Fat Biking and Hiking at Sawyer Bay
Words by Michelle McChristie
Photos by Darren McChristie
“Whaaat? It keeps going?!” says my husband Darren after turning a corner on his fat bike only to find that the hill he is biking up doesn’t appear to end. We’re just past the midway point to Sawyer Bay in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park and, despite being frequent visitors of the park in all four seasons, we haven’t been on this trail in about 20 years.
It’s a sign of summer holidays when one’s biggest decision is what bike to take on a ride: cyclocross, mountain, or fat. We knew the trail was an old logging road, but couldn’t remember any details about the terrain other than it included some tough climbs and long, fast downhills. We opted to play it safe and take the fat bikes.
The Sawyer Bay trail starts about 600m from the Kabeyun trailhead and runs 6 km to Sawyer Bay which has backcountry camping sites and boat moorings. The terrain is best-suited to a mountain bike or fat bike—there are a lot of rocks, similar to the Kabeyun trail, and a fat bike makes for a pretty plush ride. Plus, the uphills are a little easier with fat tires that easily roll over obstacles. Although it’s tempting to fly down hills like a kamikaze, cyclists need to be mindful of other trail users (wildlife included!) and fallen trees (we had to go around or over several). The trail also has a few wet sections, even in the midst of a summer heat wave.
Just before the bay, the one-kilometre Head Trail leads to the Nanabosho Lookout. This trail lives in the shadow of the Top of the Giant Trail—Sleeping Giant Provincial Park’s marquee attraction and one of Northwestern Ontario’s bucket list adventures. Don’t get me wrong, the Top of the Giant trail is spectacular in every way and the panoramic view from the top is synonymous with the park and the north shore of Lake Superior. The downside is that the trail is popular and busy which can detract from the experience if you are the type of person who appreciates solitude in the wilderness.
The Head Trail is the path less travelled. The climb is strenuous and takes you past towering cedars and a refreshing little creek to some awesome views of the head and adam’s apple of the Giant and Superior’s shoreline over 200 metres below.
Combining the two in a bike and hike makes for an epic adventure—well worth the price of admission. And, the best part is that you might get lucky and have it all to yourself.
Sleeping Giant Provincial Park is located south of Highway 11/17 on Highway 587, about 42 kilometres east of Thunder Bay. The park has over 100 kilometres of trails—the longest system of any Ontario park and over half of it is bikeable.