Menu review: Hiking the full length of the Coastal Trail at Lake Superior Provincial Park

Curious to see how the planned menu for my hike of the full length of the Coastal Trail at Lake Superior Provincial Park compared to our actual menu, whether we were satisfied with the food we brought or had constantly rumbling tummies? Read on!

The planned menu is posted just below, but additional information can be found in my original post on the menu.

Where we planned to use a recipe, you’ll see a (F), (L) or (T) after the recipe name (and the corresponding page number). The books are as follows:

  • A Fork in the Trail by Laurie Ann March (F)
  • LipSmackin’ Backpackin’ by Christine and Tim Conners (L)
  • The Trailside Cookbook by Don and Pam Philpott (T)


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All changes to the planned menu are indicated in red text in the table below. We made a few changes before the trip:

  • naan bread replaced corn bread and bannock, because it weighs less and required us to bring less fuel (to bake the bread) – however, there is something to be said for warm, freshly baked bread on the trail!!
  • store bought trail mix replaced pizza gorp and honey mustard gorp because Cheryl ran out of time to prepare them
  • homemade energy bars replaced Harvest Oat Squares because Cheryl’s daughter made them and saved her time!


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My favourite meal was Thanksgiving on the Trail, which is essentially turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberries and gravy. I would definitely make it again!

Our most memorable meal may be our egg veggie/bacon/cheese wraps… as soon as I added boiling water to our dehydrated eggs, they turned bright orange… we tasted them, and they weren’t eggs, but Kraft Dinner cheese powder!!! Not sure how that happened. I’ve never intentionally bought Kraft Dinner cheese powder before. Must have been a mix-up in a bulk bin!

Pasta Alfredo with dehydrated veggies and sauce, and topped with Parmesan cheese.

The only meal that needs adjustment in the future was our rice cereal on day 5. It wasn’t filling enough as is, and could have used more fruit or nuts.

Overall, we were happy with our food choices! We did come home with some leftover trail mix, and some of the food from day 8.


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Trip report: Hiking the full length of the Coastal Trail at Lake Superior Provincial Park

Wow. What a hike! Lake Superior never disappoints.

Lake Superior Provincial Park has been one of my favourite provincial parks in Ontario ever since I first discovered it in 2010. The natural landscape of the park is simply stunning. Approximately 1 1/2 hours north of Sault Ste. Marie, it’s quite a drive for me to get there (more than 10 hours), but so worth it! Read the blog post I wrote called My 10 favourite things to do while camping at Lake Superior Provincial Park. Or Channelling my inner artist at Lake Superior Provincial Park. I love this place!

In previous visits I had hiked different sections of the Coastal Trail, which runs from Chalfant Cove in the North to Agawa Bay in the South, but I had never hiked its full length – or anything close to it! With my husband and kids I hiked from Katherine Cove north to Robertson Cove, spending one night camping in the backcountry. We loved it, and I was eager to explore the entire trail with my friend Cheryl.

The park describes the Coastal Trail as follows:

  • The most challenging and demanding trail in the park, the Coastal Trail takes you along the high cliffs and rocky beaches of Lake Superior. The trail extends from Agawa Bay to Chalfant Cove.
  • The trail ascends and descends over cliffs and rocky outcrops and crosses beaches of boulders and driftwood. Use extreme caution when hiking this difficult terrain. The rocks can be very slippery, especially when wet with dew, fog or rain. Windblown trees may obstruct the trail.
  • Blue, diamond-shaped symbols mark where the trail enters forested areas. Rock cairns mark exposed sections. Generally the trail hugs the coastline. If you lose the trail, continue along the shore and eventually you will find the trail again.
  • South of Gargantua, the Coastal Trail is extremely rugged and very demanding. Between Gargantua and Rhyolite Cove the trail climbs over 80 metres (260 ft.) to spectacular vistas over the lake.
  • The park’s geology is most dramatic on the coast where waves have exposed the rock shoreline. Rhyolite and Beatty coves are particularly interesting. Along the way, sand and cobble beaches are nestled in coves, providing shelter for campsites.
  • All backcountry campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Campsites along the coast are shared by hikers and paddlers.
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From Friends of Lake Superior website:

Hiking the Entire Length of the Coastal Trail

Take a look at my video trip report(Note that in a couple of sections the heavy wind makes it a bit hard to hear what I’m saying. Just turn the volume up! I’ve also added a bit of text so that key information isn’t missed.)

