Hi there! Bon Echo Provincial Park is an amazing travel destination that features 100m high cliffs and 260 Aboriginal pictographs. There are beautiful campsites for all campers, including backcountry, car camping, yurts/cabins, and RV sites. Bon Echo can also be a great beach day for families looking to head to the water this summer! We wanted to share a photo guide on the best things to do at Bon Echo Provincial Park during your stay!
As usual, I have also included some rambles from our trip to Bon Echo this past weekend. Scroll to the bottom if you want to find out why we bailed mid-way through our recent trip!
1. Walk the Bon Echo Waterfront at Sunset
Overview: Our favourite thing to do in the evenings at Bon Echo is walk along the Upper Mazinaw lake waterfront trail. We like to start at the boat ramp on Upper Mazinaw lake and follow the small trail along the waterfront and beaches until we hit the peninsula between the two lakes (aka the Narrows). It takes about an hour to walk from the boat launch to the peninsula (round trip). It is an easy path for all skill levels and ages. The best part is seeing the setting sun light up the cliffs! Scroll through the following photos to see the waterfront hike!
As you can see the path is fairly level and open. It is easily accessible for all skill levels and ages. There is also a larger path slightly higher up if you want a more road-like trail. You can access this trail from any Mazinaw campsite simply by walking towards the water!
Along the waterfront trail, you will come across the Bon Echo Visitor’s Centre (above), Information Centre, and Park Store. These can be a great way to break up your hike if you want to check out some interesting local exhibits!
This is the view of the Mazinaw Cliffs from the Bon Echo Narrows. We always spend time watching the sunset at the Narrows, while Sophie plays in the water. It is a really breezy area if you are looking to escape the bugs or cool down during the summer!
Note: The sun sets across from the cliffs, so once it goes behind the tree line you will lose the direct sunlight and the orange glow.
Heading back to our campsite as the sun sets so we can have a fire and s’mores!
^ As you can see, the cliffs light up the best on the walk home once the sun gets a bit lower! They glow so brightly it is unbelievable!
2. Hike the Cliff Top Trail
Overview: We haven’t explore all of the trails at Bon Echo yet, but this one is an annual favourite! You need to rent a watercraft to get across to the hike or you can take the Mugwump Ferry (check the ferry times). We usually rent a canoe or kayak for 4-hours so that we can use it to explore the cliffs afterwards. We also take our pup, Sophie, on this hike by placing her in the kayak/canoe (more on that later!). Please note that this hike requires boating and stair climbing, and therefore may not be accessible to all skill levels.
Once you get in your boat, you will paddle out of the bay and slightly to your right. You will see a dock across the Narrows where you can moor your boat. It takes about 5 minutes to paddle across to the dock and then you can start your hike!
Tip: Remember to bring some cash for boat rentals if you want to do this hike!
The hike starts with A LOT of stairs! I personally love doing stairs, but there are many flights of stairs as you make your way up the 100m cliffs. One thing to note, is that the stairs are metal grates which hurt our pup’s feet. She was a brave lady and did a couple of flights before she complained. Luckily, she is small enough to carry up the stairs but you may want to take that into consideration if you have a larger dog!
Once you get to the top of the stairs, the ground levels off into a well groomed trail. You can see that Sophie is loving the hike!
Once you climb to the top, you are greeted with these amazing views.
There are three (3) designated lookouts at the top of the cliff where you can see both Upper and Lower Mazinaw lakes. They are so breathtaking and honestly the best places to view the scenery above the brush!
After you visit each of the three lookout booths, the trail ends and you turn around. The entire hike takes around an hour if you stop for photos and to enjoy the scenery! Then onto the descent…
3. Paddling Around the Cliffs and Petroglyphs
Level: Easy to Intermediate
Right after we finish the Cliff Top Hike, we normally paddle over to explore the cliffs (you can also take the Mugwump ferry). However, if you get a longer boat rental then you could paddle to your campsite and rest first! The cliff paddle is usually pretty easy but can get a bit more difficult with high winds and bigger waves so make sure to check the weather!
Tip: We recommend visiting the Visitor’s Centre first to learn more about the petroglyphs before you paddle around them! You get much more out of the petroglyphs if you know where to look and what they mean!
From the peninsula or “Narrows” it takes about 5-10 minutes to paddle to the highest point in the cliffs. Along the way make sure you check out the Walt Whitman and Aboriginal petroglyphs!
4. Check out the Dog Park
Duration: 30 min (or longer for your pup!)
Overview: This activity is mostly geared towards pet owners or pet lovers, but Bon Echo has an AMAZING dog park. Make sure you ask the Front Reception for a map to the park since it is slightly out of the way. Once you get there, you cross a gorgeous wooden bridge (that is worth a visit alone) and then you are in the off-leash pet area. It has one picnic table, a garbage, and a great sandy beach. Last summer, we swam exclusively at the dog park so that we could swim with our pup!
Note: We forgot to snap some pics of the dog park this year, but these ones are from last year when Sophie was 4 months old and a little fluff ball!
5. Hang out at your site
Overview: This may seem like an obvious suggestion, but sometimes we get so excited to explore a place that we forget to enjoy our site! There is nothing better than lounging around reading books and having campfires! Bon Echo has some beautiful campsites that are very spacious! We always stay in the Bon Echo Mazinaw campsite since we bring a car and it is close to the lake.
Tip: Try to find a site within walking distance to the main bathrooms. The main bathrooms have full flush toilets and hot water showers. Most of the remaining “bathrooms” are outhouses scattered around the campground.
Disclaimer: These events are NOTHING to do with Bon Echo and you absolutely need to go visit this summer!
I thought I would also throw in a quick trip summary since it ended up being the perfect storm of unfortunate events! We have always had AMAZING camping trips (knock on wood) and were expecting the same for this trip. However, we forgot to anticipate the additional bugs this year from the huge rainfalls and ended up getting chewed by blackflies and mosquitos (even wearing DEET!). It was one of those times that you brushed off your arm and 10 mosquitos came off – now picture that on your ENTIRE BODY!
On top of that, we tried renting single kayaks this year instead of a tandem and Sophie FREAKED OUT. Turns out she didn’t like that we were separated and kept jumping in the water to get to the other person. We had to hold her back at times and ended up getting really scratched in the process. We ended up switching our kayaks for a canoe and she relaxed immediately and laid down – who knew!
It also went down to 5C at night (not expecting that either) and we wore all of our clothes to bed in an attempt to stay warm – (I wore 4 sweaters). It worked moderately well but we were definitely up throughout the night shivering and bundling up again.
And then to top it off, the forecast was calling for rain on our pack up day (wet tents in an apartment are not a good idea) and we cringed a little. My mom and dad ended up visiting us that afternoon and offered us shelter at their nearby place! At first we felt weak for abandoning our camping, but the thought of home cooked meals was too good to pass. (Thanks Mom & Dad!)
I have faced many camping obstacles in my life but somehow the numerous bugs + anxious dog + cold nights + rain was enough to overwhelm me this past weekend. Although we look pretty happy in all of these photos, there were definitely times when I was not loving life very much but trying to be brave – those photos are for another time!
If you made it to this point – thank you for reading this post and supporting my blog! Let me know about your camping trips and experiences in the comments!