Length of stay: 1 day
Visited: September 2021
Sleeping Giant Provincial Park is located along Lake Superior on the Sibley Peninsula. It consists of a series of mesas that when viewed from Thunder Bay, resemble a giant lying on its back. The park offers a mix between front country and backcountry camping and has just over 100 km of hiking trails that weave through the forest, past towering cliffs, and along the rocky coast. Despite its name, Sleeping Giant is anything but sleepy.
We spent the night in a motel to mark the mid-way point of our two week Northern Ontario road trip. There was no sleeping in though as we had a long day of hiking ahead of us. We arrived at Sleeping Giant shortly after 9a.m and waited in line for about 10 minutes to sign in and collect our permit.
We then drove to the South Kabeyun Trailhead, which marks the start of the Top of the Giant Trail (21.8km round trip, rated difficult). The trail leads to the top of the tallest cliffs in Ontario and is reputed to provide panoramic views of the east and west coast of the Sibley Peninsula on Lake Superior. Good thing today was supposed to be a sunny day. According to the weather forecast, it was supposed to reach a high of 18°C, which is perfect weather for hiking.
After the first 800m, there’s a short detour for the Sea Lion Trail, which adds an additional kilometre round trip to the hike. We figured why not, what’s another kilometre when you’re already hiking over 20km anyway.
The trail leads to a natural arch along the coast of Lake Superior. The Sea Lion is a diabase rock arch that has been left behind after the sedimentary rocks in which it crystalized had eroded away. Prior to the 1900s, this landmark resembled a lion sitting on its haunches looking out into the bay. The lion’s head fell off and over time the arch will eventually collapse as well.
Once back on the main trail, it’s another 5km to Tea Harbour where there are a series of ten backcountry campsites spread across 1.8km along the shore of Lake Superior. The great thing is that these backcountry campsites made the perfect place to take a break and use the thunderbox (which is the only opportunity to use a “real” washroom on the trail).
From Tea Harbour, we took the South Talus Lake Trail (0.9km), which leads to the Top of the Giant Trail. There’s a bike rack here as some people will bike the first (and last) 8km of the trail as the terrain is relatively flat. From this point, the terrain becomes progressively more rugged and rough with lots of rocks and roots. It’s also a steady ascent up the edge of the cliff.
Once we reached the Top of the Giant Trail, it’s another 1.2km to the Top of the Stairs. We passed a marsh through a cedar grove and then began the second part of the climb upwards and onwards.
At the Top of the Stairs, the terrain levels off. There’s still some rolling hills, but the worst was over. At this point we were rewarded with a series of awesome views. There are three lookouts of Tea Harbour, two lookouts in the opposite direction towards Thunder Bay and the final lookout at the gorge.
After eating some lunch, we were ready to start the descent down the cliffs. We took a break at the bench by the cedar grove and then again at Tea Harbour. We were thankful for the mostly flat section towards the end of the trail.
Overall it took us about 8.5 hours to complete the Top of the Giant Trail. On the way back to the campground, we drove through Silver Islet, a small community located on the tip of the Sibley Peninsula. The houses were originally built here to house miners, but today they are used as summer cottages.
We then drove to our campsite on Marie Louise Lake Drive, a gravel road which is about 12km from the Gatehouse and main campground. There are only 10 campsites here, all of which are located along the lake. It’s a bit of a drive to get here, but it’s so worth it for a more secluded camping experience. We set up our tents, made soup for dinner, and then pretty much went to bed afterwards as we were all pretty exhausted.
The next morning we woke up early and were rewarded with a beautiful sunrise over Marie Louise Lake.
After eating breakfast, we packed up and headed out.
My progress on the Ontario Parks Challenge can be found here