Algoma Country is an area of Northern Ontario I’ve passed by numerous times on our way back to Ontario from Alberta or Winnipeg, but I’ve never had a chance to explore the area. Now that we took our time to enjoy the area, its becoming one of my favourite area in Northern Ontario. On foot or grabbing your dirt bike for a long adventure, many of the hiking trails in Algoma County leads to beautiful panoramic views from mountain tops and serene lookouts, providing peaceful solitude away from the hustle and bustle of noisy urban life.
This summer, what with everything being closed other than stores and restaurants, we thought it was the perfect time to really explore the beauty of Northern Ontario. To indulge in simple pleasures like sharing a picnic lunch on flat rocks among the soothing sound of flowing river and waterfall, or moss-viewing of gigantic maple tree wrapped in luminous deep green carpets. We didn’t want to do long trails which would take us the whole day as we wanted to fit in morning fishing and kayaking, so we decided on trails which would take us lesser than 5 hours to complete.
So here it is. These are 6 incredible short hikes in Algoma County that can be completed in half a day, are great for beginners and would still delight more avid hikers.
Agawa Rock Pictographs
This Agawa site is one of the most visited indigenous archaeological sites in Canada, which features the famous pictograph made by Anishinaabe shamans from the 17th and 18th centuries. Located in Agawa Bay, within Lake Superior Provincial Park, it is easily accessible from highway 17, just 135km north of Sault Ste Marie.
The trail leading to the Pictographs is short, rocky and possibly strenuous for new hikers who are used to more even footings. At a couple of location on the side sites, as you head towards the pictograph, you’ll see warning signs which you should take very seriously –no one should be walking on that slippery angled edge during rough weather as there have been a few who were swept away doing so.
The trail passes through rock chasms, broken boulders and cliffs until you reach a rocky ledge to view the pictographs. The pictographs can only be accessed when the lake is calm, and even so, one should be careful due to the unpredictable nature of Lake Superior’s waves.
Aubrey Falls Provincial Park
An impressively majestic but isolated waterfall, Aubrey Falls is one of the largest waterfalls in the Lake Huron watershed. However, during my visit, the flow was low and reduced to only one small section. But since there were no water flows in the other section, you can really appreciate the beauty of the high cliffs and surrounding trees.
Because the flow was so low, you’re able to see the full view of the tall gorge unobstructed. From the bridge you can see the different islands formed by the waterfall and the large flowing river, surrounded by rocks and cliffs. The base of the falls seems very accessible, however, I did not make the trek. This is a very isolated area, and I realized then that I just wasn’t that adventurous. However, I can see more adventurous hiker venturing to the river area below the bridge. However, water levels may change unexpectedly due to the dam.
The drive to Aubrey Falls is winding but scenic with lots of nice views of the Mississagi River Valley. It is a lonely drive and will take at least two hours from Sault Ste Marie. There is no civilization along the way, so make sure your gas tank is full before making the trip. We did not see a single car on the drive to Aubrey Falls from Sault Ste Marie, so yes, it is a very isolated location. The park consists of just the falls, a small parking area and a pit toilet.
Beaver Falls is a somewhat hidden roadside waterfall. It is located about 8km north of Northland Lake on the south side of Highway 556. The greenery are quite overgrown so the fall is not noticeable from the highway anymore. When we were there about a month ago, the entrance was under construction and there were no signage. So this is a pretty remote roadside waterfall as there is not much out there except some homes, cottages and plenty of beautiful flora and fauna that seem to have taken over the hiking paths.
The waterfall is a result of the creek tumbling into the gorge of the Goulais River. The falls consists of several drops, the highest of which is mostly obscured by the forest. It is a short 10 – 20 minutes walk to the fall. Once you cross the dilapidated shed, you can hear the waterfall. There is a house hidden up in the trees to the left of the waterfall which I will presume may be the owner since this may be private property from what I heard. Although it is not confirmed as there is no signage.
The creek flows under the highway through a culvert and into the Goulais River which is visible from the road. Over the years, the Goulais River carved out quite an impressive gorge, making for a very scenic drive on Highway 556.
For the non-adventurous, Crystal Falls is another short hike in Algoma County that is easy to conquer. Located in Hiawatha Highlands Park (aka Kinsmen Park), it is a short 10 – 20 minute walk on sturdy boardwalk and wooden staircase will lead you to the waterfall that is about 50 feet high. I love the construction of the boardwalk here because it somehow assimilates with the path of nature and doesn’t seem obtrusive as other boardwalks I’ve seen.
It is hard to see the full fall, so there are two observation platforms to view the bottom, middle and top portion of the fall. You could also clamber up along side the falls on paved paths to get different views/angles of the fall. There is a bridge at the top of the waterfall that is part of the Voyageur Trail. Although this fall is located just minutes from the city, it is remarkably rugged, serene and calming.
Pinguisibi Trailhead (Sand River Trail)
A favourite among fishing enthusiast, nature lovers or photographers, the Pinguisibi Trail is a short 6km hike along the Sand River which tumbles towards Lake Superior in a series of majestic waterfalls, cascades and rapids. Surrounded by a wide range of northern tree species; from black spruce and pines to southern hardwoods covered in thick green mosses of varying types, the range of flora and fauna here is amazing.
This is the only trail that begins with a waterfall rushing towards the river mouth, and as you continue onward you are amazed by the sheer volume of water rushing over the basalt and gneiss creating many rapids, cascades and rocky swim-holes where one could relax, take a break and swim on a hot summer day.
The trail follows the river and if you continue a bit further up, you will reach a back-country campsite for overnight canoeists. So although this is a short and easy hike, there are opportunities for more avid hikers or someone looking for a longer adventure.
Magpie Falls, also known as High Falls is a scenic fall just south of Wawa, off of Highway 17. This is a hike that is hard to miss as there are signs for “Scenic High Falls” on the highway and at the gas station nearby. A 1.5 mile gravel road, paved through a blueberry farm, will lead you to the parking area, a nice picnic spot with plenty of benches and a viewing area of the wide and impressive waterfall.
You could get right down to the base of the falls, but when we were there, the trail was closed off. Hopefully the trail will open up soon as I really want to explore the bottom of this very picturesque and large waterfall. Hopefully, I can get back to this area to explore more of the nature as i would imagine it would be beautiful in the fall.