Hiking in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park

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.

L

My progress on the Ontario Parks Challenge can be found here

74 thoughts on “Hiking in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park

  1. kagould17 says:

    Spectacular scenery. We wanted to hike here in 2018, but were on a tight schedule. We did do the Ruby Lake Lookout Trail which gave us a sense of the views on Nipigon Bay. Love the sunrise photos over the lake. Thanks for sharing. Allan

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Sleeping Giant is one of my favourite parks in Ontario. It was a tough hike to reach the Top of the Giant, but the views were just outstanding. I’m glad we had such nice weather to enjoy the views. We missed the Ruby Lake Lookout, but it goes to show how much more there is to see in Northern Ontario. Thanks for reading. Linda

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ab says:

    I was looking very forward to this post! Thunder Bay seems like a lifetime ago but still fills me with warm fuzzy memories. 😊

    Sleeping Giant was such a beautiful walk. We did the Sea Lion hike and loved the shimmering blue water and the rock formation!

    One of these days, we will do the long Top of the Giant trail with T when he’s a bit older. Definitely a bucket list item. 🙏 The views look just spectacular. Congrats on completing it and thanks for sharing.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The Top of the Giant is hands down my favourite trail that we’ve hiked in Ontario. It’s quite the challenge, but the views along the way just keep getting better and better. The Sea Lion arch is such a neat formation and I’m glad you’ve seen it, especially since one day it’ll eventually collapse. I like the idea of returning to Sleeping Giant when T is older so you can share this bucket list hike with him. Take care. Linda

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ab says:

        It’s sad to think the Sea Lion will crumble one day but you’re right, that could happen. Good to have seen it.

        The hike does look quite challenging. If it took you 8.5 hours, I can only imagine how long it’ll take me. It must’ve felt very satisfying to complete!

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      • WanderingCanadians says:

        We took our time during the hike as my mom and uncle were with us. It’s a full day adventure, but if you come prepared and have nice weather, it should totally be doable. There are also lots of great spots to take a break along the way. The views just keep getting better and better which provide some good motivation.

        Liked by 1 person

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        For sure. The trip was at at a bit of a slower pace than what we’re used to, but it was nice to slow down, share this experience with them and spend some quality time together. It went much smoother than expected given we all spent two full weeks together.

        Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The Top of the Giant Trail is filled with lots of beautiful overlooks and viewpoints of Lake Superior and the surrounding area. The Sea Lion arch is such a pretty formation. I’m glad we visited on a nice day to see how blue the water appears when the sun is shining.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I’m glad we managed to snag one of the campsites along the lake as it was a real treat to watch the sunrise. The hike to the Top of the Giant pretty much took all day, but I’m glad we had such fabulous weather to enjoy all the beautiful views of Lake Superior.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. BACK ROADS AND OTHER STORIES says:

    Spectacular! This looks like the highlight of this trip and the weather cooperated so nicely. I am hoping to make it there at one point as last time we had to watch from afar as we were passing Thunder BAy on our way to BC. Amazing sunrise and that campground sounds really nice.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Sleeping Giant was definitely the highlight of our road trip and the Top of the Giant Trail was the best hike we’ve ever done in Ontario. It’s a full-day adventure, but there are plenty of opportunities to take a break and the views just keep getting better and better. The campsites along the shore of the lake are a bit of a drive to get to, but it’s so worth it for a more quiet and secluded camping experience. Plus, just look at that sunrise. That alone made it worthwhile. Hopefully you’re able to visit someday.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Dee Min says:

    Sleeping giant and sea lion…on my. I was really intrigued by this park, spent time on google. Thanks for piquing my interest. And the glorious sunset—divine. Great shots Linda.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      There are some beautiful viewpoints and rock formations at Sleeping Giant. It’s such a lovely area with no shortage of great hiking trails. I just wish we could have stayed for longer. There never seems to be enough time. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. I’m glad we had such wonderful weather as we pretty much spent the entire day hiking. The Top of the Giant Trail was quite the workout, but the views along the way provided great motivation to continue. It felt very rewarding even though I felt exhausted afterwards. I had no issues falling asleep that night!

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I’m always amazed at how colourful the sky and clouds can look right when the sun is about to appear in the horizon. Watching the sunrise was such a great way to start the day and end our trip to Sleeping Giant. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment.

