A hiker stops to enjoy the view over a lake from a lookout point on a trail.

Pukaskwa Provincial Park | Conon Mihell

Bucket list hiking trails in Ontario

A hiker stops to enjoy the view over a lake from a lookout point on a trail.

Pukaskwa Provincial Park | Conon Mihell

With amazing views of inland seas, cascading waterfalls and pristine forests, there’s something for everyone in this list of the best hiking trails in Ontario.

Northwest Ontario

Climb the Sleeping Giant

When it comes to the best hikes in Thunder Bay, Sleeping Giant Provincial Park wins hands down.

The park has over 100 kilometres of trails, including the 22-kilometre trek to the top of the Giant. This challenging, full-day hike comes with an incredible reward: scenic views of Lake Superior from the top of Ontario’s tallest cliffs.

The park is located about an hour’s drive east of Thunder Bay. Pick up a day use permit at the Marie Louise Lake campground and continue down Highway 587 to the South Kabeyun trailhead, at the small community of Silver Islet. The trail starts easy along Lake Superior, with points of interest like the Sea Lion rock arch and the sheltered waters of Tee Harbour and Lehtinen’s Bay. It’s all uphill from here, eventually arriving at a huge balcony of flat rock, the chest of the Sleeping Giant and one of Canada’s most recognizable landmarks.

More Sleeping Giant adventures:

  • Thunder Bay-based Sail Superior offers half- and full-day sailboat and Zodiac powerboat trips for a unique perspective of the Sleeping Giant

Hike the inland sea in Nipigon

The Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area is the largest expanse of protected freshwater in the world, and landlubbers can get a sense of its immensity on the Nipigon River Recreational Trail. This one-way, 10-kilometre-long trail connects the communities of Nipigon and Red Rock, less than a 90-minute drive on the Trans-Canada Highway east of Thunder Bay.

Starting from Red Rock, the trail ascends through lush, mossy boreal forest where you can spot northern birds like Canada jays and spruce grouse. Ridgetop lookouts provide panoramic views of the islands and open waters of Nipigon Bay. Finally, the trail descends to the mouth of the Nipigon River, where back bays host handsome wood ducks, chattering kingfishers, busybody sandpipers and playful otters.

Check out these local attractions:

A Coastal trek to the White River Suspension Bridge

Pukaskwa National Park is known for its hard-core, 60-kilometre-long coastal backpacking trail.

But it’s also home to some of Ontario’s best hikes that are less challenging. Easy, family-friendly trails ascend headlands and visit pristine beaches near the park campground at Hattie Cove, about 15 minutes off the Trans-Canada Highway near Marathon.

Those looking for a full-day adventure can make an 18-kilometre out-and-back to the White River, along the Coastal Trail. This well-marked hike includes a boardwalk along the wetlands of Hattie Cove and a perfect lunch spot at the sheltered, turquoise waters of Playter Harbour. The trail’s main attraction will make your knees quake: a swaying suspension bridge, soaring over 20 metres above a rushing cascade on the White River.

Check out these other Pukaskwa points of interest:

  • Pukaskwa’s Hattie Cove campground is noted for its spacious and private sites for tents and trailers alike. Up the luxury by booking one of the park’s unique oTentik cabin tents
  • Looking for a backcountry challenge? The White River Suspension Bridge is a short jaunt from Pukaskwa’s Mdaabi Miikna (“to the shore”) trail, a 24-kilometre loop with scenic Lake Superior campsites that’s perfect for an overnight or long-weekend backpacking trip   

Sault Ste. Marie and Algoma

Woods, waterfalls and beaches on the Orphan Lake Trail

With a dozen trails to choose from, it’s hard to identify the best hike in Lake Superior Provincial Park. However, the eight-kilometre-long Orphan Lake trail checks many boxes: starting from the trailhead on Highway 17, about two hours north of Sault Ste. Marie, you’ll encounter lush hardwood forests of maple and yellow birch, a peaceful inland lake, tumbling waterfalls on the Baldhead River and surf-washed Lake Superior beaches. Set aside a half-day to complete this moderately difficult trail. 

Also in Lake Superior Provincial Park:

  • Pick up your day use permit at the Lake Superior Provincial Park visitor centre at Agawa Bay. The facility has impressive interpretive displays to learn more about the area and is located adjacent to one of the most scenic Ontario Parks campgrounds
  • The Orphan Lake trail is a great place to stop and stretch your legs and get a closer look at the spectacular scenery on the drive from Sault Ste. Marie to Wawa. In Wawa be sure to check out Rock Island Lodge for waterfront accommodations, including lodge, glamping and camping options, on Lake Superior. Young’s General Store is another can’t miss attraction in Wawa

Hike a forest of colour at Robertson Cliffs

Located barely 30 minutes north of Sault Ste. Marie, the Robertson Cliffs Trail easily ranks amongst the best fall hikes in Ontario for its lofty views and hardwood forests.

