountain and instead hike a few shorter and “easier” trails.

After eating breakfast, we drove south to hike along Trapper’s Trail (1.5km round trip, rated easy). The path follows the shoreline of Rustle Lake, features two viewing platforms and has a floating boardwalk. Shortly after starting our hike, we stumbled upon a moose crossing over the first boardwalk. Needless to say, this trail lived up to its description about how a quiet walk at dawn (or dusk) provides the best wildlife viewing opportunities.

From there we continued driving south and turned off at Katherine Cove, which features a nice sandy beach. There is a “Moments of Algoma” interpretive installation here about the Spirit of Algoma. Although the Group of Seven did not paint here, they sketched nearby along the Algoma Central Railway, which runs across the eastern boundary of the park. According to the sign, they were looking for the spirit of Canada embodied in the wild northern landscapes.

We hopped back in the car for a couple of minutes before stopping at the Sand River parking area to hike along Pinguisibi (6.0km round trip, rated easy), which is the Ojibwe name for “river of fine white sand”. The river once served as an ancient canoe route for hunting, fishing and trapping. The trail follows along the river and contains a number of interpretive signs, which explain the history of the area when it was used by the Ojibwe. The trail also contains a number of opportunities to view the falls and rapids along the way.

Toward the end of the trail, the river widens and is substantially more calm. The trail ends near a portage of the Sand River (no idea how anyone could even canoe in this river) and there’s a sign to denote the official end. There’s a backcountry campsite a few hundred metres from the end of the trail. We stopped here to eat a snack and take a break, while admiring the views of the river.

After we wrapped up our hike, we returned to our campsite to eat some lunch and pack up our tent. We headed back out shortly after 1p.m to hike along South Old Woman River (2.5km roundtrip, rated moderate). The trailhead is right across the road from the Rabbit Blanket Lake Campground. The trail passes through a forest and criss-crosses the river. In some cases there is a bridge or boardwalk to help get across the river, but in other cases we had to hop over rocks to get across.

From there we drove south again. On our drive out of the park, we made a detour to see the Agawa Rock Pictographs (0.5km round trip, rated moderate). The trail descends to the shore of Lake Superior and across a rock ledge to view where generations of Ojibwe recorded their dreams and spirits in red ochre paintings at this sacred site.

The rock ledge is narrow and a bit treacherous. It can only be accessed when the lake is calm, usually from mid-May to mid-September. There is a chain in place to help shimmy across the first part of the ledge. There are also a few ropes from the ledge to help climb up in case you fall in the water. It was a bit sketchy to walk along the ledge and it didn’t help that there was a group of people following closely behind us. Because of this, we weren’t able to see all of the pictographs. Needless to say, we didn’t linger long.

The pictographs feature several images, most notably the Mishipeshu, or “the Great Lynx”, which we were at least able to see.

We hopped back in the car, only to pull over shortly at Crescent Lake. There’s supposedly a short trail around the lake, but the area was gated closed. Not sure why. From here, we drove to the next destination on our road trip: Chutes Provincial Park.


36 thoughts on “Lake Superior Provincial Park

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We enjoyed our visit to Lake Superior Provincial Park so much that we decided to return here later in the summer for a little bit longer. It’s such a great park with a variety of activities for everyone: canoeing, hiking, swimming, and fishing. Oh, and it’s supposed to have good birdwatching. Glad it brought back good memories. Thanks for reading. Take care.

  1. Lookoom says:

    I remember going down to see the Pictographs, but like you I didn’t go all the way because it’s inconvenient when there are a few people around. The question is whether we should leave this discomfort or on the contrary make it more accessible.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The rock ledge definitely was a bit sketchy. It also doesn’t help that people don’t wear appropriate footwear. There was a guy that went before us who was wearing flip flops and nearly slipped and fell into the water. And yes, it certainly begs the question around safety and whether it would be better to build a viewing platform instead. That way, you can also better preserve the pictographs themselves.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I tend to take Ontario (and Canada in general) for granted. Since I live here, I always think I’ll have plenty of time to travel around and explore whenever. Except that I haven’t until this year. And all because of the pandemic. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how scenic and beautiful Ontario is, especially Northern Ontario. I would highly recommend it.

  2. ourcrossings says:

    Exploring Lake Superior Provincial Park would make for a wonderful Canadian adventure. I had no idea it’s such a long drive away from Toronto. We are so used to short driving distances in Ireland; anything above four hours is a lot! 😹Can’t believe you managed to see a moose so close! I suppose it’s just a matter of being in the right place at the right time! Thanks for sharing and happy trails ☺️ Aiva

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The furthest place we went to on our Northern Ontario road trip was Sleeping Giant, which is just under 15 hours from Toronto. We certainly racked up the kilometres on our car. But overall we had fabulous weather, got to go on some great hikes, and see a bunch of wildlife, including a moose! That certainly was a highlight. Thanks for reading. Take care.