Day 1: Thursday, September 28 (South-western Ontario to Lake Superior Provincial Park)

At 6:06 AM we were on our way to Lake Superior! We stopped into the Twilight Resort just south of the park to confirm our shuttle for the next morning. We had arranged to be driven from the Visitor Centre at Agawa Bay to Gargantua, where we would start our hike the next morning by hiking the northern section of the trail. However, we made good time driving to the park, so we decided to ask whether we could get a shuttle that night instead of the next morning. Our shuttle driver agreed, so after paying, we headed for the park and the Visitor Centre to pay for our backcountry permit, get changed into our hiking gear, and wait for our 5:30 PM pick-up. Before we left, we chatted with the Park Interpreter, who gave us some tips, and told us to come back once we were done to let her know how it went.

Our driver arrived in a pick-up truck and we headed for Gargantua. It was a 20 minute drive to Gargantua Road, and then 42 minutes of speed, bumps, sudden braking, swerving, and general roller-coaster like driving. I guess it comes with the territory when you’ve been running shuttles for 30 years and know the (single lane!) road like the back of your hand. We were so relieved to get out of that truck, both of us feeling pukey.


We walked a mere 300 m to our first campsite on Lake Superior. We set up a tarp in case of rain, our tent, and a bear bag rope over a tree branch. We were surprised to find tiny black flies (not the black flies I’m familiar with) attacking our heads and making us itchy. Thankfully, we only saw them the first night.

At midnight we awoke to the sound of thunder far in the distance. Over the next hour or so, it got progressively closer, until it was very very close. Heavy rain started, and with it, puddles formed in our two vestibules. Then Cheryl noticed that there was water flowing below our tent floor – and a lot of it. The water accumulated more quickly on Cheryl’s side, so she tried to hold the tent footprint up to make sure the water went under it. Once the storm passed and the rain nearly stopped, we decided to move the tent. We couldn’t believe it when we moved it and saw that the only puddle in the campsite was the one where our tent had been – at a depth of about an inch of water! We moved the tent to higher ground, and were shaking our heads because when we set the tent up, it didn’t look like a depression to us! Were we ever wrong. Thankfully, everything inside the tent stayed dry!

Day 1 hiking summary: Gargantua road to 1st campsite (300m)

Day 2: Friday, September 29

On our first full day of hiking, we were up at 7 AM and on the trail at 9:15. We find that it always takes us about 2 hours to get going, from the moment our alarm goes off to the first step away from our campsite. Our routine was to pack up everything inside the tent before getting out of it, pack up the tent, cook a hot breakfast (you can find our full menu here, and a review of the menu here), and then pack up the tarp, kitchen stuff and everything else. Two hours seems like a long time, but very little of that time is us just sitting there enjoying our hot cereal and tea!

We headed north for Chalfant Cove, hoping to be able to also see Warp Bay and Devil’s Chair on our way back. We thought that Chalfant Cove was 7 km from the Gargantua Road, but we learned as we hiked and read the distance markers that it was actually 7 km from Gargantua Harbour, which was 2 km from the road. So, our hike would be even longer than expected. The hike was easy but boring, through woods that seemed never-ending. There were very few points that were scenic. We had decided to do Chalfant Cove first at the recommendation of the Park Interpreter, and if there was time, to do the other “fork” of the trail on the way back. By the time we reached Chalfant Cove, which was very underwhelming, we pretty much knew we would be heading straight back to the campsite. We had already hiked 10 km! There was one pretty spot close to Chalfant Cove – Indian Harbour, and a nice set of rapids in the woods, but that was pretty much it. The return hike was long, and perhaps even more boring. Our feet were getting sore from the hard ground. Once we reached our campsite, we made dinner with my KIHD stick stove, had a campfire, and headed for bed. We shared a hot water bottle. The only people we saw that day were 3 people staying at the campsite next to us – they seemed to be “car camping” (including shuttling their kayak from their site to the road by car). We saw 2 grouse during our approximately 7 hour hike. We hiked between 6 to 8 hours every day.

Day 2 hiking summary: Gargantua north to Chalfant Cove and back (20.4 km)

Day 3: Saturday, September 30

On our second full day of hiking, we made good progress at the start on pretty flat ground. Our pace slowed when we hit the hills and the technical sections, which required us to carefully pick our path across the rocks and boulders. There were many many ups and downs, and carefully plotting the next footstep or placement of our hiking poles was mentally exhausting. This section of the trail had spectacular views and over 80 metres of climbing. I spotted a creature that could have been a pine marten, or an otter, or mink, or maybe even something else. I only caught it’s back end as it scurried up a hill. We reached Rhyolite Cove, which is an interesting spot from a geological point of view.

