Silver Falls hike near Thunder Bay Ontario

Silver Falls Hike near Thunder Bay: Why it’s AWESOME [MAP]

Quite possibly my favorite waterfall EVER is at Silver Falls Provincial Park in Northern Ontario Canada. Plus, the actual Silver Falls hike near Thunder Bay is SO fun! 

Well … there’s a part that isn’t very fun. I’ll tell you all about it.

Silver Falls Provincial Park is a 45-minute drive west of Thunder Bay Ontario. It has a campground at Dog Lake, but note that it’s a 10-minute drive to the trailhead. 

And another note. This awesome waterfall you’re hiking to is actually called Dog Falls. The hike is a decent challenge, through thick woods and over massive boulders. It rewards you with a breathtaking lookout over the cascades. And then get as close as you dare as the falls thunder over the edge!

Dramatic and gorgeous.

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CONTENTS:

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MAP: Silver Falls Provincial Park Hike

Unfortunately, Ontario Parks doesn’t have a map for the Silver Falls hiking trail. And Google Maps doesn’t show the final stretch up to the valley lookout. 

Before coming out, I’ll admit I was a bit nervous about whether we’d find the trailhead. Online descriptions didn’t seem to match up with what I saw on Google Maps, and confused would-be hiker comments made me wonder if there were any markers.

BUT. I’m happy to say that the Silver Falls trailhead is well-marked. You won’t have any trouble finding it. Below is a Silver Falls hike map with key points along the way.

For the best trail map, I recommend using the All Trails app.

VISITOR DETAILS: Silver Falls Provincial Park Hike

Trailhead for Silver Falls hike near Thunder Bay Ontario

Trailhead with lots of markers

  • Location: 45-minute drive west of Thunder Bay, Ontario; trailhead is right next to locked fence of Silver Falls Generating Station 
  • Cell service: Spotty
  • Facilities: None (toilets at campground about 10 minutes away)
  • Open season: Year-round
  • Fee: None (managed by the Thunder Bay Hiking Association)

Driving directions: From Thunder Bay, head west on Dawson Road/Highway 102. Turn right/north onto Silver Falls Road and follow this all the way to the Ontario power generation plant, staying left at the fork. Note that about 5 km in, Silver Falls Road becomes gravel. It was fairly well maintained when we went in July.

Parking: There’s a small parking area literally right before the fence of the Ontario power generation plant. The trailhead is directly across from the parking area, and is well-marked with a sign.

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DESCRIPTION of Silver Falls Hike near Thunder Bay

  • Highlights: Impressive cascade waterfalls you can dip your toes into
  • Difficulty: Mostly easy to moderate, with two steep sections
  • Distance: 10 km to lookout and back
  • Time: About 4.5 hours to lookout and back (2.5 hours to Dog Falls and back) 

Silver Falls Provincial Park hike near Thunder Bay is a there-and-back trail that follows the Kaministiquia River. There are two challenging sections: a steep decline near the beginning, and a steep incline to the final lookout. Also, there’s a steady climb on the service road near the beginning. The rest of the trail is quite flat, but you do have to watch your footing over tree roots and boulders. 

Note: The Kaministiquia River water level is controlled by dams and can change very quickly. If you see water levels rise, move to higher ground.

Section 1 of Silver Falls Hike: Parking Lot to Dog Falls

Big descent at Silver Falls hike near Thunder Bay Ontario

One difficult descent to Dog Falls

It took us about 1 hour and 15 minutes to reach Dog Falls from the parking lot near the Ontario power generation plant. The trailhead is directly across from the parking area and is well-marked with a sign, blue triangles and blue ribbons. There’s no missing it!

The trail takes you through a wooded area, before connecting with a service road. Continue up the road until you see the blue triangle marking the next section of the trail.

Between the parking lot and Dog Falls, the Silver Falls hike is well-marked and well-used. But note that there is a fork in the trail, right before the steep descent towards the river. I still can’t find information on where the trail to the right leads. But given that all the views are along the river, take the trail to the left down the hill. From here on, the trail is a combination of wooded trails and boulders.

As you follow the trail along the Kaministiquia River, there are many places to access the river. Take your time! You’ll come to beautiful lookouts. A small lake. A small waterfall below Dog Falls. And then an incredible lookout at the foot of Dog Falls.

