Hamilton may be considered the city of waterfalls but if you like your nature pristine and without huge crowds as I do, then you’ll want to head to Northwestern Ontario. In and around Thunder Bay you’ll find a number of these natural beauties that waterfall addicts will adore! If you make it all the way up here and don’t chase a few, then you’re seriously missing out. Though chances are you already have a few of these on your list of things to do in the city and if they aren’t – they should be! Don’t miss these incredible Thunder Bay waterfalls when exploring Northern Ontario.
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SOMETHING TO NOTE: Not all of these waterfalls are within the city of Thunder Bay and some will require a bit of driving. The Thunder Bay District which I’ll be referring to spans from English River, just outside of Quetico Provincial Park in the west all the way to just before White River in the east and north until Albany River Provincial Park. I’ll include drive times from the city so that you know how far you’ll have to trek to see these Thunder Bay waterfalls!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Location: Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park [map]
Estimated Hike Time: 10+ minutes
Might as well start with the biggest and most popular of the waterfalls in Thunder Bay! Kakabeka Falls is formed as the Kaministiquia River drops 40 metres into the gorge below. “Kakabeka” is influenced by the Ojibway word gakaabikaa which means “waterfall over a cliff”.
You’ll find her in the aptly named Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park and about a 30 minute drive from downtown Thunder Bay. She’s often referred to as the “Niagara of the North” not just for her sheer size but also accessibility. A boardwalk follows both sides of the falls making this natural beauty easily accessible for visitors of all ages. This does make Kakabeka Falls a popular destination however if you’re an early bird or a night owl, you just might have her all to yourself.
Legend has it that an Ojibway chief in the surrounding area heard news of an attack planned by the Sioux tribe and told his daughter, Princess Green Mantle, to figure out a way to protect her people. It is said she entered the Sioux camp which was located upstream along the river. Pretending to be lost, she pleads with them to spare her and in return, she’ll bring them to her father’s camp. With Princess Green Mantle at the head of the canoe, she instead leads her and the Sioux warriors over Kakabeka Falls to their deaths and successfully saves her people. If you look closely into the mist of the falls, you just might catch a glimpse of her.
Location: Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park [map]
Estimated Hike Time: 1 hour
While many flock to her bigger sister, there’s another waterfall inside Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park. Head along the Mountain Portage Trail and you’ll find a side trail that leads right to Little Falls.
This trail actually follows the original portaging route taken by the Indigenous for centuries and the voyageurs after them. You’ll head down towards the Kaministiquia River where you’ll follow her riverbank along a beautiful, meandering path. The first drop at the trailhead is quite steep but after that, the trail levels out for the most part. About half way through the Little Falls loop is where you’ll find the falls.
There wasn’t a whole lot of water when I visited in mid-August so if you’re looking for more flow, I highly recommend visiting after some rainfall or in early spring. If you do though, be careful as the trail is mainly dirt and could get quite slippery in wet conditions!
Silver Falls & Dog Falls
Location: Silver Falls Provincial Park [map]
Estimated Hike Time: 1-3 hours
Approximately 40 minutes outside of downtown Thunder Bay you’ll find the Silver Falls trail. It’s a 5 km is out and back trail that starts off through a small forested part, leading to a gravel road. Follow the blue blazes along it and eventually, you’ll be lead back into the forest. There isn’t a huge change in elevation, however the terrain is very rough with plenty of tree roots and rocks to contend with.
About 2.5 km into the trail, you’ll come upon a clearing and the small set of falls known as Silver Falls. At the base of these falls is a calm pool which is great for fishing or to cool off with a swim on a hot day. Don’t make the mistake I did and think this is it though! Continue to follow the blue blazes for about another kilometre where you’ll find the majestic Dog Falls. This multi-level cascade is absolutely gorgeous and quickly became my favourite of these Thunder Bay waterfalls. A bit further up trail and you’ll find a great lookout over the river valley close to the end of the trail.
SOMETHING TO NOTE: These falls are fed by the Kaministiquia River but are controlled by dams so the water levels can change without warning. If you see the water rising quickly, get to higher ground immediately.
The map takes you to a small parking area that fits about 5 cars, however you can park on the side of the road as well. Just make sure not to pass through the gates as then you’ll be on private property belonging to the Ontario Power Generation and you could receive a fine for trespassing.
