B had his last ball hockey game the morning we were planning to leave for Bon Echo and of course it was late in the morning when all other games of the season had been played at 8AM. I planned in advance, starting packing days before and yet was still not ready in time to go to ball hockey with the boys. They went without me while I finished laundry (why is there always so much laundry?) and started to pack the coolers. I had pre-made 3 huge iceblocks by freezing water in old vinegar jugs and in my head I totally thought that there would be enough room for all the food plus them in the cooler. The cooler full of food and food spread out on the floor around me as I sat there trying to find a million different ways to make it all work told a different story. So many years playing Tetris as a child had completely failed me.
1 minor meltdown, kale, spinach and the second carton of eggs left behind in the fridge and we were on the road. You know when you are driving to a campsite and the closer you get the cleaner the air gets. The scenery changes from people hustling to work or running errands to old growth trees and giant rocks. People seem happier and much more laid back. The camping effect wraps it arms around us as we see the signs for Bon Echo and turn off the main road and into the park. It takes a lot for me to fall deeply in love with a park, especially when I am spending a full week there. I often wish I could combine the sites of one park with the lake of another and the hiking trails of a third park but that obviously isn't possible. Within a relatively short amount of time I knew that Bon Echo was an amazing park and somewhere we could see ourselves coming back to year after year.
Bon Echo is a park with something for every experience level of camper. Sites vary including: traditional car camping near amenities, car camping deeper into the woods and further from amenities, Yurts, walk in sites close to amenities and back country canoe and hiking sites. For a trip of a week or longer you could easily combine several of these camping styles to get the most out of the park.
The park is divided into 2 main campgrounds, Mazinaw being near the amenities and Hardwood Hills being much further away. The Sawmill Bay campground within Mazinaw is very hilly and doesn't offer a lot of privacy between sites but there are some sites that have direct beach access and what looks like fantastic views of the lake. Fairway campsites within the Mazinaw campground are fantastic, offer privacy and are close to the lake, beach, river and the Narrows. We did not venture into the Midway campground in Mazinaw or Hardwood Hills campground to see what they were like.
Site 388 was really great
Walk in Sites
There are a select number of sites that are right on the lake and can only be accessed by walking a few hundred meters from the parking lot. The views are stunning and this style of site is a great way to easy yourself into back country camping if you haven't tried it yet.
Back Country Camping
Bon Echo offers both canoe camping and hiking in sites. Joe Perry Lake has sites close to the put in for those novice paddlers and then sites further away for the more experienced. Camping on Joe Perry Lake allows you to enjoy the back country from the comfort of the same site.
Must See and Do
We zig zagged across the Mazinaw lake for half a day enjoying the scenery, looking at the pictographs on the Mazinaw Rock and fishing. We started at the canoe rental area and headed for the Mazinaw Rock first so we would get there before the tour boats started. Back through The Narrows and into Lower Mazinaw Lake for fishing. We tried a lot of spots in the middle of the lake and along the shore and while we had a lot of nibbles, we had no bites. The winds had picked up while we were along the shore so crossing the lake twice required a lot of extra effort. We stopped at the dock for the Scenic Trail along the top of the Mazinaw Rock and hiked to 2 of the 3 lookouts.
5 hours on the lake and no canoeing related arguments....,yah that is pretty successful.
If you are unsure about camping in the back country without seeing it first you can try canoeing Joe Perry Lake for a few hours on one trip and if you like it and it matches your skill level, come back on another trip and back country camp.
We fished 5 of the 7 days we were there and didn't catch a thing but that didn't take away from the fun we had each time we almost caught one. We fished from our canoe but the easiest way to fish at the park is from land. We would head out to The Narrows or the river every day to spend an hour or so trying our luck at catching something. Make sure you have a valid fishing license and that you read up on what fish is in the park so you bring the right lures.
Fishing at The Narrows
Take a Day Trip to Sharbot Provincial Park
There are two provincial parks within an hour of Bon Echo and Sharbot Provincial Park is worth the drive. It is a small park but the lake is wonderful and your camping pass for Bon Echo gets you in for free. We rented a canoe and spent the day fishing on the lake and having a picnic lunch on the beach.
If you are looking for challenging back country hiking you can head out on the Abes and Essens Lakes trails but if you are looking for something a little lighter the trails in the main park are perfect. We set out on the trail to The Narrows which is just over 1 kilometer in length and easy terrain. Along the way you learn about the history of the park and how it all began. We spent a lot of time at The Narrows, which is the spot where the Upper and Lower Mazinaw lake meet. The trail takes you right to the point where the lakes narrow to only a few meters and offers great views of the Mazinaw Rock.
View from the 2nd lookout point
Across the lake you will find the scenic trail that takes you to 3 lookout points on top of the Mazinaw Rock. You can get there by canoe or by purchasing tickets for a ride on a boat. The hike is short (just over 1 kilometer) but it contains a lot of stairs so it takes about an hour. We only made it to the 2nd lookout because the trail started to head further into the woods and I didn't feel we were prepared enough to be out there. Flip flops and snakes are not a good mix.
Bon Echo is a fantastic park that offers something for everyone. We found that we were able to do a variety of things and still felt relaxed at the end of the day. Our plan is to go back and spend 3 nights in the back country canoeing and then the remaining 4 night in either the walk in sites or traditional car camping.
Must Have's For Camping at Bon Echo
Rain boots made from recycled materials
Light weight snack containers
Reusable water bottle
Cast iron pan
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