One of the Most Beautiful Drives in Ontario
If you like road trips where the scenery is absolutely breathtaking, and there are a number of stops along the way for hiking, camping, or fishing, then you’ll want to drive down Hwy 129, also affectionately known by its nickname, Ontario’s “Tail of the Dragon.”
One of the most beautiful drives in Ontario, this scenic winding road starts in Thessalon and ends in Chapleau, and is peppered with pine trees, towering rock faces, lakes, and rivers. While there is no shortage of stops you can make on this gorgeous route, here are a few you won’t miss.
Pig Pen Chute
Don’t forget your fishing rod when you drive down the 129 as there are many places to try and catch your dinner. A favourite of many is Pig Pen Chute which is a deep chute on the Mississagi River that runs alongside Hwy 129. It’s also a great place to sit by the river and enjoy your picnic lunch. It’s not far from the road so you don’t have to worry about a long hike.
Finding Grindstone Falls is a little more challenging than other stops on this road as the entrance to the trail leading to the falls is a bit hidden, but I promise you it’s worth it. If you are coming from Thessalon, you’ll find the trailhead about 70 km down Hwy 129. You’ll want to look for a teal rectangular board attached to a tree on the right side of the road when you are heading north.
You’ll walk about 1 km on the trail before you reach the falls which drop about 100 feet. Your hike in will require a bit of navigating as there are quite a few trees down and at parts, the trail is a bit grown over, but it is well-marked. The falls are surrounded by a thick forest of beautiful pine trees which gives it a secluded and serene atmosphere The best time to visit these falls is in the Spring when the falls are running well, but it’s a lovely walk and destination any time of the year.
You won’t want to drive the 129 without stopping at Aubrey Falls, arguably the most beautiful spot on this route. Just like Grindstone Falls, the hike is just about 2 km, round trip. You’ll eventually come to a bridge that you can walk over to see an excellent view of the falls.
However, you won’t want to stop there as there’s an even MORE impressive view of these spectacular falls. You can actually only see a sliver of the plunging waterfalls from the bridge. If you continue over the bridge and follow the trail you will be rewarded with a much different view of the falls cascading down dozens of granite chutes 33 meters to the ground.
This past year has seen a rise in interest in camping. Many people who haven’t camped for years have embraced sleeping out in the wilderness with open arms again. Whether it’s private or municipal campgrounds, provincial parks, or national parks, you are sure to find a camping option that suits you.
There are a number of stops along the 129 to set up camp and stay for the weekend. It doesn’t matter if you prefer a tent or enjoy sleeping in an RV, there are spots for every kind of camper on this route.
If you choose to camp at a provincial or private campground, you will want to plan in advance and book early to secure a spot as they tend to be popular among many campers.
A tent or RV isn’t the only way to enjoy all the outdoor activities available around Hwy 129. If you prefer to spend your time away at a cottage, there are a number of local resorts such as:
- Wakomata Lake Cottages
- Cedar Rail Ranch
- Limberlost Lodge
- Northern Skies Resort
- The Outpost Lodge
- Moose Horn Lodge
After a long day of hiking, paddling, or fishing, spending the evening at a cottage resort surrounded by wilderness is sure to make your trip that much more enjoyable. However, just like reserving a campsite, be sure to call nice and early to book your stay so you won’t be disappointed.
A few things you’ll want to keep in mind before taking this road trip. Make sure you gas up before you leave as it’ll be a while before you hit another gas station. However, if you find yourself running low or just want to top up for reassurance, two places you can fill up on gas (and snacks because let’s be honest, every good road trip includes snacks) is Tunnel Lake Trading Post and Black Creek Outfitters. You will find both locations right on Hwy 129.
Be sure to tell someone where you are going and when you should arrive home as cell phone service is not the greatest in this area. Also, don’t forget your camera! Don’t be surprised if you find yourself pulling over multiple times to take in the views and you’ll want a way to capture those memories.
This is one trip you will want to add to your bucket list, and after you take this trip once you just might find yourself driving this route again and again as Hwy 129 has a way of calling people back to its beautiful, scenic road.
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