Sleeping Giant Provincial Park is a large natural area, just 86 km east of Thunder Bay. We stayed in the campground there twice - here’s our review!
A large Peninsula of land jutting out into Lake Superior, it looks just as the name implies it does: Like a big man laying on his back.
It’s been the subject of Ojibwe legend for ages... and I had no idea - until recently - that it’s one of the best places to camp in Northern Ontario!
Two of our 3 camp sites had a GREAT view over Marie Louise Lake, where we enjoyed gorgeous sunsets and sun rises.
On one occasion - the second night of our first stay - the Aurora Borealis even made an appearance! We were able to enjoy the show from just behind our camper!
Anyway, LOADS to talk about, so let’s get to it!
Campground Name: Sleeping Giant Provincial Park - Marie Louise Lake Campground
Address: R.R. #1 Pass Lake, ON P0T 2M0
Price Ontario Provincial Parks uses a pricing matrix across all their parks. See 2023 Camping Fees for more details.
Reservations: Ontario Parks Reservations
As always, reserving our site online was quick and easy, through the Ontario Parks website. There was a big line for check in but it went fast - and was super friendly, as usual.
Check in at the park office was via a window outside - the building had an awning they could open it if it was raining / too sunny though. (It was open on our second trip - sunny!)
Getting to the Campground
Sleeping Giant is WAY bigger than I ever expected, having looked across it to a kid. It’s more than 30 km across, takes like half an hour to drive.
Highway 587 has a speed limit of 80 in most places, but we didn’t feel comfortable going over 60. The highway is narrow, very twisty, and in some places steep.
Cell reception was next to non-existent pretty much everywhere in the campground, and Sleeping Giant park in general.
We had a little coverage in Pass Lake, and at the Thunder Bay lookout, that was about it. Sometimes we’d get notifications randomly at our campsite, but not be able to check them.
Maps & Signage
In terms of layout and signage, part of the campground is a kind of a spaghetti mess, but the signage is really good.
We really appreciated all the signs pointing out where the sites were. Large, brightly coloured, well placed, in good shape.
That said, the park map is weird at times. It has basically no information for the 10 sites on the other side of the lake - just a road that says “this way to get there”.
Additionally, the map makes it look like you access the cabins via a road from near the office, but you actually access them via a road near site 102E.
That road is not on the map, and is kind of obscured in reality. The road from the front was closed for the season.
While it’s not quite “dark sky park” status, it was plenty dark in all three of our camp sites to see the stars clearly, and - on one night - the Northern Lights over the lake.
Campground Amenities & Info
For being so remote, this park is remarkably well appointed! Also, everything was very clean and well maintained during our stay.
About half of the campsites have electrical posts.
As with most of the Ontario Provincial parks, this one does not include water or sewer to the campsites.
There’s a dump station / fill station (or, as we’ve taken to referring to it - the “poop loop”!), near the front of the campground.
It’s got 2 dump platforms, and 2 fill. These are set up in 2 lanes - dump first, then fill for each.
As a note: The staff seems desperate for visitors to tie off the garbage bags.
Tie your damn garbage, people! They have to manually unload your trash. Don’t make it any grosser for them than it has to be, good lord.
Anyway, there does not appear to be wifi access in this park.
There are 2 comfort stations in the campground, pretty close together. Both of them have flush toilets, laundry facilities and showers.
The laundry facilities are the “closet” type - just a door from the outside, rather than a whole room.
There are also flush toilets at the visitor centre, and vault toilets located throughout the campground.
There’s a park store in the visitor center - unfortunately, it was closed for the season.
When it IS open, it offers the usual - souvenirs, books, camping supplies, etc. It also does canoe and kayak rentals, and loans of fishing rods and tackle.
The park office building appeared to be selling firewood, ice, and some of the smaller items in the meantime, though.
They had examples of what you could buy posted on the window, labeled with pricing.
There’s a large visitor center near the center of the campground, with displays about the nature and cultural history of the Sibley Peninsula and surrounding area.
We particularly liked the area that talked about the Ojibwe legends surrounding the Sleeping Giant - Nanabosho.
