7 Favorite Hikes in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park

Hiking at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, Thunder Bay, Ontario



I love hiking. There is something soul-gratifying about being out in the woods.  Perhaps it is a primal instinct. Our ancestors lived in the wilderness, living off the land.  They sustained themselves with what they could forage or grow.  Part of me thinks that this is how it should be. 

But then the other part of me loves to shop in malls, eat in restaurants and run on paved roads.  I am not sure I could live without air conditioning, my crockpot, a computer or access to clean tap water.  I like my luxuries too. 

So, getting out into the forest for a few hours gives me the balance I need.  I feel refreshed and rejuvenated after a hike.

Benefits of Hiking

The science agrees with me (or I agree with the science, which ever way you want to look at it).  Hiking has tremendous benefits to both our mental and physical health. Let’s look at just a few of these benefits before I tell you about my favorite hikes on the Giant.

Hiking Sharpens the Mind

As you walk along a trail, your eyes are constantly scanning.  You don’t want to trip over rocks, sticks or ruts in the trail.  Unconsciously your brain is watching out for your safety. 

Perhaps, if you are anything like me, your brain may miss a few important safety cues, sending you tumbling.  Ask my husband and friends, I can be a klutz on the trails.  But know that my brain does in fact save me the majority of the time. And yours will too.

Your brain is also constantly taking in all the pleasant sites, sounds and scents.  It is taking in all that the forest has to offer.  The smell of fresh pine scented air.  The sound of birds chirping in the bush.  The views from a lookout or along the trail.  This positive stimulation helps your brain grow and sharpen. 

Science also shows that being out in nature helps improve your mind.  Hiking can reduce the negative effects of city life and increase your brain’s performance and memory. 

Hiking Helps Creative Juices Flow

Because of all this novel stimulation, things you aren’t normally exposed to day-to-day, your creative juices start to flow. 

Studies have shown that nature enhances our creative thinking.  Forests help us clear-out and re-direct our thoughts, helping us develop fresh new ideas.  Many artists, professionals and writers have discovered this wonderful benefit. 

Beethoven, Mark Zuckerberg, Charles Darwin, Steve Jobs and Sheryl Crow are just some people who have discovered this for themselves.  I wrote about this in my article Why Famous People Walk.  

Hiking is good for Mental Health

Studies have shown that walking through natural spaces helps reduce mental illness.  A 90-minute walk was enough to reduce stimulation to the area of the brain responsible for most mental illnesses. 

A hike can help calm us.  It sends off a cascade of positive hormones and brain neurotransmitters.  And it makes us feel happy. 

Hiking Connects us with Nature

Connecting to nature helps satisfy that primal need I eluded to earlier. 

When we connect with nature, we care more.  We care about pollution and other issues threatening our planet.  And this is a good thing.  Our planet does need saving.  We do need to care more about what happens to it.  It is our home.  Our health and our children’s health need a healthy world.   

The Sleeping Giant

Hikes at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, Thunder Bay, Ontario

One of my favorite places to hike is on the Sibley Peninsula in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park.  I have hiked all over the Giant. 

There are many versions of the legend of the Sleeping Giant and how this peninsula was formed.  An Ojibwa legend tells the story of the Great Spirit, Nanna Bijou, who was turned to stone after the secrets of Silver Islet were discovered. 

When you look out at the peninsula from Thunder Bay, Ontario, you can see the outline of a Giant with his arms crossed.  I have hiked the head, chest, knees, toes and many places in between. 

Let me tell you about 7 of my most favorite hikes in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park.  I have listed them from easiest to hardest.  The distances listed are approximate return hikes.



1. Sea Lion Trail

Hikes at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, Thunder Bay, Ontario

Distance: 1.2 km

My Rating: Easy, with minor climbing

Trail Head Access: South Kabeyun Trail

The Sea Lion is a fantastic short hike out along the Kabeyun Trail.  It is a relatively easy hike, as the distance is short.  But there is some minor climbing involved to get from the main trail out to the lookout.  This area is a bit rocky, so sturdy shoes are a must. 

The unique rock formation is well worth visiting this.  Most hikers visit this as they go further along the Kabeyun Trail to other viewpoints.  This is the most popular trail in the park. 

2. Middlebrun Bay Trail

Hikes at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, Thunder Bay, Ontario

Distance: 4.5 km

My Rating: Easy



Trail Head Access:  Highway 587

This is a little gem of a hike that is not many know about. 

Access is a little trickier to find, as it is not a part of the main hiking trail system.  It is located east of Highway 587.  There is parking at the trail head which is about 1 km in after turning left at the fork. 

The trail is mostly flat and an easy walk through the forest.  A little over 2 km into the trail you will come out upon a secluded sandy beach.  This isn’t just a small beach.  The beach reaches for a long distance along the shore.  The waters of Lake Superior are a little chilly here, but the shallow sand bottom makes it perfect for wading out on a hot day. 