We didn’t quite get as far as we had hoped to, which was half way between Gargantua and Orphan Lake, approximately 10 km. Instead, we managed just 8.8 km and were a bit discouraged, thinking that if the rest of the trail was as difficult, we might not be able to hike the entire thing.

Day 3 hiking summary: Gargantua south to south of Rhyolite Cove (8.8 km)


Day 4: Sunday, October 1

Since we had hoped to get half way to Orphan Lake on Saturday (but didn’t), we wanted to get as close to Orphan Lake as we could on Sunday, our third full day of hiking. The night before we decided to set our alarm for 5:30 AM, and to be on the trail by 7:30 (by which time there would be enough light to hike), but before we went to sleep I changed the alarm to 6. We were heading out at 8 AM, and once again made good progress to start. But then… well, let’s just say things didn’t go exactly as planned. We were following the blue trail markers when we reached huge boulders with no blue marker and no cairn to mark the way. We carefully picked our way down the boulders, but we were headed precariously close to the edge of the rocky cliff, and figured this couldn’t be right. But when we looked back, the blue marker was perfectly positioned for people hiking south to north, so we figured it must be correct. The rocks were wet, and the “path” too close to the lake for comfort – not to mention impassible in our opinion! We picked our way higher along the rocks and eventually had to turn into the woods, because we couldn’t go further south. We hoped that we would find the hiking trail in the woods, but instead, all we found were more boulders and drop offs and challenging bushwhacking (and no trail!). We decided to bushwhack back to the last blue marker (navigation 101: go back to where you last knew where you were), and to try – again – to go down the boulders. It took a while, but we eventually made our way to the blue marker. Climbing down the rocks the second time was faster, and then when we went a bit closer to the water, we saw a cairn and that the path wasn’t quite as treacherous as we thought!! PHEW. We were back on track. We figure we lost 30-60 minutes in this section.

After this section, we made good progress. Sometime in the last hour I chose the wrong rock to stand on and fell forward, landing hard on my right knee. At least that’s what I remember. Cheryl asked me if I fell forward how come she found me facing another way. Who knows! My knee was not happy on the uphills, and eventually developed quite a bruise, but ibuprofen and sleep seemed to help. The pain was completely gone after a couple of days.

We ended up at a campsite just north of Orphan Lake, which meant that we had gained ground and were getting back on track distance wise. We saw many dragonflies on this day, but no people. It was also very windy and wavy.

We used my stick stove again to cook dinner, but didn’t heat up a hot water bottle – it was too warm out!

Day 4 hiking summary: South of Rhyolite Cove to North of Orphan Lake (11.5 km)

Day 5: Monday, October 2

On our 4th full day of hiking, we were up in the dark again and hiking by 8 AM. There was a really pretty sunrise! Spot the relatively new windmills in the picture below.

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Sunrise north of Orphan Lake

We reached the Baldhead River and Orphan Lake trail quite quickly, and then began hiking the Bald Head. We expected some pretty views as we climbed higher and higher, but didn’t get many good vantage points through the trees. For once we were both hungry shortly after beginning our hike – our breakfast wasn’t filling enough! We stopped for a snack at a campsite just after the Bald Head, and then as we continued our hike we started to hear cars – the trail was getting close to Highway 17. Our shuttle driver had told us that once we started hiking south from Gargantua, the Orphan Lake trail would be our first opportunity to bail if need be. We’d have to hike the trail to reach the road, but it would only be a few kilometres. The first time the Coastal Trail reaches the road is at the Coldwater River. We had lunch at a campsite just before the river, and then when we reached it, we debated taking our boots off, putting our sandals on, and walking through it, but instead opted to just follow the trail to the road and back to the lake. The only people we saw on Day 5 were in cars at the Coldwater River.

At some point during the hike I was stung on the back of my leg by a wasp or yellow jacket. I hadn’t seen the nest on the ground, but Cheryl spotted it after I walked past it, and as she commented, I felt the sting! Then I saw the wasps or yellow jackets flying around it. Cheryl made a break for it and came through unscathed.

Three sizes of rocks coming together at one spot.

We had to do lots of bouldering after lunch, pretty much until the trail comes out at Robertson Cove. I had hoped to be able to camp here, because it’s such a beautiful spot, but we didn’t know if the timing would work out. Lucky for us, it did!

Robertson Cove from the north.

We set up camp, and then “swam” in one of the pools of water on the “island” (it’s not really an island because there is a sand spit that leads to it). In reality we splashed ourselves “clean” and froze in the cold water! I didn’t want to get my hair wet in case it didn’t dry before bedtime. I changed into clean clothes for the first time since our hike began, and after rinsing the dirty ones, hung them to dry.

