Hiking in Lake Superior Provincial Park

Length of stay: 2 days
Visited: August 2020

Lake Superior really is superior to all the other Great Lakes. So it makes sense that there is a provincial park named after it. Lake Superior Provincial Park is located along the eastern shore of Lake Superior between Sault Ste. Marie and Wawa. It has a wide range of camping options from car camping on the beach to backcountry camping in the wilderness. It also offers a variety of trails that range in length from 1.5km to 65km that weave through the different habitats and landscapes in the park.

Day 1: Views from Above

We left Neys, where we spent the previous three days, at 12:45p.m and from there it’s just under a 3 hour drive to get to Lake Superior Provincial Park. The drive took longer than expected as there were major delays due to construction along Highway 17. We also stopped in Wawa to see the giant goose. There are a few signs here which highlight the history of Magpie River, theTrans Canada highway through this area, and how the town was named.

The first reference to the word wawa was made by early prospectors while searching for gold with the help of their local Ojibway guides. Wawa Creek was called wawank, which is the Ojibway word for “clear water springs”. This stream flowed out to a lake called wawagonk, which means “place of clear water”. This was then shortened by the European settlers to Wawa. Somewhere along the way wawa may have been mistranslated to wild goose instead of wewe, which means “snow goose”. This then resulted in the Wawa’s legendary Wawa Goose, which was built to symbolize the town’s name.

On our drive to the campground, we stopped to hike along the Nokomis Trail (5.0km, rated moderate). We parked at the Old Woman Bay day-use area and crossed the highway to get to the trailhead. The trail winds uphill through the boreal forest and features a number of scenic viewpoints over Lake Superior and the Old Woman River Valley.

We hiked counter-clockwise from the trailhead. The first part is relatively flat and involves walking along a pebbly path through the forest. The path then becomes noticeably steeper and it’s a steady climb up to the scenic lookouts.

When we returned to the parking lot, we walked down to the beach at Old Woman’s Bay and dipped our feet into the water. Unfortunately it was a little too cold for swimming, but it felt nice on our toes after a long day of hiking.

From there we checked into our site (#R47) at the Rabbit Blanket Campground. While our site wasn’t nearly as nice as when we visited in July (it was on a bit of a slope), it was pretty secluded and quiet. We then started a fire and made dinner. We went to bed reasonably early as we planned to get an early start the next morning.

Day 2: Getting an Early Start

We decided to set our alarm for 6:30a.m this morning. The weather forecast was calling for rain all afternoon, so we wanted to make the most of our day before the rain. As soon as we woke up, we packed up our tent and headed out to do some hiking.

We first hiked along Trapper’s Trail (1.5km, rated easy), which follows along the shore of Rustle Lake. The path is relatively flat and the trail includes two wooden viewing platforms and a floating boardwalk. Last time we hiked this trail we spotted a moose while crossing the boardwalk. We weren’t as lucky in terms wildlife viewing this time, but we still had the trail all to ourselves.

Afterwards we drove to the Agawa Rock Pictographs (0.5km, rated moderate). There’s a short, but steep path down to a rock ledge along the shore of Lake Superior where the pictographs can be viewed. Along the way there are a few signs that highlight the geology or the area, history of the Ojibwe people who lived here thousands of years ago, and some background information on the pictographs.

The rock ledge can be a bit slippery and it can only be accessed when the lake is calm. 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. When we visited the pictographs earlier in the summer we felt rushed because there were other people on the ledge and we weren’t able to stay long to look at all the pictographs. This time we arrived at 8a.m and had the place all to ourselves.

The images on the Agawa Rocks are believed to be 150 to 400 years old and were used by the Ojibwe people to record their dreams and spirits with red ochre painting. The cliff wall features several images, including people in a canoe, familiar animals such as fish, moose and a bear, and non familiar animals such as the Mishipeshu, or the Great Lynx, which is the spirit of the water.

Afterwards we drove back north and hiked along the Orphan Lake Trail (8km, rated moderate). The trail winds through the forest and features three scenic lookouts. The first stretch is relatively flat. At the junction, the path splits off and forms a loop around Orphan Lake. This is where the terrain becomes more challenging. We hiked clockwise around the loop.

