65 km (40 mi) linear 5-7 days (entire) / demanding
The most challenging and demanding trail in the park, the Coastal Trail takes you along the high cliffs and rocky beaches of Lake Superior. The trail extends from Agawa Bay, north to Chalfant Cove.
The trail ascends and descends over cliffs and rocky outcrops and crosses beaches of boulders and driftwood. Use extreme caution when hiking this difficult terrain. The rocks can be very slippery, especially when wet with dew, fog or rain. Windblown trees may obstruct the trail.
Blue, diamond-shaped symbols mark where the trail enters forested areas. Rock cairns mark exposed sections. Generally the trail hugs the coastline. If you lose the trail, continue along the shore and eventually you will find the trail again.
Gargantua is one of the main access points for the Coastal Trail. The 14 km (8.7 mi) gravel road from Highway 17 leads to the access point.
Gargantua to Warp Bay: 5 km (2 mi); easy
Warp Bay to Devil's Chair: 2 km (1.2 mi); moderate
Gargantua to Chalfant Cove: 7 km (4.3 mi); demanding
(Note: the above distances are one-way only; return along the same routes to Gargantua Harbour.)
Warning: Flooding caused by a beaver dam (2015) has closed a short section of the Coastal Trail at the north end of Gargantua Harbour. A temporary trail and new bridge allows hikers to go around the flooded area and continue hiking north. The temporary trail is marked with flagging tape and it starts on the right (east) side of the Coastal Trail just before the flooded area.
The camping area at the north end of Gargantua Harbour also has flooded areas. Camping in that area is not recommended at this time.
Gargantua south: demanding to very demanding
Gargantua to Orphan Lake Trail: 20 km (12.4 mi)
Orphan Lake to Katherine Cove: 11 km (6.8 mi)
Katherine Cove to Sinclair Cove: 14 km (8.7 mi)
Sinclair Cove to Agawa Bay: 10 km (6.2 mi)
South of Gargantua the Coastal Trail is extremely rugged and very demanding. Between Gargantua and Rhyolite Cove the trail climbs over 80 metres (260 ft.) to spectacular vistas over the lake.
The park’s geology is most dramatic on the coast where waves have exposed the rock shoreline. Rhyolite and Beatty Coves are particularly interesting. Along the way, sand and cobble beaches are nestled in coves, providing shelter for campsites.
A number of access points make it possible to spend a few hours or several days hiking the coast. Access points are located (from south to north) at:
- Agawa Bay Campground
- Sinclair Cove
- Katherine Cove Day-use area
- Coldwater River (south or north of the river; no large park sign)
- Orphan Lake Trailhead
- Gargantua Road to Gargantua Harbour (14 km gravel road)
The Park Map ($7) is recommended for those hiking or paddling the coast. The map shows trails, canoe route portages, campsites and points of interest. The reverse side has details (1:63,360) on the coastal section of the park.
Backcountry campers require an Interior Camping & Vehicle Permit. Camping is permitted on designated sites only. All backcountry campsites (along trails and paddle routes) are on a first-come basis. Campsites along the coast are shared by hikers and paddlers. If you are not able to make it to the next campsite, or if your destination campsite is occupied, you may have to camp in a non-designated site, but avoid making a fire (use a stove for cooking) and leave no evidence that you have camped there.
The permit covers your campsite and vehicle, so you don’t need a daily vehicle permit in addition to your camping permit. Your permit also covers your vehicle for day-use (until 10 p.m.) anywhere in the park on your departure day. There are several locations where you can register.
If you require shuttle service, there are a couple of local businesses which provide shuttles for hikers and paddlers:
Naturally Superior Adventures (near Wawa, north of the park): 1-800-203-9092; www.naturallysuperior.com
Twilight Resort (Montreal River Harbour, south of the park): 705-882-2183
Be BearWise in the Backcountry:
- Store food so that the bears can not reach it. Hang it at least 4 metres (13 feet) above the ground. If hanging a pack is not an option, put it in a canoe/kayak or boat that is anchored offshore.
- Cook and store food well away from your tent site.
- Seal garbage in a bag, hang it with your food and always take it with you when you leave.