Hiking the Nokomis Trail in Lake Superior Provincial Park is ideal for people that are either staying in Lake Superior Provincial Park – or for those who are driving through Ontario on the Trans-Canada Highway and need more than a walk on the beach for a break.
I did the Nokomis Trail hike one fall on the way back to Toronto, after a five day backpacking trip along the Coastal Trail in Pukaskwa National Park. It was the perfect length of hike to break up a drive.
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Nokomis Trail hike details
Distance: 5 km (3.1 mile) loop
Elevation gain: 152 metres or 499 feet
Time needed: 2 – 3 hours
Dogs allowed: Yes, on a leash
Fees: Day use fees are in effect. They are $12.25 for a vehicle in 2023 with a discount given to Ontario seniors. You can purchase a day pass online up to five days in advance of your trip starting at 7 AM.
High praise: Lonely Planet’s Discover Canada guidebook ranks the Nokomis Trail in the top five day hikes in the country.
Don’t forget: Always pack the 10 hiking essentials – even on short hikes like this one, and let someone know what trail you’re hiking and when you’re do out.
What you’ll see on the Nokomis Trail
The trail sits at an interesting intersection as it marks the abrupt change in the forest. North of the Old Woman River Valley the Boreal Forest is predominant; south is the deciduous Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Forest interspersed by boreal lowlands.
It’s particularly evident in the fall when the trees change colour to the south but remain green in the evergreen lowlands to the north.
Nokomis Trail hike description
The trail follows the Old Woman River Valley over ancient cobble stone beaches, remnants of an old lake bed. The rocks can be slick if wet here as they’re covered in moss and lichen. When you’re on the cobble stone beach look for the Pukaswka Pit, a circular depression made by aboriginal people and believed to be a spiritual site or shelter.
After a steep climb, about 30 minutes into the hike, the first of many viewpoints appears. Look out to Lake Superior and admire the cliff in Old Woman Bay that rises 200 m above the water. See if you can find the immortalized woman in the rock face.
She is thought to be Nokomis – grandmother of the Ojibway demi-god Nanabozho though others have called her La Vielle – Old Woman of the Wind.
Views in the fall, from the lookouts, are stunning with the hills to the south a palette of colours. Look down to the river where black bears can sometimes be seen along its edge.
Once you’ve reached the first lookout, the bulk of the climbing is done. Continue north, hiking past beautiful outcrops of granite to reach one overlook after another. At the high point the view is simply superb and on a clear day Lake Superior’s waters look very inviting to swim – though they’re not.
To complete the hike, descend on the well-marked trail through stunted red and jack pine trees, past beautiful lichen covered rock outcrops to a trail that parallels the highway. If there aren’t any cars, you can cross the highway and head for the beach. It’s a fitting end to the hike and a perfect place to enjoy a picnic.
This 5 km hike offers some of the best views in Lake Superior Provincial Park. Allow two to three hours to do the loop.
Finding the Nokomis trailhead
You’ll find the trailhead 200 km north of Sault Ste. Marie and 27 km south of Wawa. The Nokomis trail is located across the highway from a large parking lot at Old Woman Bay. You do have to pay for parking. It’s $7.50 for four hours of parking or $5.25 for two hours of parking.
All in all the Nokomis Trail is a great hike and a really good way to get some exercise when you’re driving along the Trans-Canada Highway.
Where to stay near the Nokomis Trail
There is excellent camping in Lake Superior Provincial Park. If you book early, you can score campsites overlooking Lake Superior. You can book campsites online. The online reservation system opens at 7:00 am, five months in advance of the first date of your trip.
Sault Ste. Marie
There are also lots of hotel options in Sault Ste. Marie.
The Microtel Inn & Suites has an indoor pool and fitness centre.
The Quattro Hotel & Conference Centre comes with a free breakfast.
The Water Tower Inn has an indoor pool and an onsite restaurant. I’ve had a comfortable stay here.
More reading related to travel in northern Ontario
- The Hike to Agawa Falls in Northern Ontario
- Mississagi Provincial Park: A Northern Ontario Gem
- A Challenging Hike on the Lake Superior Coastal Trail
- The Top of the Giant Hike in Northwest Ontario
- Kayaking Around Michipicoten Island in Lake Superior
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