I’ve visited the Lake Superior Sea Lion countless times when I was younger but as an adult I’ve always found excuses not to re-visit. I’m too busy with work, I’m too tired from yard work, or, and I’ll admit it, I’m just too darn lazy! Well not this time. I’ve told so many people about this Lake Superior Natural Wonder and how great it is that it was time for me to visit again!
We started our journey to Sleeping Giant Provincial Park from the Lake Superior Circle Tour Headquarters in the Nipigon Tourist Information Centre. A short 63km (39 miles) drive west and we turned south onto highway 587 (also known as Pass Lake Road). If you’re coming from Thunder Bay the turn off is only a 35km (22 miles) trek. The drive into the park is spectacular. I remembered from when I was younger that lots of deer call this area home. So I drove carefully. Surprisingly we didn’t see any deer this time, but we did see a young bear foraging on the side of the road. There was a motorhome driving behind us so we didn’t have an opportunity to stop and take a photo.
Sleeping Giant Provincial Park is home to several attractions, a couple of Lake Superior Natural Wonders, and lots, and I mean LOTS, of hiking trails. Luckily the Lake Superior Sea Lion is a short 1km (0.6 mile) hike. The gravel parking lot, which houses the main trail head of the park, is 36km (22 miles) south from when we turned off highway 17. We parked our van, reviewed the large trail map at the trail kiosk, and set out on our adventure. I was thrilled!
The hike in was easy. Very easy. Too easy! It was a gravel path on a continual, and sometimes steep, downward slope. I knew the hike back would be a lot more challenging but I’d worry about that later. The trail was extremely well marked with signage at every intersection that marked distances to all the different destinations on the trail. The trail itself leads to many other trails and attractions. Many people cycle the main trail if they are traveling to further in destinations. The longest and hardest of which is the Top of the Giant. A 22km (14 mile) round trip. But we’ll save that one for another day – after I get in a lot better shape!
In no time we came across the sign pointing out that the Lake Superior Sea Lion was 500 meters to the left. From here we had to leave the gravel path of the main trail. We hiked up some rocks and watched our footing between tree roots. But it felt magical. Even while getting a little bit winded from the workout I couldn’t help but be at peace. I was in the moment. Nothing else mattered but the wilderness around me and the people I was with.
As we walked the side path we could feel a cold breeze coming from Lake Superior. We came across a pebble beach. It was a welcomed break. We took some time to skip some rocks, and enjoy the weather. We sat on the beach and looked out over Lake Superior. All of the rocks and pebbles were completely smooth from the waves of the Great Lake. After our 10 minutes of relaxation we headed back onto the trail.
As we continued a metal guard rail came into view. This was it. I knew we were close. Walking past the guard rail we looked back to see the attraction we came to see. The Lake Superior Sea Lion protruded from the main land into the lake. It was truly a sight to behold. I couldn’t help but wonder how this formation had lasted so long. But to be honest… It didn’t look like a lion, or a sea lion. I spotted an interpretive panel on the railing and quickly walked over to read it. There was a photo of what the Sea Lion looked liked before it had changed. You see, the Lake Superior Sea Lion is supposed to resemble a lion sitting on its hunches, with its front legs in the water. The head of the lion fell off many years ago. The photo below shows what it originally looked like.
After reading the panel I noticed another viewing area that didn’t have a railing and offered a less obstructed view of the Sea Lion formation. I walked over and took a seat. My feet dangled over the edge toward the lake. Looking down into the water I could see that it was shallow. I made a mental note that I definitely wanted to re-visit this great attraction by canoe or kayak.
After snapping a few photos we made the hike back to the parking lot. My assumptions were right… the hike back was definitely more difficult as it was all up hill. It wasn’t anything we couldn’t handle but it was a little bit of a work out. On the way back we saw a family looking into the trees. They had spotted a family of rough grouse. The kids were so thrilled as their dad pointed out all the young birds to them. It wasn’t long until we were back in our van and driving back to Nipigon.
I recommend visiting the Lake Superior Sea Lion to anyone traveling in Northern Ontario or along the Lake Superior Circle Tour. It’s easy to find, it’s an easy hike, and it’s truly a remarkable attraction that you’ll want to re-visit the second you leave.