BIG Vistas

Five Hiking Adventures in Northeastern Ontario

Cradled by the Canadian Shield, Northeastern Ontario is an ancient landscape shaped by volcanoes, polished by glaciers, carved by tumbling water, and finally carpeted by forests and sprinkled with thousands of lakes. This rugged terrain is a hiker’s dream, with heart-pumping climbs, mesmerizing trails through towering pine and stunning lakeside paths. Here are five favourites.

Killarney’s Crack

Killarney Provincial Park lives up to the title of “Ontario’s crown jewel” because of its hiking alone. Parts of the park’s epic 78-km Silhouette backpacking trail are accessible to day hikers, including a 6-km ascent of The Crack, a distinctive portal to jaw-dropping scenery. Hikers pass through a massive cleft and arrive at a bald peak of bleached quartzite rock, with panoptic views of Killarney’s aquamarine lakes, lush hillsides and exposed ridges. The trailhead is located on Highway 637, about 7 km east of the park office at George Lake.

The Crack and other hiking options are accessible via Killarney’s backcountry canoe routes.

Killarney's quartzite ridges offer balcony-like views over the region's crystalline lakes.

Point Grondine

Nestled between French River and Killarney provincial parks, Point Grondine Park promises a unique wilderness and cultural experience as Ontario’s only First Nations-managed park. From the trailhead on Highway 637, the Merv’s Landing trail gradually ascends to Recollet’s Summit, with views of the austere La Cloche mountains. The 6-km trail crosses wetlands and old-growth forests, providing visitors a glimpse of the rich homeland of Wikwemikong First Nation.

Point Grondine includes an overnight hike on the Georgian Bay Coastal Trail, as well as guided First Nations cultural experiences.

Willisville Mountain

The rugged hills southwest of Sudbury were a favourite haunt of Canada’s iconic Group of Seven landscape painters. The Willisville Mountain trail packs a lot of art history into its short 2-km length. The rewards for a challenging climb are art gallery-like views, which will inspire modern day artists to create their own masterpieces. The trailhead is near the junction of Highway 6 and Willisville Road.

The community of Willisville hosts an annual art exhibit in July.

Maple Mountain dominates the skyline in Northeastern Ontario's Lady Evelyn Smoothwater Provincial Park.

Temagami’s Maple Mountain

This towering 642-metre peak, deep in the wilderness of Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater Provincial Park, was known as chee-bay-jing—“the place where the spirits go”—for native Anishnaabe.

The view from the summit of Maple Mountain is especially stunning in autumn, when fall colours brighten up the view.

From the summit, it’s easy to see why Maple Mountain continues to play a central role in Indigenous culture: verdant forests extend in all directions, interspersed with gem-like lakes. Getting to the 6-km round-trip hike starting on Tupper Lake is an adventure in itself: a three-day paddling journey from Mowat’s Landing via Lady Evelyn Lake or a thrilling floatplane flight from the town of Temagami.

Temagami’s White Bear Forest hiking trails are accessible via Highway 11.

The final push to Maple Mountain's 640-metre summit involves a ladder, left over from when a fire lookout tower was maintained on the peak.
Up until the 1950s, the Maple Mountain fire tower was part of a network of remote lookouts to protect Ontario's forests from wild fires.
 

North Bay

Laurier Woods includes over 6 km of hiking trails, set in a natural oasis in the heart of North Bay. This conservation area is great for naturalists and families, with wetlands and forest habitats and well-marked trails. Springtime yields life-list sightings of migrating warblers for birders and the opportunity for botanists to observe rare orchids.

In June, North Bay's Laurier Woods abound with delicate orchids, such as this ladyslipper.

North Bay abounds with hiking options, including the cascades of Duchesnay Falls.

About Conor Mihell

Conor Mihell is an award-winning environmental and adventure travel writer based in Sault Ste. Marie. Read his work in the Globe and Mail, Explore, Cottage Life, Canoe & Kayak, ON Nature, and other magazines and newspapers. He's been a sea kayak guide on Lake Superior for close to 20 years, and has paddled from Sault Ste. Marie to Thunder Bay. 

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