Length of stay: 3 days
Visited: June 2021
Windy Lake Provincial Park is located just north of Sudbury and boasts of offering a variety of recreational activities depending on the season. In the winter, Windy Lake has cross-country skiing and snowshoeing throughout the park and during the summer it features a nice sandy beach for swimming, fishing and boating.
We stayed at Windy Lake last summer on our second Northern Ontario road trip and had such a great time that we decided to visit again this summer, but for longer. Similar to last year, we booked one of the walk-in sites, which are, in my opinion, some of the best sites in the park.
Day 1: Onaping Falls
We arrived at Windy Lake shortly after 5p.m and headed to our campsite. Windy Lake is a relatively small park with 100 campsites, seven of which are walk-in campsites located near the lake in a radio-free zone. We managed to snag campsite #W7, which is situated right on the waterfront.
It was lightly sprinkling outside, so we quickly set up our tent. It’s a short walk from the parking area for the walk-in sites to our campsite. After making a few trips back and forth to the car, we were all set up.
But the rain would not do for eating dinner, so we instead drove to the sheltered picnic area. We hung out there for a bit and played a few rounds of cards. We were surprisingly the only ones here and had the place, complete with a nice view overlooking the lake, all to ourselves.
Since it had stopped raining, we decided to go for a little drive as we still had a few hours of daylight left. We headed to Onaping Falls to the A.Y. Jackson Lookout, which is about a 10 minute drive from Windy Lake. A.Y. Jackson is one of the founding members of the Group of Seven. He often drew inspiration from many of the landscapes in Northern Ontario, including Onaping River. There is now an overlook and trail around Onaping High Falls that is named after him.
The lookout is located off Highway 144. Near the parking lot there are some historic mining equipment which were used from the Levack Mine. The mine was discovered in 1888, began production in 1913, was closed during the depression and sustained some damage during a fire in 1929. Operations resumed in 1937 before closing for good in 1999. It operated for a total of 78 years.
There’s a trail in the area that is 2.1km in length and weaves through the forest and crosses the river over the falls. Near the trailhead there’s a scenic lookout of Onaping High Falls. There’s a viewing platform including a plaque that provides more information about A.Y Jackson and his “Spring on the Onaping River” painting. Two years after Jackson painted this picture in 1953, it was purchased by a group of students and placed in the Sudbury Secondary School. Shortly after Jackson’s death in April 1974, the painting was stolen and as of date, has not been recovered.
We then hiked along the trail for a short stretch to the second viewing platform. The trail continues along the river and loops through the forest for another couple of kilometres, but we turned around here as it was getting late.
We then drove back to our campsite to get ready for bed.
Day 2: Hiking and Swimming
The only downside to Windy Lake is its close proximity to the train tracks. And in case you’re wondering, the train does run at all hours in the day (and night). It rained on and off throughout the evening. Since everything was wet when we woke up, we drove to the covered picnic shelter to make and eat our breakfast. The clouds were starting to clear and we could see some blue skies poking out. Afterwards we drove to Halfway Lake, which is located about 30 minutes north of Windy Lake, to spend our morning.
We were a bit delayed getting back to Windy Lake as we went on a bit of a detour in search of the Spanish River Provincial Park. On the drive up to Halfway Lake we passed a sign for the Spanish River Provincial Park so we decided to check it out on the drive back. This turned out to be a complete waste of time as after driving down a sketchy logging road for a good hour, we finally turned around and headed back towards Windy Lake.
We returned to Windy Lake in the early afternoon and drove to our usual spot at the sheltered picnic area to eat lunch. Afterwards we walked to the trailhead for the Transition Trail (3km, rated easy – but should really be moderate as it’s quite hilly and steep in sections). This involved crossing the road, climbing up a staircase and walking along a path that winds up a ridge to the campground. We then had to walk through part of the campground to find the official trailhead which is located between sites #15 and #18.
The trail is signed with yellow markers and leads to the rim of a huge crater made by a meteorite that impacted the earth nearly 2 billion years ago. The path loops through the forest and involves climbing up and down several steep hills.
Afterwards we drove to the beach to go for a swim. We parked right across from the washroom, got changed and walked to the beach. The water was cold, but felt amazing.
We could see dark clouds rolling in off the lake. After swimming for about 30 minutes, the clouds were getting nearer, so we got out of the water. Within a few minutes of us getting out, it started to rain. Hard. We ran back to the car, grabbed our clothes and dashed towards the washroom to get changed. In a matter of seconds the rain became torrential. We reluctantly made a run for it from the washroom back to the car. With not much else to do but wait around, we decided to just drive to Sudbury. We might as well pick up some groceries.
By the time we finished restocking our cooler and snack supply, it had stopped raining so we drove to the Big Nickel, which is a 9 metre replica of the Canadian nickel and the largest coin in the world.
We then headed back to Windy Lake. Since everything was still wet, we figured we might as well return to our usual spot to eat at one of the dry picnic tables underneath the sheltered picnic area. We ate dinner and played some cards until we were ready to go to bed.
Day 3: But First Breakfast
Windy Lake lived up to its name. And the nice thing about having a campsite so close to the lake was that the wind somewhat helped dry our tent overnight. We woke up just before 7a.m and figured we might as well pack up since it wasn’t raining … yet. We then drove to the sheltered picnic area to make breakfast and cut up some veggies and fruit for snacks for the day. Since we were there, we figured we might as well hang our fly and footprint up on a picnic table to dry them out a bit more.
We left shortly before 8:30a.m. As we were driving out of the park it started to lightly rain and it continued for the next hour along the drive to our next stop at Marten River Provincial Park. But hey, I’d rather it rain while we’re driving than hiking (or setting up our tent)!
My progress on the Ontario Parks Challenge can be found here