Kap-Kig-Iwan: Discover Your Perfect Hike to See Waterfalls

Whitewater rapids, roaring waterfalls, rocky ravines, and towering birch and pine. Sounds like a piece of untouched, hard-to-access piece of Canadian wilderness. In fact, Kap-Kig-Iwan Provincial Park near Englehart and Kirkland Lake offers some of the most accessible scenery in Northern Ontario. The park boasts an excellent hiking distance to scenic lookout ratio—with several just a few steps from the park’s main road.

There are many must-do hikes, starting at a 2.5-km loop perfect for hiking novices and young families and moving up to a more rugged 5.7-km trail for back country adventure seekers.

Although highly accessible, the park’s rural location, rugged Ontario backdrop, and modest visitor count (even in summer’s high season), make a trip to Kap-Kig-Iwan feel like an adventure in your own personal paradise. And—as an added bonus—the park claims to be the only park in Northern Ontario to offer blackfly-free camping (due to its high altitude which discourages these tiny banes of a camper’s existence).

Calling All Scenery Seekers

At 325 hectares, Kap-Kig-Iwan is the smallest provincial park in Northern Ontario; however, this just means you can really dig in and ‘conquer’ the treasures of this park on a day or weekend trip. The park is easy-to-find as you drive along Highway 11 just south of Englehart. An ‘E-shaped’ road runs through the park north of the river, and each bend and climb in the road promises another photogenic glimpse of the park’s untouched forest and peaceful river valley. This paved roadway also provides guests several convenient access points for trails and scenic views. In fact, several panoramic vistas and thundering waterfalls are a short stroll from a parking lot.

There are three parks trails that run from beginner level to more advanced:

Upland Circle Trail (1 hour, 2.5 km):

Take a stroll through the clifftop woods, high above the river below. You can also pull out your cross-country skis to use this trail in the winter.

Hell’s Gate Trail (2.5 hours, 5 km):

Don’t let the ominous name put you off! The trail joins up with the Upland Circle Trail, but also includes a winding path along the river bank to see some amazing rapids and falls. If you’re going to do one hike in the park, this is the one to do. In-the-know visitors pack a picnic lunch to enjoy beneath one of the sheltered pavilions or at the picnic tables found along the trail.

Englehart Riverside Hiking Trail (3.5 hours, 5.7 km):

If you don’t own a pair of good hiking shoes, didn’t know that ski poles can be used for summer nature forays, and get winded walking across the shopping mall parking lot, this trail isn’t for you! Here you’ll scale rocky hilltops, cross several bridges, and cross potentially muddy trail sections. But the forest and river views make this hike a worthwhile endeavour.

As you explore the park, you’ll no doubt notice the beautiful wildflowers and wildlife (including beavers), but you should also note the signs of the landscape’s over two billion years of history. The rocks found on the lowest level of the river valley floor are some of the oldest in the world and contain fossils of some of the planet’s earliest life.

Birdwatchers enjoy the quiet solitude (often missing from some of Ontario’s more frequented provincial parks) and the chance to spot Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Easter Wood Peewee, vireos, warblers, and fly catchers. Each evening, the thrushes serenade campers with those wonderful mellifluous songs that epitomize Northern Ontario.

Waterfalls Galore

And with a name derived from the Ojibwe phrase for “high falls” or “water running over the edge,” no wonder Kap-Kig-Iwan is the proud protector of several stunning waterfalls. The Hell’s Gate Trail includes waterfalls ranging from wide expanses of river with short drops to the roaring main falls. Whitewater rapids connected these special spots and rock steps guide visitors down to the best spots for photos.

Camp Without Thousands of Annoying ‘Friends’

Campground smaller

Any summer camper knows that an invasion of even one mosquito or blackfly into your tent or trailer is an annoyance that can keep you up all night. And these pests rarely travel alone. So imagine the relief for campers that take advantage of the quiet campground at Kap-Kig-Iwan and find there are absolutely no blackflies. Perched high above the river, the 32 campsites (each with electrical hook-up) are blissfully out of range of the low-flying, buzzing creatures.

With spring just around the corner, now’s the time to plan an excursion to Kap-Kig-Iwan’s waterfalls, trails, and camp sites.

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