Hike to the top of the Sleeping Giant on what is considered the “BEST day hike in Ontario”. Enjoy this challenging hike with stunning views over Lake Superior from the top of the highest cliffs in Ontario.
This is your guide to hiking the Sleeping Giant!
Table of Contents
Day Hike Plan
Total Hike = 23.0 km and 7 hours 35 minutes
- Kabeyun Trail (6.7 km/1:20)
- Optional: Sea Lion Trail (800 metres round trip/0:25)
- Optional: Tee Harbour Trail (400 metres round trip/0:15)
- Talus Lake Trail (0.9 km/0:15)
- Top of the Giant Trail (3.3 km/1:20)
- The Gorge Lookout (0:45)
- Return to parking lot (10.9 km/3:15)
Be sure to start early in the day. This allows you to take your time and not rush. Stop and enjoy the incredible viewpoints. They are great places to take a break. (Early spring and late fall hikers should be mindful of sunset times, to avoid hiking back to the trailhead in the dark.)
Anyone who is in reasonably good health, decent physical fitness and has a bit of hiking experience can do this hike!
Sleeping Giant Trail Map
Sleeping Giant Trailhead
The South Kabeyun Trailhead is the hike’s starting point. It is on Highway 587/Pass Lake Road, 37 kilometres south of Highway 17, the Trans-Canada Highway.
The parking lot is large but fills up quickly, as this trailhead is the start of many of the park’s hikes. We arrived at about 10 o’clock, on a Sunday morning in the fall, and it was almost full.
A large billboard style trail map is at the trailhead, along with vault toilets and several picnic tables.
The Kabeyun Trail is almost 40 kilometres long. It hugs the edge of the Sibley Peninsula, from the South Kabeyun Trailhead to the Thunder Bay lookout.
Follow the Kabeyun Trail for its first 6.7 kilometres to the South Talus Lake Trail Junction. This section of the trail is wide and dirt-covered, part of an old logging road. It is predominantly level with the odd washout.
Bikes are allowed on this section of the Kabeyun Trail. Cyclists of all skill levels can handle this trail.
We hiked this section in 1 hour and 20 minutes. On the way out, at the end of the day, we added another fifteen minutes.
There are two short, out-and-back, trails to explore along this section of the Kabeyun Trail.
Sea Lion Trail
The trail junction is less than a kilometre from the parking lot. Allow 20 to 30 minutes for the 800-metre round-trip trail. The trail’s turn around point provides a view of one of the park’s most photographed places. The sea lion is about 7 metres high and juts out 15 metres from the cliffs.
Unfortunately, the sea lion doesn’t look like its namesake anymore. The formation was named in the 1800s, when its shape included a “head”.
The sea lion is an igneous dyke, uncovered by erosion. A billion years ago, molten magma oozed into the area’s sedimentary rocks. The magma cooled and hardened into horizontal sills and vertical dykes of hard, black, igneous rock. Erosion has exposed many of these very resistant formations in the park.
The Sea Lion formation will eventually disappear into Lake Superior, as erosion of the rock continues.
Tee Harbour Trail
This is a short trail (400 metres round-trip) to Tea Harbour beach. The beach is a great place to rest weary feet at the end of the hike. We stayed about 15 minutes, enjoying the serenity.
This is also a backcountry campground. There are ten campsites parallel to the trail, spread over roughly two kilometres of shoreline. Each site has a metal fire pit. The campground has vault toilets and bear-proof food storage lockers. Backcountry camping permits are required to use a campsite.
Talus Lake Trail
Turn right onto the Talus Lake Trail. Hike through the woods for 0.9 kilometres, about 15 minutes. This trail is narrower with more rocks and roots.
Bikes are not permitted on the Talus Lake Trail. Bike racks are located at the trail junction.
The Closed “Chimney Trail”
This was our second hike to Sleeping Giant. On our first trip (back in the 1990s), there was a more direct route straight up to the Gorge Lookout, called “Chimney Trail”. The old trailhead (now closed) is located further along the Kabeyun Trail.
The trail was a difficult climb up a steep, rock-strewn talus trail through the “chimney” to the top. Due to the danger of falling rocks, this trail was rerouted in 2002.
Top of the Giant Trail
This is the heart of the hike. It is 3.3 kilometres from the Talus Lake Trail to the top. While it can be challenging in places, it is definitely worth the climb.
Allow 1 hour and 20 minutes to reach the top. Be sure to take breaks and keep hydrated along the way.
Top of the Stairs
From the Top of the Giant trail junction to the top of the stairs is about 1.2 kilometres. We took about 30 minutes to complete this section.
Tee Harbour Lookout
In another 1.2 kilometres, or about 25 minutes, enjoy the amazing view to the east of the crossbar at Tee Harbour. This view reinforces how the harbour got its name. Similar to the Sea Lion formation, the crossbar is a piece of one-billion-year-old, resistant, igneous rock.
The trail continues to lookouts facing west, with great views north of the “sleeping giant” and Lake Superior.
The Gorge Lookout and the end of this trail is about a 25 minutes hike. You made it!
The Gorge Lookout
Enjoy the incredible view of Lake Superior, the nearby islands and Thunder Bay off to the west. This is the most popular lookout in the park. These cliffs are Ontario’s greatest vertical drop.
