Pukaskwa National Park

Northern Ontario

With only 4km of roads within its 1878-sq-km expanse, visitors to Ontario's only wilderness national park have to explore via hiking or paddling. It's similar to Lake Superior Provincial Park but more remote; keep an eye out for moose and black bears.

Pukaskwa's frontcountry is based around its only general-use campground at Hattie Cove, near the park's entrance. Stop in at the visitor center when you arrive: guided hikes and activities depart from here most summer evenings.

Three short hiking trails begin at Hattie Cove, offering glimpses of the pristine setting. The popular Southern Headland Trail (2.2km) is a rocky, spear-shaped route that offers elevated photo-ops of the shoreline and craggy Canadian Shield. Look for the curious stunted trees, so formed by harsh winds blowing off the lake. The Bimose Kinoomagewnan (Walk of Teachings; 2.6km) loops around Halfway Lake, passing boards with stories and artwork from the Ojibwe, one of Canada's largest First Nations groups. The Beach Trail (1.5km) winds along Horseshoe Bay and Lake Superior revealing sweeping vistas of crashing waves and undulating sand dunes.

The three trails can be combined for a 6.3km walk, while the Manito Miikana (Spirit Trail; 2km) follows a rocky ravine from the Beach Trail, to viewing decks overlooking the lake and Pic River dunes.

Pukaskwa's stunning backcountry is not for the fainthearted: the 1878 sq km of remote, untouched wilderness defines isolation. The Coastal Hiking Trail (60km) is the main artery for hikers, dipping along the vast shoreline. For a taste of the backcountry, many fit hikers opt to traverse the first 7.8km of this trail, culminating at the 30m-long, 25m-high White Water Suspension Bridge. The trek is damp and arduous, and there's only one way in and out (15km total).

Paddlers can choose from three incredible multiday routes, including the acclaimed White River Canoe Route (72km; four to six days), which links Hattie Cove to White Lake Provincial Park. Check with the visitor center; part of the route was closed when we visited due to a hydroelectric project. Gentler paddles lead around the inlets and isles of Hattie Cove and Halfway Lake.

Do not attempt any of these hiking or water voyages without proper preparation and registration. If you need a water taxi, North Shore Adventures picks up and drops off anywhere along the coast, though fickle weather can delay the pickup service. If you're not a skilled independent hiker, Naturally Superior Adventures offers guided excursions through Pukaskwa's backcountry. It also runs multiday sea kayaking trips here, as does Caribou Expeditions.