There was also a cute little reading area, books about Nanabosho legends, and a posted invitation to read them to your kids.
Note: the hours are VERY short for the Visitor Centre at this time of year. 10 am - 1pm only, and I think that was only on weekends, at that!
The campground has barrier free access to the comfort stations, the gate house, and the visitor centre - sort of.
The visitor center was NOT accessible for those with sensory issues.
High pitched noises were incorporated into their nature displays and went off CONSTANTLY - we could only handle about 4 minutes in the building.
On first glance, I’m not entirely sure how wheelchair accessible it really is - you may need an all-terrain wheelchair for it.
Again though, we didn’t do the whole trail - so take that observation with a grain of salt.
Anyway, beyond all of that, the campground also offers 2 barrier free camp sites.
Day Use Area
Aside from a few picnic areas throughout the Sleeping Giant Provincial Park in general (Lizard Lake, Poundsford Lake, and Rita Lake), there is a large and REALLY nice day use area in the campground.
The beach is fairly big and way more appointed than the map or website lets on.
There are 2 playgrounds, a (somewhat janky) basketball court, a volleyball net, and more.
There’s also a public firepit with seating, called the “campsite theater” - it had a small platform with a bench, I guess as a stage.
Pro tip: The beach is a great place to watch the sun rise over Marie Louise Lake!
Dogs are welcome in the park, but must be leashed at all times.
I didn’t see any off leash dog areas in the campground itself - whether in person or on the map.
That said, one of the trails is designated as being an off-leash dog trail - Sifting Lake Trail. They’re allowed on the other trails as well, but must be kept on a 2 metre long leash.
Each camp site seems big enough for at least one vehicle, beyond your camping equipment. There’s also parking available at the comfort stations, the visitor center, the beach, etc.
I don’t think you’ll have an issue finding a parking spot in the campground!
That said, some of the trail heads have really small parking lots. I could see those getting a bit crowded on nice weekends in the summer.
Nearby Amenities & Attractions
Feel the need to get out of the park for a bit? Here’s some info on the nearby offerings, amenities, and attractions:
Silver Islet is a really short drive down the Sibley Peninsula from the campground - 5 km or so.
This is a small community located right at the tip of the peninsula.
There’s a gorgeous harbour, beautiful views, and a small general store, stocked with souvenirs and some foods - both basic, and touristy.
LCBO & Store
In the opposite direction - I think it was about 20 minutes from the campground? - there’s a store with an LCBO and Canada Post in it.
It’s located in Pass Lake, just before as you get to the entry of the park itself, when coming from the Trans Canada Highway.
It had a surprisingly decent selection of booze, as well as some basic foodstuffs.
Across the highway from the entrance to the Sleeping Giant Peninsula - where Highway 587 joins with the Trans-Canada Highway - there’s a large gas station centre.
It’s very RV friendly - it’s a truck stop, with diesel and regular gas, a lot of semis, tons of room.
There’s a large-ish, fairly well appointed store there, that sells every manner of junk food (Including Masala Munch! Weird to see it so far out here!), as well as auto maintenance accessories and supplies.
Amethyst Country Rock & Gift Shop
This is a little amethyst shop on Highway 587, located just before you get to the main park entrance / boundary, when coming from the Trans Canada Hwy.
The employee we dealt with was super friendly and knowledgeable about her wares, which varied from cute to gorgeous.
We ended up spending way more than we’d planned to, but were happy to do so.
Amethyst Mine Panorama
This attraction is one that’s near and dear to my heart - I went there as a kid!
There’s a big, well appointed gift shop with rough and finished amethysts, as well as jewelry and souvenirs made from them.
There’s something in basically every price range - it was a WILDLY different experience, going there as an adult with credits cards, vs going as a kid!
The mine offers tours - we didn’t do it - at $10 per person.
What’s REALLY cool though, is that you can walk through areas that have piles of amethysts, and pick what you want.
Once you have a bucket of treasure going, you take it to a washing station and see what you’ve got. $5 / lb to take it all home!
We’re going to have to do a full write up eventually - LOVE this place!
The Marie Louise Lake campground has about 200 sites. The sites are a mix of electrical and non-electrical - about 50/50. They’re also a mix of car camping and tent camping sites.
