Exploring Northwestern Ontario

Northwestern Ontario is a vast landscape, home to some of the most spectacular scenery in the entire province. While roads travel as far north as Pickle Lake, over 60% of Northwestern Ontario has no road access!

Highway 11 and 17 make their way into Northwestern Ontario from the east, merging from Nipigon through to Thunder Bay. Separating at Thunder Bay, the two routes continue west, meeting once again at Kenora before continuing together into Manitoba. These two highways open up this area of the province, offering access to a host of adventures for all outdoor enthusiasts.

Kakabeka Falls

Sleeping Giant

Fishing and Hunting Adventures

When outdoor enthusiasts think of the north, hunting and fishing often come to mind. And Northwestern Ontario, with its wealth of lakes and rivers, draws anglers from around the globe to its productive waters. While many fly into northern lakes, there is easy access to thousands of lakes and streams in the south. Quetico alone has over 2,000 lakes! The draw in the north are walleye, northern pike, muskie, small and largemouth bass and brook and lake trout, with plenty of trophy-sized fish roaming the lakes and rivers. While bigger destinations include Lake Nipigon, Rainy Lake and Lake of the Woods might be better explored with a guide, the abundance of lakes and rivers in the area, makes it easy to find a spot all to yourself.

Similarly, the wide-open country that features vast tracks of crown land also affords hunters plenty of big game; moose, deer and black bear, along with plenty of waterfowl. Backroads snake out in every direction from most communities leading to some great hunting destinations.

Paddling Adventures

Speaking of water, Northwestern Ontario one of the best wilderness paddling destinations in the world, with countless interconnected lakes, rivers and portages – the options for adventure canoeing are boundless. Quetico is a paddling mecca, drawing folks from around the world to its pristine waters, endless canoe routes and wilderness camping locations year after year. The nearby Boundary Waters Canoe Area straddles the Ontario/Minnesota border and also offers some of the finest paddling in the entire country.

Further north, Wabakami and Woodland Caribou Provincial Parks offer canoe routes into the unspoiled wilderness with fantastic fishing and the chances of seeing more wildlife than humans a real possibility. Those looking for multi-week trips can travel some of the even more remote rivers to the north.

Northwestern Ontario Sunset

Top of the Giant – Sleeping Giant Provincial Park

Trail Adventures

The rugged landscape of the north offers hikers and mountain bikers plenty of amazing destinations through some of the province’s most beautiful scenery. The Casque Isles Trail follows the Superior shoreline from Terrace Bay to Rossport, while at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, the challenging 22 km round-trip trek to the Top of the Giant should be on everyone’s bucket list! The Orient Bay Palisades Trail near Nipigon, climbs to cliffs popular with ice and rock climbers, and the Nor’Wester Mountain Trails, which make their way up Mount Godfrey, Mount Matchett, Mount Rose and Mount McKay, at Thunder Bay are another set of scenic mountains to climb.

Adding to this impressive mix, most provincial parks and communities have trail networks well worth exploring. For those visiting, or living in, the area, many of these trails are perfect for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing when the snow flies.

Backroad Adventures

Those looking to tour the many backroads and resource roads for unique roadside attractions will not be disappointed in the area. Thunder Bay is the largest community in Northwestern Ontario and home to a number of attractions including the Fort William Historical Park, the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame and the Thunder Bay Museum.

But it is the natural attractions that really make Northwestern Ontario shine. Kakabeka Falls plunges over 40 metres (130 feet), making it is the second-highest waterfall in Ontario. Not to be outdone, Aguasabon Falls and Gorge at Terrace Bay, Pigeon Falls near the Minnesota border, and Rushing River Falls are all well worth visiting. The ropes and a wooden ladder found at Wolf River Falls let visitors get right up to and behind the falls, while the 100 metre (330 foot) deep Ouimet Canyon offers spectacular deep gorge views!

Those looking for a true backroad adventure can travel the 250 kilometres (155 miles) Northern Ontario Resource Road from Pickle Lake to Windigo Lake. Travellers need to be prepared for all eventualities but scenery and wildlife abound!

Ouimet Canyon

ATV and Snowmobile Adventures

ATV and snowmobile riders have an unlimited playground in Northwestern Ontario. There are plenty of riding opportunities for ATVs from most communities. From maintained logging and resource roads to old bush roads and hidden trails, the dynamic Canadian Shield terrain offers endless lakes, rocky knolls and scenic vistas to explore.

When the land turns to snow, snowmobiling becomes a way of life for many in the north. In addition to providing vital transportation to otherwise cutoff communities, the main trail systems help make up the world’s largest interconnected snowmobile trail system. Those looking for touring ideas should check out the 170 kilometres (105 miles) Gateway to Ontario Loop, or the 900 kilometres (560 miles) Northwest Ontario Tourism Loop. Both offer some exceptional extended winter riding through the scenic backcountry.

Have we whetted your appetite for a visit to Northwestern Ontario? If so, pick up a Northwestern Ontario Backroad Mapbook or log into the BRMB Maps web map and app and begin planning your adventure! This spectacular part of Ontario is just waiting to be explored.