Tourism Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada

Media

Stories

All Board - The Upgraded Agawa Canyon Tour Train

Northern Ontario is a much-desired destination for travellers all around the world. And for those wishing to experience the region in a unique manner, the Agawa Canyon Tour Train is just the ticket.

The one-day, 114-mile journey treats passengers to incredible sights that are exclusive to the territory—from crystal clear lakes and rivers and ancient rock formations to dense, lush forests of the famed Canadian Shield, the excursion has proved to be one of the most popular train tours in all of North America.

Recently, the train cars have undergone a dramatic upgrade. Totaling over $11.02 million, these upgrades include creature comfort features such as new carpeting, huge tinted windows and high-tech additions. This is where the updated cars truly shine.

As the train winds its way through the one-of-a-kind landscape, an advanced GPS triggered commentary reveals intimate details about the region. Available in five languages, passengers can learn all about upcoming points of interest and share some of the rich history of the region with stories of the Ojibway, fur traders, explorers and entrepreneurs that opened up this vast wilderness.

Another high-tech addition is the train’s locomotive mounted digital cameras. These unique apparatuses give passengers an engineer’s point-of-view via the flat screen monitors that have been installed throughout the coaches.

Just when you thought you’d experienced it all, the train will begin its descent into the canyon at Mile 102 and as the rail line hugs the top of the canyon wall you will travel down 500 feet over the next 10 miles to the floor of the Agawa Canyon, created over 1.2 billion years ago by faulting and widened and reshaped by the last ice-age that retreated 10,000 years ago.

These comfort and technological updates have made the Agawa Canyon Tour Train experience even better, and promise first-time riders as well as those who have previously enjoyed the tour a unique, engaging means in which to enjoy all the best Northern Ontario has to offer.

What To Do in the Soo

Sault Ste. Marie, or the “Soo” as it’s affectionately called, offers visitors the best of all worlds—incredible outdoor activities combined with urban amenities synonymous with big city life.

Sault Ste. Marie has a rich history that can be explored via a multitude of attractions. The Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre is a terrific example, as is The Sault Ste. Marie Canal National Historic Site, and Whitefish Island, a 22-acre landmass that was originally the ancestral fishing station to the Anishenabek people of the Great Lakes for over 2,000 years.

Sault Ste. Marie hosts a series of annual events and festivals that can be enjoyed by all. Winter events such as the Bon Soo Winter Carnival, Rotaryfest and the Algoma Fall Festival are just a few.

Experiencing the great outdoors in Sault Ste. Marie is a major draw for visitors. If you’re a skier, head on over to Searchmont Resort, Stokely Creek Lodge or the Hiawatha Highlands.

If fine art is more your thing, the Art Gallery of Algoma is a must see. You can celebrate the city’s heritage at the Sault Ste. Marie Museum, or at the Ermatinger • Clergue National Historic Site, which is home to two of the oldest stone buildings in Canada.

For urban enthusiasts, the city certainly doesn’t disappoint. The Soo is home to a wide array of quaint shops and boutiques lining its historic downtown streets. The city also boasts the Station Mall, the largest shopping centre in all of Northern Ontario. If you’re feeling lucky then OLG Casino Sault Ste. Marie should be in your plans.

Sault Ste. Marie has an incredible array of culinary delights that reflect the city’s ethnic diversity, and accommodations that are equally varied to suit any and all tastes with upscale hotels, quaint inns and rustic lodges. Heading out to the links is also in the offing, with several world-class golf courses including the Silver Creek Golf Course, Crimson Ridge and the Sault Ste. Marie Golf Club.

So if you’re looking for a unique getaway, make sure to stop by Sault Ste. Marie—a Northern Ontario destination that celebrates all the best of the region and a whole lot more.

A New Way to Get to (and from) the Soo

Not so long ago, Torontonians wishing to visit Sault Ste. Marie didn’t have much of a choice insofar as how they got there. Trudging through the masses at Pearson International Airport and shelling out premium dollars were a must. That’s recently changed, however, with the introduction of Porter Airlines.

It all began with Porter Airlines new home at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport. The $50 million passenger terminal is located on an island in the Toronto Harbour, which is just offshore of the city’s downtown business and tourism districts.