Location: Kinsmen Park [map]
Estimated Hike Time: 30+ minutes
Compared to the other waterfalls on this list, Trowbridge Falls doesn’t have have the height or stature which could lead some visitors to be a little disappointed upon arriving. However, one of the things I love about this waterfall is that with the work currently being done in the surrounding area, the flow is lower… meaning you can get up close and personal! You’ll want to take your shoes off for this one so you can do a little frolicking at Trowbridge Falls.
This really isn’t a hike per se and definitely more of a walk along a gravel path within Kinsmen Park. This has made it a popular spot with families recently as it’s the perfect destination for a summer picnic and a refreshing cool down in the Current River.
However, you can easily make a solid hiking adventure out of it by utilizing the trails within the Trowbridge Forest which this area is a part of. Maintained by a volunteer organization called the Black Sheep Mountain Bike Club, you have a plethora of mountain biking, hiking and even ski trails! Centennial Park is also just south of here and can add a few kilometres to your day.
Location: Pigeon River Provincial Park [map]
Estimated Hike Time: 1-2 hours
Head out of Thunder Bay along Highway 61 as if you’re going to the US Border. Honestly, you’re pretty much going right there as the parking lot is just 500 metres away from customs! Park at the Ontario Travel Centre and head towards the building where you’ll find the High Falls trailhead just to the left of it towards the road. Follow it under the highway via a somewhat creepy looking tunnel and you’ll be on your way!
Shortly afterwards you’ll see a fork in the road with a sign telling you to go right with an incline. My gut was telling me to do the reverse and head down first to the left of the fork (which is what I’ll do next time). But, I followed the signage and this section of the trail, albeit pretty, was mainly just forest and nothing special… until you come around the bend and see a unique looking bridge that imitates the logging booms that used to be prominent in this area. Cross the bridge and follow the sound of rushing water to the beautiful High Falls!
Standing at 28 metres tall (92 feet), she’s an absolute beauty as you watch the Pigeon River burst over the crest through rock into the basin below. The Pigeon River divides Canada and the United States as the water flows inland from Lake Superior – and you can wave to our neighbours! That’s right, there’s a lookout on the other side of the river as well and you can even have a conversation if you yell loud enough.
After you’re done admiring her beauty, follow the trail along the river where you’ll descend down a staircase. Here you’ll be treated to gorgeous views over the Pigeon River and the sprawling land behind it. Keep following the trail and you’ll see the remnants of a chimney and all that’s left of an old resort lodge that once stood here. From there, the path will take you back to the fork and you’ll follow the same path you came in on back to the parking lot.
Location: Pigeon River Provincial Park [map]
Estimated Hike Time: 30 minutes
Middle Falls is about a five minute drive from the main parking area for Pigeon River Provincial Park and an easy one to tack on at the end of the day. Head back towards Thunder Bay along Highway 61 and take a left onto the Ontario 593. Less than 2 km in you’ll see a small gravel driveway with an empty lot which was where the old campground used to be. When you’re facing the river, hang a right and this will lead you right to Middle Falls! It’s a quick jaunt that’s flat and easy to do, perfect for when you’re starting to get tired after a day of exploring.
If you were looking to extend your hike from High Falls, you can take the Old Logging Road Trail which will lead you right to this spot. However, it isn’t well maintained and has plenty of tall grass, perfect for ticks to hide so you’ll want to be prepared if you tackle it!
Additional Thunder Bay Waterfalls
My trip to Thunder Bay wasn’t nearly long enough and as such I wasn’t able to visit as many of these waterfalls as I would have liked! There are a few more close to Thunder Bay I didn’t get a chance to visit but I will definitely be checking them out next time I’m in Northwestern Ontario.
Sevignys Creek Falls [map] – I goofed on this one and totally missed it while visiting Trowbridge Falls. It’s similar in stature in that its closer to rapids than a waterfall, but it still looks gorgeous and I’ll be stopping by next time I’m in Thunder Bay!
Cascade Falls [map] – Despite being so close to the Cascades Conservation Area while visiting Trowbridge Falls, I missed out on this one. With a number of routes offering 6 km of hiking trails, it sounds like a great way to spend a few hours or an afternoon enjoying the waterfall and the geological formations of the Current River.
