Length of stay: 1 day
Visited: August 2020
We had such a wonderful time in Pancake Bay Provincial Park earlier in the summer during our first Northern Ontario road trip that we decided to return. It’s located on the northern shores of Lake Superior and is known for its beautiful sandy beach. It’s also conveniently located right off the Trans-Canada Highway just north of Sault Ste. Marie.
We had spent the previous two nights at Windy Lake Provincial Park just north of Sudbury. After making a few detours to get more groceries, go for a hike along the A.Y. Jackson Lookout Trail and visit the Big Nickel, the world’s largest coin, we set off for Pancake Bay.
The weather forecast was calling for a severe thunderstorm warning in the afternoon. When we were about 30 minutes from the park the storm rolled in with heavy rain. We luckily dodged most of the rain as by the time we arrived at the park, it was starting to clear. We picked up our park permit and some firewood and headed to our site. After eating some dinner, we walked to the beach. The clouds were starting to clear and the sun was starting to set. We then headed back to our site and got ready to go to bed.
The temperature dropped to 13°C overnight and it was still quite chilly when I woke up. I took a walk down to the beach to warm-up and get some pictures of the sunrise while K continued sleeping.
By the time I returned to our site, K was up. We decided to go for a hike along the Edmund Fitzgerald Lookout Trail while we waited for things to warm-up. The trail consists of three routes, so you can scale up or down depending on how much time you went to spend hiking.
The trail was named after the shipwreck, SS Edmund Fitzgerald, which sank in Lake Superior during a storm in 1975. There is a scenic lookout along the trail, which provides a nice view of Lake Superior. From here you can see across to Whitefish Point, which is known as the “Graveyard of the Great Lakes”, which is a resting place for many ships.
We actually hiked this trail before when we visited Pancake Bay earlier in the summer. Flashbacks of mud, mosquitoes and fear immediately came flooding back. But it was later in the season, so it couldn’t possibly get any worse. But just to make sure, we decided just to hike to Pancake Falls (8.5km, rated moderate) and cut out the swampy area we hiked through last time.
The trailhead is located across Highway 17 from the campground. The first 1.6km is relatively flat with minimal elevation gain. The trail is well-marked by a series of blue markers with a hiker symbol. There is also a map of the trail at each junction.
When we reached the first junction we veered right towards Pancake Falls. The trail continues to weave through the forest, crosses a gravel road and winds back through the forest. Similar to last time, there was still a massive puddle on the road to hop over (more like wade through). The mosquitoes were also still very aggressive. Probably even more so because everything was still damp from the thunderstorm the day before.
The path then leads out to a wide gravel road, which we followed to the next junction. From here it’s another 530m down (key word being down) to the falls.
We turned around and hiked back the way we came to the parking lot. By this time it was starting to warm up outside. We drove back into the campground and headed to the covered picnic area to make breakfast. There are plenty of picnic tables here, creating a perfect spot to eat while overlooking the beach.
There is also a “Moments of Algoma” installation entitled Boxcar Artists in Wild Algoma locates here. The sign indicates that at the end of World War 1, before Highway 17 was built, a group of artists came to the Algoma wilderness. They stayed in a red boxcar along the side of the Algoma Central Railway. After two trips along this railway in the hills behind Pancake Bay Provincial Park, they started calling themselves the Group of Seven.
After finishing up a late breakfast, we set off to hike along the Pancake Bay Nature Trail, which is located near the Hilltop Campground. There were a few signs in the parking lot and at the trailhead to indicate that the area was closed. There was another couple there who called the park office and told us that apparently the boardwalk through the fen was closed, but we could hike along the other sections of the trail. Since the boardwalk is easily the highlight of the trail, we decided to return to our site and pack-up. We left the park around 11:30a.m.
We then headed to the next stop on our road trip: White Lake Provincial Park