Bon Echo Provincial Park is one of Eastern Ontario’s most popular parks and that comes as no surprise considering it’s packed with excellent hiking trails, camping experiences and the largest collection of Aboriginal pictographs in North America. Mazinaw Lake and Mazinaw Rock make up the park’s stunning beauty and history.
Campers go crazy for this park due to its variety of camping experiences, scenic views and adventures the park offers. With your choice of car camping sites, walk in sites, backcountry sites, yurts and cabins there is truly an experience for everyone. For visitors that are car camping there is a choice of two different sites, one for the more wilderness lovers than the other. Comfort stations, amenities and electrical hook ups are all available nearby.
If you are really looking to get away from it all consider reserving one of the thirteen walk in sites, one of five backcountry sites or one of twenty-five canoe in sites. These campsites tend to be more private and some of them have the advantage of being on a sandy beach.
If you aren’t comfortable with spending the night in a tent try one of the cabins or yurts located here. Visitors will have the choice of thirteen yurts or cabins complete with beds, propane barbeque, picnic table, fire pit and comfort stations nearby. The yurts and cabins are scattered throughout the park and it pays to call ahead and check what is available beforehand. It is important to note that most of the campsites in this park are surrounded by mature trees and provide full shade throughout the day. Therefore you may want to bring plenty of bug spray with you.
This park draws a lot of paddlers due to the amazing scenery, stunning lake and towering rock and ample opportunity for day trips to week long canoe trips. There are canoe and kayak rentals on site on Lake Mazinaw if you don’t bring your own.
The most popular canoe trip is to paddle out to the Mazinaw Rock on Lake Mazinaw and marvel at the Aboriginal pictographs. You can either launch your canoe directly onto the lake or rent one from the lagoon. There is a 21km daytrip route that takes you past these pictographs called the Kishkebus Canoe Route that is rated moderate to difficult. It is important to note there is one portage of 1.5km.
If you would like to avoid Mazinaw Lake which is prone to motorboats, canoeists can head over to Joeperry and Pearson Lakes. Here is where the canoe-in campsites are located and Joeperry Lake is home to a beautiful sandy beach. One can spend days exploring the nooks and crannies of these gorgeous waters.
Bon Echo Outfitters is located inside the park and they offer canoe and kayak rentals. They are located in the lagoon.
The Lagoon is the center of all the action. This calm bay is where the boat rentals and ferry boarding take place. During the weekends, the local volunteer group Friends of Bon Echo host a bbq where you can grab some food and save yourself some cooking. The land surrounding the lagoon wraps in a crescent moon shape and is a great path to wander and get some unique views of the beach and paddlers.
There are endless hiking trails throughout this park and that is one of the reasons visitors who are looking for both moderate and challenging hikes flock here. If you are a family and introducing your children to hiking for the first time you will want to stick with the 1km Bon Echo Creek Trail or the 1.7km High Pines Trail which gives you a great view of Mazinaw Rock about halfway through.
Forests, wetlands and ponds coupled with lots of opportunity for bird and wildlife viewing make up these trails.
For the more experienced hikers the Cliff Top Trail is an absolute must. Only accessible by water this trail is rated as intermediate grade due to its steepness. The view from the top of Mazinaw Rock is well worth the trek up though and three observation decks over the lake provide astounding views.
Those planning on using one of the five backcountry camping sites will be hiking along the Abes and Essens Lake Trail which is made up of 3 interconnecting looped trails and is a combined 30km. It is advised to book these backcountry sites as early as possible as they do fill up fast!
The swimming in this park is pretty much as close to perfect as you can get when it comes to swimming in one of Ontario’s provincial parks. What we mean by perfect is your choice of three large sandy beaches, buoys to mark off shallow water, weed free and void of sharp rocks. The Main Beach is the largest of the three beaches while the South Beach is for day-use users as well as campers. The beaches are also equipped with picnic tables and plenty of shade.
Other Park Activities
Beyond the hiking, canoeing and swimming are even more activities to do here at Bon Echo Park. Many pet owners love this park as it is home to a leash free hiking trail and a specially designed swimming area for your furry friends. Fishing is a popular sport at Mazinaw Lake and a variety of Lake Trout, Yellow Pickerel, Small and Large Mouth Bass, Lake Whitefish and Northern Pike can be found. If birding is something you enjoy the Friends Gift and Book Shop always has bird checklists that will help you identify which species are present in the park. The gift shop is also where you will find souvenirs, outdoor clothing and tickets for the Wanderer Tour Boat or Mugwump Ferry. Make sure to drop by the Visitors Center located at the park where naturalists offer guided walks, children’s programs are housed and information about evening amphitheatre programs can be found.
It is no surprise that Bon Echo Provincial Park has been named one of the top ten Ontario Parks to visit year after year. The sandy beaches, excellent equipped campgrounds and spectacular scenery make this destination one of the best. This park is perfect for a family getaway, backcountry canoe trip or simply to spend the day. If you haven’t had the chance to visit Bon Echo, we suggest you get in your car and head there today. It is truly a spectacular wonder of Ontario.
Contributors: Lindsay MacNevin