van camping/paddling by lake superior

This summer I hope to spend 3 1/2 weeks van camping aound lake superior. Last summer I got some good advice about places to visit and a good route out west from the message boarders that I incorporated into a 5 week trip.

I’m looking to primarily van camp in my roadtrek at established camprounds. I would like to rent canoes or kayaks for day trip paddling, although I own boats my plan is to rent as needed. I’ll probably “canoe trip” with the camping gear for 3 or 4 days. I’ve got some knee issues so a lot of hard core portaging is not an option. I tend to prefer smaller bodies of water, where the scenery changes as you paddle or paddling close to shore. We also like to day hike but not much on fishing, or paddling on exposed big bodies of water. My wife and I are in our 50s and my wife and I are largely unfamiliar with the area. I’ve cross county skied and down hilled in the upper pennisula 30 years ago but haven’t been there since . The time frame is the last three weeks in July and first week of August.

Here’s my first rough draft of an itinerary. With each line being a day. Shooting for around 25 days. I just google mapped parks around the lake

Leave oak hill wv to Brighton RA Michigan

Picture Rocks

Picture Rocks

Van Ripen

Porcupine Mts.

Amnicon Falls State park

Ely (boundary waters)





Judge cr Magney

Sleeping Giant

Sleeping Giant

Rainbow Falls

Lake superior Park

camping near Batchawana Bay


Sturgeon Bay

motel in Barrie

niagra Falls motel

Fredonia (winery tours)

Home to Oak Hill Wv

What say ye masses?

Great itinerary!
Be sure to do Pictured Rocks by kayak, weather permitting. This outfit has very high reviews on TripAdvisor:

And bring warm clothing and lots of bug spray.

You’ve got to travel I-75 to cross the Mackinac Bridge and aren’t that far away from Little Traverse Bay. Harbor Springs is a lovely place to paddle and it has an excellent outfitter which rents top of the line kayaks. If you do go that route and it’s on a weekend, PM me and I’ll drive over and paddle with you.

You would also be traveling through Grayling, MI, which is canoe country and home of the Au Sable River Canoe Marathon, celebrating its 68th year in 2015.

You’ll have a wonderful time playing in our beautiful forests and fresh water.

Ontario coast of Superior

– Last Updated: Oct-27-14 11:26 PM EST –

Spend some time at Naturally Superior Adventures in Wawa. They have kayaks and canoes for rent and a place to park your van. ( they also have a very pictureque lodge if you decide to splurge).

Batchawana Bay is very noisy and right next to the highway Agawa is not much better in Lake Superior Provincial park. Might think of going down the Gargantua Road and finding a bayside backcountry campsite. Five of them are not too far from the parking lot Or Rabbit Blanket Lake. No kayak rentals in LSPP.

Also camp in Rossport. You can rent kayaks Camping is at Rossport Campground; the division of Rainbow Falls on the lake. There is another campground across the highway and down the road..also part of Rainbow Falls.

Sleeping Giant is fine for a day. But the campground is high up on top of the cliffs. Its worth a day to hike down to the water over one of several trails.Dont miss the Sea Lion.

Thessalon has a fine waterfront campground ( and much cheaper!) on Lake Huron. Its a municipal campground

Beware the stunning costs of camping at Ontario Provincial Parks. Its over $40 a night.

You can camp in the National Forest just outside of Bayfield and rent a kayak to go out to Sand Island in the Apostles. Sea caves.

I wasn't impressed by the Porcupines as much.

South of Sudbury try to get reservations at George Lake of Killarney Provincial Park. Killarney is beautiful. But popular

I’ll be sure to check out Little Traverse Bay and Harbor Springs and the Ausable in Grayling. Good suggestions. I very much doubt that I could get my wife on the water at Picture Rocks so that will probably be day hiking.

I’m hoping the bugs have relented some by the 2nd week of July.

Also there are outfitters that run tours
at Pictured Rocks. You can’t see that much of them from the hiking trail. Far better view from the water.

We spent five weeks going around Lake Superior this summer including two trips in kayaks that were five days each in the Rossport area and the Apostles.

In general the scenery on the north shore is way more spectacular than the south. However the sand dunes on the UP are very nice…

thanks for the thoughtful reply
Your post has a lot of good suggestions. I like the idea of eliminating a day in the porcupine mtns. and adding a day at one of your other suggestions. Thank you for the gargantua road tip. I’m also contemplating using sawbill lake as an entry point into bwc rather than Ely.

How different is it than Maine? That’s where I’ve done most of my canoe tripping (in the 80s) with the bsa, out of pittston farm and grand lake matagamon. I believe that’s part of your stompin’ grounds.

I already figured Ontario is pricy on park fees.

Tahnks again for the suggestion. Now its time to do some more research.

I forgot Pukaskwa

– Last Updated: Oct-28-14 8:43 AM EST –

There is a campground at Hattie Cove with several trails for day hikes.

