Batchawana Mountain is, depending on your source, the 3rd, 4th, or 16th highest peak in Ontario. Taken from the Ojibwe word Badjiwanung meaning “water that bubbles up,” Batchawana is fairly unremarkable compared to the uncounted thousands of low, rocky peaks that make up the highlands of Algoma with two important exceptions. First is the peak’s relative proximity to an access road and second, perhaps more importantly, is the fact that it boasts a partially open summit. This provides Batchawana with outstanding views to the north, south, and west.
Batchawana Mountain rises from the north shore of Batchawana Bay about 45 minutes north of Sault Ste. Marie. The mountain is covered in forest dominated by northern hardwoods which, at this latitude, are beginning to give way to the great boreal woodlands of the north. The Sugar Maple is king of the forest here with a mix of conifers, yellow birch, and ash filling in where it is absent. The vegetation is also very thick. Hiking to the summit of Batchawana requires bushwhacking through thick stands of raspberry and other low shrubs which can be disorienting as well as frustrating. What, to me, makes Batchawana so unique is the thick mat of Juniper that clings to the steep western side of the summit. Likely the result of an ancient blow down, the tenacious junipers cling tightly together against the chilly winds off nearby Lake Superior. It really is a remarkable place…
***TAKE NOTE*** The 15 or so miles of dirt road from the Trans Canada to the trailhead is quite rugged. I took my two-wheel drive sedan the first time up and WILL NEVER DO IT AGAIN. It is a credit to the Ford Motor Company that my poor Mercury didn’t end up in two pieces! This is a road for 4-wheel drives with high clearance. I was lucky to make it as I’m sure a good heavy rain could do a number it in any number of places. Remember, if you make it in you still have to get back out…be warned!***
To get to Batchawana Mountain follow the Trans Canada (Hwy. 17) north out of Sault Ste. Marie. About 45 minutes out the highway crosses the Chippewa River just below scenic Chippewa Falls. The first signed road north of the river will be Mile 38 Rd, on your right. Turn here and zero your odometer.
0.0 mi. Mile 38 Rd @ Trans Canada Highway
2.2 mile – Pretty cliff areas and beaver ponds to the left
4.3 miles – Fork, keep left
8.3 miles – You will cross a small bridge followed by a fork, keep left
10.7 miles – Another fork, keep left
12.2 miles – pass Research Station, keep left
15.2 miles – Picnic Shelter, park here. Trail begins at two-track which climbs hill behind.
There are no trails to the summit of Batchawana Mountain. So, if you have one of those handy GPS thingy’s you can simply type in the coordinates and strike off into the woods. There is a slightly easier way, however, which saves you about half the off-trail travel you would otherwise encounter.
As mentioned above a two-track ascends the steep ridge behind the picnic shelter. According to my topo map this old road crossed a high shoulder on the south side of Batchawana. I followed this road a short while until reaching what I determined to be the height-of-land along the ridge. From here I simply made a turn to the north and into the woods. The short walk up the trail road saves you around half the bushwhacking you’d have to do otherwise. I could have used my compass on the way up but I really didn’t need to, I simply just kept heading uphill. Long sleeves were a must as the raspberry bushes were constantly trying to take pieces out of my jacket. After a good amount of cursing and a bit of paranoia (I believe bears like nice, ripe raspberries, yes?) I broke out onto the steep juniper mat below the summit.
Being that it is located some 15 miles off a paved road Batchawana Mountain is really only accessible once the snow melts and things dry out. I doubt very much that the road is plowed. For my money I’d visit the peak in late summer or autumn, say September or October when the leaves are in their full brilliance. Other than that there are no restrictions that I know of.
The mountain sits on crown land so primitive camping is pretty much permitted anywhere provided you don’t stay in one spot for more than 21 days! In fact, just off the north side of the summit there is a rather large campsite that looks to be used quite regularly. For more modern facilities follow the Trans Canada another 10 miles north to Pancake Bay Provincial Park and take your pick of some 325 sites. Plan on needing reservations during the summer months though.
Helpful Links...Turkey Lakes Watershed Study - Contains Batchawana Mountain, an Environment Canada research area.
Topo Maps of Canada - Proved quite useful in finding my around on and off the mountain.
Ontario Outdoor - Local company which offers guided hikes in the area, including Batchawana Mountian
DWhike's Adventures - Shameless self promotion...come visit my website for more pics of Batchawana Mountain and other places that I have wandered off to in recent years...