Key benefits to travellers include fast and easy access to Toronto's downtown core, the elimination of highway congestion, along with no air traffic delays or slot time restrictions. Best of all, it grants you an opportunity to get out of the city and experience the great outdoors of Sault Ste. Marie. For added convenience, there are affordable two or three day packages, where you can “Go Explore” the Soo and all its natural wonders and attractions, including the Agawa Canyon Tour Train.

A Colourful Journey

Regarded as one of Canada's Top Ten Drives, the Highway 17 ride from Sault Ste. Marie to Wawa is one of the most eye-popping, spectacular drives in the entire country. The scenic foray that Highway 17 provides, winds its way north along the shore of one of the world's largest freshwater lakes, which delights passers-by with scenic views that showcase the best of the autumn season—spectacular colours as the forest changes from maple and birch, to birch and conifers.

The scene is simply superior. A transformation from the red-leaved hardwood maples in Sault Ste. Marie to birches, golden tamarack and evergreen pines in Wawa, contrasting with the bluest Lake Superior. The 225-kilometre stretch on Highway 17 from the Soo to Wawa offers stunning views of one of the world's largest freshwater lakes.

The drive from Wawa to the Soo is always spectacular, glorious in the fall but just as pretty after the winter storms and the new green of spring. It's so beautiful because there's so much difference between stark rock cliffs, blue waters and the colourful leaves.

On the journey, visitors can check out the breathtaking views from Sand River Hill, hike the numerous trails at Lake Superior Provincial Park, visit the Chippewa and Sand Rivers, Magpie Silver and High Falls, Superior's beaches at Pancake Bay, or the tranquil Katherine Cove and Bathtub Island. Agawa Bay within Lake Superior is one of the most famous pictograph sites in all of Canada. The Agawa site is visited by thousands of people every year to explore indigenous archaeological sites, and these fascinating paintings are said to have been created in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Sault Ste. Marie - Small Town, BIG Game

Sault Ste. Marie may be considered a small town in the grand scheme of things, but when it comes to its hockey heritage, the Soo is definitely big time. The city’s renowned Greyhounds, a major junior hockey team in the OHL, or Ontario Hockey League, has spawned some of the most celebrated and respected professional players in the world. Since the team’s formation way back in 1919, the team has also won its share of national championships, including the 1993 Memorial Cup.

The current incarnation of the team has retired four jerseys since joining the OHL in 1972, which belong to some of the best known players ever to take the ice: #1 John Vanbiesbrouck, #4 Craig Hartsburg, #10 Ron Francis and the “Great One” himself, #99 Wayne Gretzky.

Another interesting (and not so well known) fact about hockey in the Soo is that the city was home to a team in hockey's first professional league. The Sault Ste. Marie Marlboros or 'Canadian Soo' team played in the International Professional Hockey League from 1904 to 1907.

Sault Ste. Marie teams boast a number of Hockey Hall of Fame members, including hallowed Sault Ste. Marie natives Phil and Tony Esposito, as well as Ron Francis. Other Soo team members have included the likes of Paul Coffey, Bill Cook, Bun Cook, Newsy Lalonde and George McNamara.

Yet another NHL superstar who has worn a Greyhounds jersey is the San Jose Shark’s Joe Thornton. Chicago Blackhawks goalie Marty Turco, Pittsburgh Penguins centre Tyler Kennedy, as well as Matt D'Agostini of the St. Louis Blues all hail from Sault Ste. Marie.

Some other notable hockey luminaries with ties to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds include former player and coach, Ted Nolan, who won the Jack Adams Trophy as the NHL Coach of the Year in 1998. Paul Maurice, also of Sault Ste. Marie, has gone on to coach the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes.

Tracking History

Railway travel in Sault Ste. Marie goes back well over a century when the Algoma Central Railway Company came to be, way back in 1899. Now known as Algoma Central Railway Inc., the company was founded by U.S. industrialist Francis H. Clergue, who first visited the region in 1892. Clergue was drawn here by the opportunities for growth as an industrial centre, and his vision laid the tracks for the present day city of Sault Ste. Marie. The discovery of an iron ore deposit in Wawa spurred the steel industry in Sault Ste. Marie, and in turn, was a major influence in the formation of the creation of the railway.

Carving a path through dense forests, hills and across rivers and ravines was a challenge to say the least. One of the greatest tasks was realizing the length of track from Frater to Agawa Canyon. This engineering feat includes track that drops an astounding 500 feet over 12 miles to the bottom of the canyon floor. As the track exits the canyon at mile 116,it hugs the Agawa River and the canyon walls are only 50 feet apart.

