Length of stay: 2 days
Visited: June 2020
Jutting out along the Sibley Peninsula, Sleeping Giant Provincial Park is reputed to offer some of the best views overlooking the sparkling blue waters of Lake Superior and wildlife in northern Ontario. The park gets its name from a great land formation that when viewed from Thunder Bay, resembles a giant lying on its back. With over 100km of hiking trails, there are plenty of opportunities to see all the (non-sleepy) natural wonders in Sleeping Giant.
It was a scenic, but long drive from Pancake Bay to Sleeping Giant. But worth it. We entered the park around 9p.m and as we were nearing the Marie Louise Campground, Sleeping Giant lived up to its reputation for having excellent wildlife viewing as we spotted a coyote, rabbit, deer and a black bear. It was my ideal bear encounter: me inside the safety of a car and bear along the side of the road.
We were a bit worried as the bear was within a few kilometres of the entrance to the campground and we happened to have booked a secluded site. There are 200 campsites at the Marie Louise Campground, ten of which are located on the west shore of the lake, about 12km from the park entrance. And to make matters more interesting, on the drive to the secluded campsites, we spotted another black bear on the road.
When we reached our site (#510), we were overcome by a different type of fear: being eaten alive by mosquitoes. We parked our car and were required to walk about 150m in to get to our campsite down by the lake. Thankfully the mosquitoes weren’t nearly as bad on the actual site. The site was small and there was only really room for one tent, but it came fully equipped with a picnic table, fire pit and a nice view of the lake.
By the time we set up our tent and brought our sleeping bags and sleeping pads down from the car into the tent, it was approaching 10p.m. We also didn’t feel like having dinner with a side of mosquitoes. So we decided to just go to bed.
Day 1: Top of the Giant
We woke up around 7a.m and the mosquitoes were out in full force. In an attempt to escape the bugs, we drove to the beach area to make breakfast out in the open. It was a bit chilly outside and overcast. It even lightly sprinkled on and off while making and eating breakfast.
Afterwards we drove to the park office to register and collect our permit for the park. At this point the clouds were starting to clear and according to the park ranger, it wasn’t supposed to rain for the remainder of the day. We figured we might as well hike along the most popular trail in the park – the Top of the Giant Trail (22.4km round trip, rated difficult).
The trailhead is located just off of Highway 587 near the Silver Islet Township. To get to the trailhead for the Top of the Giant Trail, you have to first hike along the South Kabeyun Trail for about 8km. The trail is relatively flat and some people even bike this part to considerably shorten the hike.Shortly after starting the hike, there’s a mini detour along the Sea Lion Trail (800m round trip, rated moderate) that leads to the edge of a cliff, overlooking an arch on Lake Superior.
We continued along the South Kabeyun Trail and took another short detour along the Tee Harbour Trail (800m round trip). There’s a few backcountry campsites here with a small seating area of logs along the shore of Lake Superior. Seemed like the perfect place to take a break.
From the Tee Harbour Junction, we continued hiking along the Kabeyun Trail to the South Talus Lake Trail Junction. There’s a bike rack here as the terrain becomes progressively more challenging at this point. We hiked along part of the Talus Lake Trail to reach the trailhead for the Top of the Giant Trail (6.6km round trip, rated difficult).
At this point the trail begins the climb up one of the tallest cliffs in Ontario. The “top of the stairs” is easily the most challenging portion of the trail. It’s a gruelling 1.2km vertical ascent up the cliff, but there are a series of wooden and stone steps, which helped with the climb. There are also some pretty spectacular views along the way, which provided great motivation and a good excuse to stop and take a (break and a) picture.
From the top of the stairs, it’s another 1.2km to the Tee Harbour Lookout. The trail is (thankfully) relatively flat, winds through the forest, and leads to a stunningly scenic lookout over Lake Superior.
From there it’s a short push to get to the Gorge Lookout, which marks the end of the trail (and the best view in the park). We took a break here to eat our lunch and admire the views before heading back.
We hiked back the same way we came in, making plenty of stops along the way. We wrapped up our hike at 5p.m. Even though we were hungry, we decided to first go for a swim and wash away all the sweat and bug spray before heading back to our campsite to make dinner. We were a bit concerned about the bug situation based on how active they were in the morning, but there was a nice breeze rolling in off the lake. We roasted some veggies over the fire and made some veggie burgers.
Day 2: Middlebrun Bay
We woke up to another nice day with blues skies and sun. We were able to make breakfast at our site as the mosquitoes weren’t too bad. Afterwards we packed up our gear and headed out to hike.
We drove back to the southern part of the park near Silver Islet, a small community located at the tip of the Sibley Peninsula. This area was once used to mine silver and the town was built along the rocky shore nearby.
We hiked along the Middlebrun Bay Trail (9.8km roundtrip, rated moderate). The trail first leads to Middlebrun Bay, a secluded sandy beach before continuing onward to Finlay Bay. The first part of the path is reasonably flat, but becomes a bit more rugged past Middlebrun Bay. It wasn’t abundantly clear where the trail actually ends, but we followed it to the shore of Finlay Bay just past the lone backcountry campsite. We took a small break at the campsite before hiking back the way we came.
We contemplated going for another hike, but opted to go swimming instead. It was getting hot outside (27°C) and we were still pretty tired from hiking to the Top of the Giant from the day before.
After eating some lunch, we headed out of the park, but first stopped to hike along the Sifting Lake Trail (4.2km round trip, rated easy) on the drive out. This trail was recommended by the park ranger that checked us in, was relatively short and and rated as easy, so we figured why not. The trail passes red and white pine stands before leading to the shores of Sifting Lake. We were spoiled on our previous hikes in Sleeping Giant as there were hardly any bugs around, but that’s probably because they were all at Sifting Lake.
From there it’s about a 3 hour drive to our next destination: Neys Provincial Park.