Hiking in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park
If you’re looking for an awesome place to go hiking in Ontario then head north to Thunder Bay! Here you’ll find one of the best Ontario Parks, Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, and one of the best hikes in Ontario for awesome views. Hiking Sleeping Giant Provincial Park should be on every outdoor enthusiast bucket list. If it’s epic clifftop views you’re after or a little slice of European adventure right here in Ontario then start planning your Northern Ontario road trip today.
Sleeping Giant Provincial Park
Once named Sibley Park, for the peninsula it’s on, Sleeping Giant Provincial Park is located an hour east of Thunder Bay. Set on the point of the Sibley Peninsula which juts out of the northern shore of Lake Superior, the park is home to a wealth of wildlife, nearly 200 bird species, and the grand Boreal Forest.
Sleeping Giant Provincial Park is home to some of Ontario’s highest cliffs. And it offers around 100 kilometres of trails – the largest trail system of all of Ontario’s parks. The park has much to offer visitors, from camping to swimming and sea kayaking to hiking in the summer. And the fun doesn’t end when winter falls as there is snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
A visit to Sleeping Giant Provincial Park is one of the top things to do in Thunder Bay. And if you love the outdoors, then Thunder Bay is a dream Ontario getaway. The area is home to a wealth of outdoor activities that range from chasing waterfalls to hiking.
Why is it Called Sleeping Giant?
Many ask, ‘why is it called Sleeping Giant?’ If you’ve ever seen it from afar, like from Thunder Bay, then you’d know. The tip of the peninsula where the park sits literally looks like a giant laying down. And like so many grand Ontario natural wonders, like Ouimet Canyon, there’s a story behind the giant.
One legend tells of a giant named Nanabosho, son of the west wind, Kabeyun. While sitting on the beach one day he discovered silver. And afraid for his people, he made them bury it at the end of the Sibley Peninsula.
Sometime later, Nanabosho saw a warrior heading to where the silver was, with two white men in his canoe. Desperate to save the secret he created a storm that sunk the canoe and drowned the white men. But Nanabosho was punished by the Great Spirit. He was turned to stone and now lays watching over his silver secret.
Hiking Sleeping Giant Provincial Park
Sleeping Giant Provincial Park is full of amazing trails, most leading you to or by one of the park’s natural gems. But the signature Sleeping Giant hike is the Top of the Giant Trail.
We hit the Kabeyun Trail mid-morning, not fully committed to hiking the Top of the Giant. At a casual stroll, we breathed in the fresh forest air. The trail was wide and we had it all to ourselves. About a kilometre in we hit the Sea Lion Trail. This short trail is rockier and steep at times. A rustle in the bushes near my right foot grabbed my attention and I just caught the tail end of a slender garter snake slither off the trail. Our first stop was a pretty little stone beach called Perry Beach.
From here we clambered up the rocky trail and to a large sweeping view of Lake Superior. And there to the right sat the Sea Lion. While it now more resembles an awkward arch, info boards at the lookout show what it looked like in its glory days. It actually once looked like a lion sitting on its haunches, but sadly the head has broken off, and the name remains.
After heading back the way we came we met up with the Kabeyun again and continued on. The trail remained much the same for a few kilometres, with the occasional little babbling brook snaking along and hints of Lake Superior to our left. I just went into zen mode. I soaked in the scent of forest flowers lining the trail, crisp northern air, and the presence of the giant lurking ahead.
The next stop on the trail was Tee Harbour. Not a soul around but a family of mergansers floating in the still waters and a pair of yellow swallowtail butterflies dancing along the shore. Perched on a log that sat on the shore, I indulged in an apple while I watched this perfect wild moment. Laughter and squeals broke the quiet, followed by a rustle in the bush close by. A single deer sprung from the green, only pausing briefly to catch my eye before darting into the bush on the far side. Shortly after a group of bicyclists sped by.
Continuing on our way to Lehtinen’s Bay, we passed by the trail marker leading to the Top of the Giant Trail. As we wandered down to the Bay we discussed if we should do it, could we do it. All the research I’d done said it was a difficult trail and I was hiking with my aunt who’s twice my age and has asthma. While fit and regularly active, I still worried for her. But her gung-ho attitude was game. She said we can at least try. So, after a stop at the incredibly picturesque Lehtinen’s Bay, with a fabulous view of part of the Sleeping Giant, we eagerly trundled back to the Talus Lake Trail which would lead us to the Top of the Giant trailhead.
The Talus Lake Trail is part of the new path to the Top of the Giant. The old Chimney Trail had to be closed due to the danger of falling rock. And the Talus Lake Trail is only a hint at the intensity the Top of the Giant Trail has to come. After ascending some steep hillside steps, over rocky terrain, we met the Top of the Giant trailhead. From here it began casually, considering what was to come. We wound around a serene lake and then we hit the wall!
The wall before us was a literal vertical climb up giant steps and over rocky switchbacks. I don’t recall much from the climb, except the frequent stops for both my asthmatic aunt and myself to catch our breath. I just remember being hyper focused. I can do this. Slow and steady. Became my mantra.