Steam engines ruled the railway industry for years, but Algoma Central Railway was the first Canadian steam railway to completely switch over to diesel. Some 14 years ago, in late 1997, Algoma Steel Inc. announced that it was closing its low-grade ore mining operations in Wawa in favour of higher grade ore, which is harvested from the Tilden Mine located just outside of Marquette, Michigan. With the closing of the Algoma Ore Division, a final ore train of 18 cars rumbled along the branch line to Hawk Junction and then down to the Soo on June 25, 1998 and with it an important chapter in the Railway's 100-year history came to a close.

Fortunately, the rich history of the Algoma Central Railway lives on with the running of the Agawa Canyon Tour Train, which winds through the pristine wilderness of Algoma Country, and gives its passengers a firsthand experience of the history and tradition that began well over a century ago.

Walking the Walk

You might not know it, but Sault Ste. Marie is home to some pretty famous individuals. While the city’s population hovers around the 75,000 mark, the Soo has spawned numerous renowned figures that have impacted the city they call home and the world all around.

To celebrate these many figures and their accomplishments, the Sault Ste. Marie Walk of Fame was established when a city by-law was passed in 2002. The intent of this by-law was to honour Sault Ste. Marie natives who have made significant contributions to the city and beyond, as well as their outstanding achievements.

Inductees must meet a series of criterion to become a part of the Walk, such as having lived in the Soo or the Algoma District for a minimum of 12 months at any point in their lifetime, made an outstanding contribution to the community, or have achieved local, provincial, national or international accolades in their chosen field of work. Nominations for inductees may be submitted by the general public and the Walk of Fame Committee then considers these nominations for induction.

The Walk of Fame is located on Queen Street in downtown Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario next to the Essar Centre, home to the OHL’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Every Walk of Fame inductee is immortalized on a 16-inch granite square, which includes a marble maple leaf displaying his or her name and year of induction.

The inaugural Walk of Fame induction ceremony took place on September 30, 2006, as part of the Essar Centre’s grand opening weekend. In subsequent years, inductee selections have been announced in late May or early June, with formal induction ceremonies held the following September. Some of the more notable members of the Walk include neurologist, astronaut, and the first Canadian woman in space Roberta Bondar, as well as NHLers Ron Francis, Phil and Tony Esposito, and Canadian rockers, Treble Charger.

Bridging the Generation Gap

I was born and raised in Sault Ste. Marie. As a native of this wonderful Northern Ontario town, I was lucky enough to experience one of the region’s most famous attractions—the Agawa Canyon Tour Train. I first “rode the rails” back in 1983 when I was just eight years old, and even though it was so long ago, I remember it like it was yesterday.

I moved from the Soo to Toronto some 10 years ago. But that memory still clings, and every time I see a train rolling by, I’m reminded of the Agawa Canyon. This summer I took my wife and son, Jack, who just turned eight, back to the Soo for a family reunion. Even though we didn’t have much time to spend there, I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity for Jack to experience what I had when I was the very same age.

As we settled into one of the cars, a flood of memories hit me. It was as if I’d gone back in time, though the many changes to the train itself (there were no flat screens, GPS-triggered commentary or locomotive mounted cameras back in ’83) reminded me it was 2011.

The best part of the trip though, was watching Jack’s expression as we took in the gorgeous scenes through those oversized windows. The best was when we began our descent down the Agawa Canyon. The GPS commentary told us it was created over a billion years ago, and my son asked me if I was around when it happened. All I could do was smile and say, “Believe it or not, that was before my time.”

I had a great time reliving those moments in my life, and better still, creating new memories for Jack and I as we explored one of the most breathtaking areas in all of Northern Ontario.

A River Runs Through it

Sault Ste. Marie has a reputation for a fishing experience that’s second to none.

The rushing water of the St. Mary’s River is the dynamic centerpiece of downtown Sault Ste. Marie and a powerful expression of the city’s “Naturally Gifted” motto. The river’s beauty and abundant fish stocks have always captivated residents and visitors alike—from the native Ojibwa people who gathered on its shores each summer for millennia to stock up on whitefish, to distinguished author and angler Ernest Hemingway, who wrote, “The best rainbow trout fishing in the world is in the rapids of the Canadian Soo.” The St. Mary’s still boasts one of the most diverse and productive fisheries in Canada.
 