We stayed for a well-deserved break of 45 minutes, enjoying the views and our packed lunch before heading back down to the parking lot. Be sure to take a good break, re-energize and hydrate fully before starting back down.
Sleeping Giant Trails
In addition to this hike, there are many more trails in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. In total, there are over 100 kilometres of interconnected hiking trails. Walk through the park’s boreal forest, home to deer, wolf, fox, lynx and over 200 bird species. Stand atop the tallest cliffs in Ontario, with views of Lake Superior, the Sibley Peninsula and Silver Islet.
Trails often require access from other trails. In the tables below, we’ve noted under the trail name any other trails hiked in the round-trip distance. Trail junction signs give very detailed information on directions and distances.
The trails in the table below all begin from the South Kabeyun Trailhead parking lot.
|Round-trip Distance and Trail Type
|Top of the Giant Trail, via Kabeyun, Talus Lake
|21.8 km out/back
|Nanabosho Lookout aka Chest, via Kabeyun, Talus Lake
|17.0 km out/back
|Head Trail, via Kabeyun, Sawyer Bay
|16.2 km out/back
|Talus Lake Trail, via Kabeyun, Sawyer Bay
|18.6 km loop *pre-trip planning
|74.0 km out/back *pre-trip planning, also parking at North Kabeyun Trailhead
|Ravine Lake Nature Trail
|1.9 km loop
|Sea Lion Trail, via Kabeyun
|2.4 km out/back
|Sawyer Bay Trail, via Kabeyun
|12.2 km out/back
|Thunder Cape Trail (bird observatory), via Kabeyun
|23.2 km out/back
|Tee Harbour Trail, via Kabeyun
|12.4 km out/back
The following trails have other trailheads. They are listed generally from north to south in the park within each section.
|Round-trip Distance, Trail Type and Trailhead Location
|Bay’s End Lookout Trail
|23.2 km out/back, Pass Lake Rd. at north park boundary or Thunder Bay Lookout Rd.
|Piney Wood Hills Nature Trail
|2.8 km out/back, Thunder Bay Lookout Rd.
|Burma Trail *cross-country ski trail
|22.8 km out/back, Marie Louise Dr. or Thunder Bay Lookout Rd.
|Twinpine Lake Trail, via Burma
|14.0 km out/back, Marie Louise Dr. (ends at Kabeyun Trail)
|Pickerel Lake Trail *cross-country ski trail
|23.4 km out/back, Pass Lake Rd. or Thunder Bay Lookout Rd.
|Sawbill Lake Trail
|4.0 km out/back, Marie Louise Dr. (ends at Sawyer Bay Trail)
|Middlebrun Bay Trail
|9.8 km out/back, Pass Lake Rd.
|Joe Creek Nature Trail
|1.4 km out/back, Pass Lake Rd.
|Thunder Bay Bogs Nature Trail
|0.7 km loop, end of Thunder Bay Lookout Rd.
|Shifting Lake Trail *off leash pets allowed
|4.2 km out/back, Pass Lake Rd.
|Gardner Lake Trail
|5.2 km out/back, Pass Lake Rd.
|Wildlife Habitat Nature Trail
|2.1 km loop, Pass Lake Rd.
|Sibley Creek Nature Trail
|2.3 km loop, Marie Louise Dr. at campground
|Plantation Lane Nature Trail *wheelchair accessible
|0.6 km out/back, Pass Lake Rd.
|1.6 km out/back, Pass Lake Rd.
Sleeping Giant Provincial Park Camping
RV and tent camping is available at Marie Louise Lake Campground. Sleeping Giant Provincial Park has backcountry camping sites all around the park, in addition to those found at Tee Harbour Campground.
Camping reservations can be made at Ontario Parks Reservations.
Know Before You Go
What is the Best Time to Visit to Sleeping Giant?
The park is open year-round but the best time to visit the park is from March to October.
Are dogs permitted on the trails?
Yes dogs are permitted. They must be on a leash at all times, except on the Shifting Lake Trail. Shifting Lake is the only “off leash” trail in the park.
What are the Packing List “Musts”?
Water – Bring more water than you think you need, especially in the summer.
Food – Bring food and high calorie snacks as you’ll need to fuel up at the top for the hike down.
Bug spray – Bugs are bad from spring to late August. They were gone when we went in mid-September.
Footwear – Sturdy hiking boots are best to avoid turned ankles on the Top of the Giant Trail.
Warm clothing – The summit can be windy and chilly.
First aid kit – Always be prepared.
Why is it called Sleeping Giant Provincial Park?
The park includes most of the forty-kilometre-long Sibley Peninsula which looks like a “sleeping giant” when seen from Thunder Bay.
What else can I do at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park?
In addition to camping at Sleeping Giant, Swimming can be enjoyed at the Marie Louise Lake Beach. Mountain biking is permitted on some of the hiking trails.
In the winter, there are 50 kilometres of groomed trails for cross-country skiing.
Is there a fee to hike at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park?
While there is no fee specifically for hiking, you will need to purchase a Daily Vehicle Permit to be in the park. There is a set number of permits issued per day. The permit can be purchased up to 5 days in advance from the Ontario Parks Reservations webpage to guarantee access for day use at this busy park.
Sleeping Giant is just one great stop on a this Northern Ontario Road Trip. For more destinations, check out our article, Places to Visit on a Road Trip from Sault Ste. Marie to Thunder Bay.
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