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The View Near Shot Watch Cove

Hiking the Coastal Trail in Pukaskwa – Day 4

If you’ve been following my adventures hiking in Pukaskwa National Park you would know that it had been a tough hike so far on the Coastal Trail. Fortunately on the fourth day we were able to make some serious progress.

Our plan for this day was to hike the Coastal Trail from Oiseau Bay to Willow River, a distance of 14.1 km. We got started at 9 AM but didn’t roll into camp until 6:40 PM. Still we were thrilled to have made it.

We woke to this scene on Day 4 on the Coastal Trail
We woke to this scene on Day 4 on the Coastal Trail
The scene looking south
The scene looking south
Into the woods right off the bat
Into the woods right off the bat
Hiking in Pukaskwa National Park -repeatedly through scenes like this
Hiking in Pukaskwa National Park -repeatedly through scenes like this

The hike to Fish Harbour

The Coastal trail on day 4 was a delightful mix of woods and shoreline. The highlight had to be the section leading towards Fish Harbour that takes you through a cleft in the rocks and deposits you on the Lake Superior shoreline. Here you have to scale a small cliff – which for us was no problem but it required a big lift up for the dog.

The next two photos show off the superb scenery on our way to Fish Harbour – just after we had scaled the cliff.

Classic Lake Superior shoreline
Classic Lake Superior shoreline
Our lunch spot beside these ponds
Our lunch spot beside these ponds

Morrison Harbour is in bear country

After lunch it was more woods walking until we reached Morrison Harbour. We had made reservations to stay at Morrison Harbour – for the night before no less – but in hindsight I’m glad we didn’t end up camping here.

It’s smack dab in the middle of bear country – and the one area where you are warned at the orientation session to be on the lookout for bears.

We had seen countless piles of bear scat before arriving at Morrison Harbour. I have never seen blueberries in such abundance as I did through here so it makes perfect sense that the bears love the area.

Pukaskwa National Park amazing blueberry bushes
Holy AMAZING blueberry bushes
We never saw any bears but we sure saw a lot of bear scat in this area
We never saw any bears but we sure saw a lot of bear scat in this area
We all ate several cups worth of wild blueberries
We all ate several cups worth of wild blueberries

The woods were often filled with moss like the one below. They were thick and dark too.

Even at midday it's dark in these woods
Even at midday it’s dark in these woods
Scenic section of coast near Morrison Harbour
Scenic section of coast near Morrison Harbour
Shot Watch Cove
Shot Watch Cove
The view near Shot Watch Cove
The view near Shot Watch Cove
More fun and games on these boulders ; we're off trail as we couldn't find the trail out of Shot Watch Cove but could see cairns leading into the woods in the distance
More fun and games on these boulders; we’re off trail as we couldn’t find the trail out of Shot Watch Cove but could see cairns leading into the woods in the distance
We startled this spruce grouse and she flew into the trees
We startled this spruce grouse and she flew into the trees
We only saw a few maple trees and what glorious colour
We only saw a few maple trees and what glorious colour
Slow hiking across an ancient lake bed
Slow hiking across an ancient lake bed

We’re so tired all we can think about is getting to a campsite

By late in the afternoon we were all bagged and starting to wonder when the bloody trail would ever come to an end. It seemed we were on a never ending obstacle course – lichen covered, ankle twisting lake bottom rocks, beaver dams, cobbles, slippery rocks along the shore – even rotting logs.

But the beauty of the place made up for it all. Really it did.

More rugged Lake Superior shoreline
More rugged Lake Superior shoreline
The trail takes you over a beaver dam and onto cool looking outcrop
The trail takes you over a beaver dam and onto cool looking outcrop
My friend Ted and his dog near the end of day four
My friend Ted and his dog near the end of day four

The last part of the walk to the Willow Creek campground

The last section of trail was a few kilometres of easy walking through the woods. Somehow I had missed the sign and trail that offers you an option to hike a longer coastal route on route to the Willow Creek campground.

So when we came to a trail intersection and I relayed where I thought we were to my friends, I instantly felt their spirits sag. Another kilometre and a half to go is what we thought – and it was 6:30 PM already.

In just a few minutes I realized I was wrong. I’d been thinking we might be further ahead than we were – just because of the length of time that had elapsed and the sense that something wasn’t fitting with the map.

When I saw the Willow River suspension bridge I almost collapsed to the ground to give thanks. From there it was an easy five minute walk to the Willow River campsite – probably the prettiest one we stayed at on the whole trail.

The suspension bridge across the Willow River
The suspension bridge across the Willow River
The view of the Willow River from the suspension bridge
The view of the Willow River from the suspension bridge
The dog was asleep within minutes of the tent being set up
The dog was asleep within minutes of the tent being set up

It’s cold camping by mid-September

We had our tents up in record time – and quickly threw on layers of warm clothes as it couldn’t have been more than 3 or 4°C by the time the sun went down. But with a fire going, and another good meal we ended the day feeling pretty darned pleased with ourselves.