You can hike further along the trail to Finlay Bay where there is an overnight interior campsite.  However, the trail is rough beyond Middlebrun Bay and Finlay Bay isn’t as spectacular.

3. Sibley Creek Trail

Hikes at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, Thunder Bay, Ontario

Distance: 3.4 km

My Rating: Easy

Trail Head Access:  Mary Louise Lake Campground

The Sibley Creek Trail is another easy hike through the woods.  While there aren’t spectacular views on this hike, it is a relaxing walk through the trees.  Deer, rabbits and fox are often seen along this trail.

The trail starts from Mary Louise Drive and traverses a flat and windy route that loops out to Sibley Creek. It is a self-interpreted trail with numbered markers along the route.  Be sure to pick up a guide at the gate house so that you can read and learn about the forest at each marker. 

I use the trail marker numbers to navigate my way through the winding loop.  Without them, I would be stuck in an endless loop, circling around until my husband comes to rescue me. 

The Sibley Creek Trail forms part of the running routes in the Xterra Sleeping Giant races in August.  The 5 km race route starts at the beach, follows campground roads, loops in the Sibley Creek Trail before returning to finish on the beach.  It is a fun race followed by burgers and refreshments on the beach. 

4. Hike to Tee Harbour

Hikes at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, Thunder Bay, Ontario

Distance: 12 km

My Rating:  Moderate, long hike

Trail Head Access:  South Kabeyun Trail

This is my absolute all-time favorite hike.  It is a good distance for a nice day hike.  The Kabeyun Trail out to Tee Harbour is wide and well travelled.  There are some rolling hills along the path, but nothing too strenuous if you take your time. 

The hike starts in the far parking lot off Highway 587.  It is the major trail head for many of the most popular hikes on the Giant.  The Sawyer Bay Trail Junction is first, followed quickly by the Sea Lion Trail junction.  Be sure to stay on the Kabeyun Trail, which is well marked, to hike out to Tee Harbour. 

You will arrive at Tee Harbour after hiking for about 5.5 km.  Take the trail to the left when you arrive at the marker here.  It will take you out to the beach and interior campsites located on the shores of Tee Harbour.

But don’t stop there.   A beautiful view of Lake Superior awaits you if you continue to walk deeper into the bush.  Just up over a short embankment you will find the rocky shore of the Canadian Shield along Lake Superior.  Here you will see some fantastic views, including the lighthouse on Trowbridge Island, as you listen to the waves crash onto the sturdy rocks.  I love to sit and have a snack here before heading back.

This hike also makes for a fabulous run, as the trail is so well compacted and doesn’t contain many tree roots.  There are some areas with a lot of rocks and shale, so you still need to be careful with your footing. 

5. The Chest (Nanabosho) Trail

Hikes at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, Thunder Bay, Ontario

Distance: 16 km

My Rating: Difficult, long hike with climb to top

Trail Head Access: Talus Lake Trail (via Sawyer Bay Trail)

The Chest is another favorite hike of mine.  It isn’t a popular hike on the Giant, but it has a special significance in my life. 

I was obese when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013.  I had failed in my attempt to reach the top of this trail before my diagnosis because I was so out of shape.  But I vowed to lose weight and improve my fitness after my cancer treatments had ended. 

In the fall of 2014 after losing 90 pounds, my husband and I hiked the Chest of the Giant again.  This time I easily made it to the top.  Not only had I conquered my own ‘chest’ (breast cancer), but I also conquered the Chest of the Giant.  I have hiked it every year since to celebrate my victory over breast cancer. 

Access to the Nanabosho Trail to reach the Chest is along the Sawyer Bay Trail.  You can access this from either Mary Louise Lake Drive or from the South Kabeyun Trail parking lot.  It is very close to the same distance either way. 

Just before reaching Sawyer Bay, take the Talus Lake Trail to the left at the marker.  The Nanabosho Trail is about 1.0 km from there. 

I love the peaceful calm just as you enter the Talus Lake Trail.  After you cross the creek, in the valley just before the trail starts to ascend, there is a spot that I absolutely love.  It is a place of complete quiet.  The forest is so still here.  It is as if Mother Nature is engulfing you in a big hug.  For that moment, I feel all my stress and worries melt into the forest floor. 

As you exit this valley, the Talus Lake Trail continues along a creek.  I love the sound of the water and the picturesque setting as you hike this trail. 

Once you reach the Nanabosho Trail the real work begins.  The trail climbs another 1 km up to the lookout.  It isn’t the most spectacular lookout on the Giant, but it is nice enough. It overlooks Sawyer Bay and the Head of the Giant.  

The Chest is the highest point of the Giant.  You are standing almost 1800 feet above Lake Superior here. 

6. Top of the Giant Trail

Hikes at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, Thunder Bay, Ontario

Distance: 22.4 km

My Rating:  Difficult, long hike with climb to top

Trail Head Access:  South Kabeyun Trail

The Top of the Giant is the most popular hike on the Giant.  It is a long hike along the Kabeyun Trail followed by a challenging 2.7 km ascent to the top of the Giant.  The long distance and the climb to the top make this a difficult hike.

