By Sault Tourism

 

How to Experience Ontario's Awesome Fall colours

Sault Ste Marie is well-known for its breathtaking beauty during the fall season. Nothing can compare to the vivid colours of the leaves, the numerous trails that can be explored, along with views that will never be forgotten that capture Mother Nature’s true-beauty. From mid-September to mid-October you can find so many ways to enjoy the best of fall in our northern community. In the meantime we have narrowed it down to the top five ways that won’t disappoint!

Come to Sault Ste. Marie and experience Ontario’s awesome fall colours as you’ve never seen them before!

Robertson Lake
Robertson Lake

1. Ride The Agawa Canyon Tour Train

This attraction is a bucket-list adventure and a big tourist favourite when it comes to seeing the fall colours in its prime. Hop on this day-long journey that starts in our Canal District and travels 114km into the Agawa Canyon; along the way you will be immersed by wilderness and its array of oranges, reds and yellows. Once you reach the Canyon you will get to walk around and explore various trails that will take you to beautiful scenic lookouts and various waterfalls where the Group of Seven once painted some of their iconic paintings. This can’t miss experience will certainly be one for the books!

2. Hike Robertson Cliffs

There are so many hikes in and around Sault Ste. Marie that it can be difficult to narrow it down to just one. But if you are only looking to do one hike, try the Robertson Cliffs lookout hike.

To escape to this beautiful scenic lookout, you only need to travel about 20 minutes north of the City. This intermediate hike will not only get your blood flowing but will guide you through the colourful brush and trees. A helpful tip is to make sure you dress accordingly and be prepared to be in awe once you reach the top! When you have completed this 5km hike on Ila’s Trail, you will come upon the breathtaking fall scenery of the boreal forest. You will undoubtedly want to make sure you capture this view with a picture, as the vibrant colours will take your breath away!  

3. Hike or Bike Hiawatha Highlands / Kinsmen Park

You don’t have to venture far to experience what Fall is all about in Sault Ste Marie. Located just north of the city you will find bridges and paths in Kinsmen Park that will take you through a network of trails, such as the Crystal Creek System, where you will see Fall in all its perfection. You can also explore and visit Crystal Falls at one end of the park and then follow the trails to Minnehaha Falls at the other end.

Another must-do fall experience, are the new mountain biking trails located in the same area of the Hiawatha Highlands. Check out fall colours while you enjoy our new flow trails, berms, jumps, techy climbs and more. 

4. Check out Fort Creek Conservation Area on the Hub Trail

Enjoy fall in at its best right here in the heart of Sault Ste Marie! The John Roswell Hub Trail is a 22.5km trail that surrounds our beautiful city, with paved paths that you can walk or bike on. One of our favourite parts of the hub trail in the fall specifically, is the Fort Creek section. You can park at the Fort Creek Conservation Area and take the trail through the forest where you will come upon some incredible bridges that overlook the stunning ravine. This simple trail system is nice laid-back one hour walk from the Conversation Area to the Third Line section and back.

5. Take a river cruise on the Miss Marie Sault Lock Tours

Another activity to do in Sault Ste. Marie is take a Sault Locks boat tour. They leave every day until the middle of October at 10am and 1pm. Click here for all the info. 

Want the expert touch? Go guided!

Sault Ste. Marie has excellent, experienced, informative, trained guides to help you get the most out of your time in the city. 

Take a day guided tour on the True North Adventure Bus and witness the fall colours you’ve seen on Instagram. Paddle on some of the most beautiful inland lakes in Ontario, and hike to one of best vistas for fall colours anywhere. The True North Adventure bus offers you these experiences. Experienced tour guides Forest The Canoe offer all day adventure tours to some of the most beautiful places in Ontario. Click here to read more. 

Go guided with Thrive Tours who offer fall colour hikes, as well as and canoe and kayak tours throughout the Algoma region. Red Pine Tours offer bike tours, Walk Among The Trees specializes in simple, 2- to 3-hour hiking tours sharing Indigenous teachings, culture, ceremony and language. Metis Tours shares Metis history in Sault Ste. Marie and Blaq Bear Tours do culinary and walking tours of the area!

How else can I experience fall colours?

Sault Ste. Marie is a great destination to experience incredible fall colours, with countless other ways to see spectacular reds, oranges and yellows. A scenic drive through the Bellevue Valley to Goulais River is a great way to some stunning colours. Or check out this blog post featuring 4 more ‘unknown’ spots

We hope you enjoy your time in the Soo! 🙂 

Bellevue Valley Road
Bellevue Valley Road

By Sault Tourism

 

How to Experience one of Ontario's best lookout hikes

Robertson Cliffs, just 30 minutes north of Sault Ste. Marie, is one of best lookout hikes in Ontario. These cliffs offer views from several incredible lookouts that stretch for miles across Bellevue Valley towards the Goulais River and as far as Lake Superior. 

The cliffs are owned and cared for by Algoma Highlands Conservancy, a not for profit organization that is run by local volunteers. Clearly marked trails are maintained through donations and memberships. To support this organization click here

Where Are Robertson Cliffs?

AHC’s Robertson Cliffs are located about 30 minutes north of Sault Ste. Marie, just east of the trans-Canada highway, highway 17. Click here for a Google Maps link to directions to one of the car park areas. 

Where Can I park?

There are three parking areas at the trail heads, these are shown in the below maps. 

Robertson Cliffs near Sault Ste. Marie
Road to Algoma Highlands Conservancy towards Robertson Cliffs
Robertson Cliffs near Sault Ste. Marie
One of the eastern parking lots

How Long Does the Hike Take and How Difficult Is It?

The route to the top can take between 45 minutes and 2 hours depending on which trail you take, and then the same on the way back. So allow yourself at least 2 hours as a minimum.

It’s described a ‘moderate’ difficulty because there is some scrambling over rocks, small streams and occasion trees. Click on the below images to see some maps of the area. 

Map of Robertson Cliffs
Map of local area
Robertson Cliffs near Sault Ste. Marie
Crossing a stream
Map of Robertson Cliffs
The trail map, easily found along the routes

What Routes are there and Are the trails well marked?