Ten of the sites are located on the west shore of the lake, a fairly long drive from the front - we went to take a look, eventually gave up before getting all the way to the campsites!
Anyway, there are fire pits in every site, along with at least one picnic table.
The sites all look really well maintained, and we saw a big mix of camper sizes, along with pop ups, tents, vans, and more.
The south facing sites on the arm of the campground that has the boat launch are SUPER cute, by the way.
The ones next to the water (141-167, odd numbers) had some kind of stairs or path down to the water. 142 - 168, even numbers - were elevated from the road, with a short set of steps to reach each campsite.
We were actually in 3 different sites over the course of our 2 visits to the campground.
Our first was 203 - it was huge, fairly private, had a bit of a slope, and was surrounded by trees.
The ground leveled out when we pulled in parallel to the water, so not much slope to deal with on that one.
When we returned on the way back through the area, we had 216 - also waterfront, and a more secluded site than the other two. BIG SLOPE, no room to pull in sideways.
During our first stay, two groups were making use of the group camping sites. The smaller one fits up to 25 people, and the larger one fits twice as many.
Both are really close to the beach, and the smaller site was along the water - really nice location!
There are 5 cabins available for rent, 3 of which are on the waterfront. They have cute names - Dragon's Mouth, Rose Pogonia, Fairy Slipper, Pink Moccasin Flower, Coral Root.
We didn’t get too close a look at them during our drive through, but the details appear to be the same as we’ve seen in other parks:
Each sleeps 6, comes with pots, pans, cutlery, etc. You need to bring your own linens, food, toiletries, etc. These ones actually have full washrooms, too!
Only one of the cabins allow any pets at all - just dogs, and it’s $20.00 / night to do so.
Note: as mentioned above, the route to these cabins isn’t clear on the map. It looks like you go down the maintenance road to get to them, but in reality it’s a small, barely marked road by site #103. This road is not represented on the park map.
TOTALLY not our thing, but the park does have 27 backcountry campsites throughout the park.
Apparently they can be hard to come by during the busy season, so they recommend people book their vehicle permit & backcountry camping permits ahead of time, and arrive early.
They sound pretty well-appointed, also - most of the ones in the more popular zones (Tee Harbour, Lehtinen’s Bay, and Sawyer Bay) have firepits, access to privies, and shared bear proof food lockers.
Other campsites in different zones have varying degrees of amenities.
Entertainment and Activity
There are a LOT of things to do in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, whether you stick mostly to the campgrounds, or venture off into the rest of the park:
There are over 100 kilometres of trails in the park. Unfortunately, after blowing out my knee during our stay at Lake Superior Provincial Park, all of our hiking plans for our two stays at Sleeping Giant were right out the window.
Here’s the info we’d assembled for our hikes, maybe you can make use of it!
You’ll look for a short and easy trail, get excited to see one that’s marked as being 0.4 km and easy... but then you see that the trail requires walking 12 km from the parking lot - on a main trail marked difficult - to even get to.
Per the park’s website:
The difficulty ratings are based on the trail’s tread-base/surface type, elevation-profile, width, steepness, and, to a lesser extent, length.
... so it seems wild to mark anything that requires a 12 km, difficult hike to even get to as “easy”.
In order of total length, with both the designated difficulty and the realistic difficulty, here are the trails:
Kabeyun Trail - Difficult
LMFAO at “difficult”, this one is next-level nonsense, for those into multiple day hikes.
It’s 37 km end to end, or 74 km - SEVENTY FOUR KILOMETERS - return.
The description for this one straight up sounds like the park trying to talk you out of doing it, basically giving every reason in the world not to.
For me, the 37 km thing did it just fine!
Anyway, this one requires a ton of planning, endurance, strength, etc. Camping and terrain can be a huge issue throughout the trail, so ... I mean, YOLO, I guess?
Pickerel Lake Trail - Moderate
This one is 11.7 km / 23.4 km round trip, and takes you through a bunch of white pine forest. Popular with cross country skiers.
Thunder Cape Trail - Moderate (Difficult)
This trail is listed as being 2.4 km round trip... but 23.2 km round trip - with most of it on a difficult trail - if you count actually getting there and back.