The river forms a connecting channel between Great Lakes Superior and Huron, and tumbles six vertical metres over a one-kilometre stretch beneath the towering arches of the International Bridge. Champagne-clear water cascades over sandstone shoals, whirls around boulders and gushes through chutes. Today, locks on the Canadian and U.S. sides of the river enable pleasure craft and freighters to bypass the wild water. The whitewater straddling the international border, meanwhile, is a dreamscape for anglers, with each season of the year presenting different challenges and a variety of fish species to catch.
 
Hemingway’s rainbow trout, along with brown trout, steelhead and whitefish, can be caught in the rapids year round. A local guides gets most excited come summer and fall, when feisty Atlantic-, Chinook-, pink- and coho salmon arrive. Hodkinson ties flies, sells tackle and guides anglers throughout northern Ontario. 
  
Fishing the rapids is a visceral experience. The moment you step in the river you realize the water has a life of its own. It pulls tirelessly at your legs; right away you’ll recognize the need to read the river—to distinguish places where fish may congregate, and more importantly to identify eddies and pools where it’s safe to cast. This is big water, and it will likely take a few tentative casts to figure out the flow. Then, when a spirited fish finally rises and strikes your line, the sensory encounter becomes complete. The fish peels the line off your reel, diving for eddies, dashing into the main flow and launching into the air, its sleek skin gleaming in the sun like diamonds. Breathless, you coach yourself to stay calm—keep the rod tip up, play the drag, whoa! let ‘er run!—and pray to Poseidon for strength and balance.Landing this muscled beauty is equal parts ecstasy and satisfaction. With childlike exuberance, all you can think is, I wanna do it again! At this moment, it’s easy to understand why fishing the rapids is so addictive.
 
But you don’t need to wade into the whitewater to enjoy world-class fishing. The Sault’s scenic boardwalk, which traces the river’s edge downtown, offers the opportunity to cast from the comfort of terra firma. Once you’ve purchased an Ontario fishing license (available online at Ontario.ca), join the locals and tourists who line the boardwalk to the catch migratory salmon that arrive in the St. Mary’s in late summer. In particular, pink salmon are easy to catch by casting spoons and Buzz Bomb lures from shore—a great way to introduce children to the joys of fishing.

Vibrant Landscapes. Rich Heritage.

Brush up on the Group of Seven and discover the natural landscapes that inspired their iconic paintings.

As the twentieth century dawned in the newly emerging Dominion of Canada, the one true form of art native to our soils, the art of our First Nations, was being appropriated to colonial museums. In its place, a flood of art based on imported European styles dominated the parlours of wealthy Canadians. It was into this cultural vacuum that a group of artists confidently strode, determined to bring to Canadians a new way to represent the primal landscape that still dominated much of our nation, and it was to Algoma that they turned to inspire their dreams of a ‘made in Canada' style of painting.
 
The artists, Lawren Harris, J.E.H. MacDonald, A.Y. Jackson, Frank Johnston, Arthur Lismer, Fred Varley, Franklin Carmichael and Tom Thomson gravitated towards each other around 1911-12. They were smitten with the “northland” and in 1912 Thomson and a fellow commercial artist embarked on a two-month canoe adventure on the Mississagi River that opened their eyes to the splendours of Algoma.
 
However, just as quickly as their fledgling dreams of a nationalist landscape style of painting began to take shape, it unraveled in the shadows of the nightmare of World War I. Jackson and Varley served on the Western Front, Harris as a gunnery instructor on the home front. Lismer moved to Halifax where he witnessed the horrific Halifax Explosion in December 1917. Thomson spent as much time as possible in Algonquin Park until that fateful day in July of 1917 when he perished in his beloved Canoe Lake. Shortly after that tragic loss, MacDonald suffered a stroke. For Harris, the news of his only brother's death in action in Europe catapulted him into a bout of depression.
 
Following a recuperative spring scouting trip along the rail-line in 1918, Harris invited MacDonald and Johnston to join him for an autumn painting excursion in Algoma. They were immediately captivated by what MacDonald poetically referred to as “a land after Dante's heart,” an earthy paradise. The great panoramic vistas, the towering bluffs and raging cascades, the idyllic streams and the blazing colour of the lush forests proved to be a powerful regenerative force for their war weary, embattled souls and they repaid the debt they owed this land by memorializing it through their paintings.
 
