Ouimet Canyon Provincial Park

Length of stay1 day
Visited
September 2021

Ouimet Canyon is known as Canada’s Grand Canyon. It is located just north of Thunder Bay near Lake Superior and is protected as part of Ouimet Canyon Provincial Park. The park is open for day-use only and features a short hiking trail that is reputed to provide panoramic views of the gorge and surrounding area.

We arrived at Ouimet Canyon in the late morning. The sun was shining and it was unusually warm outside for September. The nice thing about visiting later in the season is that we had the park mostly all to ourselves. From the large parking lot, we could access the single hiking trail in the park. The trail is 1 kilometre in length and leads to two viewing platforms that extend over the edge of the steep canyon walls.

The trail starts off along a boardwalk and crosses over a bridge. The trail then forms a loop, which we hiked in the direction indicated by the arrows on the map.

Over a billion years ago, molten rock crystallized and was later exposed when softer, overlaying sedimentary rock eroded. There are a couple of theories to explain how Ouimet Canyon was formed. The first was that it was formed during the height of the last glacial period. The tremendous weight of the ice may have caused the eastern part of the diabase sill to shift or slide 20 to 40 metres to the east, which resulted in the formation of a narrow canyon with distinctly straight sides. Ice, wind and rain continue to shape the canyon walls and create the talus slopes below.

The second theory suggests that the canyon was formed somewhat later, when the glaciers were slowly melting away. Meltwater from retreating glaciers flowed into a large crack in the diabase and tunnelled through the softer rock below. Eventually the diabase above collapsed and formed the canyon. Similar to the first theory, the canyon continues to be shaped and carved out by erosion.

Either way, the gorge looks pretty impressive. From the first lookout, we could see into the gorge and the column-like appearance of the canyon walls. From the rim, the terrain drops 100 metres straight down to the canyon floor. The pinnacle on the far left of the viewing platform is known as Indian Head.

The trail then leads to the second viewing platform, which also provides spectacular views into the canyon. The bottom of the gorge is 150 metres wide and supports a whole different habitat compared to the rim. In the shady depths of the gorge, the air is cold and ice remains beneath the large boulders year-round, which allow several Arctic plants to survive.

From the second lookout, it’s a short stretch back to the bridge and parking lot. We hopped back in the car and continued our drive around Lake Superior.

L

My progress on the Ontario Parks Challenge can be found here

61 thoughts on “Ouimet Canyon Provincial Park

  1. Ab says:

    Aww, I love the photo of you and K at the end. What a sweet photo!

    Like your recent Sleeping Giant post, this one also brought back wonderful memories of Summer 2020. Ouimet Canyon was a real surprise. We didn’t even plan on visiting until a friend told us about it via social media during our drive up. It was so worth it. What a view and who knew something like this existed in Ontario!

    Looks like you had a beautiful day for your visit too! 🙏

    Liked by 2 people

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks! We missed Ouimet Canyon completely during our first Northern Ontario road trip last summer. I actually found out about it from you. So thanks! It’s a small park with a short hike, but it sure packs a punch with those views into the canyon. Having nice weather makes such a big difference when camping and spending time outdoors. Glad we made the most of it!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. kagould17 says:

    What a drop dead gorgeous place. Amazing what there is to see and do in Canada if we just look around. You and K are so much better at the selfie thing than us old folks are and so much more photogenic. Thanks for sharing. Allan

    Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      You are too kind. I can’t believe we missed Ouimet Canyon on our first Northern Ontario road trip in 2020. It just goes to show that there is so much to see and explore here. I’m glad we were able to return last summer and check out many of the parks that we didn’t have enough time to visit last time. Thanks for reading. Linda

      Liked by 2 people

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Ouimet Canyon is simply stunning with those dramatic stone cliffs and column-like appearance of the canyon walls. It was neat to learn about the different theories as to how it was formed as well. What I can’t get over is how there were a few trees growing on the steep walls of the canyon.

      Like

  3. Rose says:

    Wow! Your descriptions of camping around the Thunder Bay area have been impressive. I had not heard of Ouimet Canyon, it sounds magnificent. We’ve been hoping to take a motorcycle ride around the entirety of Lake Superior, the Thunder Bay region is on our travel list to visit. I’m even more excited about it now that I’ve been following your blog. Your photos and descriptions are wonderful. I love your smiling selfie. I’m excited to read your next post. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment, you are too kind. The Thunder Bay area and region around Lake Superior in general is gorgeous!! We’ve driven around the Ontario portion of Lake Superior a few times over the last two summers and the scenery never gets old. I would LOVE to drive around the entire lake and now that borders have finally opened back up, that’s a possibility. Your motorcycle road trip sounds like so much fun. Best of luck with the trip planning. I’m glad to hear our travels have provided some ideas and inspiration.

      Like

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I’ve never seen anything quite like those canyon walls before. The amazing thing is that there were even a few trees growing on the steep walls of the canyon. Nature is pretty amazing and full of surprises. Now that you’ve mentioned LOTR (which are among some of my favourite movies), I now want to re-watch them all. I think I know what I’m doing this weekend now!

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Canada’s Grand Canyon is very different than the one in the United States, but it’s still nonetheless beautiful. It was a short and simple hike to reach the viewing platforms, but it was exactly what we needed after hiking over 20km the day before at Sleeping Giant. It was good to take it easy and still be able to enjoy the beautiful views.

