Fall foliage is a free gift from nature. The sight of different shades of red, orange and yellow mingled with the green is truly a beauty of nature that you do not want to miss. Agawa Canyon in Sault Ste. Marie is a hidden gem in Northern Ontario where you can see beautiful fall colours while riding a train. It is certainly a travel experience that left me breathless.
I have heard about Agawa Canyon and its one-day train tour for quite some time now. It has always been a place that I wanted to go to see the fall colours. Finally, this October, I had the chance to take a 3-day trip to experience this beautiful northern Ontario from Toronto. I’d like to document my experience in this blog post and provide a review of my 3 days here, just in case you are looking for some information.
We booked a trip with a local travel agency. The itinerary was pretty simple. It involved a lot of driving and sitting and not a ton of walking.
- Day 1: Driving from Toronto to Sault Ste. Marie. It was about a 7-hour drive with multiple short stops in between.
- Day 2: Full-day train tour to the Agawa Canyon
- Day 3: Driving back from Sault Ste. Marie to Toronto, with a stop at the Big Nickel for some pictures. It was again about a 7-hour drive with many stops for us to buy snacks and drinks and stretch our legs.
We chose to go with a travel agency because, to be honest, we just wanted to sit back and relax.
We were a bit nervous about the long drives but turned out they weren’t so bad. Time flew by quickly because of the fun conversations that I was having with other passengers and the beautiful scenes outside the bus window. Our tour guide said that the bus rides were also part of the trip. He wasn’t wrong at all.
The frequent stops along the way also helped a lot. We probably stopped every two to three hours. In addition to your typical ONroute stops along the highway, we also stopped at gift shops with great ice cream, plazas with lots of restaurants, Big Nickel for some photos, and so on.
Agawa Canyon train tour
Of course, the highlight of the trip was the Agawa Canyon train tour. As I briefly mentioned, the train tour starts in Sault Ste. Marie. It is about an 8-hour train ride, four hours to get to the canyon, and four hours to come back.
We started our day bright and early for the train tour. Breakfast was served between 6:30 and 7:30 am. It was a great hot breakfast, with bacon, scrambled eggs, toast, potatoes, fresh fruit, coffee and tea. I have to say the potatoes were especially delicious. After breakfast, we were also each given a boxed lunch. The lunch consists of a turkey sandwich, a pasta salad, an apple, and a small piece of brownie. Of course, you can also purchase food and drinks on the train.
We left the hotel soon after, and we arrived at the train station promptly at 8 am. The station was newly renovated during COVID-19 when they got a new owner and the train tour was shut down. It looked very nice, spacious and clean.
But of course, I was more excited about the train itself. It looked just the same as what I saw in the pictures.
The train started moving shortly after we got on. As we slowly waved goodbye to the city, I was soon immersed in the beauty of nature. I saw piles after piles of beautiful fall foliage quickly passing me by, spilling over hills and pouring into valleys. The sun was shining, making the red redder, the orange more orange. The water was so clean that you could view the reflections from the water as an extension of reality.
The seats on the train could turn so you could always face forward, in the same direction the train is moving at. There was also a recording playing whenever we passed a point of interest along the way, telling us some stories about the area and the significance of the site. Most notably, I learned that the Group of Seven, probably some of the most well-known Canadian wilderness painters, travelled to the place and visited the parks for inspiration for their paintings in the early 1900s.
Arriving at the Agawa Canyon park
It took us four hours to arrive at Agawa Canyon park. We had an hour and a half to explore the canyon itself. We decided to pick a trail along the riverbank to see the waterfalls. It was a pretty easy walk. The waterfalls were not as big as Niagara Falls, but they had their unique beauty as well.
You could also take a more strenuous climb up over 300 stairs to a breathtaking lookout, perched 250 feet above the canyon floor.
Other fun activities on the trip
Other than the Agawa Canyon train tour, we also had other fun activities.
Northwest Trading Company
We stopped at the Northwest Trading Company, McKerrow on our way to Sault Ste. Marie on the first day. They sold moccasin shoes and many many interesting things. The little store was packed with so much stuff that it was difficult to walk through the aisles. They also had great ice cream!
The Big Nickel
We also stopped at the Big Nickel in Sudbury for some pictures. The Big Nickel is a nine-metre (30 ft) replica of a 1951 Canadian nickel, located at the grounds of Dynamic Earth in Sudbury. The Big Nickel has an interesting history behind it. The idea of the Big Nickel was conceived by a firefighter to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Canada. He had to overcome a lot of obstacles, including the government’s lack of initial support, and the inability to raise funds. However, he persisted, and the Big Nickel has become a landmark for Sudbury. It is inspiring to see how persistence can pay off in the long run.
- The drive from Toronto is long. Make sure you have frequent stops. It helps to have great company and great music! It is also important that you stretch your legs and have a good back support along the way.
- You can also fly to Sault Ste. Marie from Toronto. It is a much quicker an-hour-and-a-half flight.
- If you are looking for something more active, you should check out the water activities that Sault Ste. Marie has to offer. Ontario north has plenty of opportunities to kayak, canoe, paddle-board, and more.
As someone who loves trains and loves nature, the Agawa Canyon train ride is certainly something I thoroughly enjoyed. It is easy on the feet and very scenic. You can certainly add in some more active activities such as water sports while you are at Sault Ste. Marie.
I enjoyed the trip thoroughly, and I hope you feel the same.