But you don’t have to wait until the maples and oaks flame red and orange to tackle this five-kilometre trail, the Algoma Highlands are stunning throughout the year. A strenuous ascent makes it a great fitness test, though Robertson Cliffs is within the grasp of adventurous families, too.

The trailhead is located off of Highway 17. Turn right on Old Highway 17 Road, then take the first right on Robertson Lake Road and continue for about five minutes to two parking areas. The well-marked trail switchbacks uphill to vistas overlooking the Goulais River valley and Lake Superior, before looping back to the trailhead. The trail is maintained by volunteers from the Algoma Highlands Conservancy and links to the Voyageur Trail, for the option of extending your hike. 

Sault Ste. Marie is a trail town:

Northeastern Ontario

Hike “The Crack” at Killarney

With a rugged quartzite landscape immortalized by the Group of Seven painters, hiking Northeastern Ontario’s Killarney Provincial Park can feel like you’re stepping into a classic piece of Canadian landscape art. The six-kilometre trail to the Crack, a monolithic hilltop and a seriously tough climb with views of gem-like lakes far below, easily ranks amongst the best hiking in Ontario.

Pick up a day use permit from the George Lake Campground, about a 90-minute drive from Sudbury, and backtrack on Highway 637 about seven kilometres to a marked parking lot. The one-way route to the Crack follows red trail markers, and includes several steep pitches on loose rock that will challenge the most sure-footed mountain goats.

Things to do in the area:

  • Besides the amazing campground at George Lake, Killarney accommodations also include the upscale Killarney Mountain Lodge and off-grid Avalon Eco Resort
  • The Crack is a great side trip for Killarney paddlers. Canoeists can access the trail to the lookout from the portage between Killarney and Kakakise lakes
  • No trip to Killarney is complete without a meal of local fish and chips at Herbert Fisheries, on the Georgian Bay waterfront

Chasing waterfalls in North Bay

At North Bay’s Duchesnay Falls you can earn bragging rights by blending a great hike into your road trip. The trailhead for this easy Ontario waterfall hike is on the Trans-Canada Highway, just west of downtown. The sounds of rushing water wipeout highway noise right off the bat, as the trails climb alongside the east and west sides of a long series of cascades.

You could easily spend a half-day exploring nearly 12 kilometres of trails across the entire conservation area between the campuses of North Bay’s Nipissing University and Canadore College.

Also in North Bay:

  • Twiggs Coffee Roasters is a North Bay favourite, with a cafe located on Cartier Street near the Duchesnay Falls trail.
  • North Bay embraces its Lake Nipissing waterfront, and you’ll find great swimming at Shabogesic Beach adjacent to downtown
  • North Bay is also a hub for cycling, with fantastic urban riding on Kate Pace Way, countless road rides on the Voyageur Cycling Route, and great mountain biking at the Three Towers trail network

The Cup and Saucer Trail, Manitoulin Island

Manitoulin Island is the largest island on the Great Lakes, with a mix of limestone geology and rolling pastoral hills that are reminiscent of the Bruce Peninsula — without the crowds.

The Cup and Saucer Trail showcases Manitoulin’s geological kinship to the Niagara Escarpment and is easily one of Ontario’s best hikes for its diversity of terrain.

Access for this eight-kilometre trail is located on Highway 540, near the community of M'Chigeeng. Two 440-million-year-old landforms — resembling a stacked cup and saucer — give this trail its name. You’ll ascend both to reach a penthouse view over the surrounding oak forests at the escarpment’s edge.

Travellers’ tips for Manitoulin:

  • Take the half-day MS Chi-Cheemaun ferry from Tobermory to South Baymouth during the spring summer and fall. You can also drive to Manitoulin via the Trans-Canada Highway, through the town of Espanola on Highway 6 and crossing the swing bridge at the town of Little Current
  • Manitoulin Eco Park offers campsites, cabins and tipi rentals. This Dark Sky Preserve and offer some of the finest starwatching in Ontario.
  • Visit Wikwemikong First Nation for an authentic Indigenous experience, including guided cultural tours and accommodations 
  • Manitoulin Brewing Company has a patio and food truck on the water in Little Current

Hikes in Sudbury, the “City of Lakes”

For a community with the moniker “City of Lakes”, it makes sense that the best Sudbury hiking trails provide plenty of exposure to freshwater.