From the fall of 1918 until the mid-twenties, group members, who had formally become the Group of Seven in 1920, returned to Algoma repeatedly, often living out of boxcars. From 1921 to 1928, they began to pay annual visits to the north shore of Lake Superior.
 
Their time in Algoma and Lake Superior produced paintings that represented the pinnacle of their careers and became cherished icons of Canadian art. Algoma is still that vast, natural wonder that gave form and substance to the visions of these artists. And like the paintings themselves, the land is an enduring and integral part of our national heritage.
 
To view sites where the Group of Seven did their most iconic work, the train trip through Canyon is a must. From Mongoose Lake to Canyon you pass through the countryside that beckoned to them almost one hundred years ago. At Montreal River, you can look down the valley as the train crosses the huge trestle bridge, and then up the river to the magnificent headland that MacDonald made famous as “Solemn Land.”
 
As the train passes through Frater on its way into Agawa Canyon, Lake Superior teases with a glimpse of its rugged coastline and shimmering expansiveness and you can hear the echo of MacDonald when he first gazed at the same vista in 1918 and declared it to be “like a glimpse of God Himself.”
 
At Canyon, you can walk in the footsteps of the painters as they looked for vantage points to paint Bridal Veil Falls. Motorists can immerse themselves in the scenery along the Trans-Canada Highway, especially from Alona Bay, through Lake Superior Provincial Park and again along the north shore of Lake Superior from Marathon to Rossport.
 
Another less travelled but extraordinary drive is along Highway 129 from Thessalon to Aubrey Falls, where the highway winds right along the bank of the Mississagi River. There, you can easily imagine Tom Thomson stopping his canoe in 1912 for a quick sketch or a photograph.
 
Of course, you can visit the Art Gallery of Algoma in Sault Ste. Marie and experience both Group of Seven paintings as well as contemporary art. Most recently in 2015, the documentary film “Painted Land; In Search of the Group of Seven” was released at the gallery, which shines a spotlight on this region.
 
It’s a region is steeped in rich cultural heritage. Allow us to share it with you.

What's On-Tap For Your Trip?

Beer has always been a source of Canadian pride. So it came as no surprise when microbreweries began to spring up across Canada in the 1980s, proving that with a few tweaks and a lot of passion, a beer can be a truly memorable and unique experience.

As Graham Atkinson, co-owner of local microbrewery OutSpoken puts it, “The whole concept behind the craft brewing industry is that you’re always pushing the limits, trying something new” and this is exactly what Sault Ste. Marie’s three microbreweries offer—new tastes, newfound brewing passions, and new heights of beer drinking.
 
Union Jack Brewing, located at 9 Queen Street East, named for co-owners Jeff and Jordan Jack, is definitely one of the microbreweries worth checking out. It offers many new varieties, including their four flagship beers: an Amber Ale with a special hops recipe, a California Common, an IPA meant for everyone (not just hops lovers) and their Rapid River Cream Ale, a light, fizzy lager-style brew named through a locally held contest. Looking for something a little different? Try out their unique seasonal beers such as Banana Ale and Cherry Wheat Ale, made from crushed cherry concentrate from Traverse City, Michigan.
 
If you’re about town, you might also notice that Union Jack is pretty active in the community, sponsoring musical and sporting event, including Laird International Raceway. It’s quite likely that you’ll run into Jeff and Jordan at these events—but if not, stop by and try a brew, or, with so many great recipes, maybe a few.   
 
You’ll also discover many fine beers and events at OutSpoken Brewing, located at 350 Queen Street East. In their “dispensary” and, as of spring 2016, in their outdoor patio and indoor beer hall, OutSpoken provides their flagships Rabbit’s Foot India Pale Ale and Split Shot Ale. Plus, you’ll find seasonal and experimental rotations with local ingredients like Pottswurth Maple Breakfast Stout, which has hints of St. Joseph Island Roasters Maple Magic Coffee.
 
If you’re in town around a holiday, you may get lucky enough to experience a beer-themed event, such as their Christmas Ale and Christmas Tree Drive for charity. OutSpoken also regularly partners with neighbour craft store Shabby Motley for events, such as “Knit Your Own Beer Cozy” for Father’s Day 2015. To give Dad a great, personal gift, patrons were invited to learn to knit a beer cozy to keep Dad’s growler cold, then go next door to OutSpoken for a discount on said growler.
 
While enjoying the beer, make sure to drink in OutSpoken’s atmosphere and décor. The building’s more than a hundred year history is reflected here, including its original flooring and artefacts found during the rebuilding process.
 