There are 3 routes that will get you to the top. The Blue route is a 300 metre route that links up with the white route. It begins at the western parking lot. 

The White route is a 2km, 45 minute route which begins at one of the two eastern parking lots. Well marked trails lead through the Great Lakes St. Lawrence forest before meeting up with the blue trail. Once the blue and white trail meet the trail does get a little steeper as it ascends to the lookout points. 

The yellow trail is a longer 2.5km trek that takes you along beautiful waterfalls. Allow 2 hours for this hike to the cliffs. 

Robertson Cliffs near Sault Ste. Marie
White and yellow trail, trail head
Robertson Cliffs near Sault Ste. Marie
White and Yellow routes diverge
Robertson Cliffs near Sault Ste. Marie
The Blue route marker
Robertson Cliffs near Sault Ste. Marie
Hiking through the forest
Robertson Cliffs near Sault Ste. Marie
More route signs
Blue route trail-head

What about the lookouts and what is view like?

There are 3 main lookouts with several others you can find along the way too. The views… judge for yourself. 

Robertson Cliffs near Sault Ste. Marie
Western lookout
Robertson Cliffs near Sault Ste. Marie
Eastern lookout

Are there any Tour guides?

Three awesome local tour guides can show you the way and also give you some stellar insight into the area. Thrive Tours, Forest The Canoe and Blaq Bear Adventures

How Can I Help Maintain this area?

A huge thanks to the Algoma Highlands Conservancy and its volunteers for maintaining these beautiful trails. You can donate or volunteer to the Conservancy here!

Robertson Cliffs near Sault Ste. Marie
Algoma Highlands Conservancy
Robertson Cliffs near Sault Ste. Marie
QR code to donate

By Sault Tourism

 

Enjoy the Spectacular fall colours in and around the city thanks to these four great spots

Sault Ste Marie has a number of well known hiking and fall-colour viewing areas in or around the city, including Robertson Cliffs, Fort Creek and Bellevue Park, but not everyone will be aware of these four relatively hidden spots. 

So keep reading to learn about four of the best ‘other’ places to explore and to enjoy the fall colours from. 

Odena Lookout at Hiawatha

The Odena lookout and Odena Loop at Hiawatha Highlands is part of the Voyageur Trail. The large ‘Loop’ trail is a 4.2km hike that starts at Sixth Line and weaves itself over to Connor Road. Alternatively if you just want to enjoy the incredible view, the Lookout hike is a short 400 metre trot uphill. Once you get to the top the view will take your breath away. Beautiful maple fall colours blended with vibrant coniferous greens make this lookout truly spectacular. 

Wishart ParK

Wishart Park, just off Fourth Line East, is a cute little park, and a perfect place for a short hike to take fall fall photos in. Enjoy a walk through the woods or alongside the Root River as it winds its way south towards the city.

Root River and Root Cascade

Root River and Root Cascade at the west side of Sixth Line is another pretty place to visit. Beautiful falls cascade into the Root River, and the surrounding maple trees create a vibrant and bright scene. 

Gros Cap Conservation Area

The lookout at Gros Cap Conversation area is another great spot just outside the city limits. While the tree species here don’t offer the vibrant red and oranges of Hiawatha, you can still enjoy fall tones with incredible views of the place where Lake Superior flows into the St Marys river, the Gros Cap lighthouse, and any Lake Superior ‘lakers’ that happen to be cruising past. 

The lookout is part of the Saulteaux-Goulais section of the Voyageur Trail, which leads west and north towards Red Rock. 

By Virginia Marshall

Discover Métis History in Sault Ste. Marie

A living waterway

Where Fort Creek enters the St. Marys River just below the historic locks at Sault Ste. Marie Canal National Historic Site, it’s a shallow channel scarcely broad enough to turn a canoe around. Bridged by boulevards and hemmed by sidewalks and parking lots, the creek disappears altogether for much of its course, buried and nearly forgotten beneath the city above.

On a warm spring evening, I witness a very different Fort Creek, winding through a verdant wetland filled with the sunset songs of veery, Swainson’s thrush and ovenbirds. A contented beaver navigates the meanders, watchful Canada Geese periscope from grassy banks. Perched above downtown, Fort Creek Conservation Area is a remarkable green space within the city.

The way Lake Superior Watershed Conservancy Executive Director, Joanie McGuffin, explains it, Fort Creek is both a living waterway and an allegory for the unseen connections that bind past to present, and culture to ecology.

Revealing hidden connections—between rivers, lakes, watersheds, communities, cultures, people and the planet—is the focus of a new visitor experience developed by the Lake Superior Watershed Conservancy in partnership with the Huron-Superior Regional Metis Community.

Metis Tours

Interpretive Tours

These interpretive tours provide visitors to Sault Ste. Marie with an exciting new way to discover the city, while making meaningful connections to the Soo’s vibrant Indigenous culture and heritage. Historic images, maps and hands-on materials add texture and context, transforming a modern cityscape into an historic gathering place, and an industrialized urban waterfront into a richly interconnected ecosystem.

For generations, the land that is now downtown Sault Ste. Marie was home to a thriving Métis community. The community was organized into river-lots that gave each family access to the river for travel, harvesting and economic activity. Families kept their animals communally in the area behind their homes and harvested maple sugar in spring along the escarpment. In the mid 1850s, Métis families were displaced from their lands, breaking promises by the Crown agent that their lands would be protected. Despite this injustice, the community continues to call Sault Ste. Marie home.

By sharing Métis perspectives on reciprocity and sustainable practices, the interpretive tours also advance the Lake Superior Watershed Conservancy’s work to promote watershed awareness and greater environmental understanding.

“The Métis story inextricably connects culture with ecology,” says McGuffin. “Indigenous people have been able to live with the land and care for our water for thousands of years, because it’s been a reciprocal relationship.”

Metis Tours

Walking Tour or Walking and Paddling Tour

Tour participants can choose to join a Walking Tour or get on the water with a Walking & Paddling Tour. Both tours travel to the city’s scenic waterfront from the Sault Ste. Marie Métis Cultural Centre—a first of its kind in Ontario. Tours last two hours and are led by a Métis interpretive guide, giving visitors a fascinating glimpse into traditional and contemporary Métis life.