The trail then follows the shoreline of Orphan Lake before heading down to a pebble beach on Lake Superior. The path overlaps with the Coastal Trail for a few hundred metres, before heading back through the forest. The trail then follows the eastern shore of Orphan Lake. When we reached the junction, it’s a relatively short and easy walk back to the parking lot.

When we returned to our car we took a short snack break. We then drove south to hike along the Pinguisibi Trail (6.0km round trip, rated easy), which is the Ojibwe name for “river of fine white sand”. The trail follows along the river, which used to be an ancient canoe route the Ojibwe used for hunting, fishing and trapping. There are a few signs along the trail that provide more information on the history of the area when it was used by the Ojibwe. There are also lots of great opportunities to view the falls and rapids along the way.

The beginning part of the trail isn’t marked, but the path is pretty obvious. Mid-way through the path becomes signed with blue markers with a hiker symbol. The path continues to follow along the water, which eventually widens and becomes noticeably more calm and quiet. We turned around at the last waterfall, but the trail continues onward for another kilometre or so and ends near a portage for the Sand River.

After wrapping up our hike, we drove to the Agawa Bay Campground. We stopped at the visitor centre to pick up a Lake Superior Provincial Parks t-shirt and came across another “Moments of Algoma” interpretive sign, which explains how the Group of Seven visited the east boundary of the park before Lake Superior Provincial Park was created and painted the Canadian landscape.

We then found a vacant campsite to make a late breakfast / early lunch. We left the park just before 1:30p.m. Within minutes of leaving, it started to rain. According to the forecast, it was supposed to rain for the remainder of the afternoon, which is fine for us because it’s a 3 hour and 45 minute drive to get to our next destination: Mississagi Provincial Park.


33 thoughts on “Hiking in Lake Superior Provincial Park

  1. Olympus Mountaineering says:

    Once again, a great post and through your blog I get to learn many new things too.
    This time, I got to know about the Ojibwe people. Orphan Lake looks great too.

    Thanks and I already look forward to your next post.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. We visited the area for its scenery and hiking trails, but it’s been equally as great to learn more about the history of the area, including its connection with the Ojibwe. Thanks for reading. Take care.

  2. kagould17 says:

    Very familiar area to me as we visited on our 2018 trip. Hard to believe that Highway 17 is the Transcanada Highway, given narrow tortuous path it follows, but it does make you slow down and loo at the area. We stayed at Wawa one night and also hiked Pinguisibi. Loved the waterfalls as well as the scenery at Katherine Cove. Thanks for sharing. Stay well. Allan

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Living in Toronto, there are so many options to get from point A to B. But up here in Northern Ontario, you just have the Trans Canada highway. I have no idea what we would have done if the road was closed due to a major accident. While it was a long drive around part of Lake Superior, it sure was scenic. There are lots of great opportunities to stretch your legs to take a picture of a nice view or go for a hike. Pinguisibi was one of my favourite trails in Lake Superior, there are so many turnoffs to see the falls up close and personal. Thanks for reading. Take care.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Lake Superior is very photogenic. I’ve come to appreciate all these interpretive signs that provide more information about the history of the area. It’s a neat way to learn more about my home province.

  3. ourcrossings says:

    Such beautiful views of Superior, especially for the pictographs, and the water is so clean! I love the images at Agawa Rock. It’s amazing how these “artworks” are still there after being set in stone many centuries ago. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 😀 Aiva

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I can’t think of a more scenic place in Ontario to take a road trip. It’s incredible as to how old the pictographs are and that they are still in really good condition. It was a bit sketchy walking along the rock ledge to view them and glad we arrived first thing in the morning as we had the place all to ourselves. Thanks for reading. Take care.

  4. Lookoom says:

    Nice series of photos and well complemented by an informative text. I find interesting all the historical or cultural references coming in addition to the hike.