MacKenzie Falls [map] – Said to be a popular hike with a swimming hole, MacKenzie Falls is just 20 minutes east of downtown Thunder Bay. Park at the now closed MacKenzie Inn and follow the Mackenzie River to find the waterfall. If you choose to go swimming, remember the dangers involved and while it might be tempting, don’t cliff jump or you might be the needing a rope rescue.
More Waterfalls Near Thunder Bay
So these waterfalls are further outside the city and can make for great weekend adventures if you live in or near Thunder Bay. If you’re driving to or from Sault Ste Marie, these beauties make great pit stops to stretch your legs on the long drive!
RELATED: If you’re planning your trip up here, chances are you’re driving between Sudbury and Sault Ste Marie so don’t miss these awesome stops to break up the trek!
Mazukama Falls [map] – About 15 minutes outside of Nipigon along Highway 17 you’ll find the Mazukama Falls trailhead on Camp 81 Road. Said to be a challenging trail, hikers will climb 500 metres as you enjoy the gorgeous cascades along Mazukama Creek. Since you’re already here, take the steep climb up the “Stairway of the Saints” to the top of the Kama Cliffs and the Wingtip Lookout. It sounds like no easy feat but I bet the views are worth it!
Aguasabon Falls [map] – Turn off of the Trans Canada Highway near Terrace Bay to see the Aguasabon River plunge 30 metres to create this natural beauty. Park in the gravel parking lot and follow the boardwalk for a great view of the Aguasabon Falls and the surrounding gorge. Before taking off, head to Terrace Bay Beach where you can find another set of lower falls. Here there’s a bridge you can hike to (part of the Casque Isles Trail) for some gorgeous views of the area.
Rainbow Falls [map] – Head to the aptly named Rainbow Falls Provincial Park where you’ll find, well, Rainbow Falls! Head west from the gatehouse and away from the campgrounds where you’ll find a parking lot at the end of the road. From there you’ll see a boardwalk which will take you right to Rainbow Falls! There are a fair number of stairs but plenty of spots to admire the water as it rushes past. Follow the path at the end of the boardwalk upwards and you’ll reach a gorgeous lookout as you enjoy another section of the Casque Isles Trail!
What to Pack For These Hiking Trails
All of the above waterfall trails are fairly short, meaning they’re fairly easy to prepare for. As I stress in pretty much all of my hiking posts, proper gear is important. Many of these trails have uneven terrain so it’s best to have good support and a solid pair of shoes! If you don’t have a good pair of hiking boots, I personally like mine from Keen though I have been eyeballing these ones from Decathlon.
Also, you have to make sure you stay hydrated. I love my Hydroflask water bottle as I’ve found it to be the best to keep my water cold which comes in hand for those hot summer days. However if you’re worried about weight, LifeStraw water bottles are a great idea as you can refill from any of these bodies of water thanks to their filtration system. It quickly became one of the favourite items I packed during my latest trip along Lake Superior!
The majority of these trails can be done in a few hours tops so snacks might not be necessary but it never hurts to pack some just in case. There’s nothing worse than being in the middle of a hike when those hunger pains strike! However, you should know that you’re in bear country and take some precautions to ensure you’re bear aware. Black bears are prominent here, though they’re more scared of you than you are of them. Making some noise while you’re hiking is a good idea to avoid possible confrontation. You can also attach a bear bell to your bag to help with this. Lastly, it’s a good idea to carry bear spray but only use it if you feel your life is in danger.
If you’re hiking to these Thunder Bay waterfalls in the summer, don’t forget to prepare your skin. Even though many of the trails are partially covered, sunscreen is a must – especially if you have fair skin like me. You might not think the sun will be intense in Northern Ontario but I promise you it is! Then there are our favourite buzzing friends so don’t forget to pack some bug spray to keep the mosquitoes at bay. You might have to contend with blackflies and ticks so I recommend something a little stronger like this bug spray to help stay bite-free.
Go Chase Some Thunder Bay Waterfalls
As you can see, there are a number of these natural beauties in Thunder Bay and the surrounding area. There is a wide range of difficulty which I love as that means everyone can enjoy at least some of these waterfalls! Visiting at least some of them are a must for any visit to Thunder Bay. If you’re looking to chase a few, you might want to stay a few nights to ensure you have enough time to see them all! Check out these great accommodation listings to find a home base for your adventure.
Are there any waterfalls near Thunder Bay Ontario that I’ve missed? Have you visited any of these waterfalls? If not, which would you visit first? I’d love to know in a comment below!
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