Bon Echo Provincial Park – July 19-25, 2020

We had camped the night before at Silver Lake Provincial Park. Before leaving, we made sandwiches for the girls to eat in the car. Silver Lake was a lovely recreational park, but our site was quite buggy and we were eager to get on the road. We arrived at Bon Echo around 12:30pm. Our campsite was open (site #150) and we were excited to set up. It was a beautiful site in the Sawmill Bay campground with a big rocky hill behind us and no rear neighbours. I scanned our site for poison ivy – none – and the girls promptly started to explore.


Everywhere we looked gypsy moths were fluttering about. This invasive species had a population explosion this year. 

Female Gypsy moths with eggs

Thunder was rumbling in the distance so we rushed to get the trailer up. Soon enough the thunderstorm reached us. I set up the beds while the girls coloured and played. We spent some cozy family time in the trailer watching the thunderstorm roll through. It’s times like this that I am thankful for our little old pop-up trailer. The storm passed and we ventured outside. The girls played around the site while I finished setting up and Kory prepared dinner. After dinner, a beautiful evening emerged and we set out to explore. The sites in Sawmill Bay campground were lovely! I found them to be large and well-spaced. Most of the vault toilets were closed due to COVID-19, but we weren’t far away from the Comfort Station. It was a short walk from Sawmill Bay campground to the North beach. We headed down to the water for our first glimpse of Mazinaw Rock. We could also walk over to the Visitor Centre (closed this year due to COVID-19) and gift store. It was a great location!

Beautiful evening hike at Mazinaw Lake
Bon Echo Visitor Centre is located in a historic building that was formally part of the Bon Echo Inn

The next morning was sunny and hot and we decided to go for a hike. After breakfast, we drove over to the High Pines trail, a 1.7km trail through forest habitat.

Hiking High Pines trail

What a beautiful trail! Our small girl was proud that she hiked the whole trail, much of it carrying rocks, “to get stronger”, as she put it! The trail passed through an area where several Hermit Thrush were singing – it’s such an enchanting sound. I did get a recording which I included in our YouTube video.

High Pines trail

The trail passed through an open area where the sun and heat hit the Junipers to make that familiar and wonderful summertime smell. It felt great to do some real hiking again!

We returned to our site for lunch and then jumped in the car to head over to Main Beach. It is the largest (and busiest) beach at Bon Echo, but we were able to find a physically distanced spot on the sand and the girls immediately started playing. Main Beach is great for small kids! It has a smooth, sandy bottom and stays shallow quite far out. The water was warm and calm – perfect!

Main Beach at Bon Echo

It was still warm at the beach well into the afternoon, so we had to drag the girls away to get back to our site for dinner. We quickly ate dinner so we could go for an evening paddle. It was really convenient to be able to portage down to the lake right from our site.

A paddling we will go!

Sawmill Bay campground has a boat ramp and a beach area – very easy to put in the canoe. It was so nice to be back on the water!

Bon Echo is a stunning place to paddle!

Motor boats are permitted on Mazinaw Lake, so the tranquility was sometimes interrupted, but it was still a beautiful place to paddle. We paddled over to Mazinaw Rock, which rises 100 metres above the lake, and looked for Indigenous Pictographs.

Approaching the narrows on Mazinaw Lake
Mazinaw Rock

As we paddled we heard the screams of a Peregrine Falcon overhead. They are known to nest up on the cliff.

Look up!

After the paddle, I helped the girls to bed as Kory started the campfire.

Our days fell into a pattern of hiking in the morning, followed by going to the beach in the afternoon, with canoeing thrown in there as well. The weather was lovely for this trip. The heat wave finally broke and we did have a cooler day and a bit of rain, but it made sleeping much easier and certainly didn’t stop us girls from swimming.

One morning, we drove over to the Abes and Essens trail. This is a 17km loop that has some backcountry camping sites on it.

At the trailhead, Abes and Essens trail

We hiked the smallest loop, the Clutes Lake loop, a 3.5km trail that circles Clutes Lake.

Approaching Clutes Lake

Our small girl once again picked up rocks along the way, eager to throw them into the lake. Our eldest lead the way for much of the hike.

The girls were quick to point out the face in the rock – do you see it?

Clutes Lake loop was another beautiful trail. The trail circles the lake and passes through forest. The terrain is rocky at times but it was still easy for our girls. We had a great time!

Watching the water bugs

We were all looking forward to hiking the Cliff Top trail. This is a 1.5km trail up to the top of Mazinaw Rock! It is accessible only by water, so, one morning we launched our canoe and enjoyed the short paddle over to the hiking trail. The park has a dock at the trail head with spots to tie up your watercraft. We went right after breakfast, and I’m glad we did as the dock quickly filled up with canoes and paddle boards.

Approaching the dock for the Cliff Top trail

The trail starts off with a staircase, then goes through a rocky area and enters a beautiful forest. More stairs await but we managed them without difficulty.

We made it!

The climb is well worth the incredible views from the lookouts at the end of the trail.

View from the top!

Bon Echo is a beautiful place. Our campsite in Sawmill Bay was stunning, surrounded by tall pines. The hiking was excellent. There are several trails of varying lengths and difficulty. The paddling was great. Bon Echo has several beaches to choose from, both sandy and rocky, with perfect swimming conditions for our small children. Had we stayed another day, I think we would have put in the canoe on Joe Perry lake to do some more exploring. We drove there and walked down to the lake and it was lovely.

View of Joe Perry Lake from the dock

If we return to Bon Echo, I would certainly try to book one of the paddle-in sites on Joe Perry.

We had heard a lot of good things about Bon Echo and it certainly did not disappoint!

Our lovely campsite

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