  5. Lynette d'Arty-Cross says:

    How gorgeous! I would love to see those pictographs. 🙂

    I am always amazed at the size of the Great Lakes (even though I spent a number of years sailing on Lake Ontario); so much like an ocean.

    Your photos are beautiful.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The pictographs are really neat. I’m glad we visited early in the morning and were able to find all the various images scattered along the wall of the cliff. When we visited earlier in the summer, it was impossible to try to find them all as the space was quite crowded with other visitors. I was more preoccupied with not falling over the ledge and into the water. And yes, it’s truly amazing how huge the Great Lakes are, especially Lake Superior. We only drove around a small portion of Lake Superior, and even that took us about 36 hours (700km) according to Google maps!

  6. Ab says:

    I so enjoy your frequent updates as it takes me to a happy place from this past summer.

    Lake Superior really is the superior lake! And it was nice to see to you visited the Wawa Goose too. I have some hilarious pics of my hubby and T there.

    I really can’t wait to visit Old Woman Bay next time instead of just driving by it.

    The Agawa Rocks look amazing. I think the Ontario Parks used an image of that area on the cover of their park guide one summer. Also on my list of things to see next time. 🙂

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Ha yes, a good reminder of what summer is like and what to look forward to. Well I guess building that giant goose to attract visitors to Wawa really works. We were so intrigued by it that we couldn’t resist stopping to take a closer look. I’m glad they had all those signs that provide more information about the goose and the history of Wawa. And yes, I would recommend a visit to the pictographs. The ledge is a bit sketchy, but as long as you take your time, you should have no issues. The ledge is also the picture at the top if you visit Lake Superior Provincial Park on the Ontario’s parks website.

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        Good footwear is strongly recommended. When we visited earlier in the summer the guy in front of us was wearing flip flops and nearly fell into the water because he didn’t have a good grip on the ledge. The Agawa Rocks are definitely something to add to your itinerary for next summer!

      • Ab says:

        Ha ha ha. Was I that person in the flip flops cuz I definitely was stupid enough to hike with flip flops. 😂 But I didn’t do Agawa so probably another misguided person.

        I’ll definitely add this to my list next summer. Your posts and dreaming of Lake Superior is what’s getting me through this pandemic.

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        LOL. Well, for next summer, leave the flip flops for the beach! Lake Superior is for sure on our list of parks to visit next summer. This time we’re going to try to book one of the campsites on the beach at Agawa Bay Campground. I can totally relate, trip planning for 2021 is the one of the few things that’s keeping me going, especially now that Toronto is entering lockdown tomorrow.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The Agawa Rock pictographs were easily one of the highlights of our visit to Lake Superior Provincial Park. Even the hike to get to the pictographs was quite the adventure! It was pretty amazing to learn about the history of the area and its importance to the Indigenous people. And yes, the scenery in Ontario doesn’t get much better than this!

  7. Ducatista says:

    Oh wow ! Thanks for sharing this. I drove along Lake Superior coast in summer, on my road trip to B.C. and it was my first time there. I’m from Southern Ontario and I have this habit to always jump in lakes, rivers for a little swim, I just can’t help. As I was driving west this summer, I also stopped at Old Woman’s Bay. I fell in love with the place. I always thought Georgian Bay was huge, well… I revised my opinion 🙂 So I jumped in Lake Superior, it was so cold, even in August, under the heat wave. But what a joy ! What a feeling. Ontario is such a gorgeous province, full of gems. I’m planing to go explore this area next summer again. It’s so vast, so huge, makes you feel so light, so free 🙂 Your pictures and stories are amazing ! Thanks again for sharing.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      And here I thought the drive from Southern Ontario to Thunder Bay was a long road trip! Despite living in Ontario for my entire life, this summer was the first time I’ve visited Lake Superior. I still can’t get over how incredibly scenic it is. And how cold the water is! Lake Superior Provincial Park was easily one of the highlights of our road trip. I’m hoping to explore more of Northern Ontario next summer too. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Love the place. We visited Lake Superior Provincial park twice this summer and are already making plans to return next year. It’s such an incredibly beautiful area in Ontario. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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