Paddling Tour participants board a Big Canoe—a replica of the 36-foot birch-bark canoes that once freighted furs and trade goods between Montreal and Lake Superior—to learn how the St. Marys River is central to both the story of Sault Ste. Marie, and the Indigenous communities who live here.

McGuffin believes passionately in the power of the Big Canoe to bring people together to share ideas and cultural understanding. In 2019, the Conservancy founded a new program called Canoes for Conservation, and she points to the Big Canoe’s stability, inclusivity and accessibility for non-paddlers and multi-generational groups of all ages.

Metis Tours

"locking through"

A highlight of the hour-long canoe portion of the journey is “locking through” the historic Sault Canal. Paddlers then venture onto the mighty St. Marys River—comparable in size and power to the Niagara River—feeling the spray of the rapids and the tug of the current beneath their hull. “It’s very tactile,” says McGuffin, “you have a paddle in your hands, you’re able to feel the water, listen to the water. It’s incredible how far into the rapids you can go—people are amazed by the experience.”

For the Métis Nation of Ontario, the tours are “an outstanding opportunity to grow Indigenous tourism in the north and advance reconciliation,” says community leader, historian and MNO Huron-Superior Regional Councillor, Mitch Case.

“In order to have that reconciliation conversation, Canadians need to understand who we are and what matters to us as a community,” he continues. By connecting across cultures, “we are protecting and preserving our unique heritage and world view.”

Lauren Towell is one of five young Métis community members who joined the interpretive guide team this summer. “The connections I share with the water resonate profoundly with the very fabric of my Métis heritage,” she says. “I take great pride in the task of sharing our story, ensuring that it endures for generations to come.”

Walking tour guide, Jake Chalmers, agrees, “Caring for our forests and wildlife is integral to caring for our Métis culture. Being a tour guide helps me to celebrate and share knowledge about both.”

Metis Tours

Sault Ste. Marie Canal National Historic

The tours visit numerous sites of great importance to the Métis community. In just a couple short hours, participants come to understand how connection to the river and love for their ancestors empowers the Métis community here—and what it can teach all of us.

For those visiting the city for the first time, the interpretive tours are also a great way to discover the Soo’s top scenic and cultural attractions.

As we stroll towards the river and the leafy promenades of Parks Canada’s Sault Ste. Marie Canal National Historic Site, McGuffin and I pass the Agawa Canyon Tour Train Station and Algoma Conservatory of Music. Housed in a refurbished, century-old sandstone building of the former St. Marys Paper Mill, The Loft is reported to have acoustics rivaling Massey Hall.

Metis Tours

the hidden river

Outside, we see a re-creation of the rudimentary locks the voyageurs used to shuttle their Big Canoes around the Whitefish Rapids. Nearby, the weekly Mill Market hosts local food vendors and artisans where a Hudson’s Bay Company Post once stood.

As we walk, McGuffin tells me about the hidden river, where Fort Creek flows unseen beneath the city. She relates how downtown Sault Ste. Marie, from Bay Street to the river, is built entirely on reclaimed shoreline. “It’s not just about what we can see, it’s also what we can’t see,” she says. “When we don’t look at where water comes from and where it goes, we feel no responsibility for what happens along its journey.”

Before returning to the Métis Cultural Centre, we pause at the mouth of Fort Creek, marveling at the resilience and tenacity of water. The story of a people can be like a river that way—sometimes unseen, but always flowing steady and strong.

Metis Tours

PLAN YOUR VISIT - TOUR DATES & PRICING​

Guided Walking

Friday and Saturday mornings at 10:30 a.m.

Available late June–late September

Tours are 2 hours/5 km in duration

Cost is $50/adult or $25/student, group rate (max. 10 people) $350

Guided Walking & Paddling Tour

Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings at 5 p.m.

Available late June–late September

Tours are 2 hours/7 km in duration

Cost is $90/adult or $45/student, group rate (max. 12 people) $675

All paddling safety equipment is included

Online Reservations

Individual and group reservations available. Learn more and book your tour now at Métis Tours.

Other things to DO in Sault Ste. Marie

  • Cycle, walk or run the John Roswell Hub Trail, a 22.5-km multi-use trail system connecting all areas of the city, including the waterfront boardwalk, Bellevue Park and Fort Creek Conservation Area.
  • Bring binoculars to explore the nature trails at Whitefish Island, a Batchewana First Nation site and outstanding birding area (over 240 species have been tallied here) adjacent to the historic Sault Ste. Marie Locks.
  • Shop for fresh, locally grown picnic supplies at the Saturday morning Mill Market.
  • Dine at the Machine Shop, housed in the majestic sandstone great hall of the former St. Marys Paper Mill and now one of the city’s finest restaurants and gathering places.

Celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision acknowledging the Metis Nation as a distinct Indigenous culture in Canada with a visit to the newly opened Métis Cultural Centre at 136 John Street.

By Sault Tourism

Fall Rendezvous Festival, at the Ermatinger Clergue National Historic Site, is a 4-day event, hosted each September by the Friends of Ermatinger Clergue National Historic Site. The festival, this year occurring September 20th – 23rd, is a chance to immerse yourself in the history of the war of 1812 and the daily life of the early 1800’s, through a number of live reenactments including; canon and musket fire, Indigenous storytellers, workshops and more!

Keep reading to learn more about the Fall Rendezvous Festival.

Fall Rendezvous Festival

Four Days of Festival

The Fall Rendezvous Festival starts on Wednesday, September 20th and will run for four days until Saturday, September 23th, 2023. The event is open to the public, as well as for groups including School Groups, from 10am to 4pm for each day. 

Admission is by donation (pay what you can) and includes entrance to the Ermatinger Clergue National Historic Site heritage buildings and grounds, as well as interaction and knowledge sharing with 36 heritage performers including Francophone and Indigenous storytellers. See the Red Coats and the flash in the pan, smell the gunpowder as the muskets and cannons ignite, hear the drumming and our storytellers, taste Algoma Country’s culinary samplings. Immerse yourself!

