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While we were in Australia, we did a lot of camping to explore around Melbourne and beyond. When we moved back to Canada, we wanted to take that enthusiasm we had for camping and exploring Australia with us and explore more of Ontario.
So for our summer vacation this year we planned to spend 2+ weeks exploring Lake Superior and Northern Ontario. With the kids getting older, we also wanted to try more remote or backcountry camping. We planned a trip visiting two Lake Superior Provincial Parks and one National Park. While the trip would mostly be front country (car) camping, we wanted to incorporate a couple nights of interior camping as well. You can read all about our Lake Superior camping itinerary in this post. In today’s post, I wanted to share out backcountry camping
Backcountry Camping Lake Superior PP
If you are looking for a good entry backcountry camping trip, the Gargantua Road area of Lake Superior Provincial Park is a great place. From Highway 17, the Trans Canadian Highway, it is a 45 minute drive down Gargantua Road, a very bumpy gravel road. From there many hikers will start the multi-day 65 km trail or put in canoes or kayaks for multi-day trips, but you can also access backcountry camp sites. Some of these backcountry sites are only 500 m from the parking lot, making it a great way to get away from the crowds, while still not being too difficult. Best of all, these sights are first come-first serve, so you don’t need to make reservations months in advance.
Packing for a backcountry trip requires almost completely different gear, making packing for this trip extra complicated. We had to bring large packs for every one, small and light tents, a portable stove, light pots, etc. Meal planning also takes a bit more planning as food needs to be light and non perishable. We were moving from front country camping to backcountry, so had to pack our food and gear from a campsite, which added another layer of complication.
Our Camping Trip
We set off from the Gargantua Road parking lot and opted to head north. There are 3 campsites north and south of the parking lot that are within 500 m. We opted to keep going and headed for the Gargantua Harbour campsites, 3 km in. This part of the Coastal trail is mostly inland along an ATV trail, but was easy walking. Our kids did complain a bit about hiking to a campsite and carrying bags, lest you think our kids are super-human-kids.
At Gargantua Harbour there are 4 campsites along the beach and since only one was occupied by a group of Scouts, we got to pick our site. Apparently the night before on the weekend, there were groups at all sites. The sites are set just back from the beach in either a treed or meadow area with views down Gargantua Harbour. The Canadian Shield rocks rise up on all sides of the bay and with no one else around, the hard work of preparing for this trip melted away.
There is an out-house at Gargantua Harbour and each site had a firepit, with some sites having a picnic table. We stupidly chose a site we liked that didn’t have a picnic table and learned that a picnic table should be priority #1. We hung up some hammocks and the kids played in the water and sand. Lake Superior water is 53-60 degrees C even in August, but the Bay water felt slightly warmer than what we had encountered at other parts of the lake.
That evening we cooked our naan bread pizzas over the fire, watched the sunset from a rock high up over the lake and savoured the silence.
The next day after a leisurely morning of breakfast, playing at the beach and a hike back to the car for Paul to pick up the bread we left in the car, we set off for Warp Bay. Located 5 km further north, the Warp Bay trail was mostly inland as well.
We may not have had the best views on the hike, but we did we get to see lots of interesting mushrooms. I have never seen so many different varieties and we had fun taking photographs of these unique mushrooms.
About 4 km away, you come across a lovely waterfall where the kids had fun playing.
We reached Warp Bay, which has a few camp sites along its beach. We had packed a lunch and spent an hour eating lunch and enjoying the lovely beach. While the kids were brave enough to get all the way in the water, Paul and I only made it halfway in. The only other people we encountered were a group of 3 that were on a kayak trip. I would have loved to continue on to Devil’s Chair, but the kids weren’t keen on the hike stretching beyond 10 kms. We headed back along the same trail, to our campsite at Gargantua Harbour.
Our second evening was my favourite part of our entire trip. We hiked up to the sunset lookout above our campsite, but this time the sun put on a beautiful show. We picked wild blueberries, sang camp songs, watched the full moon rise and appreciated where we were. Lake Superior truly is like a group of 7 painting at every turn with its windswept trees, rocky shores and endless inlets.
On our last morning we wanted to get a good, early start because we were headed up to Pukaskwa National Park. The kids were super helpful packing up and didn’t complain at all this time on the walk out.
Getting into the backcountry with kids may seem onerous, but doing this trip reminded me why the work is worth it. Most importantly, I think it showed the kids that it was worth it. We are hoping this is just the beginning of many more backcountry trips to come.
Booking Backcountry Campsite at Lake Superior PP
Backcountry sites at Lake Superior PP are first come, first serve. There is a kiosk at the beginning of Gargantua Road to pay your camp fees (cash only) of $10/day/adult and $5/day/youth. You can also pay your camp fees at the Agawa Bay Campground park gate. The camp fees cover your camp fee and vehicle.