If you’re looking for a challenging hike with some stunning views along the way, hiking the Top of the Giant in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park is for you!

And if you’re thinking of hiking the Sleeping Giant with kids, it IS possible. Here’s how we conquered the Giant with two 6 year olds.

The Top of the Giant Trail

One of the most iconic hikes in Ontario is the Top of the Giant trail just outside of Thunder Bay, Ontario. Consistently listed as one of the top trails in Ontario, it’s a challenging hike but the view from the Top of the Giant is spectacular. It’s definitely one to add to your hiking bucket list.

view of cliffs dropping off to Lake Superior at the Top of the Giant trail when hiking the Sleeping Giant
the Top of the Giant

Thunder Bay has plenty of fantastic hiking opportunities and Sleeping Giant Provincial Park is no exception. There are more than 20 trails in the park, including the iconic Top of the Giant trail, also commonly known as the Sleeping Giant hike.

While we are not experienced hikers by any means, we do enjoy hiking, but usually short distances. But I had seen pictures of this hike and heard that young kids had done it as well. Since we were in Thunder Bay, we decided we had to try it!

I wasn’t sure how it would go, to be honest, as my kids had never done anything more than a 5km hike, although some days when we are travelling, we would end up walking between 10-15km.

What is the Top of the Giant trail?

Although it’s often call the Sleeping Giant trail, to get to the lookout that you’ll see on IG, there’s actually three trails: Kabeyun Trail, Talus Trail and the Top of the Giant Trail. The total distance is 22km (21.8km round trip from the parking lot).

What to Expect when Hiking the Top of the Giant trail with Kids

The first part of the hiking the Giant with kids is on the Kabeyun trail, which is a flat trail along the shoreline. Many people choose to bike this section, although be warned it is quite bumpy in parts and we saw some people walking their bikes through sections.

After passing Tee Harbour (which is a great spot to stop for a snack break, or just to enjoy the view), the trail begins to climb but when you reach the top, there are some absolutely stunning views to reward the hard climbing.

At the top of the Giant, there are a few lookout points with spectacular views of Lake Superior. These views also come with a massive drop off, and aren’t great for those afraid of heights.

It’s a challenging trail but the views and sense of achievement are well worth the effort!

Why is the Top of the Giant trail so popular?

The Top of the Giant trail is popular, partly because it’s a challenging hike, but also because of the views!

There are some of the most breath-taking lookouts along the hike and the views are what make hiking the Top of the Giant trail worthwhile!  (Plus the reward of being able to say you hiked the Sleeping Giant with kids!)

view of Lake Superior from the top of the giant trail in sleeping giant provincial park

Fun Fact: At the halfway point of the Top of the Giant trail, you’ll find the tallest cliffs in Ontario (with the greatest uninterrupted vertical drop) at 290 metres!

Where is the Top of the Giant trail?

Sleeping Giant Provincial Park is located on the Sibley Peninsula in Northwestern Ontario on the north shore of Lake Superior about an hour drive from downtown Thunder Bay.

If you are travelling from Thunder Bay, head east on Hwy 11/17 and turn right on Highway 587. Follow Hwy 587 past the Lake Mary Louise campground entrance to the Kabeyun Trailhead parking lot.

If you reach Silver Islet, you’ve gone too far.

How long does it take to hike the Sleeping Giant with kids?

Hiking the Sleeping Giant will take anywhere from 6-10 hours. If you choose to bike the first 5km, that will decrease the amount of time the hike will take.

You will also want to factor in stops for viewpoints, snack breaks and time to just take in the scenery. Total time will also depend on your fitness level and hiking abilities, as well as the ages of your kids and their endurance level.

It took me and my two 6 year olds 8 hours to complete the Top of the Giant trail, and that was with hiking the entire distance, not biking the first 5k.

Our Experience Hiking the Top of the Giant Trail with Kids

Starting at the south trailhead of the Kabeyun Trail, the first part of the hike is an easy 5km to Tee Harbour. Some people opt to use their bikes for this part, as it’s fairly flat and makes the actual hike shorter, but the trail is rough in spots and you will need mountain bikes.

Kabeyun trail at Sleeping Giant Provincial park
Kabeyun Trail

The trail passes Tee Harbour, where you can stop for a rest, admire the view or even camp overnight if you wish (but that seems pretty tricky when hiking with kids).

The Talus Lake Trail branches off this trail (you’ll see the bikes parked at the junction) and is a short 1.5km trail that takes you to the Top of the Giant trail.

This is where the climbing begins! You’re basically climbing up the mountain for almost 3km, and the trail zig zags before continuing up the last kilometre on a set of stairs, wooden and stone, which is probably the most challenging part of the entire hike.

When you reach the Top of the Giant, you’ll see a sign saying Top of the Giant with a bench that makes for a great resting spot, but don’t quit now – there’s still another 2km to go before you reach the lookout that’s synonymous with the Giant hike.  