The history that the owners want to preserve is chronicled in a book that was found completely by accident. While he was rebuilding the interior, co-owner Graham Atkinson happened to be reading A Good Place to Come From by local author Morley Torgov. As Atkinson stripped back the layers of the building and flipped through the pages of the book, he realized that the house the book referred to was, in fact, the new OutSpoken Brewing building—the author had lived there as a child!
 
If you want to experience history with your sips, Northern Superior Brewing Company, located within the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre at 50 Pim Street, is another must-see. In fact, the brewery was founded as a way to recreate the brewing history of Northern Ontario by displaying artefacts and offering a similar product as Northern Breweries, a company founded over a century ago with facilities throughout Northern Ontario. Northern Breweries closed in 2006, but their main product is refined and explored through Northern Superior’s flagship easy-drinking, cool, crisp lager.
 
In conjunction with the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre, Northern Superior offers tours of Northern Ontario brewing history, describing the brewing process over the years and showcasing memorabilia from Northern Breweries. The items on display include Northern Breweries’ original sign, packing and labeling machines, watercolour paintings, photographs, and even draft balls—used to pump and keep beer cold.
 
If you can’t make it to the microbreweries, many local restaurants and drinking establishments in Sault Ste. Marie carry local beer, but the microbreweries themselves are certainly worth the visit. Whether you want to chat with a fellow beer aficionado, have a cold drink after a day hiking Hiawatha’s trails or just try something unique to the region, the Sault’s local microbreweries have just the right hops to bring your drink to new heights.

The Park That Takes You Higher

Discover breathtaking natural beauty and outdoor adventure in Hiawatha Highlands/Kinsmen Park.

Take your trip to new heights by visiting the Hiawatha Highlands/Kinsmen Park while in Sault Ste. Marie. Located within city limits, driving five to fifteen minutes from anywhere in the Sault up to the conservation area will gain you 370 feet in elevation, and give you access to thousands of acres of wildlife preserve.

Mix over 50 kilometers of trails, hundreds of stunning views and a virtually limitless amount of fresh air—the result is one memorable and priceless experience. And your visit truly is priceless three out of four seasons of the year with free access to Kinsmen Park from spring through to fall, and no-fee parking year-round. The Kinsmen simply ask that, in return, visitors take care of the park and not litter.

Whether you're a bird watcher, photographer, geocacher, picnicker, artist, waterfall enthusiast, or simply looking to get more active, there’s something for you at Kinsmen Park, which is consistently ranked among the top ten things to do in the Sault on TripAdvisor.ca. It's a non-motorized natural playground with activities ranging from challenging single-track mountain biking to relaxing family-friendly picnicking.

For those looking to reconnect with nature, the conservation area is home to 70 species of birds and 18 species of mammals. Lucky visitors may spot owls, deer, fox, hare, and of course the Canada Goose.

Another of the park's natural highlights is Crystal Falls, which is easily accessible from the lower parking lot via a boardwalk. At its base, the pond often reflects the trees surrounding it like a mirror. Swimming and fishing are allowed, though no lifeguards are on duty. Beside the pond is a picnic area with swing-sets, teeter-totters, and washroom facilities. The upper Kinsmen Park has a ball diamond, horseshoe pits, play structures, a kids' pump-track, and a first-come, first-served picnic shelter for larger groups.

Looking to get active? There are three main trails systems (the Red Pine, Crystal and Pinder), all offering different scenery and highlights. The wide winter ski trails make way for smooth, beginner to intermediate, biking and hiking trails for the spring through fall. Thrill-seekers will definitely want to check out the network of single-track trails (such as the Animal, Wave or Guillotine) intersecting the wider trails for miniature rollercoaster-like fun.

On the Red Pine system,enjoy the long and rolling hills, butdon't forget to look up at the Red Pines towering over you like swaying 70 foot-tall giants. Don't want to pack your bike? Starting in the spring of 2016, bicycles will be available for rent at the Kinsmen Centre trailhead at 780 Landslide Road.

Most of the more advanced trails are on the Crystal system as the closer together hills make for fast, exciting ups and downs, tight twists and turns. Additional highlights of this system include stream crossings and a less intense trail, taking visitors past the Crystal waterfall and around the pond to Minihaha Falls at the Cyril Thayer Memorial Dam.