The skies got more dramatic by the minute starting at 7 PM
The skies got more dramatic by the minute starting at 7 PM
Incredible sunset that changed by the minute
Incredible sunset that changed by the minute
One last sunset shot on the Coastal Trail
One last sunset shot on the Coastal Trail

Would you consider hiking the Coastal Trail after seeing these photos?

Further reading about hiking in Pukaskwa 

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

A difficult hike on the Coastal Trail in Pukaskwa National Park

 

 

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 30 Comments

    1. @Cindy It was an amazing day on the trail – no bugs, sunshine.. We stuffed our faces with blueberries and often the bushes would conveniently be at waist height as we went up the rocks. I’m sure the bears are on a circuit and hadn’t missed the fact that these were great patches.

  1. “Dogs in my experience aren’t fond of see through metal bridges.” I remember once doing an easy walk in Whitehorse many years ago where every time we got to a bridge we had to carry the dogs across! Dogs and bridges are not a good match.

    I would absolutely consider this hike. Looks like a wonderful couple of days.

  2. It is such a great feeling getting to the end during a grueling hike like this. I can feel your pain and the euphoria when you saw the bridge. I have felt that many times.

    Plentiful blueberries are your best defense against bears. When they have plenty to eat they will rarely mess with people.

    1. @Ted I wasn’t really worried about the bears on this trip especially as they don’t see a lot of humans. And you’re so right that all those blueberries keep them happy and well fed.
      I was such a happy camper when I saw that bridge and even happier 5 minutes later when we officially rolled into camp.

  3. I sure would, Leigh! Love the variety in the landscape, and all the color. That was a long hike, I could feel your relief on seeing that bridge. Even the dog was pooped!

  4. Great photos, Leigh. I love how diverse the terrain is in this park. Yet another reason why I need to get out to Eastern Canada one day.

  5. Of course I would love to go hiking there. The scenery is just breath-taking. I would be a little bit scared of crossing this bridge 🙂 looks unstable 🙂

  6. My wife and I have been anxiously for each of your daily posts and now especially the last day. We hiked from the park to the White river suspension bridge and back the first week of September. It was a big hike for us and we really felt it the next day. It is amazing how much the scenery changes in the different areas. We were very thankful for the nice walk through the pines by the bridge. Thanks for posting all the great pictures.

    Doug

    1. @Doug I’m working on the last day’s post now and as I look through my photos I really marvel at the diversity of the trail. It is a remarkable spot – and I thank you for stopping by to check out the posts.

  7. What a beautiful hike! I’d love to visit and hike the trail one day, though I think I need to begin with something less ambitious. Love that the dog was able to accompany you. He sure looks comfy in that tent.

    1. @Tonya The whole hike is definitely an undertaking but there are easy and truly beautiful walks that can be done in a few hours that still give you a great sense of how wild Lake Superior can be.

  8. Hi Leigh:
    If your readers are interested in doing the Pukaskwa Coastal trail as part of a guided hike we’ve one scheduled for August 9 – 16. Call us at 1-800-203-9092
    Regards, David

  9. Thank you for sharing this great post. I really enjoyed reading it; it’s very informative. keep up the great work!

  10. I had to Google to know where Pukaskwa NP is, but after seeing these pics… of course I’d love to hike there. It looks absolutely gorgeous!

  11. My fiancé and I were looking for a few day hike with our pup and I have see you hiking with yours! Where is the start of the trail at this park? How far did you go. The areas look quite cool. Would you know of other places we can hike with our dog over night I was looking more for a mountain hike but if we need to settle for a costal hike I would be okay with that.

    Thanks!

  12. Wow! I love this blog! The pictures are amazing. My boyfriend and I are taking our dog (a Newfie) backpacking in Lake Superior Provincial Park next week for four days. We’re hoping to do Pukaskwa at some point, but we’re working up to that as this will be our first backpacking experience. I was wondering if you have any advice for backpacking with a dog? Thank you 🙂

    1. @Ashley My friend’s dog carried a pack but it wasn’t too heavy. I bring a collapsible bowl with me – for water & food. On this trail expect even an in-shape dog to be very tired at day’s end. Don’t forget the treats.

  13. Backcountry hiking in Pukaskwa National Park is for hikers who have experience with difficult terrain. Visitors who wish to hike the Coastal Hiking Trail should have significant experience in overnight backpacking, while visitors hiking Mdaabii Miikna should come prepared with backpacking knowledge. Experienced group leaders cannot compensate for inexperienced hikers in their group. Hiking with a partner or in a small group is preferable. Maximum group size is 8 for private groups, 12 persons with a licensed outfitter.

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