This one is for the birds - literally. It takes you to the Thunder Cape Bird Observatory. The observatory is not a part of the park - and it’s outside the park boundary.
Bay’s End Lookout Trail - Moderate
An 11.6 km / 23.2 km round trip trail, this one was formerly a gravel road - it’s mostly level, as a result. Sounds like it would be marked easy, if not for the distance.
Part of the Trans-Canada Trail, this one takes you to both the Bay’s End Lookout and the Caribou Island Lookout.
Burma Trail - Moderate
An 11.4 km / 22.8 km round trip trail that is generally more for cross country skiiing, than hiking - too wet in the summer.
Top of the Giant Trail - Difficult
This trail is 6.6 km round trip itself, but 21.8 km round trip from the parking lot.
It involves hiking up to the top of the tallest cliffs in Ontario, with the top of the cliff being known to provide some pretty spectacular views of both sides of the Sibley Peninsula.
Talus Lake Trail - Difficult
This one is either 12 km round trip, or 18.6 km round trip, depending on which part of the description you’re reading.
I’m going to assume 18.6, because it would really suck to get 12 km into a difficult hike, thinking you’re done ... only to realize you’re not even ⅔ of the way in yet!
This one sounds really interesting, though - it connects a few trails, goes past a few lakes, a meadow, cliffs, creeks, talus slopes, a beaver dam, a field of boulders, and more.
Nanabosho Lookout Trail - Difficult
This one is 1.6 km round trip for the trail itself, but 17 km round trip from the South Kabeyun trailhead parking lot.
The hike takes you up the “chest” of the sleeping giant, with views of the campground, several bays, Silver Islet, and Porphyry Island.
Head Trail - Difficult
This trail is 2.8 km round trip, but 16.2km round trip, when you count the walk to get there.
As you may guess by the name, this one takes you to the top of the sleeping giant. It’s the steepest trail in the park.
Tee Harbour Trail - Easy (Difficult)
Another one of the sneaky ones. 0.4 km / 0.8 km round trip, marked easy... but is a 12.4 km round trip from the parking lot, with the bulk of that on a trail graded “difficult”.
Sawyer Bay Trail - Moderate (Difficult?)
This one is 5.7 km / 11.4 km round trip for itself, but also involves almost a km on a trail designated as “Difficult” in order to get there - 12.2 km total, round trip. The trail takes you through rolling hills, to Sawyer Bay.
Middlebrun Bay Trail - Moderate
4.9 km / 9.8 km round trip trail takes you up to Finlay Bay and a single backcountry site there. On the way - 2.3 km from the trailhead - there’s a secluded, sandy beach. (Middlebrun Bay).
Ferns Lake Trail - Moderate
This is a 9.7 km loop that has one of the funniest trail descriptions ever. Starts out nice, goes a bit off the rails:
This trail has many access points and crosses highway 587 twice before looping back to the Marie Louise Lake Campground. Highlights of this trail include two beaver dams and a small pond. A portion of this trail overlaps with a maintenance road as well as Wildlife Habitat Nature Trail and this poorly-marked loop is not often the first choice for recommended hikes in this remarkable park. - Park Guide
Twinpine Lake Trail - Moderate
4.4 km / 8.8 km round trip trail. Passes by a lake, involves a lot of climbing, including through swampy sections.
Gardner Lake Trail - Easy
This one’s a 2.6 km / 5.2 km round trip trail that takes you along an old logging road, through some cedar groves, to the shore of Gardner Lake.
Sifting Lake Trail - Easy
A 2.1 km / 4.2 km round trip trail that takes you through red and white pine forests, to Sifting Lake.
This one’s an off-leash dog trail, the only one in the park.
Sawbill Lake Trail - Moderate
A 4.0 km round trip hike that goes up a steep hill to get a bit of a look at Thunder Mountain.
Piney Wood Hills Nature Trail - Moderate
Self contained trail, 1.4 km long, or 2.8 km round trip. Takes you to a spot overlooking Joeboy Lake.
Sibley Creek Nature Trail - Easy
A 2.3 km loop themed around swamp ecology and the historical forestry practices in the area.
