Located in the beautiful province of Ontario, Bon Echo Provincial Park is an absolute delight to visit. Heralded as one of the most beautiful places in the country, Bon Echo lies close to Mazinaw Lake, the seventh deepest lake in the entire region, and has a close connection with the primitive time-period when pictures drawn on rocks were the peak of artistry.
The area is affluent in history, as mentioned above, and has some of the best hiking trails in the entire province. Also, it offers visitors the opportunity to participate in plenty of other activities as well, which makes the experience in southeastern Ontario a particularly memorable one.
In this detailed guide, we look at all the things you need to know to ensure that you are prepared for camping at Bon Echo and learn the necessary information about the camping ground. That way, you can watch the spectacle unfold right before your eyes. So, without any further delay, let’s get right into it.
Bon Echo: 5 Super Important Details for Every Camper
1. Recreation and Points of Interest
Mazinaw Rock: Rock Climbing
Mazinaw Rock is easily the most famous of all the landmarks that one could come across at Bon Echo. It is a 100 meter (330 feet) tall rock with about 260 pictographs on its surface. These are the most extensive collection of pictographs in the entire country, and the structure stretches out for an unbelievable 1.5 km!
The Mazinaw Rock exists not only as a visual spectacle but also as a recreational hotspot. The most popular activity to do is to try and climb the 100-meter tall rock. The Alpine Club of Canada gives a short ferry ride to those willing to scale the face of the gigantic rock, dropping them off at the base of the cliff. The Mugwump Ferry also offers tourists this service.
Adding to the list of things that one can do at the Mazinaw Rock, the Cliff Top Trail offers another chance for people to explore the area, as it leads to a 2-kilometer long trail that can be accessed from the top of the rock itself. If you find yourself at the top of the rock, you’ll be rewarded with a brilliant view of the beautiful Mazinaw Lake that lies around the tall cliff.
Mazinaw Lake: Boating/Kayaking
As discussed above, the views from the top of the rock are so alluring that you will indeed be drawn into giving a chance to a boat ride along the Mazinaw Lake that encircles the cliff. Among the best activities to get hands-on information about the park and its history has to be the offered boat tour.
There are plenty of services that offer canoe rentals to visitors. Besides, the boat tour is unique because of the guides that give you some impressive bits of information about the park that the internet cannot deliver. They are friendly and well-versed with the history and the intricate details that separate Bon Echo from all the other parks in Canada.
However, if you’re a boat owner and would love to take your ride out to Bon Echo, then you’ll be pleased to know that they have a couple of docks on the site. Click here for a detailed description of getting your personal boat on the Mazinaw Lake.
Here are some of the popular boating and canoeing routes apart from the Mazinaw Lake:
- Kishkebus Canoe Route
- Joe Perry and Pearson Lakes
- Mississippi River Canoe Route
The Three Beaches
There are three different beaches in the park, and each of them is just as good as the other. The Main Beach is easily the most beloved as well as the most popular of the three. People who visit the park have maintained that the Main Beach has stunning views and is an absolute must-see site if you’re ever in the park.
It is located in the Lower Mazinaw Lake and is beautiful enough to make you want to spend an entire day there. Since the Main Beach is the most popular of the lot, expect it to be crowded during the summer months, when the tourist season is at its peak.
The second beach you will come across at Bon Echo is North Beach, which can be found in the Sawmill Bay campground. The North Beach, much like the Main Beach, offers tourists a brilliant view. But the difference lies in the sight of the Mazinaw Rock that the North Beach provides. On top of that, the North Beach is rocky, whereas the Main Beach consists of fine sand.
Lastly, South Beach can be found in the Day use area and is the least popular beach in the area. But that doesn’t mean that it is any less attractive than the other two at the park. You could try swimming in any of the three beaches, but the waters are seasonally chained off from the public, so pick your timing wisely. When in doubt, ask a tour guide.
The closest city to Bon Echo is Cloyne, Ontario. If you’re flying in from different parts of Canada or internationally, the Toronto Airport is the closest to the park. After landing, you can take a cab, rent a car, take the rail or a bus to make it to the park.
If you choose to drive from the airport to the park, keep in mind that Google Maps is unreliable. The main reason for being a real-life experience made tourists take turns that weren’t there and only added to the hassle of traveling.
However, rough directions are always best memorized. So, Bon Echo Provincial Park is located on Highway 41, which is 6 kilometers out of Cloyne’s nearest city.
From the north, you would want to travel along Highway 17 and then drive onto 41. Likewise, from the south, go along the 401 and exit to Highway 41 to reach Bon Echo. Do keep in mind that you won’t find gas stations along the highway, so keep some backup fuel just if you need it.
Weston A. Price purchased the land around the Mazinaw Rock and the Mazinaw Lake in 1889. Before the acquisition of the land by Price, it was used by lumbering companies and by farmers who lived in the area nearby. Weston Price and his wife were directly responsible for naming the place.
