Visit Kakabeka Falls Outside Thunder Bay In Ontario

Kakabeka Falls Outside Thunder Bay In Ontario.jpg

Visit Kakabeka Falls Outside Thunder Bay In The Fall

On our road trip home from Vancouver to Toronto, we were happy we enjoyed some time at the Kakabeka Falls outside Thunder Bay in Ontario.  The thundering falls were stunning from several different vantage points.  And we learned many reasons to return to Kakabeka Falls one day.

A Road Trip Stop At The Falls

On our road trip from Toronto to Vancouver across Canada, we planned a stop in Thunder Bay.  When we planned the drive, we put many waterfalls as stopping points on our map.  We definitely had Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park on our plans to visit when we reached Thunder Bay.  

We visited the highest waterfalls in Ontario at Niagara Falls in Canada many times.  And we visited the highest waterfall in Quebec at Montmorency Falls.  When we learned Kakabeka Falls were the second highest waterfalls open year-round in Ontario, we knew we had to add these waterfalls to our list of waterfalls in Northern Ontario.  It was nicknamed “the Niagara of the North”.

On the trip west, we only had one night in Thunder Bay.  When we headed out in the morning en-route to our stay in Winnipeg, we forgot to check for local stops in the area.  We were about an hour outside of Thunder Bay when we looked and discovered that Kakabeka Falls was behind us.  So we planned to stop on our road trip back to Toronto later in the fall.

On our return trip from the west coast, we raced the bad weather from Winnipeg to Thunder Bay.  We arrived at the turnoff to Kakabeka Falls on the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 11/17) with the snowstorm still behind us.  We were only about 32km (20 miles) west of Thunder Bay.  So we did not pass on a quick stop at Kakabeka Falls.

Trans Canada Highway Sign.jpg

Visiting The Empty Park

It was mid-week and a storm approached.  So we were not surprised when the parking lot empty was empty.  It was a good thing we found a parking machine and paid our entrance fee.  We saw no staff on the site when we visited.

We walked to the park map and determined the route to the falls.  But we soon found that many of the paths were closed for the season.

Boardwalk Trail.jpg

The Kakabeka Falls have not been commercialized.  We found the Visitors Centre with the Ontario Parks Store that sold a few souvenirs.  But that was closed too.  This meant the Natural Heritage Education Program was not operating the interpretive programs delivered by a Naturalist.

Visitors Centre.jpg

It was great to visit the Kakabeka Falls with no crowds.  But our visit was a reminder that not all facilities were open  year round at Kakabeka Falls outside Thunder Bay.

First View Of Kakabeka Falls Outside Thunder Bay

From the parking lot we found the Boardwalk Trail.  This easy trail was short, flat and wheelchair accessible.  We headed to the observation deck for our first view of the stunning Kakabeka Falls.  The name “Kakabeka” came from the Ojibwe word gakaabikaa or “waterfall over a cliff”.

We were delighted with our first view as the falls thundered down 40 metres (120 feet).  We moved a few times to get views of the different waterfalls.  And slowed down the flows with our cameras.

Boardwalk Trail Viewpoint - Kakabeka Falls Outside Thunder Bay In Ontario.jpg
Boardwalk Trail Viewpoint - Kakabeka Falls Outside Thunder Bay In Ontario.jpg
Boardwalk Trail Viewpoint - Kakabeka Falls Outside Thunder Bay In Ontario.jpg

From this side we got a view down into the gorge.  The Kaministiquia River cut this gorge through the rock layers almost 2 billion years ago.  

Boardwalk Trail Viewpoint Kaministiquia River Gorge - Kakabeka Falls Outside Thunder Bay In Ontario.jpg

Our first view of the Kakabeka Falls outside Thunder Bay were stunning.  

Views Across The Pedestrian Bridge

From the Boardwalk Trail we crossed the pedestrian bridge.  We got a view out over the falls.  And back up the Kaministiquia River.