      Like

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks!! We missed Ouimet Canyon the first time we visited Thunder Bay so I’m glad we were able to return to check it out. The canyon walls were incredible and I was so impressed that there were trees growing in the bottom and even along some of the walls. Nature is pretty amazing.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks! I can’t believe we missed out on Ouimet Canyon the first time we visited Thunder Bay, but I’m sure glad we were able to return. It’s a small park with a short trail, but it sure packs a punch in terms of the views. It was neat to learn about the different theories as to how the canyon was formed as well as the types of plants that can be found on the bottom of the gorge. It’s such a unique place.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The bigger challenge would be getting down to (and then back up from) the bottom of the canyon! The bottom of the gorge looks very rocky so I imagine it would be tough to hike. It would be neat to see the different types of plants that survive in such harsh conditions though.

      Like

  4. Bama says:

    Canada’s Grand Canyon definitely looks greener than its American counterpart. It’s also interesting to know that in some parts of the canyon the temperatures can be so cold some Arctic plants actually live there. Very fascinating! That’s a really sweet photo of you and K, Linda.

    Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. We’ve been to the Grand Canyon in the United States before and agreed, it looks very different than Ouimet Canyon, but both are impressive in their own ways. I was amazed to see a few trees growing in the bottom of the canyon and even along the sides of the steep walls. It’s pretty amazing just how resilient nature can be. It was neat to learn about the difference in temperature and flora and fauna on the top of the canyon compared to bottom. It’s such an interesting place.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Ouimet Canyon was such an unexpected surprise to find in Ontario. The dramatic cliffs and rock formations along the edges are stunning. I don’t believe there are any climbing routes in the canyon as the bottom of the gorge contains rare arctic plants and is quite sensitive. There is a nearby rock pinnacle called Dorion Tower that is popular to climb though.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. ourcrossings says:

    Wow, what a unique place – the sheer size of the canyon is quite impressive and so are the views! Nature can certainly reveal its beauty in all places and at all times to the eye that knows how to look for it. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva

    Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure. I’d say Ouimet Canyon lived up to its reputation for being known as Canada’s Grand Canyon. It was neat to learn about how it was formed and that the plants found on the top of the gorge as so different compared to the bottom. It was a lovely spot to spend our morning. Thanks for reading and enjoy the rest of the week. Linda

      Liked by 1 person

  6. alisendopf says:

    Oh my goodness Linda! That is absolutely amazing! Who knew we had a canyon like that in Canada. Wowzers. We really do NOT do a good job of promoting the amazing scenery and places we have right here.

    Thank you for the glacier history lesson. I love knowing how this was formed. I get that the jury is still out on which way it happened, but it’s cool to imagine both scenarios.

    Looking forward to more great parks!
    Alisen

    Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      No kidding! We actually missed out on Ouimet Canyon the first time we were in the area simply because we didn’t know that it even existed. But after doing a lot of research for our Ontario Parks Challenge, I made sure not to make that same mistake when we returned to Thunder Bay.

      The canyon is gorgeous. It was helpful that there were a few interpretive signs that explained more about the geology of the canyon and the different theories as to how it was formed. It was also neat to learn about the types of arctic plants found in the bottom of the gorge.

      Liked by 1 person

      • alisendopf says:

        Okay, that makes me feel better. I thought it was just people from outside Ontario who didn’t know about this canyon. The fact that you missed it, means it’s a well guarded secret 🙂

        The artic plants really are interesting. That is SO far south. Makes me wonder if there are any fossilized or highly preserved remains from way back when to be found at the bottom of that canyon.

        Thanks for another wonderful hike.
        Alisen

        Like

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        I think it’s a well guarded secret because it’s such a far drive to get to if you’re coming from the Greater Toronto Area!! But it is easily overlooked as it’s not well signed or advertised. I would love to return to this area as there’s so much more to explore. I think next time we’d fly into Thunder Bay though. It does make you wonder what there is on the bottom of the canyon and how people even got to the bottom to discover that there are arctic plants there in the first place.

        Have a wonderful weekend 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Christie says:

    Such a nice timing, to have the park for yourself. We stopped there a month before, in August, and it was not busy, though we had to wait few minutes to be able to do a selfie in that particular spot🙂 Very impressive from all perspectives, same with the Eagle Canyon. I feel that there is so much more to explore in that part of the province!

    Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure, the whole area around Thunder Bay is gorgeous. I would love to return. I think next time I would try to fly into Thunder Bay since it’s such a far drive. I regret not visiting Eagle Canyon. But hey, something to add to the list for the next time we visit!

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      There are actually more provincial parks in Ontario than there are national parks in Canada! We’re actually hoping to visit more of our national parks this year and to get a change of scenery from Ontario. I’m counting down the days to summer.

      Like

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Ouimet Canyon is significantly much smaller than the actual Grand Canyon. The landscape also looks totally different. The column-like walls are unique and I was surprised to see so many trees growing on the rim and even along the walls and in the bottom of the gorge. Even though it’s not on the same scale as the Grand Canyon, it’s still very beautiful and worth the short detour to visit. It was a lovely way to spend our morning 🙂

      Like

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Ouimet Canyon was a lovely park to spend our morning. The rock formations were incredible and it was neat to learn about the difference in climate from the top of the canyon to the bottom. It’s a neat spot and I’m glad we made a detour to check it out. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment.

      Liked by 1 person

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