Because our hike was shorter, we actually had time to just relax in the tent for a while. It was awesome! Eventually, we got out of the tent to make dinner, which ended up being my favourite meal of the trip – Thanksgiving on the Trail. It was essentially turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberries and gravy! YUM.

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Pretty proud of my tiny toothbrush – I cut a regular sized one down to save weight.

After a tiny bit of rain began to fall, we ran around grabbing our stuff from bushes and branches so it wouldn’t get any more wet. Thankfully, the rain was short lived and we enjoyed another campfire before heading for bed.

Day 5 hiking summary: North of Orphan Lake to Robertson Cove (9.6 km)

Day 6: Tuesday, October 3

On our fifth full day of hiking, we set out early again in hopes of getting as close as we could to Sinclair Cove. It was another windy and wavy day, with the sound of the thundering waves a constant background noise, except when we were hiking through the woods.

For the first time in several days, we saw moose scat.

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After just under 3 km, we reached Katherine Cove, where I spoke to someone other than Cheryl for the first time in days! I asked a man from Manitoba to take our picture.

I was impressed by the new toilets in the parking lot. It’s amazing what days in the woods makes you appreciate. I could be extravagant with toilet paper!

From the time we reached Katherine Cove until we arrived at the Sand River, where the trail curves inland to the road, and then back again to the water, we walked on sand beaches. It was such a beautiful area, one that I had barely explored before. It’s environmentally sensitive, so there are no campsites in this area. We tried to walk on the wetter sand, because usually it was harder packed and easier walking. But it was a fine line between easier walking and getting wet feet from the waves!

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At the Sand River, we had a snack, and debated walking across the river in our sandals, but it looked too deep, so once again, we took the trail up to the road. For a while, we followed 6 little birds who were eating something being washed in from the lake, but as we got closer, they would fly a little further away.

We stopped at a campsite for our lunch, and then continued on our way. While eating our lunch, we spotted 2 ducks swimming side by side, continually diving down then almost immediately coming back up. We’re not sure what they were – not loons, not cormorants. In any case, they were fun to watch. The wind was very strong, so at different points we had to time our rock crossings so that we didn’t get soakers. At our campsite we “bathed” again, but it was c-c-c-c-cold! We picked the best of the 3 poor tent locations, and were glad that we only had a 2 man tent. Anything bigger wouldn’t have fit. As it was we were on quite a slope, and had roots under the tent floor. It was our worst campsite of the trip, but we did manage to put a tarp up over a rock which provided dry seating during a thunderstorm!

Speaking of thunderstorms, this one came very close to our campsite too. So close that we were under the tarp discussing the point at which we would go into the woods and crouch down on 2 feet, assuming the “lightning position”. I have since found an excellent source of information for backcountry campers from the US government called Backcountry Lightning Risk Management.

The storm passed eventually, and while we never did use the wood we had gathered for a campfire, we got into the tent without getting soaked or fearing for our lives.

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Hiking summary: Robertson Cove to North of Sinclair Cove (13.9 km)

Day 7: Wednesday, October 4

Our 6th full day of hiking was supposed to be our last, but time would tell how much ground we would cover! The rain from the night before meant slippery rocks from the get go. We walked along the beach where we were camped, but because of the wet rocks, strong wind and waves lapping the rocks at the shore, we decided to bushwhack our way straight up a hill. It wasn’t easy. We walked a short way in the woods, then headed back down, where we picked our way along the rocks (mostly out of the lapping waves) and then found the trail marker sending us back into the woods.

Each day, I thought that the hardest part of the hike must be behind us, but each day, I was surprised with new challenges on the trail.

On day 6 we decided to take the 300 m or so side trail to see the pictographs. I have visited them a few times, but never in such high waves. There’s no way I would walk out onto the rock to see them. In fact, the park closes them in mid September due to the weather, and removes the chain that you can use to make your way across them. There are signs along the trail that read, “Death and injury have occurred when highly unpredictable waves have washed visitors off the rock ledge while viewing the pictographs. Extreme caution is necessary at this site. Rocks and ledge are slippery.” I was able to see the first couple from the base of the stairs.

We did a lot of squeezing between rock faces (at challenging angles) after the pictographs, and carefully picking our way up and down rocky cliffs. This section scared us before we even started it when it said that the 7 km to the Agawa River (a few km’s before we would reach Agawa Bay and the Visitor Centre) would take us 6 hours! I thought in my mind that even when we are going slowly, we aren’t that slow! It was 10:45 AM at that point.