These last 2km aren’t as strenuous so take your time and admire the views of Lake Superior as you hike. Once you reach the end of the trail, you’ll have a stunning lookout, where the cliffs drop steeply down to Lake Superior.

view of the cliffs at the top of the giant trail at sleeping giant provincial park
the tallest cliffs in Ontario

Congrats – you’ve made it!  Take a few photos, but I don’t think I have to tell you to be VERY careful close to the edge!! 

Have something to eat, drink some water and just enjoy the view.

And then the hardest part begins – the return hike. Now it’s another 11km back to the start. Nowhere near as exciting, because we’d already seen it, this was the hardest part for us.

Tips for Hiking the Top of the Giant Trail

  • Snacks – Bring plenty of snacks! You’ll be hiking anywhere from 6-10 hours and you’ll need lots of snacks to keep you fuelled for that long. I planned for one snack an hour, plus a small lunch to eat when we reached the Top of the Giant.  
  • Have some activities or ideas to keep the kids engaged and not bored while hiking. We like to play word games, guess the number, sing songs or tell stories while hiking. For the very last, very flat 5km we listened to a few podcast stories.
  • As with any hike, dress appropriately. Good hiking shoes are a must. If you prefer to hike in sandals (yes, that’s me and my kids), Keen makes some excellent hiking sandals.
  • Bring plenty of water. Again, general tip, but when you’re hiking for 6-10 hours, a small water bottle won’t last you the entire hike. I carry a large Nalgene bottle and several smaller bottles that we can use to refill the Nalgene when needed. My kids didn’t carry their own gear, although in hindsight they SHOULD have! After doing this hike, we invested in some hiking backpacks for them to carry their own snacks and water. There are also camelpacks specifically designed for kids.
  • Always take a first aid kit when hiking. While you don’t want to think of accidents happening, you also want to be prepared. At minimum, be sure to carry bandaids and ointment. This is what we carry in our travel first aid kit and I just slightly modify it for hiking.
  • Consider Bear Bells. While we do have bear bells that we wear when hiking, the Top of the Giant trail is a pretty popular trail and there will most likely be many people hiking with you. But you are in Northern Ontario, so it’s a good idea to have them on you!  
  • And don’t forget your camera! There are so many stunning views that you will definitely want to bring your camera!
  • There is a day use fee to enter Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. You can pay at the parking meters right at the trailhead. Day use fees for Ontario parks can be found here.

Final thoughts on hiking the Top of the Giant Trail with kids

While the Top of the Giant trail is definitely a challenging hike and not to be taken lightly, it IS doable with kids. Plan and prep wisely – and know your kids – and you will have an epic experience that you won’t forget!!

Other hiking trails at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park

Sleeping Giant Provincial Park is an awesome park to explore, and while the Top of the Giant trail is definitely the highlight, there are quite a few other great trails to hike as well.

If you’re not sure about doing the Top of the Giant hike with kids, or you’re camping at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park and looking for other hikes to do on other days, we’ve listed some of them below.
A full list of the trails and hikes at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park can be found here.   

Sea Lion Trail

The Sea Lion Trail is a short trail off the Kabeyun Trail, it’s 2.5km from the parking lot and takes around an hour to complete. The majority of the trail is easy and fairly flat but there is a fairly steep section towards the end, where you’ll have a great view of the rock arch on Lake Superior, known as the Sea Lion.

View from the Sea Lion Trail

Piney Wood Hills Nature Trail

A short 2.8km round trip through forest which ends with a viewpoint of Joeboy Lake.

Tee Harbour Trail

This is a really short trail that branches off the Kabeyun Trail and leads to a calm harbour on Lake Superior, however it’s 12.4km from the parking lot to reach the trail.

sand beach in Tee Harbour, along the shore of Lake Superior
Tee Harbour

We suggest taking this trail on your way to the Top of the Giant, as the beach makes a great place for a snack. There are camping sites here for those that wish to stay overnight.

Joe Creek Nature Trail

This is an easy 1.4km (round trip) hike. It’s the very first trail as you enter the park and follows Joe Creek down to the shoreline of Lake Superior.

It’s a great hike to do after hiking the giant to stretch the legs, but to be honest we were pretty tired after doing the 22km Top of the Giant trail and didn’t end up doing this one!

Sibley Creek Nature Trail

Another easy hike, this one is 2.3km to a bridge over Sibley Creek with interpretive sign posts along the way. If you’ve staying overnight in the park, this is a good hike to do the day after the Top of the Giant to stretch out those legs!

Have you hiked the Top of the Giant trail with kids? We would love to hear your experience!

Where to Stay when Hiking the Sleeping Giant

If you enjoy camping, you can stay right in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. Ontario Provincial Parks do require reservations, which you make online here. It is a popular spot, especially in the summer, so be sure to book in advance.

For those that would rather stay in hotels, downtown Thunder Bay is about an hour’s drive.

We stayed at Days Inn & Suites, which was easily accessed off the highway and central to most things in Thunder Bay. They also have a pool and hot tub, which is great when you are staying at a hotel with kids.

You can find other available accommodations here.

Booking.com
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For more family travel ideas in Northern Ontario, be sure to check out these posts:

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