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Sleeping Giant Provincial Park

Day tripping from Thunder Bay, Ontario

It is easy to see why this spectacular formation is known as the Sleeping Giant. In Ojibway legend, the Sleeping Giant is known as Nanabijou, who turned into stone for revealing the secret location of Silver Islet mine opening to white men. The partially submerged shafts of what was the richest silver mine of the area can still be seen at the foot of the Sleeping Giant. There have been many unsuccessful attempts to pump out the flooded shafts. My indigenous guidebook suggested that this is because the curse continues.

Surrounding the formation is Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. Not only does the park offer incredible views but it also includes hundreds of kilometers of hiking trails with spectacular rock formations, as well as campgrounds with terrific amenities. The park's website boasts of excellent wildlife viewing, and a spectacular Visitor's Centre. I had stopped in Thunder Bay for a couple of days to explore the area. My host strongly recommended I take Highway 538 out to Sleeping Giant and offered a list of his favourites hikes. On the way to the park, I passed under the Pass Lake Bridge, a spectacular trestle bridge.

I chose a 10km route that would cover parts of several different trails before joining the fairly short Sea Lion Hike, which featured the amazing rock formation of the same name. I hit many different trails, I wish I remembered the names of all of them.

Some of the trails are quite smooth and flat but most soon became quite rocky. Proper footwear is required for the majority of the trails. It was pretty and cool in the shade, but scorching in the hot July sun. It was a 4 water-bottle hike.

From the parking lot area, the route to the trail head is about 700m to the trailhead, for those who want to head straight to the Sea Lion Trail.

The first section to Sea Lion had some steep and rugged parts and cool forested areas. This continued for most of this trail. Although there are rough areas, the trails are beautifully maintained and included several information signs along the route explaining some of the history and geology of the area.

I thoroughly enjoyed the views from the various clear spots along the top of the ridge...

.... and along the water. I stopped to dip my feet in the cold waters to cool down. It was lovely.

The trail changes elevation and again moves uphill to the main viewpoint for the Sea Lion Formation.

The Sea Lion was formed from the materials left behind after sedimentary rock eroded. The wave action has created a small tunnel. In the late 1800s, it included another piece of rock that made it look more like a sea lion. That bit has fallen off and the signage suggests the current arch will eventually fall, too. I joined another trail to head back to the car. This took me through more forested areas and eventually I came upon the former town of Silver Islet (now mainly summer cottages).

I wandered for a bit, enjoying the decaying charm of the place. Back in 1868 a rich vein of silver was discovered on the small island opposite Silver Islet. Shafts were sunk and pumps were employed to hold back the waters of Lake Superior. Those pumps failed in early 1884. Multiple attempts since also failed. The General Store was being refurbished when I was there and was not open.

I eventually meandered my way back to the car and was stunned to realize that I had spent the entire day at the park and my stomach was letting me know it needed attention! The park is spectacular and there is so much more to explore the next time I'm in the area. Let me know in the comments if you've been to Sleeping Giant. What was your favourite hike?


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