|Distance||0.4 miles roundtrip|
|Best Seasons||Spring, Summer, Fall|
- Overlook extending beyond the cliff's edge
- Unique flora like the lady's slipper orchid
- Private lake only a short distance from the crowds of the overlook
This hike is very short, but is worth the drive and the effort. I recommend this as your first destination in the park; it provides an excellent taste of the scenery offered by the cliffs above Lake Superior and the beauty of the interior wilderness. Many people will visit the overlook, but the nearby bog trail, while usually overlooked, is definitely worth a stop.
Prepare for this hike by wearing long pants to protect your legs from overgrown plants near the bog and using copious amounts of bug spray to repel the many mosquitoes and black flies. Dogs are allowed on leash, and this is a great hike to expend your kids' energy before making them sit through another long bumpy ride on the dirt road.
You will be immediately rewarded for your long drive on the dirt road with the impressive Thunder Bay Overlook on top of these cliffs (you probably didn't realize you were going uphill during the drive) looking across Thunder Bay to the city of Thunder Bay. Hopefully you aren't afraid of heights because the platform extends beyond the cliff's edge and the floor of the far end of the platform is a see-through metal grate. The long dirt road acts as enough of a deterrent that the overlook is surprisingly uncrowded for such a beautiful view with minimal physical exertion; I visited here on Canada Day (Canada's 150th birthday at that).
As you approach the bog, watch closely as the plants on the forest floor change. At the right time of year, you are likely to see lady's slipper orchids like the one pictured below! Eventually, the trail reaches the pristine private lake pictured above. This calm spot is what makes this hike worth a stop after driving to the Thunder Bay Overlook. Far away from the main park road, the only sounds you will hear here are birds and the wind in the trees. Not many people do this hike either, so you can savor this peaceful moment for a long time. Notice how the trees here are all coniferous, very different from the deciduous hardwoods found on other hikes in the park, like the Sea Lion Trail. Sleeping Giant Provincial Park is in a unique geographic position where the northern boreal forest consisting mainly of spruce and fir trees converges with the eastern broadleaf forest, which mostly contains maple and birch trees. Use this knowledge as you travel through the park and take note of how the landscape changes as you drive away from the overlook.
The second half of the loop leading away from the lake is much more overgrown than the previous half, and you may have to climb over or under fallen trees. The trail is faint in some places so be sure to look for painted rocks and wooden poles to guide you. The loop ends at one of the wooden poles you may recognize from the beginning of the hike -- simply retrace your steps back to the parking area from this point. This hike is definitely a less-traveled gem in this park and I'm sure you will enjoy it. Let me know if you enjoyed this hike by using the comment section below 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. If you are registered for camping or plan on camping, continue down the main park road to the park office at the campground to check in and pay your fee. Otherwise, turn left on the dirt road signed for the day use area.
Pay your fee at the station along the way, then continue down the dirt road. Although the road might look rough, it is doable in a sedan (my own personal experience). Just go slowly and dodge the potholes (just like you do on the roads in your own Midwestern city). The road ends at an area that looks like it might be paved, but it's actually bare rock! There will probably be other cars here, and you can park wherever.
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 open area of bare rock and dirt with a pit toilet.