By Sault Tourism
From the stunning Lake Superior coast to the rugged mountains of the Canadian Shield, Sault Ste. Marie has easy access to a vast network of hiking trails. Our mixed hardwood and conifer forests provide a vibrant canopy of colour in the summer and fall months, and are starkly beautiful and perfectly quiet in winter.
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.
This there-and-back trail in the Algoma Highlands takes you past one of best lookout hikes in Ontario, on the way to one of the higher mountains in Ontario. The trail begins at Robertson Cliffs road and takes you to three incredible south and west facing lookouts. From there you head through beautiful maple forests of the Algoma Highlands to King Mountain.
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.
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.
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.
Nestled between the Great Lakes, Sault Ste. Marie has wild rivers, majestic channels, hidden coves, stunning waterfalls and, of course, more freshwater lakes than you could ever count. Here are 4 mouthwatering paddling routes to wet your appetite.
There are a number of entry points to the river including Pine St. Marina, Bondar Marina and the Waterfront Adventure Centre (which has rentals). A paddle west will take you to the historic canal, rapids and International Bridge. East will take you towards Bellevue Park and Topsail Island. Keep an eye out for the formidable Lake Superior ‘Lakers’ who use this waterway daily.
Lake Superior is a huge draw for paddlers, and the Water Trail maps out the 1,000km Canadian route from the Bobbi Bennett Memorial Park in Gros Cap to Lorne Allard Fisherman’s Park in Thunder Bay. Paddling west from Gros Cap’s entry point provides an immediate glimpse of Lake Superior’s rugged shoreline; you’ll see spectacular cliffs, gravel beaches and a vast, open horizon along the 10-km section to Red Rock.
A backcountry paddler’s dream; 70km of winding river from Witchdoctor Lake in the heart of Algoma to Lake Superior’s Goulais Bay just north of Sault Ste. Marie. The full route can take up to 5 days with numerous portages to get past some pretty lively waterfalls. A logging road leads to the Witchdoctor Lake, though there are of course many other entry points. For a half day paddle consider starting at Mountain View Lodge and paddling to Kirby’s Corner in Goulais. This section includes Class I and II rapids, as well as plenty of swift water, making it suitable for novice whitewater paddlers. Paddling in spring or fall is best when water levels are high.
The Jarvis Circle Route is a perfect inland-lake paddling route, and with all the shore-lined maple trees, a great route to paddle in the fall. The full loop is 30km long, with fifteen rugged portages along the way varying from 50 to 750 metres. You start and end at Northland Lake then take a clockwise or anticlockwise route through numerous small lakes including Jarvis, Reserve and Clearwater.
Check out this great video below:
Sault Ste. Marie has world-class mountain biking trails on newly machine-built flow trails as well as challenging cross country climbs over the Canadian Shield. For gravel riders we have flat open gravel roads where you can burn through the kilometres while enjoying picturesque Northern Ontario countryside.
More than 40km, over three unique systems; Crystal, Red Pine and Pinder. A mix of newly machine built trails, and older traditional single-track trails, alongside (and over) beautiful creeks, waterfalls and towering forests. Trails are available for all skill levels, plus there is a new skills park!
Get all the info including trail maps and videos on our Mountain Bike page here.
This 7km out-and-back trail through the stunning Canadian Shield will take you to the beautiful Farmer Lake. Navigate the technically challenging Climb to Canyon section, climbing almost 50 metres, then take on the many berms and hairpin turns of Farmer Lake trail. On the way back advanced riders may want to test their skills on the new Crazy Train trail; an adventurous and aptly named downhill trail which has enough vertical to keep any adrenalin junky interested.
Just east of the city is the relatively flat and fertile Sylvan Valley, with almost endless kilometers of picturesque and winding gravel and backcountry roads. One popular day ride, at around 140km is the Rock Lake loop. The route threads through Sylvan Valley road, south along McCarrel Lake, circles Otter Lake then back north past Rock Lake, before returning to Sault Ste. Marie. Of course, Google maps and the many plan-your-route apps means you can tailor any version of this route to your own tastes.
Sault Ste. Marie has expert guides to help you get the most out of your adventure. Visit our Tours & Guides page for more info.
Needing to get outfitted? We have plenty of stores with the latest and best equipment to help you out. Visit our Outfitters page for more info.
By Tourism Sault Ste. Marie
Forest The Canoe are offering a variety of guided tours to see some of the best fall colours in Ontario. The True North Adventure Bus has full day, morning and evening guided tours running in September and October.
Witness the stunning fall colours you’ve seen on Instagram. Paddle beautiful inland lakes. Hike up the iconic Robertson Cliffs to witness a stunning vista of autumn colours that stretch as far as Lake Superior.
Contact experienced tour guides Forest The Canoe to see some of the most beautiful fall colours in Ontario. Ride the True North Adventure Bus this fall, with daily tours departing from Sault Ste. Marie.
