Sat. Feb 24th, 2024
Long, treed, hilly peninsula from the lake

Today’s post comes from Michelle Halstead, a travel, tourism and eco-adventure internship student at Ontario Parks Northwest Zone.

Canada is proud to be home to the world’s largest recreational trail. A route of 24,000 kilometers of land and water that extends through 10 provinces and three territories.

The Great Trail (formally known as the Trans Canada Trail or TCT) is a project that began in 1992 and with the help of several donors and volunteers working together across the country it has become one of the most important trails in the world. The trail offers a variety of outdoor recreation activities and landscapes in urban, rural and wilderness areas of Canada.

The Great Trail Through Ontario Parks

Ontario has the longest section of The Great Trail at over 5,200 km. Our stretch offers dynamic scenery and a variety of ways to explore the trail and the outdoors. It also features a number of trail locations and terrain options to suit all tastes.

Map showing the Great Trail as it travels through northwestern Ontario, along the northern shore of Lake Superior.The Great Northwestern Ontario Trail

Since parts of the Great Trail run through or pass through 28 provincial parks in northwestern Ontario alone, you can use this to your advantage when planning your next outdoor adventure by adding a visit to a nearby part of the Great Trail.

By land and water

Ontario Parks is home to land and water portions of the Great Trail, offering a perfect mix of destination options for park and wilderness explorers, hikers, backpackers and paddlers.

Two kayakers on a sunny day with a rock in front of them, paddling along a calm coast with bushland and forestKayakers in Neys Provincial Park: Lake Superior Water Trail Segment

Did you know that Northwestern Ontario parks feature seven of the Great Trail’s water trail segments?

The Lake Superior Water Trail segment is overseen by the Lake Superior Watershed Conservancy and is the largest expanse of freshwater along the route. This section extends 1,000 km along the northern shore of Lake Superior from Sault Ste. Mary to Thunder Bay.

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Plan your route!

Several provincial parks are located along the shore of Lake Superior, including:

High waterfall on a sunny day in a mainly coniferous forestHigh Falls in Pigeon River Provincial Park – segment of Pigeon River Trail

While water trips along extensive water sections of the Great Trail are best suited for experienced sea kayakers, there are many opportunities for shorter paddles along the Lake Superior shoreline from Ontario Parks.

Additionally, there are land portions of the Great Trail that parallel the water routes, giving visitors two route options to choose from in the same area. There are also opportunities for overnight backpacking, such as along the Kabeyun Trail in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park or the Coastal Trail in Lake Superior Provincial Park.

Hiker looking at Lake Superior from the north shore in early fallLake Superior Provincial Park: Coastal Trail Segment

Recreational, cultural and historical experiences.

Once you’ve finished the Lake Superior Water Trail, continue to the City of Thunder Bay Trail. This trail takes you through the city where you can experience many recreational, cultural and historical experiences, starting at Fisherman’s Park and ending at Fort William Historical Park.

When the City of Thunder Bay Trail ends, the Fort William Historic Park Connector Trail begins, which then connects it to the Animiki Trail segment.

Mountainous, long, wooded peninsula from the lakeSibley Peninsula in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park – segment of the Animiki Trail

The Animiki (Ojibway for “thunderbird”) trail segment begins at Fort William Historical Park on the Kaministiquia River in Thunder Bay. When the land trail ends in the city of Thunder Bay, it heads to Lake Superior and follows the coast to Pigeon River Provincial Park, near the Canada-United States border. Here, it becomes the Pigeon River Trail, a terrestrial nature trail that runs for another 45 km.

Clear green blue water with red rock shoreline, two people in the distanceRainbow Falls Provincial Park Shoreline – Lake Superior Water Trail Segment

When you enter LaVerendrye Provincial Park it becomes the Omimi Trail (Ojibway for “dove”). This section of the trail is part of our country’s historic fur trade route that runs along the international boundary waters between Canada and the United States.

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The trail through Quetico

Interpretive sign that says "Sendero del Pádel. Sendero Quetico..."

The Path of the Paddle Association oversees several of the water segments between Thunder Bay and the Manitoba border. This includes the Quetico Trail (Cache Lake to Nym Lake in Quetico Provincial Park) north to Atikokan and the Maukinak Trail (Atikokan south of Dryden).

Quetico Provincial Park is a natural park well known for its rugged beauty, towering cliffs, majestic waterfalls, and picturesque rivers and lakes. This park is a very popular destination for backcountry canoeists and is part of the Northwest Wilderness Quest.

Trail highlight – not to be missed!

Additional sections of the water trail include the Maukinak (Ojibway for “turtle”) Trail from Dryden to the Manitoba border, which is popular for canoeing, kayaking, boating and fishing. When traveling to this area, be sure to visit the historic White Otter Castle on White Otter Lake, built over 100 years ago by Jimmy McQuat.

Large wooden cabin with four-story tower and red roofWhite Otter Castle

The Migizi Trail (Ojibway for “bald eagle”) is a mix of rivers, lakes and streams through the Experimental Lakes area west of the town of Dryden to Rushing River Provincial Park in Kenora. Once in the park, the campground offers many amenities during your stay, including camping, canoeing, fishing, biking, and swimming.

Whitewater river with a bridge spanning aboveBridge in Rushing River Provincial Park – segment of the Migizi trail

The Linoo Oowan Trail (Ojibway for “canoe trail”) is the last leg of the water trail linking Kenora with the existing trail in Manitoba.

With a little help from our friends.

There are also community land segments of The Great Trail in Sault Ste. Marie. Marie, Wawa, Marathon, Terrace Bay, Schreiber, Nipigon, Red Rock, Thunder Bay, Atikokan, Dryden, Vermilion Bay and Kenora.

Your next adventure!

Rock feature with a hole through it and a bright yellow lichen coming out of the water.  You can see a kayak with two people through the hole. Sea Lion at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park – Lake Superior Water Trail Segment

You can start planning your next great trail adventure in Northwestern Ontario today. Whether you only have a day, a week, or more, you will find your happiness traveling through the most diverse and beautiful parts of Ontario parks and The Great Trail.

Before you head out, be sure to check with each park office for more information on required permits for day use, camping, or backcountry camping. Stay a while and explore the vast lands that Northwestern Ontario’s parks have to offer with plenty of activities for everyone to enjoy.

The outdoors is calling you! It will respond?