Taking you to a bridge over Sibley creek, this one offers a bunch of educational opportunities - pamphets at the trailhead, and informative posts along the way.
Wildlife Habitat Nature Trail - Easy
A 2.1 km loop that takes you to a pond.
Ravine Lake Nature Trail - Moderate
A 1.9 km loop trail, this trail takes you up to a spot that overlooks Grassy Lake, Lake Superior, and the south end of Sibley Peninsula, before taking you down to Ravine Lake and through a grove of cedar trees.
Sea Lion Trail - Moderate (Difficult)
This trail is listed as 0.8 km round trip - and moderate - itself, but requires 0.8 km on a difficult trail (So 1.6 km total, return) to access it.
This one takes you over a rocky outcrop, past a pebble beach, with the end of the trail taking you to a diabase rock arch on Lake Superior.
There are information panels detailing the geology of those rock formations, for those interested.
Cemetery Trail - Easy
0.8 km / 1.6 km round trip, this short trail is near the southern tip of the park, about a 10 minute drive from the campground. Takes you to Silver Islet Cemetery, a historical site.
Joe Creek Nature Trail - Easy
This is one of the first trails you run across after entering the park, and is just 0.7 km / 1.4 km round trip.
Described as a “tranquil trail”, this one takes you past a series of waterfalls to the Lake Superior shore on the east side of the peninsula.
Pass Lake Overlook Trail - Moderate
This is a 0.5 km / 1 km round trip trail that is actually self contained. It takes you to the top of a sandstone cliff, overlooking Pass Lake and - in the distance - Thunder Bay.
Thunder Bay Bogs Nature Trail - Easy
This one’s a 0.7 km loop, accessed via the most WILD drive ever - see the section on the Thunder Bay Lookout for full details.
If you brave the drive to take this trail, you’ll be treated to pitcher plants and Labrador Tea growing on the shorebacks of a small lake.
Also: canker worms. (We tried this one, until my knee noped out).
Plantain Lane Nature Trail - Easy
The shortest trail in the park, this one is just 0.3 km / 0.6 km round trip, and located just outside the entry to the Marie Louise Lake campground.
Claims to be wheelchair accessible... maybe with a really hefty wheelchair?
Thunder Bay Lookout
About ⅓ of the way between the park entrance and the campground, there’s a side road off to the right that will take you out to Thunder Bay Lookout, as well as a couple of trail heads.
The lookout is terrifying and amazing - a single, fairly narrow walkway that’s vaulted high above the trees below, looking out over the lake.
There are some spectacular views of Lake Superior for those who venture out on the platform to any degree.
I went out a couple of meters, looked down, got dizzy, and noped out.
My husband walked right to the end, turned around, looked at me, and threatened to jump up and down in place. AAUGH.
He says it was “designed really well to be able to look out over that height, and still be safe.”
K. I’ll take his word for it - from a distance!
Now, let’s talk about the road to get there - a 9.2 km road that runs between the highway and the lookout area.
That road is is WILD - I would not recommend taking a camper down there!
There’s a sign early on that warns of steep sections, in no way does that do justice to what you’re going to encounter. Frankly, the steep areas didn’t feel that steep, and were the least of the driving concerns!
The majority of the road is just a dirt road, some ruts, a bit steep, no big deal - that’s the first 7 km or so.
Driving on raw rock face, giant craters, having to drive almost into the trees in order to not ruin your wheels.
Nowhere to turn around, either, so you’re like 7+ km in when you hit the NOPE - and there’s nowhere suitable to just back out at that point.
Words and photos will never do justice to how rough that road was.
If you’ve got a nicer car, you may want to avoid that side trip.
If you bring your mountain bikes with you, you’ll be able to use them on some of the trails in the park.
Burma Trail, Pickerel Lake Trail, Sawbill Lake Trail, and Sawyer Bay Trail all allow cycling, as well as the South Kabeyun Trail - but just as far as the junction with Talus Lake Trail.
They also recommend 2 of the roads within the park - Marie Louise Drive (12 km), and Thunder Bay Lookout Road (9 km).