Pedestrian Bridge Falls View.jpg
Pedestrian Bridge Kaministiquia River View.jpg

We found a wooden boardwalk on the other side.  But much of it was closed at this time of year.  But at points we looked out and got another perspective on the Kakabeka Falls.  We saw the viewpoint we started on.  And got a great look at the sides of the rocky gorge.

Far Side View.jpg
Far Side View - Kakabeka Falls Outside Thunder Bay In Ontario.jpg

We walked along the trees on our way back to the pedestrian bridge and got a close-up view of Kakabeka Falls from the side.  The face of the falls and gorge were composed primarily of unstable shale which continued to erode.  From this side we got a much closer view of this rock structure.

Far Side Close View - Kakabeka Falls Outside Thunder Bay In Ontario.jpg
Far Side Close View - Kakabeka Falls Outside Thunder Bay In Ontario.jpg

We were happy we got another perspective view on the Kakabeka Falls.  It was great that we found the falls running with force in the Fall.  But we imagined a visit after the Spring thaw would give us a more spectacular view.  A great reason to head back to the Kakabeka Falls outside Thunder Bay.

Plan To Do Some Hiking

We needed to move on before the storm caught up with us.  But we were interested to discover that the park had about 18km (11 miles) of hiking paths.  

Hiking Trail Maps.jpg

The Mountain Portage Trail started near the Visitors Centre.  The 1.25km trail was even wheelchair accessible.  So an easy hike for most people.  The trail provided views of the river and gorge below.  It was part of the portage trail early travellers used to bypass Kakabeka Falls.  The Little Falls Trail branched off from the Mountain Portage Trail.  This 2.5km trail look looked a bit more difficult.  There was a steep descent into the gorge below.  

In the winter there were also groomed cross-country ski trails available.  There were three loop trails – Beaver Meadows (4.5km), Poplar Point Trail (4 km) and River Terrace (3.5 km).  

Hiking and cross-country skiing were great reasons to head back to Kakabeka Falls outside Thunder Bay for another visit one day.  If we were campers, there were even camp sites available!

A Fun Stop At Kakabeka Falls Outside Thunder Bay

We headed back to the car and arrived in Thunder Bay before the storm hit.  We were glad we planned 2 nights in Thunder Bay while we waited out the storm on our return road trip from Vancouver to Toronto.  And we were delighted we managed to spend some time at Kakabeka Falls outside Thunder Bay.  

We enjoyed our first view of the falls.  But know there are many reasons to head back again.

Have you visited Kakabeka Falls outside Thunder Bay?  What was your favourite viewpoint?

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62 Comments

  1. I’m curious if those falls freeze during the winter. I remember going on a field trip in highschool to someplace upstate NY. I remember there were small falls that froze. They were really pretty with hints of blue and pink in the ice.

  2. So beautiful! I love all the information about the falls. I would love a road trip through this part of the world. Waterfalls are so magical!

  3. We do the same thing; Plan road trips with as many waterfall stops as we can find along the way! It is a great way to explore in Canada isn’t it!?

    Kakabeka Falls looks incredible! I love that you got to see different views of it. It is pretty amazing that you had the facilities all to yourselves (although I can see why you’d want to go back when more trails are open!)

    • It was indeed great that we had Kakabeka Falls to ourself on this trip. It let us explore at a nice slow pace. We missed this stop on our road trip out to BC. So we were really happy we stopped on the way back.

  4. Oh what a sight! I’ve been to TB several times for work, but never ventured outside the city and really wish I had. This park and falls is spectacular- at any season I can imagine it would look incredible. The best part is, I know how “quiet” these hidden gems are in northern Ontario and not overrun with tourists, just like this one. Great find Linda!

  5. I have never heard of this place before. Being a person who loves outdoors especially hiking, I really liked this place and the pictures you have posted. Looks like it is a hidden gem devoid of crowd, at least that is what I understand from these pictures

  6. Different season offers a different view and feel. We definitely gotta visit one place more than one time which I wish I could. Haha.. I enjoy going to the waterfall, too! And reading your article reminds me that I have been so long never visited one. I should plan for one soon!

