The view of Lake Superior from the top of Mink Mountain is jaw-dropping. I stand on the smooth face of a rock plateau surrounded by openness, blue sky racing overhead, turquoise water spread out below, here and there the white blip of a sailboat. Dark shapes of islands emerge majestically from the lake, defining water from sky until they meet in the misty distance.
From this vantage point, it is not hard to see why Lake Superior can have an almost magical hold on people, why its vastness stirs the imagination and why, amongst a plethora of beautiful things, it can be considered the crowning jewel of Northwest Ontario. Located south of Thunder Bay about 15 minutes off of Highway 61, Mink Mountain climbs 600 feet above the lake on a point separating Sturgeon Bay and Mink Bay, and boasts a trail system that can be described as both intimate and expansive.
We leave the highway and follow the sweeping turns of Sturgeon Bay Road into the mountains. There’s a right on to Mink Mountain Drive, and then a left when that road ends at the lake. We park in the turnaround at the end of Island Avenue and access the trails from there.
With seven different trails weaving over and around the mountain, you could spend most of a day exploring the whole thing, but we plan a loop that will take about an hour to hike. Trees engulf us when we first step on to the trail, the narrow path weaving through the woods as we parallel the lakeshore. In places we are hemmed in by rock walls and have to scramble over boulders in the cool shade of the canopy overhead. There are glimpses of the lake through trees and around rocks, and then we reach a narrow footbridge over a spot where a small cave disappears into the base of the mountain on level with the lake.
The trails are well marked, and at a junction we continue on our path out to rocky Picnic Point, where the lake laps at our feet and trees grow crookedly and weather worn from the rock. Before us, Superior stretches out to the islands and behind us, Mink Mountain rises straight up.
We head back into the woods and start the steady climb up the mountain. It is a gentle rise at first through the trees, but it gets steeper near the top. Roots and rocks help with footing in spots and then, suddenly, the trail evens out again. A narrow dirt path leads us out of the forest into the open and we follow the cliff edge to the rock plateau, where we stand in awe of the endless blue vista of lake and sky.