They were inspired by the Mazinaw Rock and were really impressed with the quality of the echo that can be heard at and around the gigantic structure. It is said that the Rock reflects the sound off of its surface and reflects it around the Mazinaw Lake. This phenomenon is best observed during the fireworks displays and during thunderstorms in the area, which provide the best natural example of the famed echo.
Bon Echo means “Good Echo” in French. Hence, the naming of the park after its most distinct natural phenomenon only makes sense. The Price family built the Bon Echo Inn at the park site. The hotel operated for 28 years, until 1929, and was ironically struck by lightning in 1936.
Weston Price later sold the holdings of the area to Howard and Flora MacDonald Denison. Flora was an avid admirer of American poet Walt Whitman. So much so, that she got one of Whitman’s poems carved into the rock. The carving can be read on the face of the rock to this very day.
The Bon Echo Provincial Park, as we know it today, was established in 1965 and is now governed by Ontario Parks.
4. Hiking at Bon Echo
Hiking is one of the best ways to explore natural regions in Canada, and Bon Echo Provincial Park is one of the best places in Ontario to go for a hike. Since the park’s hiking aspect is closely linked with camping, we only make sense that we run you through the various trails you can take at the park and brief you on all of the cool things you can do.
Abes and Essens Trail
Arguably the most famous hiking trail found in Bon Echo, the Abes and Essens Trail, takes tourists on an extremely scenic 15.5k hike. A moderately difficult trail consists of three different loops that are part of the larger loop itself.
Although the Mazinaw Rock cannot be viewed from the Abes and Essens Trail, it is still the best of the lot. Especially considering that you get the serene and calming Abes Lake on this trail. This backcountry trail takes about 5-6 hours to complete on average. Click here for an extremely detailed hiking report on the amazing Abes and Essens Trail.
Pet Exercise Trail
As the name suggests, this trail is specially meant for tourists to let their pets off-leash and enjoy the scenery around. This 1.4 kilometer-long trail is a loop-type trail and is the perfect place to bond with your furry friend at Bon Echo.
Bon Echo Creek Trail
While its status as a hiking trail could be up for debate, the Bon Echo Creek Trail is the easiest of all the prominent trails in the park, mainly because it exists as a calming walk along the Bon Echo Creek. The Bon Echo Creek Trail is closed during the early months of the year due to the excessive wet conditions that persist along the trail and make it extremely difficult to navigate.
High Pines Trail
This hour-long trail takes hikers along a forested route densely populated by tall pine trees, hemlock groves, and forest ponds, among other hidden treasures. It is relatively short and easy at 1.7 kilometers and offers beginners a chance to explore hiking’s beauty without posing much of a challenge.
Cliff Top Trail
The Cliff Top Trail, as mentioned earlier, requires the use of a ferry to get to the base of the Mazinaw Rock, from where the trail takes you to the top of the rocks and around a 2-kilometer hike.
The Shield Trail is the last of the prominent trails at Bon Echo Provincial Park. This loop trail takes a couple of hours to complete and passes through the Canadian Shield, consisting of a rugged hike, forests, and a beaver dam.
5. Camping at Bon Echo
Backcountry camping at Bon Echo requires a special permit obtained from the park gatehouse or the administration office that is located a little way down the road. Reservations are available from about five months before you schedule your trip to Bon Echo.
Every single campsite in the park has a picnic table, a cleared area for setting up tents, a fire pit, and a box privy for the tourists’ ease of camping.
If you prefer camping in your RV or any other 4-wheeler, you’ll be happy to know that car camping is regularly practiced at Bon Echo. Mazinaw Lake and Hardwood Hill are the two radio free car camping sites available at Bon Echo. Toilets are very close to the campsite and are usually well maintained. Besides, comfort stations can also be found near the campsites.
For those who prefer to have roofed accommodation while camping, Bon Echo has no shortage of options.
About 12 Camp Cabins can be found in the park, each of which sleeps five on a queen-sized bed. Bunk beds are also available in the cabins.
The Rustic Cabin is the oldest in the park and has been around since 1870. It offers a brilliant view of the Mazinaw Rock and is also known as the Cabin on the Hill to the park’s staff due to its prime location. The Rustic Cabin sleeps 6 and includes parking for one.
The six yurts are also popular among campers who spend the night at the park. Two of them are located in the Sawmill Bay area of Mazinaw Lake Campground, whereas the rest are located near South Beach. With comfort stations nearby, the yurts are a great option for people choosing to spend the night but cannot get the cabins.
Soft Sided Shelters are the last of the roofed accommodation that can be found at the park. With exploration tents in place, camping is made a lot easier for those who want to try out camping but have difficulty setting up or packing tents.
That concludes the list of the five most important things that campers need to know when checking out Bon Echo Provincial Park. If you’d like to read more on the thrilling adventures you can have in Canada’s parks, click here.