Fly from Chicago to Sault Ste. Marie for the best of Canada’s northern wilderness.
Sault Ste. Marie sits on the shores of the St. Marys River, where Lake Huron meets Lake Superior. Nicknamed the “Soo”, Sault Ste. Marie is at the centre of Northern Ontario’s best outdoor activities.
Whether you’re walking from downtown to Whitefish Island, or setting off for the wilderness of nearby provincial parks, you’ll have plenty of adventurous things to do in Sault Ste. Marie.
Spend some time on this city’s spectacular waterfront with a walk along the Sault Ste. Marie Canal. If you’re planning to make the short trip over the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge to the Michigan side, you can get closer to this famous waterway with the Soo Locks boat tours. Ride the highs and lows of your boat bobbing up to 6 metres through the historic Canadian Lock and immense US Locks.
After you return ashore, point your feet to the John Rowswell Hub Trail. This system leads to some of the city’s best cycling and hiking routes. Over the course of this 22 km trail, forests and marshes line the way. If you want to stay on the beaten path, try the trails of Bellevue Park or walk along the Sault Ste. Marie waterfront.
For out-of-town adventure, set out for the city’s many surrounding provincial parks. From the towering cliffs of Lake Superior Provincial Park, to the soft sands of Pancake Bay Provincial Parks, the scenery of these parks is always amazing.
Before you fly back to Chicago, see how artists frame these famed landscapes in the Art Gallery of Algoma. With works by renowned Canadian artists, including photographer and astronaut Roberta Bondar, this gallery can give you a whole new point of view on Sault Ste. Marie’s natural points of interest.
Just 10 minutes away from downtown Sault Ste. Marie, Hiawatha Highlands Conservation Area is sure to be a highlight of your trip from Chicago. With forests, wetlands, and waterfalls throughout this green space, Hiawatha Highlands is a wealth of amazing wilderness.
Hiawatha Highlands’ natural beauty is accessible along 35 km of trails. Hike to your heart’s content along routes ranging from short strolls to longer 16 km loops. Part of the massive Trans Canada Trail passes through this park. While Hiawatha Highlands only contains a small section of this enormous trail, a hike along this path allows you to be a part of Canada’s most ambitious trail system.
In the winter, cross-country skiing is the best way to explore the Hiawatha Highlands. 35 km of groomed trails give visitors a path through the park’s winter wonderland.
Within Hiawatha Highlands, Kinsmen Park spans 93 hectares and is home to some of the conservation area’s most breathtaking views. Along Kinsmen’s Crystal Creek Trail, you can treat yourself to views of the Crystal Falls. At almost 20 metres, theses tumbling falls are best seen from the bridge that runs along the top. With white water roiling in the gorge below, these falls are one of the park’s most striking features.
After you’ve gotten a glimpse of this towering natural feature, head to one of Hiawatha Highlands neighbouring historical sites. Mockingbird Hill Farm is a functioning pioneer farm, located just outside the conservation area. With wildflower walking tours and a challenging corn maze, this charming farm is a great end to a day in Hiawatha Highlands Conservation Area.
Whether you spend the day tracing through the trails, or getting lost in a maze, Hiawatha Highlands is a must-see stop on your trip from Chicago.
Travel back in time 200 years, with a 1 hour and 20 minute drive from Sault Ste. Marie to Fort. St. Joseph.
When you’re visiting from Chicago, the so-called “military Siberia of Upper Canada” is your window into Canada’s part in the War of 1812. During the war, Fort St. Joseph served to protect the Canadian fur trade. This most western fort in Upper Canada kept the trade on track as the tumult grew.
Pass through the remains of the past, with a walk among the ruins left behind from this former community of soldiers, First Nations peoples, and fur traders. These limestone structures outline what the fort looked like during its heydey.
The St. Joseph Island Museum offers a more detailed look at the lives of inhabitants and the fort itself. Amidst the over 7,000 artifacts, farm equipment, relics from the forts, and even a wreath made from human hair contribute to this eclectic collection.
Take a walk down the historic Cemetery and Rains Point trails, to pass by the maples and marshes that grow around Fort St. Joseph. On the grounds surrounding this national historic site of Canada, keep an eye out for the moose and beavers that live on St. Joseph Island. Take your wildlife spotting to new heights with the area’s avian population.
Birding around St. Joseph Island is anything but for the birds. The area’s wetlands attract waterfowl and shorebirds, creating ideal conditions for birders. If you’re looking to tick a few species off your life list before returning to Chicago, be sure to have a pair of binoculars and a camera on hand. You’ll catch amazing creatures in flight before catching your own flight back to Chicago.
Fly from Chicago Midway Airport (MDW) to Sault Ste. Marie Airport (YAM), with a quick connection in Toronto. Chicago to Sault Ste. Marie flight time is 3 hours on average. Connection times vary. The distance from Chicago to Sault Ste. Marie is around 1,225 km / 760 mi.
Enjoy complimentary drinks and snacks along the way.