  7. Wow this looks stunning. It’s easy to forget how much water shapes our lansdcape and being reminded of it when you get to the cascading waterfalls you can see how stunning and powerful it is. I didn’t know the Kaministiquia river was there 2 billion years ago. If rivers could talk…

  8. We love waterfalls and go chasing them on every trip. Kakabeka falls sounds awesome – the fact that it is not commercialised and so lesser crowds is actually good news. Your images have captured the best of the falls from different perspectives. It is good to know there are several hiking trails in this location. I am heading here the next time we are near this area in Canada. 🙂

  9. It’s cool that you were still able to see the Kakabeka Falls despite most of the areas are closed. It looks really beautiful. You did wonderful shots and love the one with the stairs/bridge. We look forward to visiting them too if we have the chance to be in the area.

  10. It is interesting to know that Kakabeka Falls is the second highest waterfall in Ontario, and learning other facts about it. The waterfall looks amazing and thunderous. It sounds like a destination that I would enjoy with a little bit of hike. It is funny how they called the empty park with that name.

  11. I can see why you wanted to go back and check the falls out–they’re beautiful! It looks lovely even though you didn’t have the nicest weather. Now you’ll have to go back and do some of the hikes!

  12. I literally just got home last week from Ontario and am so bummed I didn’t know about these falls before hand! This look amazing and I will definitely use it as an excuse to go back! Thanks for sharing!

  13. It’s so nice when there are no other people around. I found a similar waterfalls closed when I visited out of season in Slovenia, but I still went and had an incredible experience being there on my own. Kakabeka Falls looks so beautiful, and I like that you got to see it from so many different angles. If I would ever get there I will make sure to do some hiking in the area as well, it’s great that there are plenty of trails around, for each fitness level.

  14. The falls look incredible. Funny how you really only hear about Niagara in Canada when there is so many more options. I love that these amazing falls aren’t crowded. Thank you so much for sharing. Would love to go hiking here one day!

  15. We hope to make the drive the other way (from Vancouver to Ontario) when my husband retires. We will have to add this stop to our road trip!

    • You can check out our route from Toronto to Vancouver that has posted. We did much the same route when we travelled back from Vancouver to Toronto. Great stops along the way.

  16. Looks like a great place, especially for photographers. You were right to try different shutter speeds – I don’t think there is a single ‘correct’ speed for moving water, you have to try them all. For me, the best of these is the one above where you wrote ‘From this side we got a view down into the gorge.’ But on another day, with different water flow or light, it would probably be different again. That’s just personal preference. It looks like you made the most of it.

  17. A road trip from Vancouver to Toronto seems pretty exciting as it’s a long way, so stops for a rest, stretching legs, and admiring nature are great ideas. It’s great to know that Kakabeka Falls has not been commercialized, and there were no crowds during your visit. I like the meaning of the name “waterfall over a cliff.” I also like the view of the gorge; it’s pretty impressive and photogenic. Also, the Kaministiquia River looks exciting; I think it must look stunning in the fall. It’s great that there are 11 miles of hiking paths. It’s the perfect idea for a day or weekend trip.

    • We love to find interesting stops when we do road trips. We really wanted to stop at Kakabeka Falls and were glad we successfully raced the weather to get there. Much to explore when we get back to that area again.

  18. I had never heard of these falls but would definitely add them to my itinerary for a road trip like this. They look spectacular. It’s a shame you couldn’t explore further due to the imminent storms but with all those hiking trails, it looks like one for the list next time (3rd time lucky!)

  19. I loved that you had the park to yourself! I can almost hear the roar of Kakabeka Falls when I look at the picture – what an incredible natural scene. And, the view from across the boardwalk is such a stark contrast, being so placid and still. To think this gorge was cut almost 2 billion years ago by the Kaministiquia River is just mind-blowing! Hope to visit here sometime and see this beauty for myself.

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