In fact, it only took us 4 hours to cover that distance, and when we reached the Agawa River, we knew that we could push on and reach Agawa Bay and the Visitor Centre. The last few km’s were tough mentally, because while the tough climbing was done, and only relatively flat trail was left, the trail seemed to go on forever. We were ready to be done.

It was just after 4 PM when we arrived at the Visitor Centre! We did it. We hiked 80 km in the 6 days we had originally planned on. It wasn’t easy. As Cheryl said, it was the hardest parts of the La Cloche Silhouette Trail at Killarney Provincial Park over and over again (we hiked the entire thing in spring 2016). The Coastal Trail at Lake Superior was exhilarating, breathtaking, challenging, mentally and physically demanding, exhausting, scary, and ever-so-empowering.

After our rather unremarkable finish (no bands playing, no crowd cheering), we went inside and chatted with the Park Interpreter and employee of the park store, and asked the Park Interpreter to take our picture outside.

We paid for a night of car camping, picked a campsite on the lake, and had a hot shower! Afterwards I made myself a cup of hot chocolate (Cheryl had already had a coffee from the Visitor Centre) and then we made our quinoa soup which we ate with homemade crackers. And to top it off, we ate homemade apple crisp. Yum.

It was super windy that night, but we were cozy and dry in our tent!

Hiking summary: North of Sinclair Cove to Visitor Centre at Agawa Bay (14.8 km)

Day 8: Thursday, October 5 (Lake Superior Provincial Park to south-western Ontario)

Our alarm went off at 6 AM on our last morning, because we had a long drive ahead of us. We packed up our things, and off we went.

In summary:

  • Each day we hiked between 8.8 km and 20.4 km, which took from 6 to 8 hours.
  • We saw dragonflies, birds, grouse, and some kind of weasel, but no bears or moose.
  • The weather mostly cooperated, with us never having to hike in the rain. The night time temperatures were warmer than expected, and day time highs mostly comfortable for hiking hours on end. I’m not saying we didn’t sweat!
  • The ground varied from sand to dirt trail to tiny pebbles to slightly bigger rocks to larger rocks to big rocks to boulders to cliffs! You name it, we walked/climbed/ scrambled on it – some footing was solid, and other steps required physics calculations! We learned to step where our foot would “catch” if a rock moved or our foot slipped.
  • The terrain included flat portions, but many many ups and downs and more ups. We hiked around a corner to see yet another hill to climb.
  • We couldn’t have done it without our hiking poles.
  • The Lake Superior coastline is incredibly beautiful.


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Channelling my inner artist at Lake Superior Provincial Park

If only I could put down on paper the images I have in my mind! I recently spent a week camping at Lake Superior Provincial Park, and the scenery did not disappoint!

My daughter and I signed up for a 3-hour art class at the Visitor Centre, and while she decided to paint the small black bear that we spotted just south of the park along Highway 17, I chose to paint a coastal scene.


The class was open to all ages (8 and under must have a parent with them), and was instructed by a local artist named Heather Sinnott. There were a total of 10 students in the class, including just 2 kids. Before the class began, a woman asked me, “Do you blog?” She had found my post called “My 10 favourite things to do while camping at Lake Superior Provincial Park” in researching the park, and recognized me! Very neat.

The class began with a slideshow of pictures that Heather had taken in and around Lake Superior Provincial Park, as well as of her artwork.

We were given small pieces of paper, pencils and pencil crayons and told to sketch out whatever it was we wanted to paint. There were all kinds of pictures to look at in case we couldn’t decide what we wanted to draw, or in case we just needed a bit more inspiration. We could also try to paint a photo we had taken ourselves.

When most people were done their sketches, Heather gave us a little lesson on the colour wheel (she had a turtle colour wheel) and how to mix colours. We would be given only the primary colours (red, yellow, blue), white, and 2 others if we wanted them (a violet and a turquoise).

The next step was to sketch our scene onto canvas. I changed my drawing slightly, but just the proportion of beach to water to sky.

Then it was time to play with the paint!

I had fun mixing colours, but some colours were hard to create! I’m not sure when I last painted, let alone mixed colours. And then I ran into the problem of running out of the perfect colour and having to attempt to make more!

Ailish kept asking me what time it was, because she felt that she was going to run out of time.

I wasn’t sure whether to paint the background or foreground first, and decided to tackle the island first, then the trees. But I later realized that I should have done the background, because trying to fill in the white area around the trees was really hard without messing up my tree branches. I had to touch the trees up later, but I think it would have been easier to do the trees last.

As we got closer to the 3 hour mark, Ailish asked Heather for help. She suggested ways to make the painting go faster.