Four fall colour tours are offered on the True North Adventure Bus, each a truly unique adventure, and a each chance to see and explore a different part of Northern Ontario. Tours last a full day, a morning or an evening with pick ups from local hotels in Sault Ste. Marie throughout the day.
Sit back and enjoy the drive, that’s all you’ll have to do with the True North Adventure Bus. Expert, certified tour guides Ryan and Shana provide informative narration to help you get the most of your experience. Enjoy your day with all the quality equipment and safety information you will need.
By Conor Mihell
It’s no surprise that a community located in the heart of the Great Lakes would embrace all forms of paddlesports. Not only is Sault Ste. Marie the gateway city for some of the best coastal sea kayaking and wilderness canoeing in Canada, it also boasts amazing options for paddling minutes from downtown. Regardless if you’re passionate about standup paddleboarding, canoe tripping, sea kayaking, whitewater or recreational kayaking, there’s something for you in Sault Ste. Marie.
The Sault College Waterfront Adventure Centre is a community hub on the shore of the St. Marys River. Not only does the gorgeous facility feature a cafe with amazing views, the Waterfront Adventure Centre rents canoes, kayaks and standup paddleboards to explore the historic waterway that has always been central to Sault Ste. Marie’s raison d’etre. Evening is the best time of day for a paddleboard tour on the St. Marys River. Head east (downstream), past the Pine Street Marina, hugging the shore to appreciate the wildlife-rich wetlands of Bellevue Park, watching for ducks, mink and beaver. Rounding the isthmus of Topsail Island provides a new perspective on the city’s most popular park. If you time it right you’ll be graced with a spectacular sunset over the International Bridge on your way back.
Thrive Tours, a local Indigenous nature-based tour operator, offers guided canoe trips from the Waterfront Adventure Centre. These beginner-friendly outings share the full story of how the St. Marys River has supported life since time immemorial.
A downriver trip on the Goulais River, located just north of Sault Ste. Marie, is a springtime rite of passage for whitewater paddlers. This section of river requires high water, and the section from Mountainview Lodge on Highway 556 to the Highway 552 bridge can be done in as little as 4 hours thanks to a steady current. It’s best to make it a day trip to enjoy the Goulais’s soaring, pine-clad hills and great wildlife, including moose, waterfowl and beaver. This section includes Class I and II rapids, as well as plenty of swift water, making it suitable for novice whitewater paddlers–just make sure you travel with companions and dress for cold water temperatures. Stay at the nearby Bellevue Valley Lodge and pack a lunch to enjoy on one of the Goulais’s many gravel bars. As water levels decrease in late May and early June this section is great for anglers, with abundant walleye and smallmouth bass, as well as the possibility of rainbow- and brook trout.
Forest the Canoe offer guided nature tours on the lakes and rivers in the area, as well as on Lake Superior.
You won’t find a more remote–and picture perfect–retreat than Norm’s Cabin, tucked away in the Precambrian hills of the Algoma Highlands, north of Sault Ste. Marie. This off-grid cabin is located in Goulais River, a half-hour drive north of Sault Ste. Marie, and is accessible only by food or mountain bike. Rental comes with access to a canoe, and the freedom to explore gem-like lakes atop the rooftop of Ontario. Norm’s is popular for couples, families and getaways with friends. Contact Blaq Bear Eco Adventure Routes to plan your stay.
The hamlet of Gros Cap at the end of Highway 550, only 20 minutes west of Sault Ste. Marie, marks the eastern terminus of Lake Superior. An official launch on the Lake Superior Water Trail (a segment of the Trans Canada Trail) includes an accessibility dock, outhouses, picnic area and kayak storage locker. Paddling west provides an immediate glimpse of Lake Superior’s rugged shoreline: you’ll encounter spectacular cliffs, gravel beaches and a vast, open horizon along the 10-km section to Red Rock. Be sure to check the weather conditions in advance; this exposed stretch of shoreline is suitable for experienced paddlers only, with sea kayaks, sprayskirts and safety gear to mitigate the risk of cold water.
Central Algoma is a bucolic landscape of maple, oak and pine forests and small inland lakes, just east of Sault Ste. Marie. There are several public parks accessible via Highway 638, a quiet secondary route between Echo Bay and Bruce Mines, with great options for canoeing and recreational kayaking on calm and sheltered water. Visit Old Mill Beach Park on Rock Lake to discover a family-friendly waterfront for swimming and quiet paddling at the mouth of the meandering Thessalon River; this area is especially attractive to birders and naturalists, with a wide variety of song- and shorebirds and aquatic mammals. The Central Algoma Freshwater Coalition has produced an adventure map highlighting paddling and other outdoor activities throughout the region.