      Like

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The Sea Lion arch is such a neat formation and glad we got to see it before it eventually collapses. I still can’t get over how blue the water appears. It was a real treat to watch such a beautiful sunrise the next morning. It was a great way to start the day and was definitely worth getting up early for!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. ourcrossings says:

    Wow, what an amazing place, Linda, especially the unique rock formation and towering cliffs! I love the array of scenery on display and the colourful sunrise. For me, watching the sunrise is one of the most peaceful times of the day. I don’t do it often, but when I travel through beautiful places I would be missing out if I didn’t make myself wake up at least one morning to watch the sunrise. Aiva 🙂

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Sleeping Giant is such a beautiful area in Ontario and is easily one of my favourite parks that we’ve visited. The Top of the Giant trail was long and challenging, but the views along the way were spectacular. It also tired us out so we went to bed quite early and then woke up early enough to watch the sunrise. I don’t usually pay attention to the sunrise (or sunet) unless I’m on vacation, but it’s something I should do more often. Hope you had a good weekend. Linda

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The lovely views of Lake Superior and the surrounding area provided great motivation for us to complete such a long and strenuous trail. It was well worth the effort though and I’m glad we had such nice weather as the hike pretty much took all day.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. The hike to the Top of the Giant was quite the workout, but I’m glad the weather was beautiful so we were able to take our time and enjoy all the scenic overlooks and viewpoints. This hike was definitely the highlight of our Northern Ontario road trip. Needless to say, I slept well that night. What a real treat to see such a beautiful sunrise the next morning.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. Sleeping Giant was definitely the highlight of our road trip and is one of my favourite parks that we visited in Ontario. The Top of the Giant Trail was a challenging, but rewarding hike. I’m glad we had such fabulous weather so we could take our time and enjoy all the lovely scenic viewpoints along the way. It’s funny how the sun can make such a huge difference sometimes. Because we went to bed so early we were able to wake up just in time to watch the sunrise over the lake. What a great way to end our visit to Sleeping Giant.

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  6. Book Club Mom says:

    Those are some fantastic views and what a sunrise. I’m curious, after 8.5 hours of hiking, how tired are you? I’m wondering if I could handle that! Thanks for sharing these pictures. That water is beautiful!

    Like

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The hike to the Top of the Giant was long and had some challenging sections, but we made sure to take our time, stop for a few breaks every couple of hours, and drink plenty of water. My mom and uncle hiked this trail with us, so I’d say this is definitely something you could handle. I’m glad we had such fabulous weather so we could really soak in the views and just enjoy the adventure. Thanks for reading. Linda

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Christie says:

    What a perfect hike, Linda! We only managed to go to Sea Lion and drive through Silver Islet, due to weather conditions, unfortunately.. The views are fantastic from the top, we’ll definitely go back one day🙂

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      That’s too bad that the weather wasn’t ideal when you visited Sleeping Giant. I doubt we would have hiked this trail if it was raining and miserable outside either. At least you were able to see the Sea Lion arch. Silver Islet is such an adorable community. I wonder what it would be like to spend the summer there. I would love to return to Sleeping Giant and spend more time there.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Diana says:

    Whoa! This might be my favorite of all the Ontario parks I’ve virtually visited on your blog. The color of the water and the sheer cliffs are stunning. Beautiful photos!

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  9. Bama says:

    Now this is another level! The expansive views, the altitude, the sheer drop of the cliffs, and even the sunset, they are all brilliant and in a scale that is more fitting for a giant. Sleeping Giant is my favorite provincial park in Ontario so far! Thanks for sharing this beauty, Linda.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Visiting Sleeping Giant was easily one of the highlights of our two-week Northern Ontario road trip. It was a long and challenging hike to reach the top of the cliffs, but the views were incredible. I’m glad we had such blue skies and sun to soak in our surroundings. Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Lookoom says:

    It’s a bit more challenging hike this time, but you don’t talk too much about the difficulties so it must have gone well. The view from the cliff is amazing. What beautiful final photos with the sunrise!

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It was a long trail with a few difficult sections when climbing up the cliffs, but it helped that the first (and last) 8km were relatively flat. We also had all day so we could take our time, stop for a few breaks and drink lots of water. The great views along the way helped us forget about the tough bits and instead focus on the highlights. The sunrise the next morning was such a real treat and a great way to end our visit to Sleeping Giant.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The trail network at Sleeping Giant is pretty extensive and impressive. Many of the trails are connected so there are lots of different options to choose from. The Top of the Giant trail is perhaps the most well known. It’s a long hike with some challenging sections, but it’s so work it for those scenic viewpoints.

      Liked by 1 person

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