Lake Superior for Landlubbers

There’s good reason Lake Superior is renown as a paddling destination: The options for sea kayaking and canoeing combined with spectacular scenery and isolation make it world-class. But the day-hiking and long-distance backpacking trails of the North Shore are equally diverse and capture the best of the wilderness coast from a different perspective.

Setting up camp on the Lake Superior coast.

As much as the trails of Newfoundland’s Gros Morne and British Columbia’s Pacific Rim national parks have been lauded as Canada’s finest backpacking, with recognition comes crowds. Along the secluded trails of Pukaskwa National Park and Lake Superior Provincial Park you’ll experience an inland sea you’d swear was an ocean, until you taste its sparkling clean fresh water.

Spectacular sunsets are the rule on the Pukaskwa coast.

Pukaskwa’s Coastal Trail stretches 60 kilometres along the most isolated section of Lake Superior coast. It’s so remote that no roads service its southern end; to make it a one-way hike, most adventurers hire a boat shuttle to North Swallow River and trek north to the road-access visitor centre at Hattie Cove. This five- to seven-day hike features seriously rugged terrain—with copious brown sugar beaches and stunning views to make you forget the sweat and toil. If you’re less experienced or simply wanting a richer, more interpretive experience, sign up for a guided trip with Naturally Superior Adventures, like adventure travel bloggers the Planet D did in the summer of 2014.

Lake Superior Provincial Park also boasts a 65-kilometre-long coastal backpacking trail. But perhaps its greatest attribute is a wide array of day hikes, easily accessible to guests at Rock Island Lodge. Favourites include the five-kilometre-long Nokomis Trail, which offers outstanding views of Old Woman Bay, and the eight-kilometre-long Orphan Lake trail, which passes through an old-growth yellow birch to a wave-washed gravel beach on the Lake Superior coast. The Wawa portion of the Voyageur Trail features waterfalls and wildflowers, and the trailhead is within walking distance of your room at Rock Island Lodge.

Click here for a map of day hiking, weekend adventures and multi-day backpacking trips on Lake Superior’s north shore.