It’s amazing to discover a quiet, scenic, wilderness canoe route on Crown land barely 30 minutes from downtown Sault Ste. Marie. The Jarvis Circle Route is a perfect long-weekend getaway for novice and intermediate paddlers. The journey begins at a small public launch on Northland Lake, located off of Highway 556. A series of rugged portages (watch for discrete yellow signs to mark most) links nearly a dozen secluded lakes with many options for primitive camping, including Jarvis, Reserve and Crooked lakes—all of which boast excellent fishing for trout. This is a great area to practice your canoe tripping skills and get a taste of the wilderness of Northern Ontario.
For more information about paddling in Sault Ste. Marie, visit our Watersport page. For information about paddling in Algoma Country click here!
By Conor Mihell
With water all around, Sault Ste. Marie is one of the best places in Ontario to go paddling. The city is located in the heart of the Great Lakes, with pristine freshwater coastlines, wilderness lakes and rivers located within easy access. Great Lakes Superior and Huron offer some of the best sea kayaking in the world; the St. Mary’s River is a scenic and historic waterway flowing right through downtown; and Lake Superior Provincial Park offers excellent canoe tripping, backcountry angling opportunities and rugged Canadian Shield scenery. Whether you love sea kayaking, canoeing or standup paddle boarding, Sault Ste. Marie is an amazing destination for an Ontario paddling trip.
The Lake Superior Watershed Conservancy offers guided big canoe tours on the St. Mary’s River in downtown Sault Ste. Marie. No previous paddling experience is necessary to join a group tour in a safe and stable 26- or 36-foot canoe. Veteran paddlers will also relish the opportunity to step back in time and experience the watercraft used in the Canadian fur trade. Interpretive guides will share stories about the St. Mary’s River’s rich cultural history and wildlife. Group bookings are available for 1.5-, 2- and 3-hour tours.
Based just north of Sault Ste. Marie in Goulais River, Forest The Canoe provides guided interpretive in Lake Superior Provincial Park. This brand-new outfitter focuses on small-group tours that reveal the wonders of nature in Northern Ontario. You don’t have to be a veteran paddler to participate. Forest The Canoe provides inclusive wilderness programs for families and beginners, as well as rentals and logistical support for more experienced paddlers.
Naturally Superior Adventures in Wawa has offered guided sea kayak trips and certified instruction since 1994. The company specializes in Lake Superior sea kayak trips for all experience levels. Multi-day wilderness tours are offered in Lake Superior Provincial Park and Pukaskwa National Park—world-class sea kayak destinations located within a short drive of Sault Ste. Marie. The company also offers accommodations on Lake Superior, vehicle shuttles and canoe, kayak and paddleboard rentals.
Indigenous owned and operated Thrive Tours Thrive Tours offers land-based experiences in the Sault Ste. Marie region that are designed to connect people with each other and Mother Earth’s offerings with respect for the land, water, and all living things.
Looking for a quick paddling trip in Sault Ste. Marie? Check out the Sault College Waterfront Adventure Centre on the St. Marys River. You can rent a canoe, kayak or standup paddleboard to explore the shoreline and get a new perspective of the city. Enjoy a coffee and baked snack when you’re done on the waterfront patio.
Joe’s Sports is a locally owned Sault Ste. Marie outdoor store that has recently invested in a fleet of canoes, sea kayaks and standup paddleboards with a plan to be able offer rental in 2022. Experienced paddlers can rent gear and set off on their own adventure, near or far.
Bring your canoe or kayak down to this new public dock! Complete with accessible transfer system, this new feature to the Sault Ste. Marie waterfront is located in Bellevue Marina and features user friendly technology suitable for all skill levels. The location is connected to a paved path leading from the car park for greater accessibility.
Standup paddleboards can use it too, just off to the side. Click on this link to view the facebook post, see more photos and join in the discussion!
By Conor Mihell
Put these routes on your canoeing bucket list
From half-day jaunts to wilderness expeditions, these rivers offer the very best canoeing, fishing, and rapids in Ontario.
Ontario has some of the best river canoe trips in the world. I’m especially fond of the wild rivers in Northern Ontario. As an avid backcountry canoeist, I sometimes worry that my bucket list may exceed my longevity. Here is a collection of eleven of my personal favourites in Northern Ontario.
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By Peter Greve
Take a canoe trip along the St. Marys River in Sault Ste. Marie
Water runs through us, around us, and in our homes. Love water. Respect water. Take care of it. Experience all this and more on the St. Marys River, a great place to go canoeing in Northern Ontario.
We are freshwater people. People of gaaming and people of ziibi. Water runs through us, around us, and in our homes. Water breaks before we enter the world. The Anishinaabe (original people) have many words for nibi, because it can mean many things to life.
In English, we have one word for water. Freshwater is sacred. It is something worth protecting. When the McGuffins, a charismatic, conservation-oriented canoeing couple, travelled the thousands of kilometres of Lake Superior shoreline, they also carried an important message: Love water. Respect water. Take care of it.
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