Lake Superior Ride??
Can anyone share any experiences/advice about circumnavigating Lakes Huron and Superior on Hwy's 17 and 61? The plan would be to depart Holly, MI ride through Sarnia and follow Huron coastline up to Sudbury area catch Hwy 17 and follow to Thunder Bay then down Hwy 61 to Duluth then through Upper Peninsula back down to departure point. Any particular points of interest and camping suggestions will be greatly appreciated. I'll be riding two-up with my wife.
I'm very familiar with most of the area around Lake Huron and the north side of Superior. There are a number of scenic places to stop, and a number of camping locations. I'm working on creating a nice list of things for you (and anyone else wishing to travel through this area). I should have it completed this evening.
In the meantime, how long do you plan on spending on this route, and when do you plan on going? I was just north of Huron and ran into blackflies; that's something that didn't happen to me last year in July - so time of year can make a big difference. The blackflies are already on their way out, BTW, so no need to worry about that unless you're leaving within the next week or so.
Lake Superior Ride
Thanks for your reply. I am originally from Michigan and have spent some time camping in other parts of Canada so I'm (painfully) familiar with Blackflies. My dates are open, but most likely latter part of July. We'll probably spend 5/6 days on the road with 4/5 nights camping. 500+ mile days are not a problem...we love time in the saddle.
I did Lake Michigan/Lake Superior in 2006 solo, and had a great time. My main resources were AAA and lakesuperiorcircletour.com The website had a lot of great insights from those who had made the trip previously. I'd encourage you to look thru it.
Ah! Work has kept me quite busy, so I apologize for the delay getting information out. Without further ado:
Crossing into Ontario at Sarnia I imagine you're going to want to run along the lake; Lakeshore Rd. aka Highway 21. This is a decent two-lane road. For the most part, you're going to be JUST out of sight of the lake. This road runs through lots of small towns (watch for the speed dropping), through farms fields, and past a wind farm. Traffic can be anywhere from light to very heavy. Heavy time will be the weekends (of course) especially past noon. All other times I've been through I had ample room to pass (safely) when I needed to. Although for you it's probably too soon to stop, Pinery Provincial Park near grand Bend (About an hour from Sarnia) is a GREAT place to stay.
You probably won't have time, but the Bruce Peninsula National Park is really a beautiful place. They have campsites, although the showers are outside of the campgrounds and you have to pay for them, so that's not exactly optimal. It's also the type of place you'd want to do some hiking for at least a day to really see everything. If you DO want to head up the Bruce Peninsula (or anyone else), take 21 to 13 (continuing along the lake) to 6. There is a nice shortcut that shaves off about 10-15 minutes. Most routing programs won't show it because it's an unpaved road, but it's hard packed and VERY easy to ride on. Here is a map showing the short detour. It's 13 to Quarry Rd. to Greig Settlement, and then a left on 6. This works both directions of course, and you avoid going out of your way near Wiarton. If someone is crossing Lake Huron by boat and heading south down 6, this detour is a great way to get ahead of all of the other ferry traffic. A local I met told me about this detour. Close to this detour (a touch east) there is Sauble Falls Provincial Park.
If you're not heading up the Bruce Peninsula, you can cut east. Instead of picking up 13, follow 21 east to 26 (through Owen Sound). More countryside and small towns, until 26 starts following the southern part of the Georgian Bay. Check out Wasaga Beach; the longest freshwater beach in the world. Just northeast of there is Awenda Provincial Park in Penetanguishene, Ontario. Also a beautiful place to stay. Anything along the Georgian Bay is going to be quite nice, actually.
Regardless of anything else, you'll want to tie into 400 which turns into 69. That runs you north along the east side of the Georgian Bay. For the most part you can't see the lake, but you will see lots of smaller lakes and inlets. You are also into the Canadian Shield, so instead of lots of sand and dirt you're going to start seeing rocky outcroppings everywhere; the landscape gets interesting. Although it's called a highway, I had a nie ride along 69. On the south end it's 4 lanes divided, then turns into a two-lane highway with the occasional passing lane thrown in. There are trucks occasionally, but I've not had an issue passing - traffic was never that heavy. Look around for bear and moose (this is the area I saw moose) as well as many beaver dams just off the road. There are some massive dams that have formed sizable lakes. Keep an eye out for inuksuit along the sides of the road; usually perched up on a rocky ledge near the road. They become more common as you head north.
As you may have noticed, I'm fond of camping at Provincial Parks because they tend to offer good campsites and good shower/bathroom facilities. One REALLY nice one about 10 minutes off of 69 (on Parry Sound) is Killbear Provincial Park. I managed to get a campsite in "Beaver Dam" section; site 333. It's non-electric (they have electric sites), roomy, and lake adjacent. Actually ALL the sites along that road are lake adjacent, which is kind of nice. Most of them are sandy, though. 334 is up a small hill and will only work if you have a small tent (it's a grassy site with some large mostly buried rocks on it. One good thing about Killbear; there is a small store just outside the campground that sells basics (quite basic) food-wise, but the guy is open later than most other stores. I rolled into Killbear around 7:30 on a Saturday and he was still open. Most places in northern Canada seem to pack up shop around 6 - maybe later during the week. keep THAT in mind if you need fuel or anything. Also, some Provincial Parks "close" at a certain hour and then function on an honor system to get a site. Find one that doesn't say "Reserved" and set up. Some have forms to fill out, and some you can pay for in the morning.
