Last year during In/Future festival at Ontario Place, I was able to see a screening of the first official IMAX film, North of Superior. Directed and produced by Graeme Ferguson, the film is a travelogue across the northern Ontario landscape, featuring stunning aerial images, canoeing down whitewater and intense forest firefighting. The visuals of Ontario presented in the Cinesphere left a lasting impression and a deep desire to experience the landscape for myself.
We booked a Porter flight to Thunder Bay and planned a five day, four night adventure across the north. The original plan was to fly into Thunder Bay, drive down to Sault Ste. Marie and fly home from there, but the rental car costs are 10 times that of returning to Thunder Bay, so we elected for the more affordable option. Looking at a map, Pukaskwa National Park seemed to make a great half way point.
Day 1 – Ouimet Canyon to Sleeping Giant Provincial Park
Ouimet Canyon is a gorge located 60km outside of Thunder Bay and provides a breathtaking view from it’s two lookout locations. No camping here, but the short trail walk with huge payoffs make it worth the stop. We had walked into a thick blanket of cloud on our approach, but as we reached the lookout, the clouds rushed out of the 100m deep gorge and provided some stunning views.
We doubled back to Sleeping Giant Provincial Park and setup camp for the night. It was easy to get a ‘premium’ campsite right on the shores of Marie Louise Lake in September with a great view of the sleeping giant himself. We ventured out for two more small hikes in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, including a short walk called Plantain Lane that led to a stunning little wooden bridge and waterfall.
A picturesque sunset and lightning show rolled through just as we called it a night.
Day 2 – Hiking to the Top of the Giant Trail
This would be our most strenuous adventure of the trip, but the views are second to none. Known as the ‘Knees’ of the Giant, the trail starts with a relatively flat 8km hike along the Kabeyun Trail past Tee Harbour. It’s possible to rent mountain bikes at Sleeping Giant PP to cut down the time and effort required for the first section of the trail, something we maybe regretted not taking advantage of after the hike.
Once you turn off the trail, things start to get a bit more serious. Another 4km of distance and 290-meters of elevation gain, through valleys, forests, and steep switchbacks up to the Top of the Giant trail. However, when you’ve reached the top of the switchbacks, you still have another 2km of walking to get to The Knees. When we arrived there, it was impossible to argue the exceptional views, sheer drops and stunning blue waters of Lake Superior.
Day 3 – Onwards to Pukaskwa National Park via Aguasabon Falls
We woke up on Day 3 at the retro Sunset Motel. Not much to look at, but the price was right and the showers were hot after 24km of hiking the previous day. Our first stop was Aguasabon Falls and Gorge, a quick walk from the parking lot to the steep gorge. We continued to the beach in Terrace Bay and a small walk up the Casques Isles Hiking Trail to see where it meets Lake Superior.
That afternoon, we checked in to Pukaskwa National Park and setup camp. A short boardwalk from the campground takes you to some stunning white sand beaches covered in driftwood and rock outcrops with great markings from glacial activity. We enjoyed a quick beer on the beach, managed a quick swim, and walked out to the point for the sunset. Unfortunately, Pukaskwa was out of firewood, so no point hanging sitting around the firepit. My suggestion, call ahead and check that in the future.
Day 4 – The Road Back – Neys Provincial Park to Rainbow Falls Provincial Park
Up early to catch the sunrise from the Visitors Centre and back on the road. After the great sunrise, we quickly hit the rain showers. Neys Provincial Park would be the next stop on the trip, but unfortunately it was closed for the season. Not a big deal, just a long walk from the road into the park. From there we walked out to the Under the Volcano Trail, including a nice walk through the woods out to a point formed a billion years ago from magma rising up to the surface.
To split the difference back towards Thunder Bay, we decided to stop at Rainbow Falls Provincial Park. We setup camp on the Rossport side of the campground, right on Superior, and ventured up the road to the Whitesand Lake area of the campground. We discovered that the park closed at 3pm, so another long walk in, and we made our way up the road to the Rainbow Falls trail.
Day 5 – Home
The rains picked up as we packed up camp in the morning, so we packed our bags and made the rest of the drive back to Thunder Bay. I’d highly recommend making the stop at Nucci’s Deli for a ‘Persian’ pastry. From there, a trip to the Sleeping Giant Brewery to enjoy a flight right on the brewery floor before checking into the airport and enjoying the flight home.
We hope you enjoyed following along with our trip to Superior and hope the video below might inspire you to make a trip of your own if the photos haven’t already.