The Pinder is the most popular trail system for winter visitors; often described as majestic and breathtaking for the artistic way that the snow hangs from the trees. This 4km gem of a trail also offers an overlook of the city on a clear day.

In the winter, locals refer to the area as Hiawatha Highlands as opposed to Kinsmen Park. Trail passes are required for over 45kms of ski trails groomed for single classic, double classic, and/or skate lanes, 12km of shared fat bike trails and 7kms of snowshoe trails. There's a beginners' ski training grid and a variety of intermediate and competition trails. The Kinsmen 2km trail is lighted until 10pm and lessons can be arranged with advance notice.

Adults and children’s skis (and baby sleds), as well as snowshoes can be rented at the Kinsmen Centre and trail passes can be purchased online or onsite (though kids under 12 don't require trail passes). Ski and snowshoe trails are open daily from December to March. For trail passes, maps and daily weather conditions, visit hiawathahighlands.com

If you’re looking for the perfect way to cap off an exciting day out on the trails, it’s always a pleasure to drop by the Kinsmen Centre for a warm beverage in the winter, or an ice cream in the summer.

After your first trip, you'll see why so many visitors and residents alike keep coming back. With wildflowers in the spring, lush greenery in the summer, unparalleled colours in the fall and sparkling snow in the winter, no matter what time of year you visit, Hiawatha Highlands/Kinsmen Park is sure to be a high point of your trip.

Northern Lights, Dark Skies

Imagine … when the stars cast a perfect reflection down onto the water on a quiet inland lake, just before the flies arrive in the spring. It’s a cold and clear February night camping in the backcountry of Algoma, standing in the middle of a frozen lake under the glow of the Northern Lights. Relaxing in the camp chair, on a warm August evening witnessing a huge orange-pink ball melting into the horizon; these are some of the reasons that motivate me to get out there.

Planning any excursion always depends on what type of experience is being sought. Am I in the mood for a sunset stroll or an all-nighter… hmm? A hot cup of coffee, headlamp and a warm blanket along with the companionship of my sweetheart at sunset sounds like a perfect night! Or perhaps a fully kitted expedition with tent, sleeping bag, and 40 pounds of camera gear is required to complete my astrophotography dream mission.

It’s all about the location. Our amazing North sky points towards the Aurora, East greets you in the morning with a kiss of sunshine, the South brings the galaxy overhead, and West offers the big lake (Lake Superior) with profoundly beautiful sunsets. Moonless clear nights away from illumination of the city lights are the best for witnessing the grand views of the night landscape that surround our city. With virtually no light pollution between Agawa Bay and Old Woman Bay in Lake Superior Provincial Park (a proposed Dark Sky Preserve), there are countless locations just outside of the city where wonderment of the night sky can be satisfied.

Cracking with anticipation at the thought that the aurora forecast is correct, we drive North of the city to a quiet little cottage on Haviland Bay. Along the way, we are reviewing the list of things that should be in the camera bag, in hopes that nothing has been forgotten. Patiently, now waiting for astronomical twilight, which is about 1 hour after sunset and dark enough to see the first stars in the sky. Around 10 p.m. it begins with a faint glow, pulsing in bright green, shaped like an arch extending across the northern horizon. As the Aurora intensifies, yellow, red and lavender are added to the palette.

The differences in colour are due to what type of gas particles are colliding in earth’s atmosphere; green is produced from oxygen particles, red aurora is caused by high altitude oxygen molecules, and purple or blue colours are created from nitrogen particles interacting. The curtains of light move together, rising and falling across the sky in sync, twirling, and bending. Peaking with a wild explosion streaking across the sky above the tree line. It is 2 a.m. as the dancing lights dim but continue to meander as the moon rises. The camera is left at water’s edge to capture time lapse video of the remainder of tonight’s performance.

On each occasion I am just as excited as the time before to capture a moment in the sky that will not pass by again or be exactly like that at any other time. The Aurora and stars will always be on my get outside and go and see that list.

Here, alone in the dark looking up at the universe, I think of the how wonderful my day was and how fortunate I am to be here at this moment; witnessing the Aurora dance, and the stars sparkling in the sky. Appreciating the quiet. Feeling alive.

Sky watchers, astronomers, and astrophotographers can delight in celestial and dark sky experiences at several locations in or near Sault Ste. Marie at any time of the year.

Driving times are approximate and can vary depending on the weather and road conditions.

Book Rooms & Packages
/images/backgrounds/3.jpg