White River suspension bridge trail – Pukaskwa National Park

Out of the hundreds of hiking possibilities in Northern Ontario, the trail going to the White River suspension bridge is the one you won’t want to miss. If you like hiking, you love nature, and suspension bridges, then this is the trail you must have on your list.

Being on the road already for few days, on our West to Northwest Road Trip, we planned carefully a full day on this rather difficult trail.

Pukaskwa National Park - White river suspension bridge trail

Having an early start on the trail was no longer an option, since I overslept exactly this morning. I got quite panicked first thing, but then I remembered I’m still on vacation, and oh boy, I did have a good sleep. As for the plans we were having, we’ll figure out later, what the day will bring.

We left the motel from White River in a hurry, as we still had an hour drive to Pukaskwa Park, home of the famous White River suspension bridge, our destination of the day.

Pukaskwa National Park - White river suspension bridge trail

Pukaskwa National Park is opened seasonal during the summer months only, as it’s located in the middle of the wilderness, about halfway distance between Thunder Bay and Sault Ste Marie. It is home to the White River Suspension bridge, and it is a real escape from a day-to-day life. Part of the wildest hike on the wildest shore of the Great Lakes, the White River Suspension bridge trail is only the first leg of the 60 km Coastal Trail. I’ve heard so much about the bridge in the past, and I wanted to see it so badly, that I didn’t really pay attention that our physical condition is not so great. Getting to a late start didn’t help, as I wanted to take some extra time in case we needed.

The trail starts right on the left side of the Visitor Centre, and the big sign we were on the right path was not visible right away. But indeed, since no other trail in vicinity, we couldn’t miss it. After passing by a prescribed burn site, showing the visitors about the rebirth of the boreal forest, and passing a wooden bridge, we were all of a sudden into the wilderness, ready to follow the trail.

Pukaskwa National Park - White river suspension bridge trail

I knew the rugged terrain might be a challenge, as the Canadian Shield offers surprises along its path, but there was no time to slow the pace.

Taking only a peak of Hattie’s Cove was enough to give us a huge momentum, especially due to the blue sky and the enticing forest ahead of us.

Pukaskwa National Park - Hattie's Cove
Hattie’s Cove

But shortly we found that there is a 1.5 km detour, due to some work in progress in the nearby wetland.

Multiplied by two, it’s quite adding up to our 18 km trail, making it to a ugh, 21 km or so. But here we are and since we never go back, we only quickened our pace to follow the path. Hopefully we can return one day and see the new pathway and the natural habitat from this large marsh. The little detour was quite muddy, we had to hop from a rock to another few times, so we’ll not be getting wet.

Pukaskwa National Park is known for its unspoiled, and variable coastline, protecting part of the longest untouched, and undeveloped shoreline anywhere on the Great Lakes. The park is famous for its wilderness, and its boreal forest. As most of Ontario (as well as Canada) has boreal forest, we learned what is this boreal forest about:

Boreal forests are somehow defined as forests growing at high latitude, where cold temperatures are, hence the forests are dominated by coniferous, and wetlands.

Pukaskwa National Park - White river suspension bridge trail

We enjoyed our quiet time walking in the forest, admiring the mossy boulders, and the dense wild vegetation. We’ve had our share to climb up and down many rocks on the trail, while enjoying the nature, looking for mushrooms, or for the little birds whose songs echoed through the forest.

We continued up, and down, and around a lot of roots and rocks, as the trail was weaving through the thick forest. The trail is not very well marked, but with the dense bush surrounding us, there was no way we could get lost, unless we were leaving the path, maybe.

Pukaskwa National Park - White river suspension bridge trail

We met some couples, and small groups of friends coming from the opposite direction, a perfect density of humans I prefer, as opposed with the crowdedness from the city parks on such a sunny day.

Playter harbour

The relaxing became quite unnerving when I noticed some fresh scat on the trail. I quickly checked the bear whistle. Yup, it was still in my pocket! We knew we are in the bear country, and we were prepared properly, having a bear spray and a bear whistle. But who is truly prepared to meet a big wild life in the middle of the wilderness? The fresh scat and the bleeding scars of a tree didn’t make it easy. Checking around continuously became my habit shortly, as I don’t really like the unknown noises the dense bush does sometime.

