Interested in seeing Agawa Falls – one of the highest waterfalls in Lake Superior Provincial Park that’s only accessible on foot?
While the hike to Agawa Falls is definitely a worthwhile outing – it would be easy to be put off attempting it as a day hike if you read the estimated hiking time in the Lake Superior Provincial Park Information Guide. The park brochure suggests 8 -14 hours to do the 24 kilometre return hike to Agawa Falls. Fortunately I spoke with a parks employee when I visited the Agawa Bay Campground who said she regularly did the return hike in six hours, including an hour at the falls. That comment changed everything for me!
How long does it take to hike to Agawa Falls?
I had figured on a solid 10 hours and was prepared to hit the trail at 7 AM but after the “intel” I received, John and I set out at 9 AM instead. We were able to knock off the trail in seven hours – and that included lots of stops for photos as well as a lunch time stop to enjoy the falls. So if you’re a fit hiker I think you can reasonably expect to be back at your car in eight hours tops. If you’re a slower hiker plan on a few more hours or consider the trail as a two day backpacking trip. (See below.)
What is the landscape along the Towab Trail?
The scenery along the Towab Trail is varied and includes everything from beautiful open forests, to river and canyon views to the pièce de résistance – the 25 metre (82 foot) Agawa Falls. And although you hear a train (the Agawa train?) part way into the hike, you never see it.
For the first four to five kilometres on the way to Burnt Rock Pool (an excellent swimming hole) it’s glorious hiking through open an forest filled with sugar maple, white pine and yellow birch. Once you reach the Agawa River the trail narrows and the hiking becomes more moderate in nature as you continue upstream beside the river. But it’s not until you start the ascent that the trail really gets your attention. That’s when you need to focus on footing because of all the steep ups and downs.
The most difficult section of the entire trail is the last 15 minutes from your first sighting of Agawa Falls through to the falls themselves. When you first seem the falls stop for a lunch break. This is the most scenic spot and once at the falls there isn’t much in the way of places to sit unless you actually go out to the rocks above the falls. I never feel comfortable recommending that – just in case you fall into the river.
On the return hike we met two people who had camped out along with our two friends. That was it for people over the entire hike. I understand many people opt do the hike to Burnt Rock Pool and call it a day. Early in the season our friends said the bugs can be ferocious here so don’t forget the bug spray.
We also carried bear spray but didn’t even come across bear scat. Still, it’s always a good idea to have it with you. If you’re lucky you might see a moose. The best we did for wildlife was a couple of squirrels. We thoroughly enjoyed doing this hike at the end of August but it would be absolutely breathtaking to do it once the fall colours are in full swing, towards late September.
The Backpacking – Camping Option
There is the option to backpack and camp along the Towab Trail. There are five or six (I lost count) first come, first served campsites along the river, with the second campsite you come to on the way to the falls the prettiest – at least in my opinion. There is also a campsite at the top of the falls, but it would be trickier to get water and the noise of the falls might keep you up at night. All campsites are some distance from each other so you have a sense of privacy once the day hikers have left. Backcountry camping permits are $10.17 per person.
Finding the trailhead for the Towab Trail
Take the well-signed Frater Road east off of Trans-Canada Highway 17, a few kilometres north of the turnoff to the Agawa Bay Visitor Centre. It’s only about a 10 minute drive from the Agawa Bay Campground, even though the stretch on Frater Road is dirt and potholed in places.
Further reading re: Lake Superior Provincial Park
Another excellent hike in Lake Superior Provincial Park is the Nokomis Trail.Read about our tough but fantastic backpacking experience on the absolutely stunning Coastal Trail in the park. For more information on Lake Superior Provincial Park or to book a campsite visit their website here.
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Thank you to Ontario Parks for hosting my visit.