A Hiking Destination on Superior's North Shore

An 8-kilometre hike connecting the towns of Nipigon and Red Rock along the rugged shoreline of Lake Superior.

With its spectacular views, one of the best hiking trails visitors are likely to find travelling the Canadian north shore of Lake Superior is the Nipigon River Recreation Trail.

The well-maintained and well-marked trail stretches more than 8 kilometres connecting the towns of Red Rock and Nipigon, just over an hour's drive east of Thunder Bay.

Nipigon Trail path

The trail follows the scenic shoreline of the Nipigon River and the rugged shore of Lake Superior which is part of the Parks Canada Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area.

The Nipigon River Recreation Trail also is to host the "Hike for Health", a popular charity fundraiser held when fall colours dominate in late September.

Starting from either end, visitors can choose to hike the entire length or take a shorter walk that doesn't require the commitment to time or energy.

However, if you do plan to hike the entire trail, make sure you have the time. The official trail brochure says to allow 3.5 hours for the trail and lookouts, but consider spending a full day on the trail as I did.

Nipigon Trail richard hiking
Starting from the Nipigon Marina, I spent over an hour walking just 2-kilometres along the Wetlands and Sawmill Point section. There is so much for nature lovers and shutter bugs to see along this section that you could spend much more time if you wanted to.
Nipigon Trail marsh
At one point, as I crouched along the river bank to take some pictures I couldn't help but wonder if I was stepping where voyageurs, trappers or the areas First Nations peoples had tread in centuries past.

There are plenty of interpretive signs pointing out the various plant life such as Ground Hemlock which has compounds in its needles that are used to treat cancer. Near the start of the trail is the remains of an old tug boat that once worked the Nipigon River. It's along this section of the trail that a sign points out that you are on the 49th Parallel.

Nipigon Trail nipigon bay
There are side trails or detours to the river's shoreline and bird blinds. Bird watchers will love the Wetlands and Sawmill Point section of the trail, which is also a Provincially Significant Coastal Wetland. While here I managed to hear countless song birds, see geese wading in the river and caught a glimpse of a coyote on the prowl across the river.

All along the river there are spectacular views of high Precambrian Shield cliffs which are home to Bald Eagles and other majestic birds of prey. It's easy to understand why this section of the trail is included as a stop for the annual Canyon Country Birding Festival which is held every May.

Nipigon Trail richard stairs

For hardy adventurers, the crowning glory of the Nipigon River Trail is likely the hike to Eagle's Ridge. Located about 4 kilometres from Red Rock and reachable by a steady climb plus a set of 199 stairs when approaching from Nipigon or 63 steps when approaching from Red Rock, the reward is well worth the sweat and burn in your legs.

Nipigon Trail superior view
Perched atop cliffs on the West side of the river, you can see for miles down the North shore of Lake Superior as well as see the town of Nipigon to the North and boat traffic on the river which includes small aluminum fishing boats, sail boats and larger yachts.

There is plenty of space for parking at either trailhead, both of which are easy to locate. For your convenience, Epic Adventures (a local outfitter) provides a shuttle service from either end of the trail back to your vehicle for a nominal fee. Arrangements should be made at least a few days in advance by emailing michael@epicadventures.ca or calling 807-887-1008.

Nipigon Trail trailhead
About Richard Boon

Richard Boon is a Thunder Bay native who spends much of his spare time hiking and doing nature photography.  He is a past member and hike leader with the Thunder Bay Hiking Association and a former broadcaster..

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