The new Top of the Giant Trail zig zags up the side of the Giant.  This is a definite improvement over the old Chimney Trail that was closed because it was deemed too dangerous.  I have hiked both, and I much prefer the new trail. 

But the spectacular view from the top is well worth the effort to get up there.  You will be approximately 1000 km above Lake Superior at the ‘knees’ of the Giant.  Here you can see the cliffs along the west side of Sibley Peninsula and some great views of Lake Superior and shores of Thunder Bay District. 

7. The Head Trail

Hikes at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, Thunder Bay, Ontario

Distance: 14.2 km

My Rating: Extreme, long hike with 1 km very steep climb to get to top

Trail Head Access: Kabeyun Trail after Sawyer Bay

This hike is not for beginners or those less fit.  Even at my fittest, after running multiple half marathons, I found this hike difficult.  But the view from the top is one of the most spectacular in the park.  It competes with the view at the Top of the Giant for first place on my list.

The Head Trail is accessible along the Kabeyun Trail after you have reached Sawyer Bay.  The trail itself is short, but it is very steep.  There is a section with ropes that can help you get up this exceptionally steep part.  Although it is only 1 km, allow yourself a lot of time to get to the top and back down.  It will be slow going with several stops to catch your breath and rest your legs. 

The view from the top looks out onto the west side of the peninsula.  You can see for miles along the opposite shoreline of Thunder Bay District.  It is definitely worth the climb. 

Sleeping Giant is One of my Favorite Parks

There are many other hikes in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park.  I am lucky to be able to head out here any day during the summer months for a hike.  We have also stayed at the Mary Louise Lake Campground on occasion.  It is one of our favorite parks. 

I hope you enjoyed this tour through some of Sleeping Giant’s hikes with me. Maybe it sparked you to find some fabulous hiking spots in your own area? Hikes are such a healthy and fun activity to do.

If you are new to hiking be sure to read my Essential Beginner’s Guide to Hiking before heading out. I also have a printable day hike checklist in the Pink Ribbon Runner Template Library. Sign up as a VIP Subscriber for free access.



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Comments

  1. Pia says:

    Thanks for the hiking tips. I am wondering about Tee Harbour. Where do you continue to see the view of the lighthouse etc that you mentioned. Is it a marked trail at Tee Harbour? Could you give me a bit of direction?
    Thanks so much

    • Pink Ribbon Runner says:

      The Lighthouse is across the Lake on an island. You can see if from shore. But you will need a sturdy boat to get there. It is not accessible via a hike.

  2. Chelsea says:

    I totally agree that hiking sharpens the mind! I feel the most clarity and creativity when I am out in nature with no distractions. I have also stopped listening to music when I’m outdoors too, so I can fully take it in! These trails looks beautiful 🙂

  3. JOHN GUTHRIE says:

    Patricia, your hiking post is much appreciated. Despite knowing and hiking in Sleeping Giant Park over the years, we continually find new things to be amazed by. Today we went in to Middlebrun Bay. It was as you say a nice easy hike. We took our time, and stayed at the beach for about an hour. Two others showed up halfway through; but there was plenty of room.
    There is lots of signage now, and the trail has recently been cleared of a few previously fallen trees.
    We would heartily recommend it for most anyone. It is easy to find (they must have added more signage).
    The bugs were minor and the water was cold but invigorating. Unfortunately there was a lot of pollen in the wash, but once through it you can wade out a long way before the depth gets to be an issue.
    We will be back on another warm day!
    John

    • Pink Ribbon Runner says:

      I am glad to hear you had a great hike out to the beach. I love that beach. We haven’t hiked out there this year. I did notice the signage in the entire park was new along the Kabeyun trail this spring. I like the new signage. I think that was done by the Friends of Sleeping Giant volunteer group. Kudos to them!

  4. Robert says:

    We’re always on the lookout for new places to hike while on vacation. Living in British Columbia, we are fortunate to have some amazing places to hike. Will definitely bookmark this for future reference. Great post & photos!

  5. Jeremy says:

    Understand what you meant when you said hiking keeps the juice flowing ! Sometimes when my body feels fatigue, a good hike and sweat makes me feel so much better ! I love to view from the peak, especially the Giant trail, but if it is too difficult, I may just check out Tee harbour ! I love weird rock formations ! =p

  6. Heather R says:

    Wow, these are all breathtaking views. Of course, all the ones I like are the longest and hardest, but that view is totally worth it. I’d love to hike one of them if I’m ever in the area.

  7. Laura says:

    Really nice recommendations. I dont get to hike as much as I’d like, but it’s the perfect activity for this summer especially. Thanks!

  8. Rachel says:

    This was so interesting to read about! I absolutely love walking but unfortunately I’m from the middle of nowhere in the UK so I rarely go anywhere apart from random fields. If I ever get to visit I’d love to try these routes x

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