Fall Rendezvous Festival
Fall Rendezvous Festival

Canon and Musket Firing

A fun part of the Fall Rendezvous Festival is the historical reenactments from the period surrounding the war of 1812. Restored canons and muskets from the era are fired at regular intervals throughout the festival, with groups of onlookers and spectators kept at a safe range. 🙂 

Expect the canon to fire every hour or more frequently when groups are on tours!

Fall Rendezvous Festival
Fall Rendezvous Festival

Heritage Performers & Activities

There are 36 heritage performers and exhibits present at the Festival. These include Coureur du Bois, Voyageurs, Métis, quill work, canoe building, drumming & Indigenous song, sacred plants and teachings – all in live performance! 

Saturday will also see the addition of the Algoma Maker’s Market, tasty local samplings from Hogan’s Homestead, Thinking Rock Community Arts, Beaver Tails food trailer and culinary arts by members of Buy Algoma, Buy Local.

The site is accessible with parking, boardwalks, washrooms and audio tours.

Festival Schedule

Check out the festival schedule below!

Wednesday to Friday

9am-4pm

  • Cannon firing every 15 minutes: 9am – 2pm, then again at 3pm and 4pm (talk and demonstrations)
  • Mini Militia – learn the drill of an 1812 soldier
  • Canoe building – the art of birch bark canoe
  • Meet the Voyageurs and the Coureur du Bois
  • Learn about the important linkage with Fort St. Joe
  • Indigenous Allies – drumming and sacred plants
  • Women of the Era – the clothing and their roles

Saturday

10am-4pm

  • Cannon firing on the hour from 10am – 4pm
  • Same great stations as Wednesday to Friday
  • Beaver Tails food trailer 11am – 3pm
  • Algoma Makers Market 10am – 4pm
  • Thinking Rock Community Arts 1pm – 4pm
  • Hogan’s Homestead maple tasting 1pm – 3pm
  • The Soup Witch
  • Centre Francophone

THE ERMATINGER CLERGUE
NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE

Fall Rendezvous Festival takes place on the grounds of the Ermatinger Clergue National Historic Site; where two of the oldest stone buildings in Ontario are Sault Ste. Marie’s only remains of the fur trade era, and home to the earliest European settlers. 

Learn about the war of 1812 through interactive displays, enjoy an audio tour to help guide you through the site. There is also a gift shop filled with local artisan products and memorabilia from Sault Ste. Marie. Read more about visiting Ermatinger Clergue National Historic Site here. 

Thanks to our Partners!

The Fall Rendezvous Festival is hosted by the Friends of Ermatinger National Historic Site and funded by the Government of Canada, the Government of Ontario and the City of Sault Ste. Marie. 

By Tourism Sault Ste. Marie

check out some of the best hiking trails in ontario

Sault Ste. Marie is the perfect place to visit if you want to enjoy some of the best hiking trail in Ontario. Incredible lookouts, magnificent waterfalls, the rugged Canadian Shield, important historical sites, and clean fresh air with just the sound of the wind in trees or waves on the shoreline… Here are eleven hikes in and around Sault Ste. Marie for you to enjoy. 

Hikes within Sault ste. Marie

If you are looking to stay within the city limits then check out these three great trails, perfect for a family hike or if you are looking for a less strenuous trail.  

1. The Hub Trail and Fort Creek
  • Length: 2km – 22.5km                          
  • Difficulty: Easy    
  • Must See: Bridges over Fort Creek Conservation Area

If you are looking for a family-friendly hike in Sault Ste. Marie, then the Hub Trail is perfect for you. The trail as a whole is 22.5km of paved path and wooden boardwalk that circles the city.

You can of course choose the section you want to hike and the Fort Creek section is a popular choice for many. The trail takes hikers over three picturesque bridges, where there are lots of opportunity to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the creek below as well as many opportunities to spot all the interesting creatures that live there. Keep an eye out for  hawks, great blue herons, and monarch butterflies. 

Visit this Hub Trail page for more information including a link to a complete map!

2. Attikamek trail and Whitefish Island
  • Length: 1km                          
  • Difficulty: Easy     
  • Must See: The St Marys River Rapids

Choose the Attikamek trail and Whitefish Island trail, part of Batchewana First Nation, for a beautiful and well paced hike within the city limits. Parking and trailhead is located at Sault Ste. Marie Canal National Historic Site and you can access the Island across the locks itself. 

Whitefish Island is a National Historic Site for Canada. It’s also a traditional territory and meeting ground of the Anishinaabe peoples of the Great Lakes due to the abundance of natural resources and fish in the St. Mary’s River. 

This site is complete with an easy to follow trail system marked with informational plaques explaining the importance and historical relevance of the island. These trails will lead you through nature preserves right to the historic fishery of the St. Marys River Rapids.  

3. The Voyageur Trail at the Hiawatha Highlands
  • Length: 20km                          
  • Difficulty: Easy to intermediate    
  • Must See: Crystal Falls

The Voyageur Trail is a public hiking trail consisting of almost 600km of wilderness style trails in Northern Ontario. The Hiawatha Loop (which goes past the stunning Crystal Falls), Odena Loop, Beaver Loop and Mabel Lake Loop make up around 20km of trails in this area.

Lots of information is available on the Voyageur Trail Association website here. With maps of the trails at Hiawatha here. In addition all the maps are available via the Ondago App.

Hikes within a one hour Drive of Sault Ste. Marie

These hikes are perfect for a day or half day of hiking and are within one hour’s drive of Sault Ste. Marie. 

4. Robertson Cliffs
  • Length: 4km – 7km                          
  • Difficulty: Intermediate    
  • Must See: Robertson Cliffs Lookout

This there-and-back trail through the beautiful maple forests of the Algoma Highlands takes you to one of best lookout hikes in Ontario. The trail begins at Robertson Cliffs Road and takes you to three incredible south and west facing lookouts. From there you can continue along and do the Robertson Cliffs Loop, passing a beautiful waterfall loop hike, or head back the way you came. 