Minutes from downtown, the Lake Laurentian Conservation Area protects a large area of boreal forest, rock outcroppings, lakes and wetlands, and is laced with over 35 kilometres of hiking and mountain biking trails. The 10-kilometre-long Lake Laurentian loop gives the best perspective on the area for those with the time and fitness level to tackle this challenging, half-day hike. There’s free parking at the P1 Access Point, just past Laurentian University on South Bay Road. 

More Sudbury adventures:

  • Science North is a can’t-miss Sudbury attraction located on Ramsey Lake, in close proximity to the Lake Laurentian trails
  • Other destinations for Sudbury hikes include Kivi Park (which offers rentals for canoeing and standup paddleboarding, too) and the easy one-kilometre trek to spectacular waterfalls in the outlying community of Onaping Falls, said to inspire Group of Seven painter A.Y. Jackson
  • Favourite Sudbury restaurants capture a variety of flavours, including the M.I.C (Made in Canada) Eatery for Canadian staples, the Apollo Restaurant, Sudbury’s original Greek restaurant and La Fromagerie for exceptionally cheesy lunches

Southern Ontario

Hike to Recollet Falls in French River

The French River is part of an ancient navigational corridor between Georgian Bay and the Ottawa River.

An easy three-kilometre out-and-back trail starting from the French River Visitor Centre on Highway 69 is a great way to stretch your legs amidst the classic pines and polished granite landscape of Georgian Bay, while you trace this historic waterway. 

More to do on the French River:

Nassagaweya Canyon Trail near Toronto

This eight-kilometre out-and-back trail near Milton is one of the best hikes near Toronto.

Lush, shady woods give way to lofty views from the crest of the Niagara Escarpment at Rattlesnake Point. Plan on at least a half-day to take it all in. Reservations are recommended.

More Greater Toronto Area trails:

  • Rouge National Urban Park in Scarborough offers 15 hiking trails to allow you to experience a range of natural habitats, including rare Carolinian forests, wetlands, grasslands and more. Free guided walks are available
  • The Don River is one of Toronto’s great urban waterways, linking the Oak Ridges Moraine to Lake Ontario. There are nine options available in the Walk the Don series of self-guided interpretive hikes
  • On a clear day you can see the CN Tower from the Brock Harris Lookout in Mount Nemo Conservation Area, near Burlington

Lion’s Head Lookout in Bruce Peninsula

The Grotto in Bruce Peninsula National Park is a magnificent — and extremely popular — hiking destination.

Check out the Bruce Trail near Lion’s Head for similar Georgian Bay views and rugged limestone cliffs, with a fraction of the crowds. The challenging 18-kilometre Lion’s Head section offers some of the most spectacular scenery on the entire Bruce Trail.

More Bruce Peninsula activities:

  • Be sure to make a reservation well in advance to score a campsite at Bruce Peninsula National Park
  • Cozy cabins, home-cooked food, fun events and great stargazing opportunities make Red Bay Lodge a wonderful stay nearby
  • Fathom Five National Marine Park offers unique experiences that celebrate Georgian Bay, including island campsites, coastal hiking, boat tours and some of Canada’s finest scuba diving
  • Located on the tip of the Bruce, Tobermory is the gateway to Manitoulin Island via the MS Chi-Cheemaun Ferry

Mer Bleue Boardwalk Trail in Ottawa

Get a glimpse of Canada’s north in the nation’s capital at Ottawa’s Mer Bleue Bog. Located barely 20 minutes from downtown, this easy, kilometre-long boardwalk trail provides you with a close up view of sphagnum moss, Labrador tea and stunted spruce forest of one of Ontario’s southernmost peat bogs.

More about Ottawa:

  • Weekend Bikedays give cyclists exclusive use of Ottawa parkways on weekends and holidays, May through early October
  • The urban park at Kiweki Point on the Ottawa River is set to reopen in 2024, offering interpretive panels and incredible views of Parliament Hill
  • Become immersed in Canada’s Indigenous heritage at Summer Solstice, Tagawagi (autumn) and Pibon (winter) festivals in Ottawa

Barron Canyon Trail in Algonquin Provincial Park

There are plenty of great day hikes in Algonquin Provincial Park — yet still it’s hard to believe the 1.5-kilometre Barron Canyon trail is often overlooked.

This easy hike, complete with a jaw-dropping 100-metre-high overlook, is located in the eastern corner of the park, west Highway 17 and Pembroke.

More to do in Algonquin Park:

  • The nearest place to camp in Algonquin is the peaceful Achray Campground, located about five kilometres from the Barron Canyon trailhead
  • The Barron River also makes a great canoe trip, with full-day and two- to three-day routes available. Algonquin Portage offers canoe rentals in Pembroke
  • There are 15 Algonquin day hikes available along the park’s central Highway 60 corridor

Last updated: July 10, 2024

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