Hiking to Great Heights 

by | Jul 5, 2021 | Fall, Outdoor Adventure, Spring, Summer

The 7 best scenic lookouts in North Bay and beyond


It’s hard to narrow down the best trails-with-a-view when hiking in North Bay. Surrounded by a 70-meter escarpment in the heart of the rugged Canadian Shield, on the edge of the Laurentian Mountains and bordering the Almaguin Highlands, scenic vistas in and around North Bay are as common as shad flies in July! With so many incredible heights to scale, the best thing about hiking around these parts is there are loads of options for a spectacular view—without the selfie crowds!

Lookout at the Education Centre Trails

The hiking trails behind the Nipissing University and Canadore College campus are a well-established network that have served as a distraction for procrastinating students for decades. They’re also a popular outing for anyone looking to escape for a few hours of forest therapy. A lookout platform located halfway along the aptly named Lookout Trail offers an incredible view of Lake Nipissing and the Manitou Islands. Hikers starting from the Hwy 17 access will need to climb the trail dubbed Rigor mortis to reach the lookout. While you’ll definitely survive the hike, a stiffening of the muscles is a likely result of this particularly rugged and rocky route to the top! 


Laurentian Escarpment Conservation Area

For the best views of the city—Lake Nipissing and Trout Lake all in one viewfinder—the Laurentian Escarpment Conservation Area trails have it all. From the top, hikers are presented with a bird’s eye view of the watershed divide where Trout Lake flows east toward the Ottawa River, and Lake Nipissing flows west toward the Great Lakes. The trails lead out from the Laurentian Ski Hill where the sweeping views are unobstructed. The area is popular with dog walkers, joggers, and mountain bikers. In the winter months, fat bikers are a common sight.

North Bay Nordic Ski Club

Farther along the escarpment to the east you’ll find North Bay Nordic’s network of snowshoe trails. Some are accessible in the summer months but not maintained by the club. These trails give yet another view of North Bay’s legendary waterways that have supported transportation and trade for thousands of years pre-dating European contact by a millennium.

Off the Beaten Track, a local North Bay business whose mission it is to offer high quality tour packages showcasing the natural beauty and culture of the area have created some unique experiences for visitors to check out. Fondue with a view anyone? Emma and the crew offer hikers an insider’s tour of the trails with tales of local history while pointing out some hidden gems.

Fondue with a View, photo by Off the Beaten Track

East of North Bay

Venturing outside of North Bay brings a whole new set of options for height-seekers. The Etienne Trails at Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park offer spectacular views from the top of the 100-foot cliffs overlooking the Mattawa River. Backroads Bill Steer recounts the history of Mattawa’s fabled Three Crosses perched high up on the riverbank of the Ottawa River. The trail leading to the three crosses is only accessible by boat, so a little planning is needed to get to this viewscape.

View of Mattawa River from Etienne Trail System at Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park, photo by Discovery Routes

South of North Bay

At Restoule Provincial Park, the Fire Tower Trail takes hikers by a historic fire tower to the top of the Stormy Lake Bluff with views as far as the French River. Before the more cost-effective and efficient aerial detection of fires began in the 1960s, fire towers were common across northern Ontario and a key tool for protecting our forests. Another former fire tower site that now provides a great day-trip adventure is on a height of land in the area on the outskirts of Algonquin Park near South River. This Tower Trail is stewarded by volunteers of the Forgotten Trails Association: the area’s new sentinels of the forest.

For a hike a little closer to home, The Pines Trails will take you to the top of Powassan Mountain. Sure, calling this one a mountain might be a stretch, but the height of land in the heart of the Almaguin Highlands has views all the way to North Bay on a clear day. You can hike up the “mountain” on a well-maintained trail, search for geocaches along the way, and rest on the park bench fixed to the bedrock at the “summit” (no abandoned oxygen tanks at this summit!). The bustling community of Powassan that hosts the trails is an easy day trip from North Bay and offers some great little shops and small-town hospitality.

View from Powassan Mountain at The Pines trails

When your legs just can’t take another step, exhausted from those epic climbs, the lookout on Highway 94 just south of the village of Callander is the place to watch the sun quietly dip below the horizon and reflect on your day’s adventure. 

Callander Lookout on Highway 94, photo by Discovery Routes

About Jennifer McCourt

Jennifer McCourt is the Executive Director of Discovery Routes, a trails and cycling advocacy organization based in North Bay. She lives in Callander, Ontario and is always keen to explore and discover new trails with her family.

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