My 10 favourite things to do while camping at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park

If you live in south-western Ontario like me, Sleeping Giant Provincial Park is far away -very far. But wait! It is so worth the drive! It is incredibly beautiful, and we have had some of the most amazing wildlife experiences there.

Here are my favourite things to do while camping at Sleeping Giant, in no particular order:

1 – Hike to the head and the top of the Sleeping Giant

Sleeping Giant has over 100 km of hiking trails for both day, and overnight hikes. We have been on close to 10 of them. The views from the top of the Sleeping Giant are spectacular!

View from the top of the Sleeping Giant
Starting the climb to the head of the Sleeping Giant. The trail is marked “extreme”.

2 – Do an overnight bikepacking trip

We have done 2 bikepacking trips at Sleeping Giant, which I have written about previously. These trips allowed us to get further into the park, since we could cover more distance by bicycle than on foot. We locked our bikes together, and continued on our way, walking to interior campsites on Lake Superior. Both times we were the only people camping in the area. There are 5 trails in the park that allow cycling:

  • South Kabeyun to the junction with Talus Lake Trail
  • Sawyer Bay Trail
  • Sawbill Lake Trail
  • Burma Trail
  • Pickerel Lake Trail


3 – Explore the Visitor Centre and attend programs

In addition to simply walking around the Visitor Centre and exploring the displays, we have attended scheduled programs, learned lots, and been entertained! We have learned about Silver Islet, an area of the park, been treated to a concert by a singer/songwriter, and taken part in a trivia night.

4 – Search for animals

Several times at dusk we have hopped into our vehicle and driven slowly around the park, looking for creatures of the night! We were lucky enough to see a wolf (our first ever), an owl, a mama deer with two babies, and bunnies, just by driving around. Other times we grabbed our headlamps, and went for a walk at dusk, hoping to spot wildlife. I encountered a bear while running just outside the park one day, and another day, we saw a mama and 3 cubs at the entrance to the park! They were standing on their hind legs eating from the trees. Another day, we spotted a bald eagle just outside the park. I snapped quite a few pictures, one of which was a winner in the park’s annual photo contest!

“Bald eagle in flight”
Standing beside my winning photo in the Visitor Centre!

5 – Explore the nearby Ouimet Canyon Provincial Park

Just an hour away from Sleeping Giant is Ouimet Canyon Provincial Park, a day use only park featuring arctic plants which are usually found 1,000 km north. According to the park’s website, they survive because of the unique environment at the bottom of the canyon. The website also says that there are “Panoramic views of a 150 metre wide gorge and sheer cliffs that drop 100 metres straight down to the canyon floor”. There is a short trail and boardwalk that allows you to see the canyon from lookout platforms. We brought a picnic lunch and sat at one of the picnic tables near the tiny office, where you can pay for a park permit if you haven’t already paid for day use at another provincial park.


6 – Play at the beach

Enough said!

A shovel and hours of enjoyment.

7 – Mine for amethyst nearby

We drove approximately 45 minutes to Amethyst Mine Panorama, where we learned about amethyst mining, got to mine our own, wash it off, and buy a small amount. It was not too expensive, and we had a lot of fun doing it.

Looking for the best little pieces.

 8 – Visit the Terry Fox monument

The Terry Fox monument is located on Highway 11/17 (Thunder Bay Expressway). Terry Fox was an inspirational Canadian who ran across Canada to raise money for cancer research (the “Marathon of Hope”).


9 – Canoe and kayak in Mary Louise Lake

While the weather and waves can make paddling in Lake Superior rather challenging, Mary Louise Lake is a much smaller lake that is more friendly for paddling. It’s rare that my daughter has paddled a kayak on Lake Superior because of the frequent big waves, but Mary Louise Lake is more calm and kid-friendly!

10 – Explore the Lake Superior coastline

There are trails that hug the Lake Superior Coastline, and many opportunities to explore the beautiful coast! Pack a lunch, lots of water, your binoculars, camera, and curiosity, and head in any direction for an adventure you won’t soon forget!

One of two Spotted Sandpipers that we saw at Middlebrun Bay, on Lake Superior
Sea Lion at Perry Bay, on Lake Superior

What are you waiting for? Start planning your camping trip today!

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Trip report: Backcountry bicycle adventures (bikepacking) with kids at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park

Have you ever considered a backcountry camping adventure by bicycle? That’s exactly what my husband, kids and I did – and loved it.