The trails are owned and cared for by Algoma Highlands Conservancy, a not for profit organization that is run by local volunteers. To access maps of the trail system click here.

5. Eagle Ridge Lookout at Harmony Beach
  • Length: 3km                          
  • Difficulty: Intermediate    
  • Must See: Lookout over Harmony Beach

A 30 minute drive north of Sault Ste. Marie takes you to Harmony Beach, where you hike to a spectacular lookout, Eagle Ridge Lookout, overlooking Lake Superior. 

This moderate trail is part of the Voyageur Trail System, and maps are available online or as hard copies. Forest The Canoe run guided tours to the lookout, click here for more info!

6. Chippewa Falls 
  • Length: 1km-3km                          
  • Difficulty: Easy to intermediate    
  • Must See: The fall themselves

Chippewa Falls is a 35-minutes drive north of Sault Ste. Marie, parking and trailhead is right along the Trans Canada Hwy. The falls, which are visible from the highway itself, stand 25 feet high. 

The hiking trail offers an easy 2.5km hike to the upper falls, which starts in the parking area and follows the river upstream to the top of the main falls. The path continues alongside the river past the upper falls if you want to explore further.

Chippewa Falls are a stop on the Group of Seven driving tour – the falls and rapids rapids inspired A.Y Jackson’s sketch ‘Stream Bed’. Lookout for a ‘Moments of Algoma’ art easel at the trailhead with more information about the falls and the famous group of artists!

7. Rock Lake
  • Length: 5km                          
  • Difficulty: Intermediate    
  • Must See: The unusual smooth rocks overlooking the lake

An beautifully scenic drive east of the city through the Sylvan Valley, and just north of Bruce Mines, takes you to the Rock Lake trailhead. The Rock Lake trail is a offshoot from the Voyageur Trail system, and end up at a unique, smooth rock-top that feels like it should be inspiration for a Group of Seven painting. 

Theses smooth rocks face north and lookout over Rock Lake, with an array of maple forests beautifully surrounding it. 

8. Edmund Fitzgerald Lookout
  • Length: 13.5km                          
  • Difficulty: Intermediate    
  • Must See: Lookout over Pancake Bay

The Edmund Fitzgerald lookout trail is another trail with a spectacular lookout. This one overlooks Pancake Bay Provincial Park (in which the trail is situated), Lake Superior and even as far as place where the Edmund Fitzgerald ship tragically sunk in 1975.

The trail system has 3 hikes available; 6km, 10.5km and 13.5km, with the latter hikes taking you to waterfalls and the inland Tower Lakes. For further information click here.

Hikes To The Lake Superior Coast

If you are looking further afield and want to take in all that the Lake Superior coast has to offer, then consider these beautiful hikes. 

9. Agawa Rock Pictographs
  • Length: 1km                          
  • Difficulty: Difficult (slippery, steep steps)  
  • Must See: The Sacred Pictographs

At the south end of Lake Superior Provincial Park are the Agawa Rock Pictographs. A clearly marked sign on Highway 17 directs visitors to a parking area at the trail head – map coordinates here.

The Agawa Rock Pictographs is one of the most famous pictograph sites in Canada and is one of the most visited indigenous archaeological sites too. It is a sacred site where generations of Ojibwe have come to record dreams, visions and events. Please respect and preserve the pictographs by not touching the paintings.

10. Lake Superior Coastal Trail
  • Length: 65km                          
  • Difficulty: Difficult    
  • Must See: The Rugged Beauty of the Big Lake

For those seeking true adventure, consider this spectacular and rugged coastal trail. It extends from Agawa Bay in the south to Chalfant Cove just north of Warp Bay in the north and will give you a true experience of Lake Superior. Local experts recommend taking 5-6 days because many sections require climbing over rocky headlands and cobble beaches, which can be technically challenging and require a steady pace for safety.

There are various spots for beach camping along the trail; you’ll enjoy incredible coastal scenery during the day and perfectly dark starry skies from your beached-down tent at night.

11. Nokomis Trail
  • Length: 3.8km                          
  • Difficulty: Intermediate    
  • Must See: Lookout over Old Woman Bay

The Nokomis trail is a 3.8km  round-trip lookout hike to overlook Old Woman Bay, in Lake Superior Provincial Park. 

The trailhead is across the road from Old Woman Bay Beach parking, and the trail itself takes around 2 hours, with breaks to enjoy the incredible views!

Other Hikes

Sault Ste. Marie and the Algoma District have countless hiking trails. Others include Gros Cap, Wishart Park and Odena Lookout, all within the Sault Ste. Marie city limits. The Ojibway Park Nature Trail in Garden River, just to the east of Sault Ste. Marie, is a beautiful ~4km trail that includes a boardwalk out to a lookout area. King Mountain is a great hike and can be reached by continuing your route past Robertson Cliffs. The Orphan Lake trail, in Lake Superior Provincial Park is popular in the summer and fall. 

Do you have any other hikes in the area that you particularly enjoy? Tag us in your social media photos #outsideofexpected or our account handles @sault.ste.marie for Instagram and @saulttourism for Facebook. Happy hiking!

By Diana Lee @only1phoenixx 

Experience the great outdoors from a different perspective with Indigenous guides

Many of us that enjoy spending time in nature love learning more about the spaces we play in. Whether it’s learning about new paddling spots to launch from or about the wildlife we’ll see along the way, we outdoor enthusiasts typically want to get more out of our adventures!

When you go on an Indigenous-guided tour, be prepared to see, explore, and appreciate the lands and waters we play in from a different lens by recognizing and supporting Indigenous People’s deep connections with these spaces.

On a recent trip to Sault Ste. Marie in Algoma Country, home of the Anishinaabe since time immemorial, I spent some time with Thrive Tours, an Indigenous-owned and operated guided ecotourism company, and the experience went above and beyond a paddling tour.

As a non-Indigenous person, I’m always excited to learn more about our amazing province, country, and world. I’ve been lucky enough to join in on a few Indigenous travel adventures from Inuvik, Northwest Territories, to Puvirnituq, Quebec, and I’m happy to share a few highlights from my paddling trip and why you should plan your next adventure with an Indigenous-led tourism operator.  

