Ontario Parks is fortunate to be able to protect and showcase a wealth of natural sights across the province.
While some places are relatively easy to access, others will challenge you before rewarding you with their incredible views.
Here are seven iconic sights to discover and explore this season.
Probably our easiest iconic view to reach is the powerful waterfall at Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park.
At 40m high, Kakabeka Falls is the second tallest waterfall in Ontario and offers year-round viewing opportunities.
A barrier-free boardwalk from the main parking lot extends around the top of the falls with a series of lookout points and panoramic views of both the waterfall and the Kaministiquia River below.
Extend your walk along the Mountain Portage Walking Trail (1.25 km loop) to follow in the footsteps of early travelers and travelers.
The park is located just a 30-minute drive from Thunder Bay, located directly off Trans Canada Highway 11/17, making it a convenient tourist stop for travelers and locals alike crossing Canada.
Ouimet Canyon offers panoramic views of its 150m wide gorge and 100m vertical cliffs from two viewing platforms overlooking the canyon rim.
This easy-access, day-use-only park features a short 1.7 km loop trail, with boardwalk and gravel sections offering barrier-free access.
This is a nature reserve class park, and access to the canyon floor is restricted to ensure protection of the arctic and subarctic plant species hidden beneath the rocks below.
The narrow opening of the canyon and its high walls create a shady, humid and cool climate for these plants that are normally only found 1,000 km to the north. Even during the early summer months, you may be able to see a hint of snow on the isolated canyon floor below.
The Canadian geological wonder of Ouimet Canyon Provincial Park is located near Dorion, just over an hour’s drive from Thunder Bay on Highway 17.
Be sure to bring your camera to capture this eye-opening panoramic view.
Thunder Bay Viewpoint
Are you looking for a driving tour or a challenging mountain bike ride with an iconic view just steps from your arrival point?
Head to Sleeping Giant Provincial Park and the Rita Lake Road turnoff. In reality, accessing this view may be a little more difficult for your vehicle than for you.
Make sure your vehicle offers enough clearance for this bumpy gravel road. The 9 km drive from Highway 587 will take about 20 minutes.
Take it calmly and gently.
Once there, it’s up to you to brave the observation deck that, oh yeah, extends on the park’s elevated cliff, allowing views down through the platform’s metal rails to the rock landscape below.
There are some park visitors who simply cannot reach the end of this viewing platform and prefer to hug the rocks closer to the parking area. Whether you reach the end or approach the rocks, this iconic view is spectacular and accessible by road.
Just remember, don’t look down. Instead, look up and across the vastness of Lake Superior to the view of the city of Thunder Bay.
If you’re there at sunset, bring your camera to capture the warm colors of sunlight dancing on the cliffs as the sun sinks below the horizon.
Another of our day-use parks, Pigeon River Provincial Park, offers a network of trails that can keep you hiking for a full day.
One of the most popular routes is the High Falls Trail, a 2.5km loop that takes you along old logging roads to the iconic view of High Falls. Measuring 28m high, this waterfall straddles the Ontario-Minnesota border and is also known as “Pigeon Falls” on the US side.
This is the closest provincial park you will find to the Pigeon River International Border Crossing.
For travelers driving the Lake Superior Circle Tour route, this is a great place to get out and stretch your legs. Be sure to explore the park trails to find other exciting views of the park, Lake Superior, and Middle Falls too!
Panoramic view of Pic Island
Are you inspired by the art of the Group of Seven? Interested in retracing your steps to the exact spot where the famous Pic Island sketches and paintings were created?
Be sure to visit Neys Provincial Park and head to the Pic Island Overlook Trail.
This 4.5 km (9 km round trip) linear trail twists and winds along a dirt road and up a hill to iconic views of Pic Island and Thompson Channel.
Why not bring your own art supplies, relax in the pagoda at the top, and spend some time immortalizing the view of Pic Island like Lawren Harris?
When the weather is at its most changeable, the Group of Seven sentiment is really alive here. Allow at least three hours for this steady climb toward your iconic reward.
Good news: the hike back is basically downhill!
Want to see the grandeur of Lake Superior year-round? The Nokomis Trail in Lake Superior Provincial Park is sure to deliver results.
Plan to spend at least a couple of hours exploring this trail that leads to the iconic view of Lake Superior’s Old Woman Bay.
This moderately difficult 5km loop begins across the road from the Old Woman Bay parking lot on Trans Canada Highway 17. Follow the trail’s steady climb through lichen-covered boreal forest.
Once in sight, try to find the face of an old woman immortalized on the cliffs of the distant shore, which rise 200m above Lake Superior.
The Nokomis Trail is ranked among the top five day hikes in Canada (Lonely Planet’s “Discover Canada” Guide). Whether you’re passing through or staying at one of the park’s two campgrounds, be sure to check out this trail.
Nanabosho Viewing Trail
The Nanabosho Lookout Trail is the least traveled of the three trails that ascend the Sleeping Giant.
The lookout’s north-facing overlook rewards adventurous hikers with stunning panoramas of the entire Sibley Peninsula, unlike any other lookout in the park. At over 500m in elevation, the midpoint of this 0.8km trail is the highest point in the park’s elaborate trail network.
Please note that the total distance to the end of the Nanabosho Lookout Trail and back is 15 km (7.5 km each way). Most hikers take between 5 and 6 hours to complete this.
The trail can be accessed via the Sawbill Lake Trail (2 km) to the Sawyers Bay Trail (2.9 km).
From there, the first 1.8 km of the Talus Lake Trail ascends more than 200 meters before reaching the Nanabosho Lookout trailhead. The Nanabosho Lookout Trail continues climbing steeply until it reaches the halfway point, followed by a gentle descent to the spectacular lookout.
There is a small parking area located at the Sawbill Lake Trailhead on Marie Louise Drive, just 2.5 km from the park’s main campground.
The Nanabosho Lookout Trail is one of the park’s hidden gems and is worth exploring whether it’s your first or fiftieth trip to Sleeping Giant Provincial Park.
So if you’re looking for iconic views this season, be sure to make plans with family and friends to get out into nature and visit northwestern Ontario parks.
We will leave you breathless.