The next park would be Grundy Lake Provincial Park. Smaller, but surely scenic. About 1 minute off of highway 69, and maybe 45-60 minutes from Sudbury.
If you really have the time, Killarney Provincial Park on the north shore of Lake Huron is supposed to be one of the most beautiful parks in Ontario. It's also very popular. I haven't been there. The downside is it's 54km off of highway 69, and there is only one way in or out, so it's going to add 108km to your trip. May be worth it; I personally haven't stayed there. Everything I've read about it (and all the photos I've seen) show a pretty beautiful place.
OK, onto the next section; Highway 17 west from Sudbury...
17 east From Sudbury - also Manitoulin Island
Once you hit highway 17 at Sudbury, you will be back on a 4-lane divided highway. If you need any supplies or anything, Sudbury is the place to go, and the largest city you'll see until Duluth. Same Canadian Shield scenery around here. This will eventually drop to a 2 lane highway with the occasional passing lane. There is nothing major between here and Espanola that I'm aware of. If you have the time (maybe not), I'd take the time to ride down to scenic Manitoulin Island. Cross one of the last operating swing bridges. The ride down is pretty nice with some twists and turns and elevation changes. Road surface is not bad, but watch for some rough spots. There are lots of scenic pull-offs and places to explore on the largest island in a freshwater lake. It also has the largest lake on an island in a lake (get that?). There are lots of places to get a room; I camped at Gordon's Park. They also do a Bed & Breakfast sort of thing. The campsites are fine, but no flush toilets (though they had the cleanest pits I've ever seen). This island has the highest population of bears in all of Ontario (Canada?), so keep that in mind. I didn't have any issues (note that you're going to be in "bear country" once you get about an hour and a half from Sarnia).
So if you avoid Manitoulin Island and keep heading east, I have no info for you from Espanola to Lake Superior Provincial Park. You're on you're own, there. Looking at a map, if you wanted to avoid Sault Ste. Marie, picking up 129 (either direct from Thessalon or indirectly via Iron Bridge), you could then pick up 556 (Ranger Lake Road). I have no idea what it's like, but it appears remote and twisty. It ties back into 17, or you can catch 552 north and THEN hit 17. Just to give you an idea, here it is on a map. It's the road near "Searchmont". Let me know what it's like if you go.
OK; 17 around Lake Superior, one BEAUTIFUL section of road. Many times you can see the lake, lots of elevations, and lots of sweeping turns. I had trouble keeping my speed down. I saw one cop from Duluth-Lake Superior Provincial Park (and he didn't stop me when I was going quite fast), but I'd keep an eye on my speed. I was probably lucky.
A great place to stay is Lake Superior Provincial Park. Again, you can get a campsite RIGHT on the lake. You will hear some traffic from 17, but there isn't a lot of it at night. I slept through anything, but I near a few trucks before nodding off. Still a beautiful place. I heard a timber wolf howling off in the distance one night. This is a LARGE provincial park - you'll be riding highway 17 through it for quite a while. I REALLY enjoyed highway 17, and I think you will as well. Lots of two lanes with the occasional passing lane. I will admit to some double-yellow passes; I had semi's hitting their left signal as I came up behind them - they kept flashing it at me. They were telling me the road was clear ahead for a pass (verify for yourself, of course). It was really very nice of them.
North of the park is Wawa. There is fuel, a grocery store, some restaurants, and a subway. It's about 40 miles or so from the campsites, btw.
From LSPP, the road runs away from the lake for a bit (not so exciting) then cuts back over along the lake. You'll see a number of nice pull-offs for photo opportunities. In Terrace Bay look for the sign off the road (would be on your left side) for "falls". There is a short road to Augasabon Falls. I stumbled onto this by accident. The amount of water going over the falls into the gorge really depends on the time of year and weather, but it was really beautiful when I was there. It's a nice quick stop and gives you a reason to stretch your legs (if you didn't find other reasons already). From there it's great scenic riding along 17. Expect to see more bikes; I guess it's popular for people living in MN, MI, and ON to do circle tours of the lake over a few days.
Crossing into the US at Grand Portage, you could camp at Judge C.R. Magney State Park. It's a small park just off of Highway 61. I found a nice pine-needle covered campsite. Bathrooms were clean, large showers, etc. There are people on-site who act as "campground stewards" in the evenings; selling firewood and so forth. When I was there the guy was from the south and rides a motorcycle; very friendly people. I guess they usually stay there for a month or two every year so you may see the same people.
From there, 61 is a pretty nice ride with more lake views. I stopped to check out the lighthouse at Two Harbors and get some photos. After that, you hit Duluth, and head back east through the UP of Michigan (Which I have no knowledge of).
I have a few photos (nothing phenomenal) on my website that cover some of the area along the North Side of Superior to LSPP. Photos here. The photos up to LSPP end on page 5, right before the hail photos.
A few things I was thinking of; fuel isn't really rare in these areas, but it's not exactly plentiful, either. If you take that detour onto 556 I mentioned, I wouldn't expect gas from there until Wawa; but that's just a guess. There might be some things just south of the Provincial Park I haven't seen.
hope this is somewhat helpful and the type of info you were looking for. If not, hopefully it will help others. Feel free to ask any questions.