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Hiking the Nokomis Trail, Lake Superior Provincial Park

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 on the Trans-Canada Highway and need more than a walk on the beach for a break. I did it last fall on the way back to Toronto, after my five day backpacking trip along the Coastal Trail in Pukaskwa National Park.

"Nice views of the Old Woman River"

Nice views of the Old Woman River

"Beautiful views within 40 minutes of hiking"

Big vistas within 25 minutes of hiking

The Nokomis Trail – what you’ll see

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.

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.

"garter snake on the Nokomis Trail"

A garter snake was the only wildlife I saw that caused me to jump

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 meters 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.

"The view to Old Woman Bay"

Old Woman Bay and Lake Superior on a calm day

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.

"At the top of the trail the views are spectacular"

At the top of the trail the views are spectacular

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.

"Much of the Nokomis Trail is through the woods but there are still peek a boo views"

Much of the trail is through the woods but there are still peek a boo views

This five kilometer hike offers some of the best views in Lake Superior Provincial Park. Allow two to three hours.

You’ll find the trailhead 200 kilometers north of  Sault Ste Marie and 27 kilometers south of Wawa, 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.

"The beach at Old Woman Bay"

The beach at Old Woman Bay

"I love the pebbles that make up this beach"

I love the pebbles that make up this beach

"Where the river empties into the lake"

Even the shallow water is on the chilly side

All in all the Nokomis Trail is a great hike and a really good way to break up the drive along the Trans-Canada Highway.

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Hiking the Nokomis Trail, Lake Superior Provincial Park

Leigh McAdam

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta
Follow me on FacebookTwitterInstagram and Pinterest

Join the discussion 23 Comments

  • Mike says:

    I liked the part, “a circular depression made by aboriginal people…” – very cool! These pictures, like virtually all of your’s, are the same as watching tv in HD, Leigh! Your garter snake photo didn’t display and I’m good with that seeing as I’m not a snake fan ha, ha :) I absolutely love to stop on a drive and take a spontaneous hike. You can find the most amazing, beautiful surprises that you would have otherwise never seen. Good post as always, our friend!

    • @Mike I’m curious as to why the snake didn’t display because I checked it and it was fine.
      There is one hike in the area to Agawa Falls that would be spectacular in the fall but none of us had that sort of energy after 5 solid, hard days of hiking.
      Thank you for your lovely comment.

  • cindy says:

    Hmm.. .. you keep posting all these gorgeous pictures from parks around Lake Superior. Maybe it is time I circle the big lake and check them out for myself! Thanks.

  • Looks like you picked a great spot for a hiking break and during a nice time of year, too. Love seeing the colors coming out. Interesting stories about the “Old Woman”. But, sorry I could make out her face on the rock face.

  • Muza-chan says:

    Beautiful photos…

  • I never thought of forests being divided. It’s been a long time since we’ve done a long drive, but hiking is a good option for stretching your legs. The scenery on this hike looks beautiful. Is it all covered in snow currently? I’d be running from that snake instead of taking a photo.

    • @Michele It’s because of the temperatures that the forests are divided. The area is under a ton of snow right now so it will be at least another month before the trail is open.

  • ben says:

    Hats off! You really good at getting pictures :D

  • Hi Leigh, wow, what a stunning hike to break your road trip. I’ve spent some time trying to figure out the face of Nakomis on the rock face but I couldn’t find it:( (It really piqued my interest bec there’s a similar story where I grew up in the Philippines). Thanks for taking me on another beautiful hike. Love that photo of the colorful pebbles.

  • Hubby says:

    The old woman’s face is clearest on the first, third last and last photos.
    She is looking up to the right on the right end of the treed ridge. She has a big nose and a protruding chin.

  • Jody R says:

    I had no idea Northern Ontario was this pretty. My parents grew up around there and always talked about it when I was growing up, but I just tuned them out. Now you’ve given me a reason to take another look.

  • Sinattletle1936 says:

    This place is too good for hiking. I wish I could go there. I think I am flying high as I am dreaming about it now!

  • Dan Stelmach says:

    I believe the best time to walk the Nokomis trail is towards the end of Sept. At this time the leaves are mostly all changed. From the top of the trail, Looking south you see all of the colours of the maple, yellow birch, mountain ash, etc. – reds, oranges and yellows (Great Lakes/St. Lawrence forest. Looking north the overwhelming colour is the yellows of the white birch and poplar (Boreal Forest). It is very distinct from this view. I don’t know where else you would see this.

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