I wasn’t happy with the colour of my sand, but didn’t have time to start over mixing a sand colour. And my pretty purple flowers on the beach dried very dark, and aren’t really distinguishable from the sand and rocks. I asked Heather how to make my water look more water-like, so she suggested waves, and showed me how to do them. Then I added white caps.

When we were done, everyone else was pretty much gone, except for a woman from Québec City. Heather took Ailish and I outside onto the back deck of the Visitor Centre for the “Trucker’s Test”. She leaned our pictures against a railing, and we stepped back – way back – as if our pictures were billboards. From that vantage point, we could see what jumped out of the painting, and what didn’t. Heather pointed out that all my colours were dark, and that in future I could work on using darker colours and lighter colours. She added some lighter colour to my trees, and to the island and rocks. It really helped. Ailish’s tree behind the bear got a little bit of a touch-up too.

Ailish and I really enjoyed the painting class. I’m happy with my painting, but it’s far from what I was actually going for. Lots of room for improvement! I like Ailish’s painting better, and she prefers mine. That’s probably normal.

I highly recommend art programs at Ontario Parks! I did a fun one last summer at Grundy Lake too. Many parks have “Friends of” organizations, non-profits which organize different events for the parks. Take a look at the other programs organized by the Friends of Lake Superior.

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My 10 favourite things to do while camping at Lake Superior Provincial Park

It only took one camping trip to Lake Superior Provincial Park for it to become my favourite provincial park in Ontario! It may take 12 hours to drive there from my house, including stops, but it is well worth the drive. At Lake Superior I have car camped, canoe tripped and done backpacking trips. I cannot wait to return.

Here are my 10 favourite things to do while camping at Lake Superior Provincial Park, in no particular order:

1 – Visit the Lake Superior Coastline

Park your car at one of the many Coastal Trail access points within Lake Superior Provincial Park, and explore the coastline by walking the trail. In the past, we have walked through knee deep water to an island, where a pool of water collects and warms (sort of, depending on the weather of course). We even brought our backcountry stove and baked brownies on the little island! We have also gone swimming there. We have explored the coast like this many times, and are always amazed at the adventures we have! In fact, this is how we ended up finding bald eagles!

Lake Superior coastline

2 – Hike the Orphan Lake Trail

This 8 km long trail starts in a parking lot along Highway 17, makes its way around Orphan Lake, then down to Lake Superior. It’s not an out and back (there’s a loop), so there’s lots to see. More information on this and other hiking trails can be found here in a park guide. There’s a very pretty little spot along the Baldhead River that is perfect for a rest stop and a snack. One year, my daughter “caught” her first leech (on her leg) where the Baldhead River opens out into Lake Superior. Some random stranger helped us get it off of her. This trail has scenic lookouts and it joins the Coastal Trail. We like to swim in Lake Superior at this point – despite the river outlet and leeches!

3 – Watch the sun set on Agawa Bay

It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve watched the sun set on Agawa Bay – it is still gorgeous!!

The sun sets on Agawa Bay.

4 – Attend programs at the Visitor Centre

We have participated in some fantastic programs at the Visitor Centre, from learning about the Ministry of Natural Resources canine unit, to laying on the beach looking up at the night sky, to “ask an interpreter” nights, to listening to a guest speaker’s paddling adventures on Lake Superior, to watching a Bill Mason video. We have learned so much through the excellent daytime and night time programs.

5 – Visit the pictographs at Agawa Rock

As stated on the Friends of Lake Superior Provincial Park website, “The Agawa Rock Pictographs are enduring messages from the past. This is a sacred site where generations of Ojibwe have come to record dreams, visions and events.” You can see the pictographs by hiking a short distance of about 500 m, or you can access them by canoe or kayak. Note, though, that the wet rocks can be treacherous, and caution must always be taken when viewing them. One year, my daughter was convinced she was going to die while looking at them – i.e. that she would be swept away by a wave – she was so worried that she wanted us to take a “last” photograph together.

More pictographs
One of the many pictographs at Agawa Bay.

6 – Swim in Burnt Rock Pool along the Towab Trail

The Towab Trail is a 24 km return trip, but you don’t have to go that far! If you hike about 4 km, you come upon Burnt Rock Pool, which is where the Agawa River opens up a bit and makes for a great swimming place. There’s a current, so it can be quite fun to float down river! It’s an easy hike from the parking lot to this spot. The trail gets tougher later on, and if you’re looking for an overnight hike, consider staying in one of the campsites at the very end of the trail. My husband and I stayed in the one on top of the waterfall – it’s the only one there – and it was amazing!

