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 to follow along a series of rocky outcrops, which are some of the oldest rocks in the world and were created 3 billion years ago during the formation of the Earth’s crust, and ends at Horseshoe Bay.
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), which leads through a fragile association of sand dunes and plants. We followed the boardwalk for a short stretch to get 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.