Pukaskwa National Park - White river suspension bridge trail

Our eager anticipation to see the bridge started once we heard the waters, before we could actually see them; 10+ kilometers were long enough, but few more pushes got us right at the edge of the bridge.

White River is considered one of the wildest white-water rivers from the region, starting from its source, Saniga Lake. Suspended 23 metres above Chigamiwinigum Falls, you can have a wonderful view of the vigorous and forceful waters from the bridge. You might feel lightheaded, especially after walking so long through the forest.

Chigamiwinigum Falls
White River

We continued walking a bit after crossing the bridge, and saw a little path on the left side, going towards the river, where we found a beautiful spot to have a snack, and to rest our dear toes😊. We hung around about an hour, the scenery was just so nice, that we didn’t really want to leave. The river and the landscape were very refreshing, energizing us for the return hike.

The return hike took us a little until we reached the detour area. Since morning, many hikers poked the already soft terrain, leaving big dents in the earth, where the water was coming out, and big muddy puddles or rather pools were all over. The dense forest didn’t help us to walk around, so we had no choice but getting dirty, unfortunately. It was around 5:30 pm when we happily arrived in the parking lot, ready to get to our next motel, in Marathon. An honorable name, after all: by the time we retired to bed, I just set a new record: 35,790 steps😊

Tip(s) of the day:

  • Wear proper footwear, and watch your steps, as some tree roots and rocks are pointing out too much;
  • Getting a map might be advisable, although the trail is a well beaten path;
  • Have water and a snack with you, as the hike is long, and this is the most undeveloped shoreline anywhere on the Great Lakes;
  • Pack as lightly as possible, as the trails are quite long;
  • Remember this is the bear country, everyone needs to be prepared.

~ visited in August 2021

29 thoughts on “White River suspension bridge trail – Pukaskwa National Park

  1. What a fabulous walk, Christie! I will be delighted to include it next Monday. It’s twice the distance we generally do these days, but the legs aren’t getting any younger. Well worth it in this case though. Especially the watery bits and the bridge! Love it! Wishing you a wonderful festive season.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Jo!! Indeed, this walk was a “bit” longer than what we normally do, but it was well worth! Actually we had planned another 22+ km hike that week, but we had to cancel.. it was too hot, and the skies too hazy from the wildfires from the northern areas.
      Wishing you back a wonderful Holiday season too😊

      Liked by 1 person

  2. We hiked this trail last summer and I was blown away by the scenery at Pukaskwa National Park. That’s too bad that the wooden boardwalk through the marsh was closed as it’s quite lovely and that it added an additional 3km round trip to your hike!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow. Who knew. We drove through White River on our 2018 trip and the only thing we saw was a long traffic jam due to an accident. Looks like a great hike and the bridge is the icing on the cake. Thanks for sharing. Allan

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This park is about 15km off the highway, but definitely worth a stop. If not for this quite long trail, maybe for some other sightseeing. Good to know, who knows when you’ll be in this area again😊
      Cheers, and stay warm!

      Like

  4. Wow, what a beautiful place and wow, 35,790 steps! That’s amazing, Christie. I might have to clock in a similar number after I’ll eat all the festive goodies next week. I love the suspension bridge and the staggering views from it. We have just one suspension bridge on the Island of Ireland known as Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, but it is located in Northern Ireland near, Ballintoy, County Antrim. Looks like you had wonderful weather to go for a hike and take in all the smells and sights of nature. Thanks for sharing and have a nice day. Aiva

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know!! I might need to do that too😊
      Nice to know about Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. I will keep this in mind, as we’ll need to visit Ireland one day, for sure😊
      Have a beautiful weekend!
      Christie, xx

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    1. This trail was one of the two best trails we hiked in 2021. I was certainly in awe with people we met on the way, who were hiking the whole 60 km Coastal trail🙂
      Thank you for coming along!

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  5. I can definitely see from your photo’s that this must be quite a challenging trail … all those rocks to climb over 👀. But wow, how beautiful is it … the mushrooms, birds and moss, that’s such a bonus on any trail. But oh my, I would be more than vigilant with bears being around!
    Love the suspension bridge (not sure how I would cross that), but it is a lovely sight!

    Liked by 1 person

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