7 – Do an overnight backpacking trip along the Coastal Trail

We have had such fun hiking along the Coastal Trail to backpacking sites along Lake Superior. One year, the only visitor we had was the resident otter! The hike was tough going though, as it was more like bouldering than hiking. Add big packs to our backs and our balance was a bit off. It was, however, a great experience. The coast of Lake Superior is incredibly beautiful.

Our campsite on Lake Superior!

8 – Watch for wildlife

We have been lucky enough to spot some incredible wildlife at Lake Superior, including a bear while out running alone (terrifying, not exactly lucky!), and juvenile bald eagles along the Coastal Trail.

A juvenile bald eagle watches us from above.

9 – Explore the rugged coastline of Lake Superior

Pick a spot, any spot, and go for a hike. Check out the rocks – see the history! Such a beautiful shoreline.

From boulders to beaches to forests, the coastline is amazing.

10 – Swim in the huge waves at Agawa Bay

We love swimming in Agawa Bay, but it takes us a few days to get accustomed to the frigid water! The most fun is when the waves are huge.

Love those waves!

Trust me when I say that Lake Superior Provincial Park is an amazing place. And then, go see for yourself!

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Trip report: Lake Superior Provincial Park (running from bears, hiking disappointment, rain, wind, cold, and very smart dogs)

If you’ve never been to Lake Superior Provincial Park, you have to go! Since discovering it in 2010, we’ve been back every year except last year, when we went to England, Wales and Scotland instead.

This time we planned a 1 week trip, which is short given the 12 hours it takes to get there from the time we pull out of our driveway, but it’s all we could squeeze in.


Day 1

We left at 7:30 AM with a full day of driving ahead of us. After stops in Sudbury for lunch, Sault Ste. Marie for dinner, and a few pitstops in between, we were at our campsite at Agawa Bay by about 7:30 PM (we saw lots of cool Sandhill Cranes on our way). We bought some wood when we registered, because we cook our meals over a campfire. We were surprised by the chilly temperature, and wished we had packed winter hats and mitts like some campers did! Our site on Lake Superior was a great one.

This guy was having a heck of a time trying to get the sail up and out of the water.

We put up our sleeping tents (for the first time, the kids in one, and us in another), and headed to the Visitor Centre for a program called Night at the Museum. Park naturalists were set up at different stations, where you could ask questions and learn about different topics, such as geology and backcountry camping, and watch a Bill Mason canoeing video. There was also hot chocolate inside and s’mores outside. We stayed for a while, then went back to our campsite and headed to bed.

Day 2

On our first full day at the park – sunny and 13 or 14 degrees Celsius (in August!) – we had a delicious breakfast of chocolate chip pancakes, oatmeal and fresh fruit. We set up our dining tent after breakfast, and then Alasdair headed out for a 2 hour run. Once he came back it was lunch time, and then my turn to go for a 2 hour run. I decided to run partly on Highway 17, and partly in the campground, because in past camping trips when I’ve run on trails I’ve found it terrifying, expecting bears, moose and other scary creatures to jump out of the bush at me! So… I was running (alone, without my bear spray!) along Highway 17 when I spotted a little black head in the ditch across the highway… yup, a bear! It was a young one, nibbling on something yummy. It saw me, so I stopped, walked a few steps, then continued running away from the bear, paying attention to exactly where he was, knowing that I would be turning around and running back past where the bear was! Yes, he was little, but yes, I was still scared! I kept looking over my shoulder and was relieved that it wasn’t chasing me! My blood pressure returned to a more normal level as I got further away from him, but of course I was looking for other creatures as I ran. Every noise, from a tiny bird to a chipmunk can sound big and terrifying! And then a truck honked at me – “Must be warning me that a bear is chasing me!” I thought. Nope. I turned and headed back… toward the bear… looking out for him… and eventually, spotting him again! Before I got to him though, I clapped periodically while I ran, so at least he knew I was there and I didn’t startle him. When I finally did see him the 2nd time, I clapped a few times and he did what all good wild bears should do – quickly run off into the bush! I continued on my run, getting back to the campground as quickly as I could, and vowing to never run along highways alone again while up north. Soon I’ll be forced to simply run laps around my campsite. Ha!

We all swam when I got back from my run, in the c-c-c-cold water of Lake Superior. It was windy and wavy too!

After dinner I think we played cards, and the kids ate cold s’mores (no one really felt like making a fire, I guess).

Keaghan decided to sleep in the hammock (in a sleeping bag with a blanket on top), and surprised me by making it through the night (he wasn’t cold, and wasn’t scared – I would have been!). Ailish wasn’t too happy about having to sleep alone in the tent.

