Thunder Bay, Ont.
As a trail runner who has spent her whole life in Thunder Bay, Beth Shipston knows just how good she’s got it.
“It’s just so amazing,” she says. “You can live anywhere in Thunder Bay and within a five- or 10-minute drive be in the middle of the bush surrounded by incredible singletrack trails.” Located on the northwestern shore of Lake Superior, Thunder Bay is the second-most populated city in northern Ontario, behind Sudbury. Perhaps because of its tucked-away location (it’s far closer to Winnipeg than it is to Toronto), it’s not necessarily a city on every runner’s must-visit list. But if you know, you know.
“The trail running in Thunder Bay is just incredible,” Shipston says. “Not a day goes by that I don’t remind myself how lucky I am to live here.” Antonio Stefanile agrees. As the co-founder and co-owner of Upriver Running with Nick Whitbread,
Stefanile says the city’s northern location is what makes the running options so good. “The terrain in the region is appealing because it’s challenging, technical and beautiful,” he says.
Thunder Bay is located in a transition zone between the boreal forest and the Great Lakes forest, resulting in some of the most diverse terrain in the country.
“The trail running experience is unique,”
“The trail running in Thunder Bay is just incredible … Not a day goes by that I don’t remind myself how lucky I am to live here.”
—Beth Shipston, lifelong Thunder Bay trail runner
Stefanile says. “You have these amazing views and trails that can vary from groomed ski trails and doubletrack to off-the-beaten-path technical singletrack.”
There’s also the element of feeling like you’re in a remote location, while still having a city centre nearby. Of course, if you want true remote running, there’s lots of that too.
“There’s so much untapped trail here,” Shipston says. “You could hike into the bush, pitch a tent and spend the weekend exploring while never running the same trails twice. You have runners who stick to the same loops and they’re fun and challenging, but there’s just so much more.”
Thinking about making the trip north? There are a variety of races hosted each year by UpRiver, the Thunder Bay MetreEaters, Element Racing and others. If racing isn’t your style, there are endless options for trails to explore.
“Thunder Bay is an amazing community known to be welcoming to newcomers who come through,” Stefanile says. “Lots of people come from all over North America to see this hidden gem in a remote corner of Ontario.”