The off-season in Lake Superior Provincial Park is from the end of October to the first Friday in May. At this time of year there are no services provided or facilities maintained. You are still welcome to use the park. No fees are in effect at this time, however, all of the park rules and regulations apply year-round.
Normally, snow covers the ground by early December, and stays until mid to late April. Inland areas, at higher elevations, receive a lot of snow, averaging 4 to 5 metres (13 to 16 feet) per year. The park area receives one of the highest amounts of precipitation in Ontario. This generally amounts to accumulations of about 1 metre (3.25 feet) on the ground at inland areas and accumulations of 40 to 60 cm (15 to 24 inches) close to Lake Superior.
There is snow depth report done every week at the park office at Red Rock Lake. The depth of snow at 10 snow stations in the Red Rock Lake area is recorded and then averaged to produce a snow depth for that week. We will try to post that information on Facebook and Twitter. The snow depth at Red Rock Lake is often the highest amount in the park. Snow depth near the shore of Lake Superior is often less than at Red Rock Lake.
A winter visit to Lake Superior Provincial Park can be a rewarding and fascinating experience. Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and ice fishing are popular activities that take place in the park. Snowshoes are generally better suited to the rugged terrain of the trails. The best areas for cross-country skiing are along roads (s.a. Gargantua, Mijinemungshing, and old logging roads) or lake to lake (Fenton-Treeby Canoe Route has short portages). It is also advisable to wait until later in the season, after there is a crust to travel by cross-country skis.
Although there are no maintained winter trails, there are still plenty of places to explore during the winter months. There are many areas you can access by snowshoe, it really depends how much “bushwhacking” you want to do, or if you prefer to follow a trail. A few areas (Orphan Lake and Nokomis Trails) get regular use, so there is usually somewhat of a packed trail, but you may have to break trail in other locations.
The most important consideration is picking an area where you can safely park off of the Trans-Canada Hwy. The park does not maintain access points or parking areas (except for the park office) during the winter. Snow removal is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Transportation Ontario. Snowplow operators will generally clear out a few spots where vehicles can get off of the highway. However, this can be variable and clearing the highway takes priority; if we have heavy snowfall, they may not get to these areas right away. It is recommended to use cleared access points wherever possible, especially if you are going to be in the backcountry for a few days. You may see vehicles parked along the highway during the day for ice fishing, but this can be hazardous due to truck traffic, snow removal trucks, etc. Bring a shovel with you, so that you can dig yourself out if necessary, or clear a parking spot for yourself, well off of the highway.
A park map is recommended. These can be ordered by phone from the park office (705-856-2284).
As with any trip, particularly into a secluded wilderness area such as Lake Superior Provincial Park, extra precautions should be made. A successful and pleasurable trip requires prior knowledge and preparation. Please provide a relative or friend with an exact itinerary, including trip route and expected date of return. Ensure that you leave yourself plenty of time when departing on your trip, travel with a buddy, and plan to arrive back at your vehicle or campsite before sunset.
It is always a good idea to check weather and ice conditions before you leave on your trip. The park office, which is usually open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., can provide you with an update on weather and ice conditions. If you are camping in the park interior, we recommend that you camp in low sheltered areas where there is a good supply of standing dead firewood for warmth and cooking. If possible, please camp on a designated campsite. Most backcountry sites have a box privy.
It is advisable to carry an emergency pack with you while on an excursion in the park. Your pack should contain the following items: first aid kit; waterproof matches; extra sweater, gloves and socks; items for emergency repairs to snowshoes or skis (i.e. spare ski tip and small piece of wire for bindings; extra snowshoe binding); and high energy food. When visiting the park in the winter months, please remember that all park rules and regulations, such as a ban on the possession of cans and bottles and the prohibition on cutting of live growth, are still in effect.
Suggested locations for day snowshoe trips:
Nokomis Trail (5 km; 3 miles)
- parking area at Old Woman Bay picnic/day-use area, generally small plowed area
- the trail is across the Hwy from Old Woman Bay; it is not marked with a large highway sign as other trails are
- generally well-used trail in the winter
- good access to Lake Superior at Old Woman Bay
Trapper’s Trail (1.5 km; 1 mile)
- may have a small plowed parking area
- short, easy trail; there may be tracks leading to other lakes for ice fishing
Orphan Lake Trail (8 km; 5 miles)
- usually has a cleared parking area
- generally gets some winter use
- diverse trail – nice lookouts; beach on Lake Superior; Baldhead River and falls; joins with the Coastal Trail
- usually has a small plowed parking area
- easy access to Lake Superior
- also access to Coastal Hiking Trail; suggest going north; (hike along the beach to pick up the trail)
Sand River (Pinguisibi Trail) (6 km; 3.7 miles, return)
- usually there is a small plowed parking area
- nice trail along the Sand River; go upstream and return along the same route
The campgrounds are closed, but you can hike/snowshoe in, or camp in the backcountry. Some suggested areas include:
Orphan Lake Trail (8 km; 5 miles)
- usually the parking lot has a cleared area
- generally gets some winter use
- campsites near the junction of Orphan Lake and Coastal Trails, on the north side of the Baldhead River, near Lake Superior; follow the Orphan Lake Trail to Lake Superior, then along the river to the bridge (Coastal Trail junction)
- from here you could go further north along the Coastal Trail to Beatty Cove; this section is quite rugged in places; it may be easier to take your snowshoes off in some places
Old Woman Lake
- small area at the start of the Gargantua Road usually plowed
- access from the unmarked road (across from Gargantua Road); east along an old logging road to Mash Lake (~ 6 km; 3.7 mi) or Old Woman Lake (~11 km; 6.8 mi)
- campsites on Mash Lake and Old Woman Lake
- recommended to have a park map for this route, since you must go off of the road to get to the lakes
- small area plowed, but very limited parking; be careful parking here, as the road drops off and the access is at the bottom of a hill, along a curve; the road is marked by a small sign (not one of the large park signs; approx., 9 km; 5.5 miles, north of Gargantua Road)
- snowshoe along the road, then take the portage to the lake (~2 km; 1.2 mi); several campsites on the lake
- this is a popular lake for ice fishing, so it should be fairly easy to follow the trail into the lake
Other locations where a parking area may be cleared include: Crescent Lake Campground entrance, Frater Road entrance, Awausee Trail and Sinclair Cove/Agawa Rock road entrance.