Hiking in Pukaskwa National Park

Length of stay: 1 day
Visited: September 2021

Pukaskwa National Park is located along the rugged shore of Lake Superior between Sault Ste Marie and Thunder Bay. It is the largest national park in Ontario and protects part of the longest undeveloped shoreline anywhere on the Great Lakes. Given its remoteness, it’s the perfect place to get some peace and quiet and just enjoy nature.

We left Neys Provincial Park bright and early and planned to spend the morning in Pukaskwa. Along the drive, we made a quick detour and stopped in Marathon to check out a Moments of Algoma art installation. The rugged north shore of Lake Superior has been immortalized by the Group of Seven who attempted to capture the spirit of nature in their works. From 1922 to 1928, members of the Group of Seven sketched near here and some of their paintings show the Marathon and Pukaskwa shoreline in the background.

Pukaskwa features a variety of hiking trails that range in length and difficulty. Most of which originate at the Visitor Centre, so that’s where we parked. While the Visitor Centre was closed, we walked down to the shore to check out the lovely view of the water and rocky coastline.

We first hiked along the Southern Headline Trail (2.2km, rated moderate). To get to the trailhead, we had to walk through part of the campground and found it near the boat launch. The path winds through the forest and along the rocky shoreline and provides fantastic views of Hattie Cove, Pulpwood Harbour and Horseshoe Bay. Along the way there’s a few interpretive signs that provide more information about the lake and its history.

The first stretch is incredibly scenic and hugs the shoreline of Lake Superior, which is aptly named. Not only is the largest of all the Great Lakes, but it is also the world’s largest lake by surface area, has more shoreline than the coast of Nova Scotia, and holds a tenth of the planet’s surface fresh water. It is also the cleanest and coldest of the Great Lakes. Lake Superior does have a dark side though, and is reputed to have intense storms, especially in the fall.

After a few hundred metres along the trail, we came across a set of the Parks Canada’s Red Chairs. Talk about a great place to take a break and soak in the views.

The trail continues along a series of rocky outcrops to Horseshoe Bay. Here some of the oldest rocks in the world are found. They were created 3 billion years ago during the formation of the Earth’s crust.

We walked along the sandy shore to the wooden viewing platform where we found another Moments of Algoma easel. Lake Superior’s grandeur inspired the Group of Seven artists who were striving to develop a kind of art that was uniquely Canadian. They camped along the Lake Superior coast, following their belief that art should rise from the fabric of the land and come from contact with nature.

This wooden platform also marks the end (or start) of the Boardwalk Beach Trail (1.2km, rated easy). We followed the boardwalk through a fragile association of sand dunes and plants. The boardwalks leads back to the campground and Visitor Centre.

We wrapped up our hike shortly before noon and headed out. On the drive out of Pukaskwa we saw a small black bear near the side of the road. I quickly grabbed my phone and managed to snap a picture, which wasn’t the greatest quality, but I’ll take it.

What a great park.


66 thoughts on “Hiking in Pukaskwa National Park

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Seeing the bear by the side of the road was such an unexpected and awesome surprised. I’ve never seen one stand on its hind legs before. Even though my pictures weren’t the best quality, I’m glad I managed to take a few.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Pukaskwa is probably my favourite national park in Ontario. Most of the park is left to wilderness and because it’s quite remote, it’s not very busy. There are lots of great trails to just soak in the scenery and enjoy the views.

  1. kagould17 says:

    A beautiful spot. Lake Superior on a good day is so beautiful, but on a bad day, you do not want to be on a boat on it. Love the red chair spots in Canada’s Parks. The bear shot is so funny. Its like he is on his hind legs so you will think he is a human. “Nothin’ to see here, move along.” Thanks for sharing. Happy Thursday. Allan

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s interesting how the lake can change so drastically depending on the weather or time of year. Thankfully when we visited Lake Superior it was super calm and mostly sunny. The red chairs are such a great idea and we usually try to search them out whenever visiting a national park or national historic site. Seeing the bear was such an added bonus on our drive out of the park. I’ve never seen one stand on its hind legs before. It was very adorable. Thanks for reading. Have a wonderful weekend. Linda

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Pukaskwa was one of the highlights during our road trip. The scenery was simply stunning and I’m glad we had such fabulous weather to enjoy the views. It’s too bad the water is always cold, as the sandy beach looks so inviting.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Pukaskwa is a fantastic place to escape the crowds and just enjoy nature. I think I could spend an entire week here and never get bored. I like that the campgrounds are small and there’s a good mix between easy and challenging hiking trails. That bear was very adorable. I’m glad I managed to take a picture, even if it was super zoomed in.


    Beautiful photos, and that little bear is priceless! Pukaskwa is one of my favourite parks in Ontario. The scenery is simply breathtaking. We liked it so much that we applied to volunteer as camp hosts at the park. A good opportunity to get to know the park better.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It was my ideal bear encounter where the bear was on the side of the road and I was in the safety of our car. Pukaskwa is one of my favourites as well and the hiking is just incredible. That’s pretty neat that you can volunteer as a camp host at the park. That sounds like a great way to connect with other campers and experience a different side of the park.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure. The scenery around the Lake Superior shoreline in general is breathtaking. It’s been neat to learn more about the places and spots that inspired the Group of Seven. Pukaskwa is my favourite national park in Ontario and there’s a good mix between easy to challenging trails.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The scenery in Pukaskwa is simply stunning. I’m such a fan of Lake Superior and the views never get old. It was a real treat to see the bear on our drive out of the park. How cute that it was even standing on its hind legs.