And THEN! The hiking trail follows the bend in the Kaministiquia River and puts you right beside the biggest waterfalls. This is absolutely the BEST part of the Silver Falls hike near Thunder Bay!

Dip your toes in the water, right where it plummets over the edge. Climb the boulders. Hang a hammock in the trees and have a picnic. You won’t find a better spot!

Dog Falls at Silver Falls hike near Thunder Bay Ontario

Dip your toes into Dog Falls!

Section 2 of Silver Falls Hike: Dog Falls to Final Lookout 

Boulders at Silver Falls hike near Thunder Bay Ontario

Massive boulders and blue trail markers

Hiking from Dog Falls to the final lookout took us about 1 hour. This section of the Silver Falls hike is definitely less used and crosses more boulders, making it trickier to find your way. A few times we couldn’t see a blue triangle or ribbon and just guessed our way through. But given that you’re following the river, it wasn’t stressful and soon we’d see another blue triangle marking the way.

The first half of this section is quite fun. You cross many massive boulders; some to scale and a rope section, too. It’s not particularly tough, but I wouldn’t try it with small kids. You also get lots of great views over the Kaministiquia River, with interesting rapids and little islands. But you have to leave the main trail for many of these views.

Lookout at Silver Falls hike near Thunder Bay Ontario

Lookout and trail end

About halfway between Dog Falls and the lookout, there’s a bend in the river. Beyond the bend, the trail follows a little creek through the woods. The Silver Falls hike ends with a steep, challenging climb to a small grassy area and the lookout over the valley. There’s a back road up to the lookout, where you can park a second vehicle and avoid the hike back.

Now, unless you want the hill challenge at the end, I don’t recommend taking the trail beyond the bend in the river. The lookout is heavily treed without much of a view. I was quite disappointed.

For a better finale, end the Silver Falls hike with a peaceful picnic at the bend. You’ll find pretty cascades, a calm pool and boulders along the water’s edge to explore. 

Near trail end of Silver Falls hike near Thunder Bay Ontario

Recommended trail end at river bend

What to Bring on your Silver Falls Hike near Thunder Bay

  • Bug spray
  • Sunscreen and hat (for lingering at the waterfalls)
  • Portable hammock (BRILLIANT for hanging out at Dog Falls!)
  • Water
  • Snacks
  • Toilet paper and zip-lock bag (since there’s no toilet here)

Bear spray is probably a smart thing to have when hiking near Thunder Bay. We didn’t have any. Instead, we talked a lot, and LOUDLY. Bears would’ve had plenty of time to get away from us!

What to Bring: Good Hiking Gear

Even if you’re an occasional hiker, you should have a few key pieces of gear for hiking near Thunder Bay Ontario.

The three most important pieces of hiking gear are:

  1. Comfortable backpack: I prefer a mid-sized backpack with an external water bottle holder and multiple pockets, including a hidden internal pocket (helpful for pick-pocketing on other types of trips). Here are my favorite multi-use day hiking packs.
  2. Comfortable footwear: Given that hiking trails near Thunder Bay cross boulders, be sure to have footwear with good tread. Shop hiking shoes for women and men on Amazon.
  3. Appropriate jacket: For summer hiking, I like my shell from Canadian-based company, Mountain Equipment Co-op. It’s easy to layer warm clothes underneath, and has underarm zippers and big pockets. Shop hiking jackets for women and men on Amazon.

Other handy things to have for hiking include: 

  • Reusable water bottle: A lightweight reusable water bottle with a hook to attach to the outside of your backpack. I tried a hydration pack and just felt goofy.
  • Reusable snack bags: Get a variety of sizes for sandwiches, trail mix and fruit. Helpful for carrying food in and waste back out. Amazon has a bunch of great leak-proof options to check out.
  • Basic safety gear: Always carry first aid supplies with you, including a whistle. Things you bring, hoping you’ll never need them!

Summary and Resources

First little cascade at Silver Falls hike near Thunder Bay Ontario

First taste of the waterfalls

I hope you get out to Silver Falls Provincial Park near Thunder Bay! Dog Falls are probably my favorite waterfalls ever. Rarely do you get both incredible lookout views AND the chance to dip your toes in as it thunders over the edge!

Before heading out, read through the Ontario Government webpage on what to do if you meet a black bear while hiking in Northern Ontario. Definitely helpful in telling if it’s defensive or predatory.

Have you been to Dog Falls? Share your tips in the comments!

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