Best Overnight Hikes In Northern Ontario

Get your 48-hour nature fix on these inspiring backcountry hiking trails.

There’s only one thing better than getting out for a hike: stretching that backcountry bliss for an extra day and night beneath the stars. Sure, outfitting for an overnight means carrying a heavier pack on the trail; but it also means you can watch the sunset from a remote beach, listen to the haunting calls of loons at daybreak, and push your adventure that extra bit deeper into the wild.

Sample the Coastal Trail – Lake Superior Provinical Park

Return distance: 14 km     
Level of difficulty: Very strenuous

Trail sign on tree beside rocky shoreline trail
Rugged hiking along the Lake Superior coast.

The full length of Lake Superior Provincial Park’s spectacular Coastal Trail is 65 linear kilometres, and this classic weeklong trek is more than deserving of its “very demanding” difficulty rating. Why not try a nibble before biting off the whole trail? Hikers setting out from the Gargantua Road trailhead will pass a sign warning of “slippery, steep and rugged sections ahead.” Most campers choose the easier 5-km hike north from here to the sandy sweep of Warp Bay. 

People on rocks and people swimming in beautiful clear water.
Inviting swimming hole along the Coastal Trail, south of Rhyolite Cove.

Alternatively, the backcountry campsites at Rhyolite Cove are a long and strenuous day’s hike to the south. En route to the cove’s geologically wonderous amphitheatre of rust-coloured volcanic rock, you’ll scramble up rooty climbs to lofty lookouts above Superior’s sparkling waters, and negotiate beautiful-but-treacherous boulder beaches. Extra caution—and time—is needed when rain or fog makes the polished stones extremely slippery. Arrive on a hot afternoon, however, and Rhyolite’s pebble beach is perfect for a bracing swim. The following day, retrace your steps back to Gargantua.

Tee Harbour & Top of the Giant – Sleeping Giant Provinical Park

Return distance: 22.5 km     
Level of difficulty: Moderate-strenuous

Beautiful view of Pie Island from top of Sleeping Giant trail
View to Pie Island from the Top of the Giant Trail.

No visit to Sleeping Giant Provincial Park is complete without hiking to one of the breathtaking lookouts atop the park’s namesake rock formation. According to Ojibway legend, the rocky silhouette is that of Nanabojou—a demi-god who was turned to stone when European traders uncovered a rich silver mine the Ojibway had sworn to keep secret. The views from the Top of the Giant Trail, 950 vertical feet above the limitless blue horizon of Lake Superior, are some of the finest anywhere, but the 22-km round trip challenges even the fittest day-hikers.

View of tee shaped land
Tee Harbour is an ideal basecamp for hikers tackling the Sleeping Giant.

Better to take two days with an overnight stay by the twin beaches of lovely Tee Harbour (6.7 km from the trailhead). This makes for one easy day on the fairly flat trail to the harbour, and a more demanding day with a steep climb to the lookout at the giant’s knees.

Mdaabii Miikna – Pukaskwa National Park

Return distance: 16 km     
Level of difficulty: Strenuous

Yellow tent on beach surrounded by beach pea vegetation
Edible beach pea adds variety to backpacker meals, Pukaskwa National Park.

Meaning “go to the shore trail” in Anishinaabemowin, the Mdaabii Miikna is a new backpacking circuit around the headlands and harbours south of the Pukaskwa National Park visitor centre at Hattie Cove. The trail opened spring 2017 to coincide with Canada’s 150th anniversary celebrations, yet remains overshadowed by Pukaskwa’s famously difficult 60-km Coastal Hiking Trail.

Perfect for those who can’t spare the 7-10 days needed for a full Coastal Trail through-hike, Mdaabii Miikna is an ideal weekend adventure offering the same combination of stunning lake vistas, mossy boreal forest, bedrock scrambling, and sublime wilderness camping. Since the loop branches off the Coastal Trail north of the White River, you can also include a side-trip to this impressive gorge with its thrilling suspension bridge over Chigaamiwinigum Falls.

Casque Isles Trail – Rainbow Falls to Schreiber

Distance (one-way): 24 km     
Level of difficulty: Strenuous

Narrow dirt path winding through forest with verdant green growth
Verdant moss and old man’s beard, Casque Isles Trail.

The scenic Casques Isles Trail is a local favourite among the communities of Lake Superior’s North Shore. Stretching 53 rugged kilometres in total, this section of the Voyageur Trail follows the lake’s shoreline, connecting the towns of Rossport, Schrieber and Terrace Bay. Among the craggy rocks, splendid beaches and tenacious trees of the coastal forest, you may spot traces of a distant—even ancient—past: old gold mining relics, trappers’ cabins, Indigenous pictographs, and rare fossils.

Thunderbird pictograph
Thunderbird pictograph, Casque Isles Trail.

For a challenging overnight hike with plenty of highlights, pick up the trail at Rainbow Falls Provincial Park and trek east along the Schreiber Channel and Mount Gwynne segments to Worthington Bay. Day one rewards with several terrific lookouts and a search for the stromatolite fossils near Flint Island. Pitch your tent on the pea cobbles at Schreiber Beach, then wake up early for the 900-foot climb to the superlative 360-degree views atop Mount Gwynne Lookout. Descend back to the lake at Worthington Bay, where early First Nations people painted images of a thunderbird and other powerful figures on the smooth granite. A road access point here makes a one-way trip possible; check here for information regarding shuttle services. Local experts Blaq Bear Tours offer hiking planning, support services and packages. 

Mackenzie Trail – Mississagi Provincial Park

Return distance: 22 km     
Level of difficulty: Strenuous

Enjoying the first hints of autumn colour along the Mackenzie Trail.

This gem of a park is one of Ontario’s best-kept secrets: a lovely landscape of ancient, rounded hills cloaked in mixed hardwood-pine-spruce forests and sprinkled with brilliant blue lakes. Situated north of Lake Huron and the city of Elliot Lake, Mississagi Provincial Park is especially stunning in autumn when the sugar maples, red maples and yellow birch burst into a striking palette of gold and crimson. Much of the park’s 40-km trail network is interconnected, making for a plethora of hike-and-camp options, but the classic two-day trek is a loop on the Mackenzie Trail. From the trail’s Brush Lakes Lookout, hikers gaze over the lakes and vast Stag Lake Peatlands beyond—perhaps the best view in a park known for specatacular vistas.


If you’ve been searching for inspiration to break the day-hike barrier, this is your season. Once you experience the bliss and challenge of backpacking for a single night, you’ll find yourself dreaming about all the other trails your feet can take you down! 

About Virginia Marshall

Virginia Marshall is a freelance outdoor adventure writer, photographer and editor with roots in Muskoka and Lake Superior. Read her work in Adventure Kayak, Canoeroots, Rapid, Paddling Magazine and Backroad Mapbooks.

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