  3. Little Miss Traveller says:

    That really is a great park Linda and very scenic with much of the trail hugging Lake Superior. Really good timing that you spotted the bear, when we were in Grand Teton NP awhile back a brown bear came out in the road in front of our hire car!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I’m glad we had such fabulous weather to enjoy the trails and views overlooking Lake Superior. The scenery was beautiful. I was so excited to see the bear by the side of the road as we were leaving. It was my ideal bear encounter. That’s pretty amazing that you saw a brown bear cross the road in front of your car when you visited Grand Teton. That must have been such a thrill!

  4. Lynette d'Arty-Cross says:

    Yes – what a great park! The views are so fantastic and your pictures of them gorgeous. I love how those red chairs can be found in the national parks! Thanks for sharing your lovely, visit, complete with a bear sighting.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The Red Chairs is such a great idea by Parks Canada and they are placed in some amazing locations. It would be neat to try to visit them all someday. Pukaskwa is a pretty amazing park. I would love to return to stay for a few more days. There never seems to be enough time!

  5. Oh, the Places We See says:

    I always like your photos of parks you visit, but the added bear and art exhibit make this one of my favorites. Plus, I love stairs that take you places you can’t see initially. Kind of like an Alice in Wonderland adventure, of sorts!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. It’s not had to take a nice picture when the landscape looks like that. The whole area around Lake Superior is scenic and very photogenic. I’m glad we had such nice weather to soak in the views and enjoy our time on the trails.

  6. jmankowsky says:

    Really interesting info about Lake Superior. I really didn’t get how large it was before reading this. I love how the park was so wild in parts, but you still got “red chairs” in other places….keeps everybody happy. 😁

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Lake Superior is pretty impressive and it really is superior to all the other Great Lakes. Pukaskwa is such an awesome national park and the scenery is breathtaking. The great part about it being so remote is that it’s never really busy. The Parks Canada Red Chairs is a wonderful idea. It would be neat to try to find them all. A challenge for another time.

  7. Ab says:

    What an amazing day, Linda! Pukwaska was also on the itinerary of our abandoned northern Ontario Roadtrip last summer so I am very thankful for your recap!

    All that scenery and beautiful water makes me so excited for summer. I love the level of attention and care the Northern parks put – such as the red Muskoka chairs and the Group of Seven art walks and signage.

    Marathon is such a quirky name for a town and it was on our to stop list too. One of these days!

    And great shot of the black bear!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      When you return to Northern Ontario you should definitely plan to stop at Pukaskwa. It was one of the highlights of our road trip last year and the year before. The hiking is incredible and the views are gorgeous. I’m such a fan of those Red Chairs and always try to locate them whenever visiting a national park or national historic site. That black bear was super adorable. It was my ideal bear encounter where I was in the safety of our car while we passed it.

      • Ab says:

        Being inside a car during a bear encounter definitely makes it an enjoyable experience. 😆 Enjoy your long weekend. It looks beautiful out!

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        I would probably whimper like a baby if we encountered a bear on the trail. I’m perfectly content to view the wildlife from my car! Enjoy the rest of your long weekend as well.

  8. alisendopf says:

    Oh my. Your photos are absolutely gorgeous. The deep blues are stunning. I can see why the Group of Seven wanted to paint this area. Funny – I’ve seen their paintings and knew they were in Ontario, but to see the actual place – it puts it into perspective.

    You’ll have to do a Top 10 Must See Ontario Parks for visitors. So much to see and do

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. I have such a newfound appreciation of the Group of Seven after visiting a few of the places that they traveled to and painted. The Moments of Algoma installations are a great way to connect nature with art. It was also a good excuse to visit other areas that were off the beaten path to try to find them all.

      I was thinking about doing a post about our greatest hits from our Ontario Parks Challenge. The issue is that I have so many favourites!!

      • alisendopf says:

        Oh, I can imagine. You’ll have to do sub-groups, like favourite waterfalls or favourite lakes. I don’t envy you – it would be tough!!! On the plus side, I can see a book in here for you.

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        That’s a great idea to break it up into categories. I still have a few posts to finish off from our Ontario Parks Challenge, so I have some time to think about how to summarize the highlights.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I’m such a fan of Northern Ontario. The scenery is breathtaking with all the rocky outcrops, crystal clear lakes and vast amounts of forest. We covered a lot of distance during our road trip, but it was probably one of the nicest drives we’ve done.

  9. Linda K says:

    It looks like a great park and your photos are lovely! What gorgeous weather you had! Cool facts about Lake Superior 🙂 and that bear looks like he’s been caught doing something he shouldn’t have been doing…looking like a naughty child haha

  10. wetanddustyroads says:

    Well, to be honest … I was in awe about the beautiful scenery, that was until I saw the photo of the bear!! Anyway, let’s get back to the trail – this one looks really great, love the views (especially your photo of the red chairs in the foreground)!
    But seriously … that bear!!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Pukaskwa was one of the highlights of our road trip. The hiking was incredible and it’s always nice to have fabulous weather when out on the trail. That black bear was so adorable! Talk about great timing. I’m so glad I had my phone in hand and managed to get a picture of it, even if it was super zoomed in.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Your comment gave me a good chuckle. It’s always great to see the wildlife, but it’s even better when we’re in the safety of our own car. I’ve never seen a bear stand on its back legs like that before and I’m glad I managed to get a picture of it. The bear looked absolutely adorable.

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