1. Explore New Paddling Spots by Kayak, Canoe, SUP (or all the above!)

Whether you’re visiting Sault Ste. Marie (traditionally known as Baawaating), or a local, it’s always fun discovering new paddling spots in and around the city. As a stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) aficionado, I bring my paddleboard on all my road trips and travels. I was excited to learn I could BYO (bring your own) SUP for this Thrive Tours paddling adventure!

Paddling
Autumn always arrives early in Algoma Country! Paddlers get to admire the first splashes of fall foliage from their boat.

Our first stop was at Thrive Tours’ home base in the Soo, where I met the owners and operators, Amanda (Biimskoonkwaat) and Brad (Ozhaawashkwaa Animikii). Together, they adventure all year round, offering guided canoe, kayak, hiking, and snowshoeing while promoting and maintaining local Indigenous practices and philosophies.

After chatting about what we felt like doing – canoeing, kayaking, or stand-up paddleboarding (SUP), we packed up everything (yes, everything, haha!) We headed to Garden River, located in Garden River First Nation. I learned that this is a sacred area, and a guided tour is a great way to experience this waterway.

  • Tip – Thrive Tours welcomes all levels of paddlers with completely customizable excursions. Not into paddling? Thrive Tours also offers guided hiking and walking tours!

2. Learn About Traditional Practices

Before launching our boats and board, we began by offering Tobacco to the water, a sacred way to connect with all living things. Brad shared the importance of Semah, the Anishinaabemowin word for Tobacco, “when we place Tobacco in our left hand, it symbolizes the closeness of that medicine to our heart. When we transfer those good thoughts and meaningful intentions into the Semah and place it in the water, we connect with all our ancestors and creation itself.”

  • TIP – Don’t be afraid to ask questions – from your first emails with Amanda and Brad, along the paddle route, to your learning journey after your visit. Excursions like this offer endless opportunities for everyone to learn while adventuring 😊
Brad Robinson
Brad talking about the importance of Semah, the Anishinaabemowin word for Tobacco.

3. Wildlife Spotting

Seeing wildlife always sparks joy and the Thrive Tours team combined the sightings with Anishinaabe teachings right on the water. Seeing eagles, migizi in Anishinaabemowin, swooping down from the trees in front of us was incredibly special. Eagles also symbolize love, or zaagi’idiwin, as part of the 7 Grandfather teachings.

As we continued to paddle, the occasional splash of salmons jumping out of the water kept me excited about what we would see (and learn about) around the next bend of the meandering river. 

Stand up paddle board
Watching wildlife from my board while sitting inches above the water is always a special moment. Photo credit: Brad Robinson, Thrive Tours.

4. Fireside Chats and Snacks

When it was time to take a break, we enjoyed warming up by a mini campfire, with snacks and great conversations while sipping warm Cedar Tea.

Semah gathering

During this tour, I got to chat with Lucia Laford, a local Indigenous artist, educator and one of the Thrive Tour guides. Lucia leads a Paddle & Paint Woodland-style painting workshop where participants can create their own nature-inspired painting while out in nature! Lucia also teaches Anishinaabe Art and Material Practices at Algoma University.

“Woodland style is about visualizing the connection and relationships between people, animals, spirits, and nature. I paint my way of life, the Anishinaabe way, which includes ceremony and spirituality, but also my connection to the land and the plant, tree, and animal nations. In this way, my work is completely inspired by nature and the love and respect I feel towards Aki (the earth), Nibi (the water) and all things in creation.

The Paint & Paddle workshop is about connecting with yourself on the water and the land. Woodland art helps deepen that connection by exploring the relationships and personal kinship we have to life around us. We [Thrive Tours] helps facilitate the joy of being on the land and water, and we do so in a safe, respectful, and sustainable way. When paddling, we talk about the concepts in Woodland-style art while sharing Indigenous perspectives and teachings. Paddling and being able to touch the water and land that we are talking about serves as an incredible inspiration when painting!”

– Lucia Laford, Thrive Tour Guide, Woodland style painter and Indigenous Arts educator

Lucia Ford
Woodland style painter, Indigenous Arts educator, and one of the wonderful Thrive Tour guides, Lucia Laford.

5. Storytelling Through Song

For many Indigenous People, music was a way of storing ecological, ancestral, and traditional knowledge and teachings. Passing along that knowledge was often done through stories and songs.

Drum
Brad shares a song to the beat of the Grandmother drum.

The gentle current carried us along the river while Amanda and Brad, a powwow singer and member of the Black Bull Moose Singers, shared a few honour songs for women and all of creation. Lucia also shared a Water Song*. The lyrics and varied tempo beautifully represent and honour water – from fast-moving rapids to the steady slow flow of a river, like the Garden River we were floating along. We were all invited to sing along and celebrate being on the water. 

While I had no expectations for the tour and was open to going with the flow of Thrive Tours, the way we concluded our paddling adventure was incredibly moving. When I asked if they do this for every tour, Amanda explained, “while every experience [with Thrive Tours] unfolds uniquely, we consistently incorporate physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects. Every adventure includes cultural teachings, Indigenous food sharing, nature-based activities, and First Nations ceremonies.”

Paddling
Brad shares a song to the beat of the Grandmother drum.

Authentic Indigenous-led travel experiences can help share the stories, histories, and perspectives we don’t get to hear more often. What we can do as allies is to help support that by taking these tours and being open to learning. These excursions that combine outdoor recreation with learning education alongside an Indigenous guide lead to more consideration, respectful, responsible, and meaningful future adventures, whether we travel solo or with company. Travel experiences like this are a step towards taking us beyond land acknowledgements through active participation and ongoing learning, all while adventuring in the spirit and continuous practice of reconciliation.

  • TIP – Looking for a place to stay after your adventure? And paddling some more? Ojibway Park, located in Garden River First Nation (GRFN), has cute waterfront cabins and beach-side campsites (thanks Brad for the recommendation!)
Stand up paddle board
Brad shares a song to the beat of the Grandmother drum.

Thank you, Amanda, Brad, and Lucia, for the unforgettable time in Sault Ste. Marie. I look forward to seeing you again soon (hopefully in winter, my favourite season!)

