|Distance||7 miles roundtrip|
|Best Seasons||Spring, Summer, Fall|
- Less crowded and more remote than other park trails
- Pristine bay with crystal-clear waters
- Good warmup hike before attempting longer hikes in the park
This hike was my big practice hike a couple days before attempting the long, difficult Top of the Giant Trail, and this hike serves that purpose well. It offers some decent hills to climb and the distance will make you more comfortable with spending long amounts of time on the trail, and the hike is not so difficult that you are too sore to do anything the rest of the trip. I did this trail on a Friday at about 4pm (it doesn't get dark until 10pm in the summer here, so there's plenty of time for hiking in the evening!), and I was alone the entire hike except for the few people on the Kabeyun Trail probably heading to the Sea Lion. Bug spray is a necessity; I've hiked many places along Lake Superior, and it seems that the further north you go, the more bugs there are. Dogs are allowed on leash, and your furry companion will definitely keep you motivated through this long stretch of forest.
This hike starts at the Kabeyun Trailhead, the starting point for many other hikes in the park. Shortly, you will turn right onto the Sawyer Bay Trail, marked by a bright pink wooden pole courtesy of the Friends of Sleeping Giant. Eventually the trail merges with the Sawbill Lake Trail; just keep hiking straight here. The description for this hike in the park's trail guide deceptively states that you will have views of the Sleeping Giant throughout, but in reality you will barely see but a glimpse of those towering cliffs through the dense forest lining the trail.
Just before reaching Sawyer Bay, there will be an intersection with the Talus Lake Trail. Follow the signs on the bright pink pole to continue to the bay. At the bay, there are benches and a fire ring as well as a vault toilet. The bay is beautiful and calm. I saw a bald eagle flying in the distance, and fog hovered over the surface of the clear water. Everything was really peaceful... until a jetski roared through, disturbing the calm water and making waves that lingered even after the noise was gone.
While Sawyer Bay is a beautiful destination, this long hike through nothing but monotonous forest isn't particularly rewarding. To improve the hike, I suggest continuing your journey to the Head Trail climbing to the "head" of the Sleeping Giant that boasts panoramic views of Thunder Bay by following the trail at Sawyer Bay west along the shore -- only an additional 2 miles but with steep climbing. My guess is that the Head Trail is comparable to the climb in the Top of the Giant Trail but with fewer people crowding the trail. I didn't have a chance to hike to the head, but it's at the top of my list the next time I come here! Let me know how you liked this hike in the comments below (or if you have a chance to try the Head Trail) and be sure to use #nocoastbestcoast on Twitter and Instagram.
From Thunder Bay, follow the Trans-Canada Highway (Ontario Highway 11/17) east; if you are coming from Minnesota, Minnesota Highway 61 turns into Ontario Highway 61 once you cross the Canadian border, and this highway turns into the Trans-Canada Highway. After about half an hour, turn right onto Ontario Highway 587 (Pass Lake Road); this highway is the main road through the park, and once inside the park, there will be brown signs indicating turnoffs for trailheads and other points of interest. You must first pay the vehicle fee before parking at this trailhead, either at the day use area closer to the entrance of the park (there will be a $ symbol on the sign indicating you can pay here) or at the park office in the campground just before this trailhead. Once you've paid, continue south on 587 until you see the signed turnoff for the Kabeyun Trailhead on the right.
Google Maps Directions
Parking, Fees, and Facilities
It is important to note that this is a provincial park and does not belong to the Canadian National Parks System, thus any national parks pass you may have is not valid admission here. Parking in Ontario Parks requires a $11.25 (Canadian) vehicle fee for day use, $175 (Canadian) for an annual pass, or $125 (Canadian) for a summer pass (valid April to November). This fee is included with a camping reservation. The parking area for this hike is a large dirt lot off the main road through the park and has a pit toilet and picnic shelter with one table.