Winter in Northwestern Ontario is incredible! The landscape changes and the world around us transforms into a sparkling winter wonderland. There are some unbelievably gorgeous things to see and epic adventures to be had with a fresh, snow-covered perspective. We have access to unique places as the world freezes, such as the beautiful, naturally occurring ice formations and frozen waterfalls. These formations are different from year to year and even change during the season, so they are always exciting to check out. Some waterfalls are accessible year-round and are a quick walk from your vehicle, some require a short hike and others can be a day long adventure! Whatever your preference is, there is a frozen waterfall out there waiting for you to explore in Superior Country.
Here are four frozen falls to check out this winter.
Kakabeka Falls is the second-highest waterfall in Ontario at an impressive 40 meters with year-round access for viewing. This means that in the winter, you have a totally new and unique perspective of this Northern giant. The falls are an incredible sight, and often don’t completely freeze over. The formations are magical, and you can see the crystalline structure absolutely sparkle in the mid-day sun.
This is one of the most accessible locations to view a frozen waterfall in our region and it doesn’t take long to get to the viewing platform from your vehicle. This is a great option for people who want to see frozen falls without a huge hike. A great location to bring photography equipment, for people with mobility restrictions or for a family with small children.
But, if adventure is what you are looking for, you can also get that at Kakabeka. There are other trails to explore, so you may way to bring your snowshoes. Another great activity at this provincial park in winter is cross country skiing. There are over 15 km of groomed trails to enjoy, so pack your skis and after you check out the falls, head out on the trails.
You will need a permit to see the falls and access the ski trails in the winter, so make sure you visit a kiosk and post your pass on your windshield.
This is a popular trail that is often explored by tourists and locals alike. It is an incredible place with lots of options for adventure and offers the opportunity to see one of the most beautiful ice formations in our region up close and personal! You can find the trailhead on the Camp 81 road about 20 km east of Nipigon.
To get to Mazukama Falls, it is an 800 m walk-up trail from the posted sign. Don’t let the short distance fool you, as it can be a challenging hike in the winter. There are two rope climbs to navigate and the trail conditions are often icy. It is a good hike for families and kids when the conditions are right but take precautions. A great tip is to wear snow grips or crampons and plan to take your time.
Mazukama is incredible any time of year, but it is truly magical in the winter. There are a few smaller falls and ice formations to check out on the way to the main formation that are truly beautiful in their own right! But the main attraction is the huge wall of ice that awaits you at the top. There are several sections to the falls and you might even run into an ice climber while you are there as it is a popular climbing location.
After you get to Mazukama Falls, you can continue on the marked trail and complete the 3 km loop that goes through a beautiful cedar forest. For the super adventurous, you can tackle the Wingtip lookout. You might have to break trail, as it is not frequently travelled in the winter. The Wingtip leads up through a challenging section called the Stairway of the Saints and up the mountain to an incredible lookout. Be prepared for a huge challenge and set aside 3-4 hours to complete this hike depending on trail conditions.
If you are wanting a less challenging hike but have your heart set on an up-and-close experience with a frozen waterfall, you can start at the trailhead and up about 450 meters is Mishomis Falls. You have to go a little off trail, but it is typically tracked in and easy to get to as is an incredibly beautiful spot.
Pro tip: check out this trail about an hour before sunset. At this time of day, the sun comes down and Mazukama Falls illuminates and looks like it is covered in gold. It is extremely beautiful and you are sure to capture a breathtaking photograph.
Aguasabon Falls is an incredible place to visit in the winter. The ice formation created in this stunning gorge offers you a breathtaking perspective of frozen falls from above. Depending on the year, the ice forms in a bowl and is incredibly beautiful.
Although the road to the boardwalk and viewing platform is not maintained year-round, there are several ways to access the frozen falls. The easiest way is to take the turn off just before Terrace Bay. You can turn at the signage and park in the area where the plow stops. It is about a 1 km walk to get to the viewing platform to see the falls and is well worth the short hike in.
You can also access Aguasabon Terrace Bay beach and hike west on the Casque Isles trail. You can add to your adventure by continuing onto Casque Isles trail Lyda Bay section and see some stunning Lake Superior shoreline.
Greenstone is home to one of the most impressive frozen waterfalls in our region. Some people will even say that this formation is more impressive than Kakabeka! It's not just the sheer size of the falls that's so impressive, but the fact that you can hike right up to it and stand at the base of this frozen giant.
To access the trail, travel Highway 11 to the pipeline station which is about 35 km from Nipigon. The trailhead is right across the highway and takes you up to the far powerline. You follow this for about 1 km to the creek. There is a marked trail at the creek up to the right that navigates a steady incline to the base of the falls. It is about a 3 km return and is a moderate hike, a challenging one if you are breaking trail, as Greenstone is infamous for snow!
The hike in is well worth the challenge because the view from the base of the falls is incredible. Not only do you get an intimate encounter with a huge frozen structure, but the view looking out into the Orient Bay corridor from the base of Gomar is incredible.
Whether you are looking to admire the beauty of these incredible structures close to the comfort of your vehicle on a cold day (with a warm cup of hot chocolate on standby) or you are looking to get out for a challenging hike and to embrace all that this region has to offer, in Superior Country, we have unprecedented access to some of the most incredible ice formations and frozen waterfalls in Canada. Come check them out!