At the trailhead for the Kabeyun Trail

In July 2012, during our first visit to Sleeping Giant Provincial Park (1,400 km from home), my husband and I decided to go on a backcountry adventure by bicycle with our kids, who were days away from turning 10 and 8. We consulted the park maps to figure out which of the many trails permitted bicycles on them, and made our plan. We also had to pay for interior campsite permits before heading out.

Since we had been car camping at the park, we had to pack up our sleeping things and take down our tent. We packed all of our backcountry equipment, food, clothes etc. into 2 big backpacks for my husband and I, 1 smaller one for my son, and 1 school backpack for my daughter.

We left our car camping site and drove to the trailhead for the Kabeyun Trail.  We biked 6 km on our mountain bikes along the trail, which wasn’t exactly flat and even – there were numerous hills and obstacles to cycle around. There were frustrating moments, and there were tears! At times, progress was slow, and we were walking rather than biking. 

When we reached an interior campsite, we left our big backpacks there (where we would spend the night) and biked another 1.5 km to the Talus Trail, where we locked our bikes in the woods. And then our adventure by foot began! We hiked 4 km to the top of the Sleeping Giant’s feet – 228 metres above Lake Superior. What a view!

We then hiked 4 km back to our bikes and biked 1.5 km back to the interior campsite, where we slept at a beach site at Tea Harbour. With rope and logs, the kids pulled each other around. While inside our tent, we were lucky enough to see a deer walk between the lake and our tent! 

The next morning, we saw a little skunk at a nearby backcountry site. After packing all our things, we biked 6 km back out to our vehicle with our big packs to end our 25 km backcountry adventure! By doing part of this backcountry adventure by bicycle , we were able to see more of the park in less time.

The next year (2013), when our kids had just turned 9 and 11, we did another July biking/hiking adventure at Sleeping Giant.

Getting everything ready

Again, we had to pack up our sleeping stuff and tent, make sure we had all the necessary backcountry gear, food, clothes etc., pay for our interior permit, and then we headed to the trailhead for the Sawyer Bay Trail. Unfortunately, Alasdair popped the tube on his super old mountain bike earlier in the trip, and changing the tube on this bike is not exactly a do-it-yourself project! So, while the 3 of us biked 6k along the Sawyer Bay trail with our big backpacks on, Alasdair hiked it.

Going over a fallen tree

At some point during the ride, our daughter suffered her first injury of the trip (I think) – she had a bike spill that I didn’t see but heard. She landed on her face and banged her legs up pretty well too. She did not want to continue but soldiered on.


We locked our bikes together and headed on foot to our campsite for the night on Talus Lake (1.5k). It turned out to be a very steep, hard climb, and we arrived at the campsite to find a very disappointing “site” – there was nowhere obvious to put the tent, it was very buggy, and there were big leeches visible in the water! Rather than set up camp on Talus Lake, we decided instead to hike the 1.5k + 300m back out to Sawyer Bay and sleep on Lake Superior. It was a great move. We were the only ones there (other than a few boats moored in the bay). We decided to scrap our initial plan of hiking further to the head of the Sleeping Giant (the trail was marked “extreme”) and to do it the next morning instead.

Trail to the head of the giant marked “EXTREME” (only attempt if in good physical condition – according to the trail maps)

We “swam” in Lake Superior (it was so cold that we essentially dunked under and got the heck out of there!), set up our tent, had dinner, and built an awesome fire from wood gathered along the trail not too far from the campsite. We enjoyed delicious homemade chocolate pudding with yummy toppings. 

The next morning after breakfast, we vacated our campsite, hid our backpacks in the woods, and hiked the pretty steep trail to the head of the sleeping giant – the round trip was approximately 5k. Once again, we had beautiful views from the top of the Sleeping Giant!

Thunder Bay in the distance

When we got back to our campsite , we “swam” again, before hiking the 300m back to our bikes, and biking 6k back out to the trailhead. 

It was another fantastic adventure!!

I highly recommend bikepacking with kids. A few tips:

  • don’t overload the kids’ backpacks – their balance will be affected, and too much weight on their backs is not good for them (plus they will complain incessantly!);
  • bring as little stuff as you possibly can, while making sure you have enough food, water purifying capability, and clothing to stay warm and dry;
  • don’t forget a bike pump and spare tubes;
  • choose your trails carefully – recognize that some don’t allow bicycles, and others may be too challenging for bikepacking with kids; and
  • allow time for multiple breaks, keeping food and water handy at all times!

Happy travelling!

My 10 favourite things to do while car camping at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park.

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