Sault Ste. Marie is one of Northern Ontario’s best adventure hubs. Not only does this bordertown offer access to trails right in the city, but extend your reach a little further and you can easily access splendid provincial parks like Pancake Bay and Lake Superior.

Surrounded by forest, lakes and rivers, “The Soo” offers a bewildering assortment of adventures. We’ve whittled it down to 10 must-hike trails within a couple hours of the city, to get you started:

Robertson Cliffs

Length: 4.3 km

Elevation gain: 205 m

One of the best ways to view the area’s colourful autumn foliage, this steep hike is located about 30 kilometres from Sault Ste Marie, and offers a marked loop named for a local hiker (Ila’s Trail). Trudge past Robertson Creek and through the forest on a steep ascent leading to an open vista of the Algoma Highlands Conservatory. Enjoy a panoramic view of the Technicolor leaves as far as the eye can see before either heading back the way you came for a shorter linear route, or follow the whole loop for a longer trod.

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Eagle Ridge Lookout Trail

Length: 3 km

Elevation gain: 100 m

Located 26 kilometres from Sault Ste. Marie, this moderate trail is another great way to forest-bathe in the wondrous colours of fall. Technically a side-trail of SSM’s Voyageur Trail, a lengthy linear route along the Cambrian Shield officially forged in the mid-1970s, Eagle Ridge Lookout is—as the name suggest—an excellent birdwatching locale for birdy folks and a relatively quiet hike with a nice payoff for the rest of us.

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Whitefish Island

Length: 1 km

Elevation gain: Minimal

Whitefish Island is a national historic site, and is accessed directly from downtown Sault Ste. Marie. It's located in the St. Mary’s River, with historic locks and the world’s last remaining swing dam nearby. The island itself has evidence of Indigenous encampments dating back more than 2,000 years, as well as about 400 years of settler heritage. Explore via boardwalks on this flat, low-lying river island. It’s also popular with fat-bikers in winter.

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Chippewa Falls

Length: 2.5 km

Elevation gain: Minimal

Located about a 30-minute drive north from Sault Ste. Marie, impressive eight-metre-tall Chippewa Falls can actually be viewed from the highway, but the best way to enjoy this cascade is via a relatively gentle walk in. Park near the Chippewa River Bridge and look for the marked trailhead on the south side of the river. The bridge itself offers a nice photo-op of the falls as well.

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Pancake Bay Nature Trail

Length: 3.5 km

Elevation gain: Minimal

A highlight of camping at popular Pancake Bay Provincial Park, this gentle trail loops right from the west end of the campground through a lush forest lining the waters of Lake Superior, along ancient ridges and towards a boardwalked fen. Interpretive signage will teach you about the ecosystems you’re passing. Keep an eye out for the billion-year-old conglomerate boulder!

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The Lookout Trail

Length: 14 km

Elevation gain: 117 m

If you’re a Gordon Lightfoot fan, you need to hike this stout trail, which starts from near the main campground at Pancake Bay Provincial Park. Cross the highway and start your trek upwards through the sugar maples towards the vista over Whitefish Bay. Out there, in the icy waters of Lake Superior, lies the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Pay respects before looping back, passing a waterfall en route.

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Nokomis

Length: 4.5 km

Elevation gain: 189 m

Offering quite possible the most stunning vista in Lake Superior Provincial Park, you’ll need to stretch about 200 kilometres north of "The Soo" to find this trail (a tough day-trip—but camping is available at nearby Rabbit Blanket Lake). This steep trail rises nearly 200 metres above Lake Superior, offering an incredible view over Old Woman Bay. As a loop, turn right at the start for a gradual ascent and a steep descent; or turn left if you prefer the opposite.

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Coastal Trail

Length: 65 km

Elevation gain: 1,889 m (cumulative)

It’s important to list the cumulative elevation gain of the brutal Coastal Trail—following the Lake Superior shoreline, it doesn’t reach to great heights, but instead is a punishing route of builder scrambling and endless ups-and-downs. The reward? Massive lake vistas. Empty bays for swimming. Gorgeous pink granite. Night skies of a million stars. In short—paradise. Tackle it a five-day-plus linear backpacking route, or do day-trip out-and-backs from a variety of access points.

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Agawa Rock Pictographs

Length: 800 m

Elevation gain: 90 m

Short but oh-so-sweet. Another beauty in Lake Superior Provincial Park, itself about an hour’s drive from SSM, this trod drops quickly from the parking lot and follows a gentle trail toward the lakeshore. Stop here and enjoy a vista over cerulean waters, or, if you’re nimble and the water is calm, keep going along a slick and angled shoreline to view the Agawa Rock pictographs—rust-coloured paintings made by Indigenous peoples some 300 to 400 years ago. Spot Misshepezhieu, the Great Lynx of the lake! (Be respectful of the pictographs.)

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Pinguisibi (Sand River)

Length: 6 km

Elevation gain: 95 m

A short and steep trail located in Lake Superior Provincial Park; this route follows the namesake waterway—translated from Ojibwe as “river of white sand”—towards three waterfalls set within the lush forests this park is known for. As a linear route, it ends at the Sand River Canoe Route portage. Have a rest and return the way you came.

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