OverviewThe Sleeping Giant is a rocky outcropping that lies 30km east of Thunder Bay, and is home to some of the highest vertical cliffs in Ontario which rise some 250 meters or 825 feet... something we have to treasure in this flat expanse we call Ontario.
The rocky promontory lies on the Sibley peninsula and resembles a sleeping giant lying on his back with his arms folded across his chest. The Ojibway legend that surrounds the Giant tells of the Spirit of the Deep Sea Water Nanda Bijou (or Nanabosho) who was turned to stone when the chieftain of the Ojibway tribe accidentally betrayed the secret location of a sacred silver (or amethyst) mine to the white man. When this occurred Nanda Bijou was turned into the state of perpetual repose (by the Great Spirit Gitchi Manitou) and became the escarpment we know today.
The Giant can be seen on clear days from Thunder Bay and is a very popular destination for hikers and campers as it features some of the most breathtaking views of Lake Superior to be found anywhere. It is located on the Canadian Shield home to some of the oldest rock on earth (over 2.5 billion years old). The park is 24 400 ha in size and is home to over 200 birds and animals including very rare species of orchids... also bald eagles and ospreys are known to be seen winging about on afternoon thermals.
The Sleeping Giant is home to some of the very best rock climbing and perhaps the most challenging day hikes in the province. Though it is far from the populated southern cities it is still a very busy place year round for climbing enthusiasts from all around Thunder Bay.
The Thunder Bay area is similar to the Batchawana Highlands near Sault Ste. Marie and Killarney that it is one of the most mountainous regions in the province. It is one of the very few places where you actually get a sense of the mountains that once towered here. While the Sleeping Giant is not officially a part of the Nor' Wester Mountains it is one of the highlights in this mountainous region of Ontario.
Getting ThereThe Sleeping Giant is located 30km east of Thunder Bay, within the confines of Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. Thunder Bay is a city of about 150 000 located 17 hours north of Toronto (by car) on the north shore of Lake Superior.
To get to the park head east on highway 17 until you reach highway 587 where you will be turning right and heading towards Pass Lake. Drive 32km (20mi) until you reach a railway suspension bridge, on the far side the park boundary begins. The Park is nestled between the towns of Pass Lake and Silver Islet.
To get to the Sleeping Giant on the Sibley peninsula you will need to take the Sawyer Bay trail which starts at the Marie Louise campground and follows an old logging road to the base of the Giant near the shore of Lake Superior. The trail is fairly rugged and is 12km (7.2mi) roundtrip.
There are around 25 climbing routes on the Sleeping Giant. Most of the routes though were done fifteen or more years ago so the fixed gear is of poor quality, so if you want to rock climb come prepared to upgrade all placements. Having said this though there are some great routes... the most popular route is the 110m (360ft) Discovery (5.8), also popular is the Up and Over Easy (100m-5.7), and the Dance Macabre (50m- 5.9). the first two are two of the biggest climbs in the entire province, as multi pitch climbs are rare indeed.
There are three hiking routes to the top, though all three are very rigorous. The Nanda Bijou which takes you up to the Giant's chest requires a fairly tricky ridgeline traverse, while the more popular Chimney trail (which takes you up to the Giant's knees) is a steep climb up past car sized boulders often over slippery rock. It is an arduous and challenging ascent so come prepared for some fun.
Red TapeThe sleeping Giant is located within the boundaries of Sleeping GIant Provincial Park so there are fees (at least there are supposed to be :) ). Day passes are charged by car and run $8.50 CDN.
The Park is closed in November, December and in April, though I am unsure as of yet whether access is restricted or there is simply no one manning the park facilities... though I am pretty sure its latter of the two.
The park is sacred to First Nations people and is a fixture in the lives of the people who live in and around it so please keep all impacts to a minimum. There are a wide variety of animals and some rare flower species found in and around the Giant so please stick to the trails and if trailblazing try to limit damage.
For any additional information you can try contacting the Thunder Bay Hiking Association at 1 807 345 3320.
When To ClimbThe Sleeping Giant can be climbed year round but the best time to climb is from May to October, the weather is the best at this time of year as storms and mist rolling in off of Lake Superior are less common and usually more predictable.
It can be climbed out of season, but is a more difficult propsition in late fall, the winter and early spring. The winters around Thunder Bay are notorious with temps dropping down to -40 and windchills in the -60's (celsius), also the snow piles up by the meter so come prepared.
Ice climbing is a popular activity come winter time, its simply getting to the Giant which is the difficult part. The only real access is by snowshoes or on cross country skis. Hiking up might require crampons and an ice axe and it would be best to take the nana bijou trail via the chest as it is the 'cleaner' of the two main trails to the top.
CampingYes camping is allowed, the park is officially open from May 17 to October 6 each year. It is still open the rest of the year (except for the months of November, December and April) though the staff is greatly reduced as are the hours of operation.
Day use of the park is $8.50 CDN per car and camping permits run around $20 Cdn per site with a site limit of eight people.
There are 200 sites at the main campground and 40 interior sites and there is no camping on top of the Sleeping Giant as far as I know.
To make reservations you can call 1 888 668 7275... it is best to book early as the Park can be quite popular in the summer, especially if you want an interior site to avoid the usual b.s.
Mountain ConditionsThe best way to check the weather is go to www.theweathernetwork.com
and check their Parks forecast. Sleeping Giant is one of the parks where you can get up to date weather info. that is usually no more than a few hours old.
You can also try calling the park headquarters at 1 807 977 2526 the rangers are usually more than willing to help with any questions you might have.