Today’s post comes from Rachelle Law, discovery leader at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park.
Have you been dreaming of finding the perfect backcountry camping park?
Well, the secret is out! With over 100 km of hiking trails and 27 backcountry campgrounds located in seven backcountry areas, Sleeping Giant Provincial Park is an oasis for backcountry campers.
A Bucket List Adventure Across Canada
In 2018, I had the opportunity to road trip across Canada and witness stunning landscapes. As I was driving towards Thunder Bay, I saw the sign for Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. On a whim, my partner and I decided to visit the park.
The park’s iconic relief: the Sleeping Giant!
The Sleeping Giant is a well-known natural wonder in northwestern Ontario that intrigued me. Myths and legends say that the different mesa-slopes that make up the relief resemble a sleeping figure and climbing them was an epic adventure that I couldn’t miss.
When we arrived the gate staff were very helpful and helped us plan our trip to the countryside. We purchased our permits and set out to hike 10 miles to Head of the Giant and camp for the night at Sawyer’s Bay.
Ready to start our adventure at South Kabeyun Trailhead
Let the climb begin!
As we walked, I was surprised at how quiet the park was! As we passed some other hikers, we were completely immersed in the sounds of nature and surrounded by the dense trees of northwestern Ontario.
Enjoying the views from the top of the Head Trail
The trail was easy and before we knew it, we reached the base of the Head Trail. The head sits 1,500 feet above sea level and requires a 900-foot climb to the top.
A steep and challenging 1.4 km hike to the Giant’s Head led to one of the best views I have witnessed in Ontario.
The Head Trail offers panoramic views of Lake Superior
Our efforts were rewarded with panoramic views of the Giant’s Cliffs, the sparkling waters of Lake Superior, a vast expanse of trees, and the city of Thunder Bay in the distance.
Set up camp for the night
After enjoying the stunning views, we hiked up the Giant to camp at Sawyer’s Bay for the night.
Our campsite was right next to Lake Superior, which offered not only beautiful views, but also a peaceful atmosphere as the waves gently lapped against the shore. That night, we sat around the campfire watching the stars shine overhead.
You can’t beat the views while preparing dinner.
Our backcountry adventure at Sleeping Giant remains a true highlight of all the parks and hikes we had the opportunity to visit across Canada.
Now that I work at the park, I’ve had the opportunity to explore the countryside here even more. I continue to be impressed by the experiences and amenities it has to offer.
Here are five reasons why the backcountry at Sleeping Giant is truly spectacular:
1. The views are incredible
Whether you’re hiking on or around the Giant, or exploring other backcountry trails in the park, you’re guaranteed beautiful views. Most of our trails take you along Lake Superior or past scenic forests and small lakes.
View of Lake Superior from the Nanabosho Lookout Trail
For the best panoramic views of the park, you can hike the Head Trail (16.2 km), Top of the Giant Trail (22 km), or Nanabosho Lookout Trail (17 km). Each trail is rated as difficult, so make sure you are fully prepared and physically able to complete a challenging full day of hiking.
2. It is suitable for beginners
If you’re new to backpacking or backcountry camping, Sleeping Giant is a great park to start developing your skills, experience, and confidence.
The trails in the park are very well maintained, so you will be able to notice the trail markers and follow a very defined path. The terrain is also considerably quiet.
Aside from the big climbs up Giant, the other parts of the trail have little incline. In fact, many people choose to bike to the base of the Giant via the Kabeyun Trail and Sawyer Bay Trail. Additionally, for hikers who are not as comfortable hiking long distances, the park offers backcountry sites with shorter distances.
Tee Harbor is a beautiful, beginner-friendly place to explore
The Middlebrun Bay Trail has an off-piste campsite located in Finlay Bay which is just a 10km round trip. On the Kabeyun Trail, visitors can walk to the beautiful Tee Harbour, which is a 6.2 km one-way trip or 12.4 km round trip.
3. Backcountry campsites have excellent amenities.
As someone who has ridden over 1000 km of backcountry trails in Canada and the United States, I have to say that this park offers some of the best amenities you can find in the backcountry.
Left: Camping in the countryside along the Kabeyun. Right: animal-proof locker
Most backcountry sites in other parks require you to hang your own bears or fight off mosquitoes as you stumble through the woods, looking for the best place to use the bathroom. However, at some of Sleeping Giant’s most popular rural sites, you’ll live in luxury!
Animal-proof food lockers are available at Sawyers Bay, Lehtinen’s Bay and Tee Harbour. All campsites have designated campfires and some sites even have nearby toilets. I loved how some of the campsites also had wooden or log benches placed around the fire pits, which really added enjoyment and comfort when cooking and sitting around the fire.
4. The views from the tent are “over the top” (no, really, you’re sleeping right next to Lake Superior!)
Imagine opening your tent door in the morning and watching a majestic sunrise over Lake Superior.
Many of Sleeping Giant’s rural sites are right next to this large lake and are carefully positioned to offer the best possible views. Some sites even have their own private sandy or pebble beaches.
Without a thick canopy of trees to block your view, Lake Superior’s open skies allow you to enjoy the best spectacles of the night: stargazing and the Northern Lights.
Other advantages of being near the water are wildlife watching, as you have great vantage points to spot wildlife along the shorelines and above. This fall, while camping in Tee Harbor, I was able to see a bald eagle fly over the giant in the distance.
Another wonderful aspect of backcountry camping here is the relaxing sounds of Lake Superior waves. Add some crazy ones to the mix and there’s nothing like a Sleeping Giant soundtrack to lull you to sleep.
5. It offers a peaceful oasis to get away from it all.
In today’s world, we are surrounded by a flurry of activity, noise, and distractions. Whether it’s the time we spend on our phones, living in urban areas, or running to keep up with the busy lives we lead, sometimes we all need a break.
The best thing about backcountry camping at Sleeping Giant (and other Ontario parks) is being able to disconnect and find tranquility and solitude in nature.
As many studies show us, exposure to nature greatly improves our mental, physical and spiritual health. Hiking to more remote areas of the park can provide a unique experience. There’s no telling what wildlife you’ll see, what views and sunsets you’ll witness, and what new things you’ll discover about yourself.
Backcountry camping always feels like a challenge or adventure to me, and completing a trip gives me a sense of accomplishment. I also return feeling refreshed and with a greater sense of well-being.
Let the adventure begin!
So now it’s your turn.
It’s time to put on your hiking boots, pack your gear, and begin your adventure! I promise: the inside of Sleeping Giant is worth a visit!
Sleeping Giant Provincial Park is a 1.25-hour drive from Thunder Bay.