Thrive Tours
https://www.thrivetours.ca/about

For more Indigenous-owned or led travel and adventure ideas:

 

Recommended resources and further reading:

 

Diana Lee lives for adventure, the great outdoors, and stand-up paddleboarding (SUP)! She is a certified ISA SUP Instructor, a librarian, and a reporter for Get Out There Magazine. Find out what she’SUP to @only1phoenixx on Instagram and Twitter.

From Powwows to Art and Places of Learning, Sault Ste. Marie is a city rich with Indigenous culture

Sault Ste. Marie is the perfect place to spend some time together as a family. Also referred to as Bawating, meaning “place of the rapids”, the area is rich in Indigenous culture and history. From the whir of excitement at a local powwow to the somber history of the residential school system, there is so much for you to learn and experience together in Sault Ste. Marie.

Here are 7 ways you can experience Indigenous culture in the Soo:

Go on a Learn to Powwow Tour

Whether you’ve been to a powwow before or want to experience one for the first time, you will love the Learn to Powwow Tour with Thrive Tours. Your tour guides will start you off with an introduction, covering powwow history and etiquette, and explain how you can engage in the celebration as a non-Indigenous person. You will also learn the significance of the music and about the different kinds of dances. After your powwow intro, you will join your guides for the spectacular Grand Entry where you’ll watch the dancers enter the circle in their regalia and listen as the drummers echo the heartbeat of Mother Earth. To complete your experience, make sure to try some food, explore the vendors and maybe even join in during an intertribal dance!

Powwow at Sault Ste. Marie
The Powwow Tour
Powwow at Sault Ste. Marie
Brad from Thrive Tours explaining Powwow customs
Powwow at Sault Ste. Marie
All are welcome at intertribal dances

See the Indigenous Art Murals

As you make your way through the buildings and streets of Sault Ste. Marie, you will notice the many large murals painted throughout the city. Many of the murals you’ll find here have been painted by local Indigenous artists. This display of artwork adds a splash of color and vibrancy to the city that everyone in the family will enjoy! Each June, during the Summer Moon Festival, you can watch new murals being painted around the Soo and experience many other Indigenous arts & culture workshops, exhibits and performances.

Explore Whitefish Island

Grab your bikes or walking shoes and spend some time exploring the Indigenous history of Whitefish Island. Whitefish Island is a territory of the Batchewana First Nation and a National Historic Site of Canada. Plaques located around the island provide information about the history and significance of the area, dating back hundreds of years. Once home to many, Whitefish Island was a significant site for fishing and trading throughout history. Now, the island is a popular birding location and the well-maintained trails and boardwalks allow visitors to easily access and enjoy nature.

Paddle on the St Marys River

Get out on the river in a kayak or canoe with Thrive Tours. Your adventure begins with acknowledging the history of the land and showing respect to the water by saying “Miigwetch”, which means “thank you”. Next, you will receive instruction on paddling and water safety before getting in your boat and setting off on the river. Boats, paddles and life jackets are available for both adults and children. While on the water, you will learn about the history of the area and you may even be treated to a traditional song sung by your tour guide.

Canoes for Conservation also offer interpretive tours of the St Marys river in their popular ‘big canoe’. Dip your paddle into the famous Whitefish Rapids at Bawating, one of the most significant cultural gathering places of the Anishinaabe People since time immemorial. These tours are popular with groups and families and expert guides provide a rich description of the area. 

Take a Residential School Tour

The Shingwauk Residential School in Sault Ste. Marie was operational from 1875 until 1970. Join Thrive Tours to see the residential school grounds and buildings, now part of the Algoma University campus, and learn about the residential school system. You will hear about the devastation the system had on the Indigenous people in the not-so-distant past and the inter-generational trauma affecting communities and families today. If you are touring with kids, information is shared in a truthful yet age-appropriate way. Learn about what is being done for healing and restoration and what you can do in this process as an ally.

Hike to See the Agawa Rock Pictographs

Take a beautiful drive along the Trans Canada Highway to see the Agawa Rock Pictographs in Lake Superior Provincial Park. Located about 1 hour North of Sault Ste. Marie, this 0.5km loop trail will take you right along the shore of Lake Superior to the Indigenous archaeological site where you can see sacred Ojibwe paintings dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries. The hike is rated as moderate, but some scrambling over rocks is required. To see the pictographs, you’ll need to walk out on a sloped rock shelf beside the lake. The views are definitely worth it, but please take caution as the rocks can be slippery!

Enjoy a Meal at Chummy’s Grill

After working up an appetite during your Sault Ste. Marie adventures, stop by Chummy’s Grill for a delicious meal. This local Indigenous-owned and operated family restaurant has a wide variety of delicious food available. The restaurant has a great kids menu and even has all-day breakfast (except Friday 4-8pm). While here, make sure you spend some time admiring the wood carvings located throughout the restaurant.

Now it’s time to get your family and come explore Bawating! With so many different ways to experience Indigenous culture in the Soo, you’ll want to keep coming back for more.

And read our blog post from summer 2021 about spending a day with the family in Sault Ste. Marie here!

By Sault Tourism

 

Sault Ste. Marie is the perfect destination from where to explore the beautiful Lake Superior Coast

What can you say about Lake Superior? It is wild, it is rugged, it is beautiful. It can be angry and violent, it can be calm with glassy water reflecting a perfectly clear blue sky. The sunsets can be some of most beautiful anywhere, and the maple forests that hug the coastline put on a fall colour display of bright reds, oranges and yellows so spectacular you’ll be telling your friends for years.

A drive along the coastline from Sault Ste. Marie will let you experience all of this. Get out of your car, RV or motorbike at any of the many stops along the way. Fill your camera up with countless shots of this beautiful coast. Visit in spring, summer, fall or winter for a different experience each season. Be inspired by the incredible Lake Superior coastal drive from Sault Ste. Marie.