The Pukaskwa coast is granite mountains and very rugged shore. Just wonderful kayak country but there are NO rentals since its a very risky area.

Its two hours east of Sleeping Giant.

Its kind of like Maine but way wilder and no lobster pots and no people.

Do NOT buy gas in White River. Its ten cents a liter more than anywhere else.. They kind of have a captive audience. Don't be caught.

L superior
It seems a little odd that you are planning a 4 week canoe trip without a canoe. You also mention that you “prefer small bodies of water.”

Maybe L Superior is not for you. There are lots of other easier to negotiate places to travel and explore.

Never turn your back on a body of water like Lake Superior. Dress for Immersion.

superior is exposed open water
Not sure if you’re asking about smaller inland lakes or the big one. But superior is exposed open water.

Sylvania Wilderness is about 45 min. away from the coast south of the base of the keweenaw, if you want to find some smaller lakes off the beaten path.

No it is not all exposed open water.

– Last Updated: Oct-31-14 8:58 PM EST –

As of this summer I have kayaked in about eight locations around the Lake including Lake Superior Provincial Park, Pukaskwa National Park, the Rossport Islands and Sibley Peninsula, Pictured Rocks and the Apostle Islands

In most of these areas ( not Puk or LSPP) you will find kayak rentals and tours for all abilities. Moreover Hattie Cove/Campbell point is fine for day tripping in Pukaska..its an inlet very protected some four miles long. LSPP has Gargantua Bay which is usually very calm and comes with a shipwreck. Also some lakes nearby in the interior. Rossport Islands do a good job of calming the water in all winds. You can get a good twenty miles in anytime.

Wawa has Michipicoten Bay which is often really nice ( sometimes it is not). If the wind gods say no to the lake..paddle as far as you like up the gentle and wide Michipicoten River.

The Apostles have lots of kayak tour outfits. Destinations can vary according to wind. Its true that you can get windbound out on those islands. Pictured Rocks is also exposed but not entirely. Going to the lagoon on Grand Island is a very nice short daytrip again with shipwrecks.

Both Pictured Rocks and Apostle Islands discourage canoes. I have a sea canoe ( which is built for the sea..a MR Monarch) and the rangers had never seen one before.. I had said that I had a canoe and they just assumed it was an open canoe.

yeah, that’s kind of the point,

– Last Updated: Oct-31-14 9:13 PM EST –

to try a "new" or a more unfamiliar environment than where I normally paddle. Even boundary waters is a bit of a stretch for me now although in the 80s I canoed 2,500 miles in the north maine woods and just a few years ago I did section I and II on the NFCT in NY.
Lately, most of my paddling has been day trips on class II and III whitewater in wv. Mostly I kayak, sometimes duckies, rafts, or canoes float my boat.

Van camping seems to work well for my wife and I. We took two duckies and a kayak west with us for five weeks this past summer. One of things I learned from that trip is that it is much easier to van camp if you just pick up the toys you need at your destination. We'll take paddles and jackets and rent the rest.

I'm excited to explore the great lakes region this summer, day hike, and do some paddling. If there are some fairly protected areas on Superior, I'll consider giving it a try and certainly some "professional" help is not out of the question. Primarily, I'm thinking of the surrounding tributaries for the bulk of my paddling. My wife's comfort level on choppy lakes doesn't exactly match my own adventuresome spirit. I'm planning a trip we can both enjoy and do the majority of it together, be it paddling or hiking.

I'm very much in the planning stages- I've already altered my itinerary to include the Ausable River, I've checked out commercial tours for picture rocks, and done quite a bit of browsing about bwca routes. Overall I'm looking to do equal amounts of day hiking and paddling.

If anybody wants try out some paddling in wv I'm almost always game. Consider yourself invited. We can take baby steps before we tackle some ww. That's kind of my approach with Superior as well, baby steps.

thanks!, more options to check out and
research. This should keep me entertained for a while. Trip planning is a pleasure in and of itself. I know some folks don’t like it but I do.

You have a problem on the North shore of Superior. There are many miles of hiking trails. The Coastal Trail in Pukaskwa does not lend itself to day tripping with one 11 mile exception…to the White River Bridge from Hattie Cove and return. Also the trails near the campground.

LSPP has many trails and access to them allows day trips easily. However the trails are not easy ( but susepect WVas are not either)

Casque Iles trail from Terrace Bay west goes far and has access to day trips. The terrain is mountainous but also on the beach or banks of Superior. You could easily spend five weeks just hiking there!

I have to admit that in old age Superior has become one of my favorite places to paddle. If she kicks up we just sit down and read a book or hike or do a photo outing… Never gets boring!

Dont miss on land or foot the pictographs at Agawa point . A small hike… if you have some sort of craft and the waters calm its even better to launch at Sinclair Cove right around the corner and view the pictos from water. There are many you cant see well from land.