Thu. Dec 7th, 2023
Sleeping Giants' New and Improved Nanabosho Viewing Trail

Today’s post is from Christian Carl, Park Superintendent at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park.

I first noticed the prominent buttress on the northeast face of the Sleeping Giant’s chest while hiking the Kabeyun Trail in the spring of 2003.

More specifically, while enjoying a break on the sunny south shore of Sawyer Bay, my attention was drawn to a natural viewpoint atop an arête (the point where two cliffs meet).

I immediately imagined the stunning landscapes that would be revealed to hikers who ventured to this natural viewpoint on the chest of the towering Giant and contemplated how I could get there to see for myself.

sleeping giantView of Nanabosho Lookout from Sawyer Bay

Working as a park ranger

Five years later, I worked as an interior ranger at Sleeping Giant and conducted field research for my geology thesis on the formation of the Sleeping Giant landform.

During that time, I hiked and cleared the park’s trails during the work week and spent weekends exploring the park to observe notable geological features.

It was during one of those excursions that I finally reached the promontory I had discovered in 2003.

I instantly fell in love with the extraordinary scenery from the natural viewing point at the northeast corner of the Giant’s chest for two reasons.

An unobstructed panoramic view of the Sibley Peninsula

First, the wide outcrop, flanked by cliffs on three sides, lacks mature trees. Later stages of succession have not fully developed at this site, allowing unobstructed panoramic views.

Secondly, the north-facing aspect from the Giant’s Chest dominates the entire Sibley Peninsula, which is unlike any other viewpoint within the park.

From this vantage point, hikers are rewarded with a clear line of sight to three successive bays on the rugged western coast of the Sibley Peninsula: Sawyer Bay, Hoorigan Bay and Clavet Bay.

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Rocky outlook overlooking a forest with autumn colors and a large lake.View of Sawyer Bay, Hoorigan Bay and Clavet Bay from Nanabosho Viewpoint

To top it all off, the overlook offers stunning views of Lake Marie Louise Campground, Silver Islet, Black Bay, Twinpine Lake, Paps, and even the Porphyry Island Lighthouse.

Rocky panorama with a sign, overlooking a bay surrounded by thick forest.Nanabosho Lookout overlooks Sawyer Bay, Marie Louise Lake, Black Bay and beyond!

When I first enjoyed the expansive views, I wondered if this exceptional viewpoint could one day become a designated viewpoint for others to enjoy. Spoiler alert: he did it!

Read on to find out exactly how this new viewpoint came to be and the team involved in making this vision a reality.

A little context

Of the 25 trails in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, only three of them ascend to the flat mesas that make up the Sleeping Giant relief.

The Top of the Giant trail was officially opened in 2002 and climbs up the “knees” of the Giant.

The Head Trail is the most challenging trail in the park, ascending steeply to the top of the Giant’s “head.”

Lastly, the Nanabosho Lookout Trail climbs the Giant’s “chest” and has recently undergone changes.

Illustrated map of the Sleeping GiantMap of the Giant’s “head”, “chest” and “knees”

Backcountry trail evaluation

Fast forward to 2014. While compiling a backcountry trail assessment for the park, I recommended relocating part of the Nanabosho Lookout Trail, including the overlook itself to reduce safety risks and increase hiker satisfaction. Little did I know then that I would be the one to follow up on this recommendation as Park Superintendent.

Environmental evaluation

In early 2019, Sleeping Giant Provincial Park initiated an environmental assessment to explore the pros and cons of closing the original overlook and creating a trail to provide access to the natural clearing in the northeast corner of the Giant’s Chest.

A new half-kilometre route was marked to access the proposed new overlook and ecological assessments were then completed by park staff and consultants. It was concluded that the new route would not negatively impact the provincially important plant communities in the Giant’s Chest and, consequently, the project was supported by the Ontario Parks Northwest Zone Ecologist.

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A person standing on a rocky area with low growing plants.  In the distance, there is a large body of water surrounded by a thick forest.An Ontario parks ecologist inspects the proposed Nanabosho Overlook site in September 2019

The proposed trail would also reduce the risk of long-term habitat fragmentation and would not divide the entire mesa that forms the Giant’s chest, as the previous route did.

With these conclusions in mind, the green light was given to proceed with the establishment of the new Nanabosho Lookout Trail.

trail work

As an avid hiker and former backcountry trail ranger, I really wanted to see this project come to fruition before winter hit. I worked on building the new trail during my free time during November 2019. With the help of other park staff and volunteers. The project was completed successfully, including installing new trail signs before heavy snowfalls arrived.

350 meters of the former Nanabosho Lookout Trail were also dismantled to prevent hikers from accessing the former lookout and ensure habitat rehabilitation.

We’re happy to report that hikers can now explore the new Nanabosho Lookout Trail and enjoy the same incredible views I fell in love with almost twenty years ago.

A rock wall nestles in a forest that turns yellow and orange in the fallLooking up at the Giant’s Head from Nanabosho Viewpoint at sunset

A new trail and viewpoint to discover

Although the new Nanabosho Lookout Trail is open to the public, few people have yet to discover this rewarding new route.

With fall colors peaking in the coming weeks, now is the perfect time to visit Sleeping Giant Provincial Park and be one of the first visitors to enjoy the stunning views from the new Nanabosho Lookout.

A rock face overlooking a forest that changes color in the fall, with dark green, light green, gold and orange trees.Fall colors seen from Nanabosho Viewpoint

Nanabosho Viewpoint can be accessed by walking 8.5 km (17.0 km round trip) from the South Kabeyun trailhead. The first 0.4 km is on the Kabeyun Trail, followed by 5.5 km on the Sawyer Bay Trail, 1.8 km on the Talus Lake Trail, and ending with 0.8 km on the Nanabosho Lookout Trail.

For more information about Sleeping Giant Provincial Park and its trails, visit the Ontario Parks website.

Sleeping Giant Provincial Park is located about an hour’s drive from Thunder Bay.