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4 Places to Trail Run in Algoma

Kinsmen Park, Hiawatha Highlands Conservation Area, Sault Ste. Marie • Credit: Colin Field
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4 Places to Trail Run in Algoma

One man’s unlikely journey from casual city jogger to international, ultramarathon runner

Training in the Hills of Algoma.

My city running routine was getting boring: running at lunch, from Queen Street to Algoma University and back three times a week. Pavement and cars all the way.

I never pushed myself. I always found a way to do the minimum and call it a day. I still did it though, right? I ran 10km—not hard, or the best I could—three or four times a week. I saw progress and was very happy with the improvement in my health. But then I decided to run a marathon.

I did some research and found something called an Ultra Marathon. In this “treat” of an event, you get the pleasure of running through the Icelandic Highlands in the middle of nowhere. Amidst the most beautiful backdrops you could ever imagine, this place will haunt your dreams, in a good way. This marathon is about 10 km longer than a standard marathon. Also running in the mountains.

I realized I needed to up my running game, quickly. I needed to be running harder than I had been. But where could I find some hard places to run?

traverse city race

Nick running in an Ultra Marathon to qualify for Iceland.

4 places to trail run in algoma

Right out my front door is the gateway to 160 km of diverse single and double-track trails throughout the Stokely Creek system. Do you want hills? Come on up. Lots of people use Stokely as hiking or biking trails in the off-season from cross-country skiing. I didn’t see many runners back there. Still don’t.

I started running once a week to explore my backyard. It started to be the thing I would look forward to all week. That one trail run. Couldn’t wait to see what else I could discover back there.

1. The Algoma Highlands

My lord, it’s hard to run some sections back there. The Algoma Highlands was my prescription for a case of bucket-list-itis. Run the tough hills. Then do it again. And again. Iceland will not be as forgiving.

2. Hiawatha

"It’s only a hill… get over it” repeats in my head every time. Pretty soon all of my runs became trail runs. It’s too nice out here. No offence to town. Hiawatha is magnificent, but out here we got the hills. I could not have stumbled upon a more perfect place to train for this ridiculous attempt to do something epic.

3. Stokely Creek

Through the Stokely Creek trail system, I was able to somehow whip myself into a shape fitting of someone who could now continuously move for six hours. The term “run,” however, would be debatable at the six-hour mark. Things sure slow down for me after six hours. Again, I am not very good at this sport.

4. The Mile Hill

This is an iconic stretch of highway from Goulais River to Sault Ste. Marie. For the first video I ever shot with my new camera, I wanted to do it on a trail that I’m certain not many have taken by foot.

Park at the bottom of the hill where there is a truckers' rest stop. This is where I saw my very first moose! Always be careful driving this stretch as they cross the road constantly. If you hit one, it will most likely be killed and quite possibly you as well. Be careful.

As you approach, stay to the left-hand side of the road until you can step over onto the trail just as the incline begins. Honestly, this hill is not as bad as it looks when you first look at it. The grade is very gradual. Sometimes muddy at the bottom, the trail dries out a quarter of the way up and you will be on your way to some beautiful views moving up the track. Most drivers are trying to hang on for dear life going up this hill, not many get a chance to truly enjoy how pretty it can be on foot.

The best part? Going back down. 

Watch: Be a Mile Hill Miler

In November 2016, I ran 60 km of the trail at 6:57. I’d never been that far in my life. How did that happen?

It’s these Algoma Highlands. They toughen you up. They make you a better runner. Like Buck, in Call of the Wild. A former house dog turned wolf, I became a runner confident enough to now safely register in the Iceland race, buy flights, book an apartment, and officially commit.

The point here is, the tough love from these Algoma Highlands is what enabled me to finish that race. They kicked my ass for a year and a half to get ready for crossing off a bucket list item. Then Iceland kicked my ass to the tune of six hours and 45 min to complete 55 km through some of the most breathtaking scenery these eyes have ever seen.

iceland race

Over the course of 2017, I ran three more Ultra Marathons, two of which qualified me for a lottery race in Europe Labor Day Weekend. Thanks, Algoma! 

bromont quebec race

Bet you’ve never seen our beautiful region through the eyes of a trail runner…

Come along, won’t you?

Any Questions? Hit up Nick here

Website: www.bearinmindrunning.com
Instagram: @bearinmindrunning

utah race

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