Nestled in the rugged and untamed wilderness of Northwestern Ontario, close to the beautiful community of Terrace Bay, lies one of Canada’s best-kept secrets: the Casque Isles Hiking Trail. Among its captivating segments, the Death Valley section stands out as a testament to nature’s raw beauty and the indomitable spirit of adventurers. This challenging 10-kilometer stretch takes hikers through an awe-inspiring landscape where towering cliffs meet the relentless power of Lake Superior, and dense forests conceal serene, hidden lakes. As you traverse the rugged terrain, every step reveals a new breathtaking vista, offering both a test of endurance and a reward of unparalleled triumph. Whether you’re an experienced hiker seeking a thrilling escapade, or a nature lover drawn to the call of the wild, the Death Valley segment promises an unforgettable journey through one of the most spectacular regions in the Great White North.

The Death Valley segment has two access points on Highway 17, at Worthington Bay Road and Hydro Bay Road. The segment itself, when through hiking the trail is about 10 km, but if you are electing to do just the one segment it adds another 7 km to get to your vehicle at the access points. It’s a point-to-point segment, so the best way to tackle transportation is bring two vehicles and park at each access point or get a ride from your end point back to your vehicle.  My favourite way to hike this segment is to start at Hydro Bay and hike west. I have done this segment many times as a stand-alone, and as a through-hike of the whole Casque Iles Trail, and it continues to be my favourite hike in Ontario, hands down. Let me tell you about it!

Park at the Hydro Bay trail head marker and make your way down a private drive lined by camps. Follow the trail markers as you leave civilization behind.  The trail starts through dense forest, a journey into nature’s serene beauty. The thick canopy overhead filters the sunlight, creating a dance of light and shadow on the forest floor. Towering birch, poplar, and pine, stand like ancient guardians watching the trail. The air is fresh and filled with the earthy aroma of moss, punctuated by the distant calls of birds and the rustling of squirrels. As you tread softly on the cushioned path of fallen leaves and pine needles, the forest envelops you in its tranquil embrace, offering a peaceful prelude to the stark, contrasting landscapes that lie ahead in Death Valley.

Petit Escrits

From Kelly’s Harbour to Les Petit Escrits, the journey challenges you with steep inclines and drops as you navigate the landscape from hillside to shoreline. This exhilarating challenge rewards hikers with breathtaking beauty at every turn. The rugged terrain demands careful footing as you climb steep inclines and navigate precipitous descents into the stunning rocky bays of Lake Superior. Each ascent brings you to lofty lookouts where the vast expanse of the lake unfolds beneath you. These panoramic vistas, high above the shoreline, offer a sense of awe and accomplishment. Descending, you find yourself intimately close to the water’s edge, where the waves lap gently against ancient rocks, and the air is filled with the crisp, refreshing scent of the lake. The juxtaposition of challenging climbs and serene bays creates a hiking experience that is both physically demanding and spiritually uplifting, immersing you in the wild beauty of the landscape.

Camping at Petit Escrits

At Petit Escrits there is the most beautiful campsite. A glorious white sand beach nestled into the protected cove of the channel. I have so many wonderful memories camping at this spot, and although it is a challenge to haul in overnight gear, it is absolutely worth it to camp that close to the wonder and beauty of the big lake.

Hiking through “Mars”

Passing by the beautiful beach of Petit Escrits, you are on the home stretch to Worthington Bay. which is my favorite part of Death Valley.  Scrambling across rocky shoreline where you are face to face with huge fissures and incredible basalt structures that tower above you in an artful display. There is one spot just before Worthington Bay that my friends and I have lovingly nicknamed “Mars”.  Here, the rock flows over the landscape in red tinged waves gently kissing the turquoise waters of Lake Superior.  The otherworldly vibe of Mars is just as interesting to look at as it is to hike across – with some technical sections that require slow and steady foot placements!

The Worthington Bay Rock

Worthington Bay is always a welcomed sight. The dark grey shoreline of course sand and small pebbles stretch across a beautiful bay.  A few amazing things about this spot is the pictographs.  They are hidden along the far west side of the beach in a little cove. Another favorite feature of mine is the Worthington Bay Rock.  A stunning jagged structure rising from the dark beach. A great place for an Instagram worthy photo!

A Superior View

As you reach the end of the Death Valley segment, the sense of accomplishment and wonder is palpable. Every step taken over rocky outcrops, through lush forests, and along the breathtaking shoreline has been a testament to the beauty and challenge of this extraordinary trail. The memories of panoramic vistas, the thrill of navigating rugged terrain, and the quiet moments of reflection in lush moss-covered forest make every moment of the journey profoundly rewarding. This trail is more than just a hike; it’s an experience that reaffirms the unbelievable allure of nature. Each step is a reminder that the most challenging paths often lead to the most beautiful destinations, and the journey through Death Valley is undeniably worth every stride.