Sawpit Bay
Highway 17 at Sawpit Bay. Photo by Colin Field
Sawpit Bay
Sawpit Bay in the fall. Photo by BrownVanLife
Lake Superior Coastal Drive
Click here for link to Google Maps

Haviland BaY

Driving north on highway 17 from Sault Ste. Marie, your first close up view of Lake Superior will be at Haviland Bay. Haviland is a small community with a public beach and a great eatery, the Havilland Shores Kitchen and Bar. As you drive through Haviland you’ll pass over a causeway, which offers spectacular views of the lake on one side, and rugged, forested hills of the Canadian Shield on the other. 

Haviland Bay
Haviland Bay. Photo by Elizabeth Rozario

Chippewa Falls

Continue driving north from Haviland and soon you’ll reach Chippewa Falls, the halfway point of Trans Canada Highway, highway 17. Chippewa Falls is also a significant spot on the Group of Seven driving tour, with the falls inspiring a number of famous paintings including “Streambed, Lake Superior Country”. and J.E.H. MacDonald’s ‘Batchewana Rapid‘.

The falls can be seen from the viewing bridge near the parking lot, or you can take a short hike alongside the waterfall. Please proceed with caution as trails can be challenging beside this fast moving water!

Chippewa Falls
Highway 17 and Chippewa Falls. Photo by Tony Felgueiras
Chippewa Falls
Chippewa Falls

Batchawana Bay and the Voyageur Lodge

Batchawana Bay, in Batchawana Bay Provincial Park, is another beautiful stop along the Superior coast. The 4km long sandy beach is the star of the show, with some of the warmest water in Lake Superior making it a popular spot for swimmers and beach goers. 

Stop by the Voyageur Lodge for some famous apple fritters, lunch, or a souvenir from the gift shop. 

Lake Superior Coastal Drive
Highway 17 at Batchewana Bay. Photo by Colin Field
Batchewana Bay
Batchewana Bay Beach
Voyageur Lodge
Voyageur Lodge
Voyageurs' Lodge and Cookhouse
Deli and coffeeshop
Voyageur Lodge
Giftshop

Pancake Bay, Agawa Crafts and the Canadian Carver

Just a few kilometers further along the highway from Batchawana you’ll reach Pancake Bay, Agawa Crafts and the Canadian Carver. Pancake Bay, also within a provincial park, is the perfect spot to get out, explore and stretch your legs if you wish. The beach is simply immaculate; 4km of perfect white sand and crystal clear water, great for swimming in and generally relaxing on. Then there is the Edmund Fitzgerald Lookout hike trail, a 2-3 hour round trip that takes you up to an incredible view of the Superior coast. You may even catch a glimpse of the resting place of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald, which tragically sunk during a November storm in 1975. 

Agawa and Crafts and the Canadian Carver is an impressive stop, with some beautiful one-of-a-kind carvings, painting and other crafts offering the perfect souvenir for visitors. 

Pancake Bay Beach
Pancake Bay Beach. Photo by Colin Field
Edmund Fitzgerald Lookout Trail
Edmund Fitzgerald Lookout
The Canadian Carver
The Canadian Carver
Agawa Crafts
Hand-made crafts
Agawa Crafts
One-of-a-kind carvings

Sawpit Bay and the Drive North

Continuing past Pancake Bay, highway 17 turns north again, and the coast leaves the relative shelter of Whitefish Bay. Now, more exposed to the westerly winds and storms of Superior, the shoreline becomes more rugged, more rocky but just as beautiful as further south. Sawpit Bay and the roadside Wilson Lake are perfect examples of the Superior coast’s fascinating landscape. 

Sawpit Bay
Sawpit Bay. Photo by Colin Field
Wilson Lake
Wilson Lake alongside highway 17

Alona Bay

Fifteen minutes north of Sawpit Bay lies Alona Bay, a beautifully rocky Lake Superior Beach. Alona Bay lies inside two of the additional, southerly parts of Lake Superior Provincial Park. A roadside rest-stop allows visitors to get out and enjoy the stunning scenic lookout across Alona Bay. 

Alona Bay
Sawpit Bay. Photo by Colin Field

Lake Superior Provincial Park Visitor Centre at Agawa Bay

Lake Superior Provincial Park Visitor Centre is located at the south end of ‘the Park’, as locals call it, roughly 90 minutes north of Sault Ste. Marie and just north of the Montreal River. The visitor centre is a great stopping point on the Superior coast, with lots of information about the area, paths to the beautiful Agawa Bay beach, helpful staff and a giftshop. The centre itself is filled with interactive displays that highlights the “Power of Lake Superior” as well as the park’s cultural history and natural ecosystems. You’ll also find a display about the Group of Seven, a replica lighthouse and more here. 

Lake Superior Visitor Cen
Lake Superior Provincial Park
Lake Superior Visitor Cen
The main entrance and information desk
Lake Superior Visitor Cen
Displays about the local ecosystems
Lake Superior Visitor Cen
A boardwalk to the beach
Lake Superior Visitor Cen
Agawa Bay beach
Group of Seven easel

Agawa Rock Pictographs

A short drive north from the visitor centre takes you to the Agawa Rock Pictographs. A clearly marked sign on the highway directs visitors to a parking area at the trail head – map coordinates here.

The Agawa Rock Pictographs is one of the most famous pictograph sites in Canada and is one of the most visited indigenous archaeological sites too. It is a sacred site where generations of Ojibwe have come to record dreams, visions and events. Please respect and preserve the pictographs by not touching the paintings.

The images visible today, include canoes and animals such as moose, deer, bear and caribou. The most recognizable painting consisting of a spined-horned animal said to be “Misshepezhieu”, or the Great Lynx, the spirit of the water. Read more about this important area here.

Guided Tours of the Superior Coast

Sault Ste. Marie has expert tour guides who can provide interpretive tours of the coast. Forest The Canoe operate a True North Adventure Bus in August and the fall months, and they also offer year round tours that can be tailored to visitor’s needs. Thrive Tours also offer tours of the local area including the Superior Coast, visit our Tours & Guides page for more information. 

True North Adventure Bus
Forest The Canoe
Explaining Powwow customs
Thrive Tours

The Lake Superior coast – something you have to explore. 

Lake Superior coastal drive
Photo by Colin Field