Then all of a sudden, I looked to my right. And there before me was an incredible view. We were nearly to the top. I could see Lake Superior beyond a huge stretch of forest far below. This view refueled us and we clambered on. And before we knew it we were face to face with the sign stating you’d reached the Top of the Giant, 750 feet above Lake Superior. But don’t think that was the end! We were surrounded by forest. We still had a couple of kilometres to go before we reached the “Top”.
Along the way to the “Top” there were nearly half a dozen stunning viewpoints. Large rock ledges stretching out offering sweeping views of Lake Superior and the lush green Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. At one we joined a gathering of others to sit and enjoy our lunch with this astounding view. But I knew this wasn’t the “Top”. Others thought it was. I was hell-bent and determined. We’d come this far, I would see that epic view!
Eventually, we made it. I don’t think I’ve ever smiled that big. I was in complete awe. I stood on a narrow precipice above some of the highest cliffs in Ontario, 950 feet above Lake Superior. I couldn’t help but think, it was like I was standing on the cliffs in Norway! I’d found a slice of Europe right here in Ontario. I could have cried. There are no words that could justify the sheer beauty and breathtaking experience to get there. Looking out over the view, I knew even photos couldn’t do it justice. I made it to the Top of the Giant and I could feel his immense presence. Perhaps, he even had a hand in helping me get there. I closed my eyes and gave thanks to the spirit of the Giant.
In total that day we hiked over 27 kilometres, for around nine hours, and only saw a fraction of Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. But I’d say, we saw the best it had to offer. And after that hike, I realized that we must continue to push ourselves, for we are capable of so much more than we think.
And if you’re looking for an epic summer Ontario road trip then a trip up to Thunder Bay and the Sleeping Giant Provincial Park is what you need!
Cost: Parking Fee – 14.50 (Day Pass)
Check out my day hiking packing list to make sure you have all the essentials!
Best Hikes in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park
There are 25 trails in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park but where do you even begin to choose which trails to hike? Here is a list of the top trails in Sleeping Giant PP. Please note that trail lengths are specific to that trail and some trails you have to hike one trail to get to that trail. (For example, hiking the Top of the Giant Trail from the parking lot involves all of the trails I list in my review of the hike above)
Kabeyun Trail – 37 km linear
Top of the Giant Trail – 6.6 km return
Sea Lion Trail – 0.8 km return
Talus Lake Trail – 12.0 km return
Tee Harbour Trail – 0.8 km return
Middlebrun Bay Trail – 9.8 km return
Other Hiking Trails in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park
Nanabosho Lookout Trail – 1.4 km return
Joe Creek Nature Trail – 1.4 km return
Thunder Bay Bogs Nature Trail – 0.7 km loop
Cemetery Trail – 1.6 km return
Thunder Cape Trail – 2.4 km return
Plantain Lane Nature Trail – 0.6 km return
Ravine Lake Nature Trail – 1.9 km loop
Sawbill Lake Trail – 4 km return
Sifting Lake Trail – 4.2 km return
Wildlife Habitat Nature Trail – 2.1 km loop
Head Trail – 2.8 km return
Piney Wood Hills Nature Trail – 2.8 km return
Sibley Creek Nature Trail – 2.3 km loop
Gardner Lake Trail – 5.2 km return
Ferns Lake Trail – 9.7 km loop
Burma Trail – 22.8 km return
Pickerel Lake Trail – 23.4 km return
Sawyer Bay Trail – 11.4 km return
Twinpine Lake Trail – 8.8 km return
Things to do in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park
There are plenty of opportunities to canoe in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. There are around half a dozen lakes in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, including the large Marie Louise Lake. And don’t worry if you don’t have a canoe. You can rent canoes and kayaks at the park store.
There are tons of things to do in Sleeping Giant PP, one of which is biking. There are six main trails to choose from, some of which run along old logging road. Biking trails include; South Kabeyun to the junction with Talus Lake Trail, Sawyer Bay Trail, Pickerel Lake Trail, Burma Trail, and Sawbill Lake Trail.
If you’re looking for a great beach, there are plenty of places to go swimming in the park, from the various lakes to the bays that run along the Lake Superior coastline. But please note that there are no lifeguards at any of the locations so swim responsibly and stay safe. Top spots to swim include Marie Louise Lake and Pounsford Lake.
Camping and Accommodation
Sleeping Giant is a great place to go camping with 200 campsites at the Marie Louise Lake Campground. You can reserve your site here. And for the adventurous, there are also backcountry camping locations. You can reserve backcountry camping sites here. And for those looking for a little more comfort, don’t worry the park has you covered too! There are five cozy rustic cabins available.
Don’t forget to check out the incredible Thunder Bay Lookout that’s located in the northern end of the park. It will give you epic views over to Thunder Bay!
Winter in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park
The park is great in the summer but there are also plenty of reasons to visit the park in the winter. The Sleeping Giant Loppet takes place in March and is quite the event! But you can also go snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. There are 50 kilometres of groomed trails and the park is home to some of the best cross-country skiing in Ontario.
Is hiking Sleeping Giant Provincial Park on your list?
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