sitting on a rock at cup and saucer trail manitoulin island

Cup and Saucer Trail: Manitoulin Island’s Best Hike

Thinking of hiking Cup and Saucer Trail? You’ve come to the right place.

One of Ontario’s most popular hiking spots, this unique trail offers breathtaking views of rolling hills, lush forests, and lakes.

Cup and Saucer is one of my favourite things to do on Manitoulin Island and seeing it in the fall is especially beautiful.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced hiker, there are over 9 km (5.6 miles) of hiking trails with varying difficulty levels so you can choose the path that matches your fitness level.

Let’s get right into what you will see on the Cup and Saucer Trail, how long the hike is, and everything you need to know to prepare for an unforgettable adventure.

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standing under the niagara escarpment on manitoulin island

What is the Cup and Saucer Trail?

Cup and Saucer Trail is a scenic hiking trail on Manitoulin Island. The name “Cup and Saucer” comes from the unique rock formations that resemble a teacup and saucer.

This hike is one of the most popular Manitoulin hiking trails and offers breathtaking views of the island’s rugged landscape and Lake Huron. From the top of the 70 m (230 ft) cliffs, visitors can experience the highest point on the island.

Cup and Saucer Trail is part of the Niagara Escarpment created over 450 million years ago which stretches north from the Niagara Falls area to Manitoulin Island and beyond. Its jagged cliffs resulted from the limestone’s resistance to water and glaciers over time.

The trail is divided into three paths, so you can choose your adventure. Whether you’re looking for a challenging trek or want to admire the scenery, there’s Cup and Saucer Trail for you.

Map of Cup and Saucer Trail

a picture of the cup and saucer trail map

How Long Does it Take to Hike the Cup and Saucer? 

It takes 30 mins – 4 hours to hike Cup and Saucer. This isn’t a loop hike. Timing depends on which of the three trails you take, your hiking experience, and how long you pause to admire the viewpoints or stop for snacks and water breaks.

It took me 2.5 hours to hike the Red Trail at a slow pace with photo breaks. I could’ve hiked faster if I wanted.

3 Trails Along the Cup and Saucer Trail

There are 9 km of forested trails and 500 m of adventure trails at Cup and Saucer. The hiking trails are divided into three sections based on their difficulty: Red, Blue, and Yellow.

the cup and saucer trail marker showing you are on the main red trail

Red Main Trail: 5km (Easy – Moderate Difficulty)

The easy hike at Cup and Saucer is the Red Main Trail. It’s the shortest and most popular trail at 5km, perfect for epic views when short on time.

Starting from the parking lot, this trail weaves through the forest, guiding you to the East Peak with the best viewpoints overlooking Manitoulin Island.

Rated as Easy-Moderate, the trail involves a fair amount of uphill climbing. Although well-maintained, expect some narrow paths and upturned roots.

It’s well-marked and easy to follow. If you happen to lose the trail, listen for fellow hikers to guide you back on track.

I hiked this trail in the afternoon after spending the morning in Little Current. The views were worth the climb and the fall weather was perfect.

The Red Trail at Cup and Saucer is a great option for those looking for a leisurely hike with stunning views of Manitoulin Island.

Red-Blue South Trail: 9km (Moderate – Difficult)

The Cup and Saucer Soth Trail follows along the escarpment and the Red Trail. It is a 5km addition to the Red Trail loop, for a total of 9km of hiking.

The terrain on the Red-Blue South Loop is mostly flat except when it slope’s downwards on the way back. Lookouts offer beautiful views of the east side of the escarpment.

Fewer people hike this section of Cup and Saucer. So if you want a quieter hike then this is for you. I didn’t have enough time before dinner plans, so I didn’t hike this section.

Yellow Adventure Trail: 500m (Difficult)

The Cup and Saucer Adventure Trail is not for beginners. It’s a 500 m (0.31 mile) side trail, although some people say it’s 2km.

The entrance is halfway through the Main Red Trail where the trail slopes down towards the cliff’s base, where you descend a set of stairs on your left. Those on the Red Trail would continue upwards to the cliff peak.

On the Cup and Saucer Adventure Trail is an obstacle course including ladders, stairs, and climbing over large rocks. Erosion makes this trail ever-changing. Make sure you have grippy shoes for this one!

To ensure you don’t lose your way, keep the cliff to your right side. At the end, you reach a wooden staircase leading up the to eastern viewpoint.

If you are looking for a more challenging way to get to the top of Cup and Saucer, this trail is for you. Be safe and keep away from the edge.

While I enjoy hiking, I like taking the easier route when possible so I skipped this part.

view from cup and saucer lookout

Why is Cup and Saucer Trail So Popular?

Cup and Saucer Trail is one of the most popular hiking destinations in Ontario for good reason. It offers stunning views, is accessible, and provides a unique cultural experience.

This trail offers panoramic views of Manitoulin Island and Lake Huron from 4 lookouts. And if you want a challenge, there’s the Cup and Saucer Adventure Trail.

As hikers make their way up the incline to the top of the trail, they are rewarded with panoramic views making the journey well worth the effort.

And the lookouts make for that perfect photo opportunity! If you are brave and careful, you can take photos that look like you are falling off a cliff edge. I didn’t get too close to the edge but loved getting some cool cliff photos.

Located outside Little Current, the trail is easy to reach, well-marked, and can be enjoyed by hikers of all ages, from families to experienced hikers.

