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Hiking the Southern Headland Trail, Pukaskwa National Park

Southern Headland Trail Hike in Pukaskwa

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A hike on the Southern Headland Trail is just what three of us and a dog needed after being cooped up in a car for seven hours. We’d driven from Espanola, west of Sudbury through Wawa to arrive in Pukaskwa National Park, a little known park that boasts dramatic Lake Superior scenery. We were in the park for another reason – to backpack the phenomenal, add it to your bucket-list, Coastal Trail.

After completing the required orientation for the Coastal Trail, we headed off to locate the dock where our boat shuttle would pick us up the next morning. Adjacent to it was the trailhead for the Southern Headland Trail. Since it was a beautiful day and the hike was short – a mere 2.2 km we thought it would be a good warm-up for the rest of the week plus it would get rid of the kinks from sitting for so long.

Views from the Southern Headland Trail, Pukaskwa National Park
The start of the views on the Southern Headland Trail, Pukaskwa National Park
Sheltered cove with a pretty beach - though the water is bloody cold
Sheltered cove with a pretty beach – though the water is bloody cold
The hiking is glorious
The hiking is glorious
Even the hiking through the woods is lovely
Even the hiking through the woods is lovely

Southern Headland Trail delivers superb Lake Superior scenery

The scenery as you can see is divine. This short hike is rated by the park as moderate, but compared to the Coastal Trail it was like an easy walk in the park.

There were boardwalks in places and signage was excellent. With stiff winds, bugs were never an issue either – and they definitely can be, especially early in the hiking season.

Lake Superior is covered in white caps
Lake Superior is covered in white caps
The rocks around Lake Superior are some of the oldest in the world
The rocks around Lake Superior are some of the oldest in the world
Inuksuk overlooking Lake Superior
Inuksuk overlooking Lake Superior
Looking down on the beach at Horseshoe Bay from the Southern Headland trail
Looking down on the beach at Horseshoe Bay
Horseshoe Beach on Lake Superior
Horseshoe Beach on Lake Superior

There is one other short hike nearby that takes you out to another headland and there’s a walk around Halfway Lake via the beach or a campground as well.

Pukaskwa National Park doesn’t see a lot of visitors because of its’ remote location – roughly 1,100 km northwest of Toronto and 320 km east of Thunder Bay. With its beautiful beaches and rugged lake-shore scenery, it ranks right up there as one of Canada’s great national parks.

If you’ve got a long drive planned across Canada, a visit to Pukaskwa National Park is one side trip worth doing. It doesn’t take long to drive in from the Trans-Canada Highway, perhaps 20 minutes if I remember correctly, maybe less.

So take a few hours to stretch your legs, hike the beautiful Southern Headland Trail and enjoy a picnic on the beach. You’ll be very happy you did.

Further reading on hiking in northern Ontario

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Southern Headland Trail, Pukaskwa National Park

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