The kids put the hammock up and built a little tarp shelter over it.

Day 3

During a previous visit to Lake Superior Provincial Park, we hiked the Coastal Trail south from Gargantua Harbour, heading for Rhyolite Cove, which apparently had some very cool geological features. We never made it, because it was further than we were able to walk with the kids and still get back to our campsite at a reasonable time. So, this time we decided to try again. It’s a challenging hike, going up and down the rocky face of the coast. The weather was great for a hike, sunny but not too hot (it was about 14 or 15 degrees Celsius). We drove from Agawa Bay to the Gargantua Road, and then 14 km slowly down this unpaved road (20-40 km/h) – we saw a Ruffed Grouse along the road. We started our hike and were quickly rewarded with beautiful views of Lake Superior.

Beautiful coastline

We reached the point where we stopped last time, when we decided to eat and swim in a little cove which we now think is called Fat Man’s Alley. This time we continued on, and after 6 km, we found Rhyolite Cove. Unfortunately, it was very underwhelming! Alasdair talked to someone camping at a backcountry site there, and learned that there were some neat things to see further along. We enjoyed our lunch of bagels and mud, apples, homemade fruit leather and gatorade and then decided to go a bit further to check things out. We did find some neat quartz popping out of the surrounding rock, but that was it. Thankfully, the 6 km hike back to the car went faster than the hike out (we definitely stopped less frequently to pick blueberries!).

Quartz popping out of the surrounding rock

We later found out from one of the park naturalists that had we gone further, we would have found other cool stuff, including an in-land pool of water. Next time!!

Day 4

After our big hike the day before, we decided to take it easy and just hang out at the campsite. We played lots of cards, pine cone baseball on the beach, and swam in the humungous waves (Ailish for just a few minutes, Keaghan not at all – too cold, he said). Alasdair and I had a fantastic time diving into the waves, practising swimming along them (great triathlon training!) and jumping or diving over them. They were so big, that when we surfed them to shore we were sent flying.

Keaghan also spent quite a while carving a piece of smoothly eroded driftwood that Alasdair found on our hike, and Keaghan carried back wedged in his camelbak. He turned it into a sword using a knife that Alasdair found during our hike. We don’t normally take anything out of the park (“take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints”) but we made an exception this time.

Keaghan’s sword

It started raining on Sunday afternoon, and then rained off and on until we left.

Day 5

After a night of heavy wind and rain, we awoke to miserable weather, but Alasdair did his fire starting magic and we had a hot breakfast. We kind of rushed through it so that we could make it to the Visitor Centre by 11 AM to attend a program – Mike Buckner of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources Canine Unit brought his dog Rebel, and gave a super informative and very funny presentation about the work of the unit, followed by a demonstration with his dog. The canine unit recently celebrated its 25th anniversary. Afterwards we decided to drive the hour to Wawa for lunch at Tim Horton’s, to avoid having to cook in the pouring rain. We also got groceries and replaced our phone charging adaptor, which started smoking on the way to Wawa!

On the way back we stopped at Old Woman Bay, because it’s a pretty spot and the waves crashing onto shore looked very impressive. We were not disappointed!

Spot the face of the old woman in this picture.

Panorama at Old Woman Bay.

It was still pouring when we got back to our campsite, and it was cold – 11 degrees Celsius – so we played cards in the van and later ate a cold dinner in the dining tent.

Euchre in the van!

We played cards for quite a while, until the rain let up enough for us to brush our teeth and climb into our tents.

Day 6

We woke up to find that it was still raining, cold and windy. The rain lightened up enough for Alasdair to make a fire for a hot breakfast. We decided that we’d go to the Visitor Centre after breakfast to check the weather, and if it wasn’t going to improve, we’d go home early. And that’s just what we decided to do. We packed up and were on the road by 11:30 AM, after making friends with a baby squirrel at the Visitor Centre (smallest squirrel I’ve ever seen).

Maybe you can’t tell, but I’m sure the baby squirrel was posing. 😉

So cute

We had lunch in Sault Ste. Marie and dinner in Sudbury, and were home by about 11:45 PM. A long day, but we were all happy to be home.

We never did get a chance to do an overnight hike this time because of the crappy weather, and the lake was way too choppy to even take the kayaks off the roof of the van.

Despite the cool temperatures, wind and rain, we managed to enjoy ourselves.

Lake Superior, we’ll be back!!! (I’m hoping to hike the entire 65 km Coastal Trail with Alasdair in the next few years.)

See my blog post entitled “My 10 favourite things to do while camping at Lake Superior Provincial Park”.