Part of the Great Spirit Circle Trail, hikers can experience the nature and culture of Manitoulin Island.

hiking the main red trail at cup and saucer

My Experience Hiking Cup and Saucer on Manitoulin Island

I headed to Cup and Saucer Trail after spending the morning in Little Current, and the early afternoon grabbing ice cream and visiting McLeans Mountain Lookout.

I started my hike around 2 pm so I chose the shorter Red Main Trail which was only 5 km. It was a beautiful September day and I avoided any mid-day heat.

The parking lot had about a dozen cars but didn’t see anyone on the trail for the first 30 mins. We only ran into two other hiking groups, which made it feel like we had the trail to ourselves.

The Red Cup and Saucer Trail was well-labelled and easy to follow.

forest hike on manitoulin island

The majority of the trail is shaded by the forest, which is perfect for someone like me who gets sunburns easily. It made for a cooler temperature hike and not hiding from the sun. Especially when ascending towards the peak.

Most of the trail is uphill but not at an overly difficult incline. You know you are close to the multiple lookouts when the trail flattens out.

The first lookout is a peek through the trees which is beautiful in the fall. Early September is a little too early, so we were only seeing the beginning of the changing leaves.

view from cup and saucer's peak

Continue hiking and you will reach the platform this hike is known for. I paused here for a while to drink water and have a snack with a view. Admire 180-degree panoramic views of Manitoulin Island from the edge of the Escarpment. And took a lot of photos!

From here, you could continue on the Red-Blue Trail or head back to the parking lot on the same trail. I chose to head back before dark.

It was a great fall hike and I recommend the Cup and Saucer Trail when visiting Manitoulin Island.

looking out over manitoulin island from cup and saucer in the fall

Best Time to Hike Cup and Saucer

The best time to hike the Cup and Saucer Trail is during summer and fall. But the fall months of September and October are my favourites as I love fall hikes.

During autumn, it’s a beautiful trail with many lookouts offering panoramic views of Manitoulin Island and its changing leaves. The majority of the trail is shaded by the forest for cooler-temperature hiking.

When hiking Cup and Saucer in the summer, I recommend hiking in the morning or late afternoon to avoid the mid-day heat. I’m not usually awake early enough for morning hikes unless it’s a sunrise hike like I did in Panama. Plus, you will beat the rush and get a better parking spot.

How to Get to Cup and Saucer Trail

To get to Cup and Saucer Trail you need a car. There is no public transit to reach the trailhead.

Directions from Downtown Little Current:

  • Head south on Worthington Street towards Campbell Street
  • Continue onto Highway 540 W
  • The destination will be on your left after 23.7 km

Cup and Saucer Trail Parking

4097 ON-540, Sheguiandah, ON, P0P 1W0

going down a staircase while hiking cup and saucer

Tips for Hiking the Cup and Saucer Trail

  • The trail can be busy during peak season, so arrive early to avoid crowds
  • Wear comfortable, sturdy hiking shoes or boots and dress for the weather
  • Bring plenty of water and snacks to stay hydrated and energized
  • Respect the environment: stay on the trail, don’t litter, and don’t disturb wildlife

More Hiking Trails on Manitoulin Island

Where to Stay on Manitoulin Island

Red Lodge Resort – a beachfront lodge with a private beach, restaurant and coffee shop

My Friends Inn Manitoulin – a popular accommodation with in-room kitchenettes

Batman’s Cottages and Camping – waterfront campground with trailer sites, tent sites, and cottages

sitting down at the lookout on the cup and saucer hiking trail

FAQs on Cup and Saucer Hike

What is the Trail’s Cultural Significance?

The cultural significance of the Cup and Saucer Trail starts at the name and continues to its storytelling history. The trail’s name in Ojibwe is “Michigiwadinong” meaning “bluff in a shape of a spearhead” and it is the place Nanabush laid down his spearpoints fleeing Iroquois warriors. Nanabush (also known as Nanabozho and other variations) is important in Ojibwe storytelling culture.

How Hard is the Cup and Saucer Trail?

How hard the Cup and Saucer Trail is depends on which of the 3 trails you choose. The Red Trail is easy-moderate, Red-Blue is moderate-difficult, and the Adventure Trail is difficult. Most people choose to hike the Red Main Trail.

Where is the Cup and Saucer Hiking Trail?

The Cup and Saucer Hiking Trail is located in Sheguiandah, on Manitoulin Island in Ontario, Canada. It’s the most popular hiking trail on the island and one of the most known hikes in Northern Ontario. The trail offers 3 different routes of varying difficulty through an area of heavily wooded bluffs.

What Will You See on the Cup and Saucer Trail?

On the Cup and Saucer Trail, you will see rolling hills, exposed cliffs, and spectacular views of the Manitoulin Island landscape. The cliff is part of the Canadian Shield which was carved from glaciers millions of years ago and features views of the Niagara Escarpment, Great Lakes Basin, and the rugged terrain of the island.

Final Thoughts on Manitoulin Island Cup and Saucer Trail Hike

Hiking the Cup and Saucer Trail on Manitoulin Island can be a challenging but rewarding experience.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced hiker looking for a challenge, you can choose one of three Cup and Saucer trails.

With several lookout points along the way, it’s a great hiking spot that’s not too far from other attractions on the island.

Grab your hiking gear and get ready for an adventure on Manitoulin Island. And if you are continuing to explore more of Northern Ontario, plan to visit Bathtub Island on Lake Superior.

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