If you do the Thunder Bay Lookout, be sure to watch where you’re going - you’ll be dodging some of the wildest potholes and road conditions ever, as well as the cars that are ALSO dodging the same.
As mentioned above, the Marie Louise Lake has a large, beautiful public beach. The swimming area is marked off with bouys, and it’s just a wonderful area to spend a warm afternoon.
There’s also inland swimming on Pounsford Lake, and swimming in Lake Superior via Middlebrun Bay’s sandy beach.
Feeling more adventurous? There are a ton of natural bays and inlets along the coast, many of which can be accessed by the Kabeyun Hiking Trail.
As a note, there are no lifeguards on duty at any of the swimming areas in Sleeping PP, or along the shore of Lake Superior.
Boating & Canoeing
There’s a boat launch and small dock located in the Marie Louise Lake campground, where people can canoe, kayak, or use motor boats.
Marie Louise Lake - one of the larger lakes in the park - is the only lake in the park where power boats are permitted, btw - and they’re limited to 10 HP or less.
The campground has canoes and kayaks available for rent in the camp store - not sure how they handle that after the store is closed for the season, though - maybe through the front gate?
In addition to Marie Louise Lake, canoeing opportunities are available at other lakes throughout the park.
While you can’t use - or even possess - baitfish within the park waters, you CAN go fishing in the lakes.
The smaller lakes are known to have Northern Pike and Yellow Perch, and you can find Smallmouth Bass and Walleye in the larger lakes.
Just be sure to note the power boat restrictions we mentioned earlier!
Sleeping Giant Provincial Park is known for its excellent wildlife viewing opportunities.
People have been known to see deer, fox, lynx, and wolf in the park.
We didn’t see any deer, lynx, or wolf ... but our first night at the park, we saw a fox sitting on the side of the highway, so we pulled over to look at him from a distance.
He walked right up to the car - gorgeous little guy!
Aside from land animals, the park is home to many species of birds - at least 75 different ones nest in the park, and over 200 species have been recorded seen in the area.
As with all of the other Ontario Parks we’ve been to, Sleeping Giant PP runs a Discovery Program during the summer months.
A variety of programming about the geology, forestry, wildlife, and cultural history of the park, Silver Islet - especially Silver Islet Mine - and more are available, through the Visitor Centre.
Unlike many parks we’ve stayed in - that close and gate up at the end of camping season - Sleeping Giant seems like a huge destination for people that love to play in the snow.
They’re known to play host to some of the best cross-country skiing, with cross-country skiers coming from all over to enjoy the 50 km of groomed trails.
There’s also a big ski festival hosted there - the Sleeping Giant Loppet - in March.
There’s also a SKATING TRAIL - 300 metres long - in the campground!
Snowshoeing on the hiking trails and ice fishing on the frozen lake are other options.
There was so little cellphone reception in the park, we couldn’t tell you if there even are any Ingress Portals or Pokemon Go stops / gyms at all.
If you’re staying here, expect to break whatever streaks you had on the go!
It’s a nice little campground, with a TON of options for activities.
I think it would be especially good for families - the whole beach area of the Marie Louise Lake campground would have been AMAZING, as a kid. A beach, 2 playgrounds, a basketball court, volley ball, and just a ton of space to run wild!
The trails all look and sound amazing, so we’ll definitely be back - when my knee is up for another round of my nonsense!
We loved our campsites, especially the two waterfront ones - 202 and 216.
Not only is it always nice to have a waterfront site, these two gave so many great views - the sunset, the sun rise, the northern lights, AND the head / chest of the Sleeping Giant itself!
More Campground Reviews
Want to read some more of what we have to say about the campgrounds we've stayed at? Here are some more reviews!
Chutes Provincial Park
Conestogo Lake Conservation Area
Elora Gorge Conservation Area
Fifty Point Conservation Area
Killbear Provincial Park
Lake Superior Provincial Park
Long Point Provincial Park
MacLeod Provincial Park
Meaford Memorial Park
Neys Provincial Park
Port Burwell Provincial Park
Quetico Provincial Park
Selkirk Provincial Park
Turkey Point Provincial Park
Valens Lake Conservation Area
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