Top 5 BIG Hikes That You Need to Explore for Yourself!
Northeastern Ontario is a BIG place, big enough to be intimidating when you are trying to decide on the “perfect” hiking location. Are you looking for rugged trails, old growth forests, spectacular views, or all of the above?
We let the people who know the Region best – the people who have hiked Northeastern Ontario’s trails – tell us their five favourite BIG Hikes so we could share them with you.
Hike one, hike several, or hike them all, because whatever type of hiking you like to do, there’s something here for everyone.
#5 – Temagami’s Fire Tower and White Bear Forest
If you’re looking to explore one of Ontario’s few old growth forests, one where towering red and white pine trees form a canopy above quiet, pine-scented trails, then White Bear Forest in Temagami is the hiking destination for you.
This 800-hectare conservation area is home to 17 kilometres of trails, some of which were used by the Ojibway 5,000 years ago. It’s also home to Caribou Mountain, one of the highest points in Ontario, meaning it offers some pretty spectacular views, especially if you choose to climb the historic Fire Tower at the top of the mountain.
Originally used by Forest Rangers to spot wilderness fires, the Temagami Fire Tower is one of the few in Ontario that you are permitted to climb. In fact, you are encouraged to do so, because the 360-degree view that awaits you at the top is absolutely breathtaking.
Whether it’s the tower climbing or the towering trees that draw you here, Temagami is one of Northeastern Ontario’s must-do hiking destinations.
2 (White Bear Trail) Note: Ranking varies by individual trail
Where to Stay:
Temiskaming Shores is 20 minutes further north on Hwy. 11, and offers a range of choices, including the newly built Holiday Inn Express and Suites.
#4 – Cup and Saucer Trail, Manitoulin Island
Ask anyone where to hike on Manitoulin Island and the answer will likely be the Cup and Saucer Trail, and for good reason. Not only does this trail offer a 70-metre vantage point from which you can take in an impressive 180-degree view of the island, but the range and length of trails attract all levels of hikers.
The complete looped trail runs 12 kilometres, but there are shorter sections that allow you to experience some of its highlights without having to complete the whole route. The Main Trail to the East Lookout takes you up to the top of the escarpment through a shady trail that has two steep sections where you will need to climb uphill on rock ledges and over tree roots. Once at the top, the trail becomes much easier as it continues to the well-marked East Lookout. It is this treetop panorama that draws most people to the Cup and Saucer Trail.
The Main Trail continues on from here, but there are other trails you can link to nearby, including the Adventure Trail – a hike that more than lives up to its name. It begins and ends by scaling wooden ladders that take you 10 metres or so down the side of the escarpment.
Here, the narrow trail hugs the rock face, and as you follow it along, you will find yourself climbing over, under and through some of the rocky cliff faces.
Whatever your preference or skill level, the Cup and Saucer Trail offers enough variety to bring any hiker back more than once.
2 – 4
White Trail: 2 with steeper areas that qualify as a 3
Adventure Trail: 4
Where to Stay:
Walking distance from the main street in Little Current is the Manitoulin Hotel and Conference Centre, a new facility built in 2013, and whose design was inspired by the culture and beauty of Manitoulin Island’s First Nations people.
#3 – Duchesnay Falls, North Bay
The trails leading to the multi-level waterfall is one of North Bay’s favourite natural attractions for many reasons – one of which may be its proximity to the town itself.
You don’t have to go far out of your way – or from your parked car, even – to locate the base of Duchesnay Falls: A few minutes west of the city, the Duchesnay Creek tumbles over a rocky 8-metre drop in a rugged, picturesque waterfall only a short walk in from the highway.
From the bottom of Duchesnay Falls, there are two trails – the East and West Duchesnay Falls Trails – that follow the river upstream. Take either one and you’ll quickly discover that this is not just one waterfall, but many: just above the final cascade is a deep pool where water collects in a bedrock basin before flowing downstream. A little further upstream, shallower sections of the river flow over rock ledges creating a liquid “staircase” effect, and beyond that, you’ll find a bridge that spans more rapids.
Note: This bridge is the only place where you can cross the river and connect to the opposite trail, since another bridge farther upstream has been removed.
Regardless of which route you take, both offer pretty trails with views of the river and its waterfalls.
