Hiking the Sleeping Giant – Northern Ontario’s Most Rewarding Climb

Hiking the Sleeping Giant will, undoubtedly, leave you breathless. Whether it’s from the sweeping views 600 feet above Lake Superior or the gruelling climb it takes to get there depends on your conditioning. For me, it was a combination of both. The pandemic has left me a little softer and a little slower, making for one sweaty climb. The rewarding views from the top is certainly worth the effort.

This is my time hiking the Sleeping Giant, Northern Ontario‘s most iconic landmarks.

What is the Sleeping Giant?

From the shores of Thunder Bay, the Sleeping Giant is an unmistakeable sight. One look, and it’s easy to see how the massive volcanic rock formation got its name.

Origins

Stretching across Thunder Bay’s skyline, the looming mountain resembles a giant laying on its back. The name comes from an Ojibway legend that says a loose-lipped giant turned to stone after blabbing the location of Silver Islet, a silver mine, to white men. That’ll teach ya.

Voted as one of Canada’s Seven Wonders, today this long rocky outcrop is the focal point of Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. Visitors to this 244 kilometre square park can camp, enjoy its unique Lake Superior shoreline, paddle pristine Marie Louise Lake, and hike its many trails. One of these trails, as this post suggests, will take you to the very top of the giant.

Getting to the Sleeping Giant Trail Head

Hiking the Sleeping Giant is no easy task and takes some work to both get to and climb. Again, those that put in the effort a rewarded with one of the best hikes in the province of Ontario.

Hiking to the top of the Sleeping Giant is a combination of three trails, the Kabeyun Trail, Talus Lake Trail, and lastly, Top of the Giant Trail.

The journey begins at the Kabeyun trailhead where you can park your vehicle. If camping in the park I still suggest driving to this lot, your legs will thank you at the end of the day!

Kabeyun Trail

This trail is a relatively flat and wide path and is an easy walk. You are on this for 5.0 km so, alternatively, you can rent fat-tire or mountain bikes to make this portion that much faster and more fun. These are typically available from the park office at Marie Louis Lake however be sure to check ahead for availability.

If time permits, hop off the trail to check out the Sea Lion. This weathered rock formation is 20-minutes off the Kabeyun Trail. Watch for markers just before the bridge in the photo above.

Talus Lake Trail

Getting to the Sleeping Giant trail head continues north for a short 1.5 km on the Talus Lake Trail. You will then come to the Top of the Giant Trail junction.

Top of The Giant

At the Top of the Giant trailhead, you’ll find bike racks where you can lock up your ride. From here, the real work begins.

Hiking Sleeping Giant

The Top of the Giant trail is a 2.7 km grind uphill. It’s moderate to difficult although if you take it slow (and take in the views along the way) it’s doable even for those like me who have parked on a fresh “COVID-19 lbs.”

After several sweaty switchbacks, you will arrive at the top of the backside of the Giant, some 229 m above Lake Superior.

Although there is a bench with beautiful views of the lake, continue on another 2 km to the Lake Superior lookout. This is where you will find the massive gorge with Thunder Bay in the distance.

Words certainly don’t do Sleeping Giant justice. Not since hiking Preikestolen in Norway have I experienced anything like it. In Canada, there are not many places like hiking Sleeping Giant. Gros Mourne and the West Coast of British Columbia come to mind certainly nothing in Ontario. Prove me wrong Doug Ford.

How Long Does It Take To Hike Sleeping Giant?

Hiking the Sleeping Giant – Northern Ontario’s Most Rewarding Climb

Hiking Sleeping Giant is a half-day outing at a minimum. The time it takes is dependent on your level of fitness and mode of transportation. It is 11.4 km from the Kabeyun Trail parking lot to the Superior Lookout. In total, you are looking at a 21.8 km round-trip and an elevation change of 290 m. With stops along the way, most hikers pend 6-12 hours hiking Sleeping Giant. It’s advisable to head out early to ensure you have plenty of daylight for your return. No one likes a lost hiker.

It took me about 6.5 hours to hike Sleeping Giant. This included biking to the Top of the Giant trailhead and stopping for plenty of photos along the way. Once on top of the Giant, I spent about an hour having lunch, taking in the views, and catching my breath before turning around.

What Should I Bring to Hike Sleeping Giant?

Thinking of tackling the Sleeping Giant? Be sure to pack the following items to ensure you are safe and comfortable along the way:

  • Hiking shoes
  • Plenty of water. I went through two 750 ml bottles on my hot September hike.
  • Snacks and lunch for the top.
  • Layers of clothes depending on the weather
  • A windbreaker ( the top is blustery!)
  • A trail map (you can get these at the Lake Marie Louise park office)
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray
  • A Camera!

Camping at Sleeping Giant

A great way to get an early start is sleeping at Sleeping Giant. I camped at the Marie Louise Lake campground. There you will find 200 sites, half include stalls with power. This did, however, add an extra 4.5 km bike ride to the Kabeyun Trail parking lot and was pretty exhausitng on the way back. I suggest driving with your bikes to Kabeyun Trail lot if possible.

Conquer That Giant

As noted, there are plenty of places in Canada that can take your breath away. Hiking the Sleeping Giant in Northern Ontario certainly checks this box. It may be a challenge to conquer however the views absolutely make it worth the effort. Pair that with a bike rental and stops along the way, and it is a great day out.


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Hiking the Sleeping Giant – Northern Ontario’s Most Rewarding Climb
Hiking the Sleeping Giant – Northern Ontario’s Most Rewarding Climb
Hiking the Sleeping Giant – Northern Ontario’s Most Rewarding ClimbHiking the Sleeping Giant – Northern Ontario’s Most Rewarding ClimbHiking the Sleeping Giant – Northern Ontario’s Most Rewarding ClimbHiking the Sleeping Giant – Northern Ontario’s Most Rewarding ClimbHiking the Sleeping Giant – Northern Ontario’s Most Rewarding ClimbHiking the Sleeping Giant – Northern Ontario’s Most Rewarding Climb
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