Some fifty odd kilometers down the road from Neys Provincial Park and past Marathon Ontario, lies Pukaskwa National Park. In many ways this park was the inspiration and the main purpose to this Northern Ontario exploration of the Lake Superior coastline. It has been on my mind since last fall’s glamping trip to Georgian Bay Islands National Park where my girlfriend and I stayed in a cabin named after Pukaskwa. In that cabin hung one the most impressive photographs of sunset over rugged shoreline I’d even seen, at that moment I knew this was a place worth visiting. It’s important to know when planning a trip Pukaskwa that the park may be massive but campsite area (which does not take reservations) and the visitors centre occupy only a small percentage of the upper panhandle of the park. The rest of the massive park is pure wilderness, without trails or established canoe routes. There are four short trails around campsite that showcase the rugged beauty of this majestic land as well as the 60km linear coastal trail. All of this should be taken into consideration when planning a trip, if you’re not planning on hiking the coastal trail or canoeing the coast your entertainment options will be limited. We stayed here for three days which I felt was the perfect amount of time since we could not get out and canoe due to the weather and did not hike the 60km coastal trail.
The ever testy weather that has plagued our trip thus far predictably followed us all the way down to Pukaskwa, overcast, rain and cool temperatures were the order of the day, most days. But every once in awhile the clouds would break and the sun make a welcome appearance in the sky to treat us to spectacular views. There are four short trails that snake their way around the campsites and the visitor centre. These trails can be done individually or strung together into one large hike, which we did. The trails walk you through some of the most spectacular coastline we’d seen to date on the inland sea. The trails are rugged and challenging in some spots but the payoff is the vista’s seen from the Parks Canada red chairs that overlook a small bay near the visitors centre. As I’ve mentioned before the trails are limited, the big draw is the coastal trail, a 60km linear along the rugged coastline. The trail is not to be taken lightly taking 5-6 days to complete and required a boat shuttle as it ends in the middle of the woods with no way out but boat or hiking back. Some people choose to hike in and charter the boat out, or boat in and hike out, a few crazy souls are said to have hiked in and then out.
As mentioned the weather was temperamental for much of the trip, it would be sunny one minute and then it would get dark and windy the next. We hoped to canoe the coast but this was not to be, we meet people who’d been at the park for a week waiting for the weather to turn to they could paddle to Neys Provincial Park. When we left the park, they were still waiting for the weather to turn. This lead us to a lot of hesitation about embarking on a day hike down to the Coastal Trail to the White River suspension bridge. The bridge is just over 9km down the Coastal Trail and spans the falls at White River. It’s doable as a day hike, but we warned the trail is challenging and covering close to 20km of it in one day will leave you sore. We set out on journey around noon and managed to return just before 6pm. The hike at times felt defeating, scrambling over rocks and climbing out of gullies is hard work. But in the end you’re treated to the magnificent vistas the bridge provides of the White river gorge and the waterfalls beneath your feet.
Finally like always not park visit would be without a magnificent sunset. Despite the temperament of the lakes weather. The skies cleared just enough on most nights to give us a glimpse of that bright red orb as it tumbles out of the sky and dives beneath the waves. More pictures can be seen on my flickr account.