2 – 4 From either the eastern or western trails, getting to the series of trails upstream of the base of the falls requires a short, steep climb with tricky footing, but once you get past this, both trails are much easier.
Where to Stay:
Just off Hwy. 11, and less than 10 minutes from Duchesnay Falls, is the Hampton Inn by Hilton, an attractive mid-rise hotel with modern amenities and a convenient location near shopping and several restaurants.
#2 – Devil’s Rock, Temiskaming Shores
One of Northeastern Ontario’s best-kept secrets is the dramatic view from the 2,200 million year-old granite escarpment rising from 300 feet below the waters of the lake to soar another 300 feet above the water. This sheer cliff is known as Devil’s Rock, located on the western side of Lake Temiskaming. If the views out over the lake don’t take your breath away, the view looking down certainly will, even for those who aren’t particularly afraid of heights.
There are two trails to get to Devil’s Rock. The first begins at Bucke Park Campground and is a steady 3 kilometre uphill climb through pretty, but very rocky terrain. The second trail is an easier walk with a gentler slope, but is a little more difficult to find with only a small sign and parking lot on the east side of Hwy. 567, about 1.5 km further south from Bucke Lake. This route is more of a walk than a hike, with a wider trail and fewer rocks to negotiate.
Both trails lead to the same overhanging cliffs, giving hikers from either route the opportunity to take in the dizzying views.
Bucke Campground Trail: 3 (rocky footing, uphill climb)
Hwy 567 Trail: 1 (easy incline, wider path but still a little rocky)
Note: Be cautious near the edge and watch your footing, as there are few fences here.
Where to Stay:
Temiskaming Shores offers a range of accommodations for every budget, from campgrounds to newly-built hotels, such as the Holiday Inn Express and Suites in New Liskeard.
#1 – BRIDAL VEIL FALLS TRAIL, MANITOULIN ISLAND
Without a doubt, the main attraction on this trail is the graceful Bridal Veil Falls, a 35-foot-high sheet of water that spills in a transparent cascade over a rock ledge and into a shallow pool below. It’s easy to see the resemblance to the “veil” from which it gets its name.
In fact, many people come to this location just to see the Falls, and nothing more. The waterfall is only a few metres off of Hwy. 540, where a metal staircase next to the parking lot leads down to the base, giving visitors easy access to view the waterfall from above or below. The pool is a great place for a dip, and you can even climb the rocks behind the falls to get a view from behind the “veil.”
There are several hiking trails here, too, including a 1 km riverside trail that is as gentle as the waterfall, or the more challenging trails farther away from the river that are longer, and have steeper climbs and more rugged terrain.
Bridal Veil Falls is beautiful at any time of year, but one of the most exciting times to visit is in late September, early October, when huge Chinook salmon fight and thrash their way upriver to spawn here, some even making futile attempts to leap up the falls.
1 (Riverside Trail)
Where to Stay:
Accommodations near Kagawong include several small lodges and B&Bs, such as Solitudes Bed & Breakfast on the shores of Lake Kagawong, which offers two en-suite rooms in a modern home and only a few minutes’ drive from Bridal Veil Falls.
TRAIL DIFFICULTY LEGEND:
(Evaluated by an occasional hiker, 50+, reasonably fit with no mobility issues and who is able to walk three to five kilometres and climb five to 10 flights of stairs with no difficulty.)
LEVEL 1: Easy. Trails are easy to follow, with good footing and gradual slopes, although surface would not be suitable for strollers. May even have handrails, stairs or other assists in certain places. Comfortable, closed footwear recommended.
LEVEL 2: Moderate. Trails have the occasional incline, with roots and/or rocks to step over. Running shoes with good tread and support, or hiking footwear recommended.
LEVEL 3: Moderate with some challenging areas. Trails may be rocky, requiring careful footing, with some steep inclines, or the trail could involve sustained uphill hiking for longer sections. Hiking footwear recommended.
LEVEL 4: Challenging. Requires agility and a good level of cardiovascular fitness, as there may be steep sections, climbing over and around large boulders, roots, etc. May involve water crossings on rocks or logs with rough or narrow surfaces where balance is required. Hiking boots/footwear required.
LEVEL 5: Expert. Basically a sustained Level 4 throughout most of the trail, with occasional sections that are easier. Hiking boots required.