  3. Ab says:

    Thank you for sharing this lovely post. My family did a roadtrip to Thunder Bay in August. The drive through Lake Superior was spectacular. I didn’t even know such beauty existed in Ontario.

    We made a note to return next summer and to explore Lake Superior more thoroughly. I remember we drove by Old Woman’s Bay and our jaws just dropped. Definitely wish we stopped by and can’t wait to do so one day soon!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      This was easily one of the most scenic road trips that we’ve taken. We had such a lovely time that we decided to come back later in the summer, but we didn’t drive nearly as far as Thunder Bay. If travel restrictions remain in place, we’ll likely return next summer too and explore more of the area around Thunder Bay. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      • Ab says:

        One of the unexpected blessings – if you can call it that – of the pandemic was forcing us to explore Ontario. So beautiful. You will love the Thunder Bay Area! Enjoy! And look forward to catching up with the rest of your travels. Getting ideas for next time!

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        Agreed. Despite living in Ontario for my entire life, this is the first summer where I’ve actually made an effort to explore many of its provincial parks. And the whole time I kept asking myself why I didn’t do this sooner. Ontario is actually really beautiful. Glad to hear that the Thunder Bay area is great. I’ve already started sketching out a rough itinerary for next summer. Take care.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Whether you’re just driving through or hiking, the views all around Lake Superior are stunning. Good thing it’s so scenic because it’s a long drive from Toronto. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I was quite thrilled at how much wildlife we saw on our road trip. Coming across the moose while hiking was pretty neat. I’ve only ever seen one moose before and that was a calf. We very well could have crossed paths as we’ve been in this area twice this summer: once at the end of June/beginning of July and the other in mid-August.

  4. Monkey's Tale says:

    Looks like a great hike. We thought we’d travel east this summer since we can’t go internationally, but kept talking ourselves out of the trip. Lake Superior looks to have so many great spots.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We initially were planning to go on an Atlantic Canada road trip this summer, but then the pandemic happened and the Atlantic provinces shut their borders to the rest of Canada (unless you want to self-isolate for 14 days). Instead we went to Northern Ontario. Twice. There are so many fantastic provincial parks along Lake Superior. Lots of great hikes and wildlife viewing opportunities. And the best part is that it’s not busy so the trails, beaches and campgrounds never felt very crowded. I would highly recommend visiting.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I’m not going to lie, it’s a long drive around the northern shore of Lake Superior. But it is incredibly scenic and there are a lot of great provincial parks to stop along the way to camp, swim and hike. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  5. Eromonsele Emmanuel says:

    All the camping, hiking, swimming and eating. I actually live it when you share your amazing adventures accompanied with great photos. Orphan Lake sounds like a depressing name and I wonder how it could’ve been if you conquered Peat Mountain.

  6. Martha Cox says:

    I did an epic trip to the end if the road in Quebec this year, now I am looking in the other direction. Roughly, Montreal, Algonquin, Killarney, Superior, Manitoulin, Bruce. Maybe way too ambitious!
    I don’t like doubling back so was thinking of looping inland through Wawa toward Sudbury. It seem pretty empty. Would it be best just to stay on the Lakeshore?

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We were initially planning on taking a road trip to Quebec this fall, but then cases surged and we’ve decided to just stick with exploring more of our home province of Ontario. We’re actually heading to Killarney next weekend! There aren’t a whole lot of cities or towns in Northern Ontario, especially the further you stray from the Trans-Canada highway. Although I bet you could loop around through Timmins if you don’t want to double back. I’m not sure whether any of the provincial parks in that area are open though. All the best on your road trip, those are all fantastic places that you’re planning on visiting.

  7. Dave Semus says:

    Crescent Lake used to be a nice campground. Hope it reopens someday. Too many provincial parks have closed and with camping popularity increasing the decision to close them does not appear to be a good one.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Agreed, it’s a shame that some campgrounds and parks have closed and not much has been done over the past two years to deal with accommodating the increase in demand for camping, hiking or just wanting to spend time in nature. I remember prior to the pandemic we could book a camping trip last minute no problem. These days you have to reserve your site as soon as that reservation window opens up. We’ve had a few bad camping experiences last summer with the noise and crowds so I think we’re going to stick to camping in the offseason or backcountry this year.

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