Bon Echo Provincial Park Guide | Hike, Tour & Learn | #OntarioParks

Once we arrived at Bon Echo Provincial Park, there was only one thought consuming me – and that was getting our first look at Mazinaw Rock.

But before we’d even seen the cliffs, we were awestruck by how tall the trees were. The roads and trails are hemmed in by an incredible, awe-inspiring, towering forest – what I call, “The Pillars of Nature.”

The Narrows

The shortest trail in all of Bon Echo Provincial Park quickly let us to a shallow channel where the waters of upper and lower Mazinaw Lake meet – and the cliff face of Mazinaw Rock less than 100 feet away.

From this vantage point, the cliff face is so immense that it completely fills the field of vision!

Come back at sunset to watch a natural wonder unfold before you as the granite’s hues are warmed by the sun, increasing its colour saturation until the rock is glowing golden before it fades into darkness.

The dying light sends streaking colours across the sky, casting beautiful reflections across the waters and the incredible sight of Mazinaw Rock lighting up with a last crimson glow. The fiery display lasts but a few minutes, but you’ll remember it forever.

Mazinaw Rock

We found an incredible view of #MazinawRock when we walked down to the beach, near the ferry dock. Even from across the lake, we couldn’t help but marvel at its impressive size.

The 100-meter (330foot) tall rock extends along 1.5 km of Mazinaw Lake’s shoreline and dominates the view with its majestic presence. Much of the cliff face is below water level, going straight down 245m (804 feet) at the lake’s deepest.

The Visitor Center

One of the original rental cottages from the Bon Echo Inn, Dollywood, houses the Visitor Center where you can learn about the Inn’s construction in 1899, the various owners, the inn’s closure in 1928 to its end in 1936 when it was struck by lightning. The resulting fire left nothing behind but ash, memories, and the old dinner bell that called guests to in for the evening meal, which now resides in the Visitor Center.

Exhibits in the old building take visitors back through the history of immigrating settlers in the area, from loggers to maple producers and miners.

There are displays of the pictographs on Mazinaw Rock and a replica of one of the paintings. There are numerous photos with information explaining what they are believed to represent and the meaning of the spiritual dreams painted on the rocks.

The Visitor Center educates newcomers about the park’s fauna and flora, with skulls and scat, animal pelts and displays. Informational plaques and photos describe some of the most common wildflowers and plants you might discover in the park. Tree trunks that had once been bug hotels provide another great way to learn about life in this wild and beautiful landscape.

A section of the centre educates visitors about the natural history of the area, how faulting changed the landscape, creating Mazinaw Lake and Mazinaw Rock.

Greystones Gift & Book Shop

From gifts, apparel and toys to camping essentials you may have forgotten, like water or bug repellent, to fulfil campers’ and hikers’ needs. There is also a gallery within Greystones with beautiful artwork celebrating Bon Echo’s beauty that will definitely catch your eye.

Here, you’ll purchase tickets for the Wanderer Boat Tour and the Mugwump Ferry ride to the Cliff Top trailhead. Don’t forget to return to Greystones after your adventures to purchase your well-earned hiking and exploration badges!

The store and gift shop are run by Friends of Bon Echo and all proceeds go right back into the park.

Mazinaw Rock Cliff Top Trail

moderate to difficult, 1.5km

Only accessible by water. Paddle, boat, or buy a ticket to ride the Mugwump Ferry to reach the Cliff Top Trailhead.

Climb up steel, wood, and natural root stairs, over boulders and walk on exposed rock faces. There is flat terrain but this is a 100m ascension over a 750m trail, so there is always an angle to the hike.

  • If you need to use facilities, there is an outhouse halfway through the hike, on a short side trail with signage to point the way.
  • Dogs are allowed on this trail, but not on the Mugwump Ferry. I can honestly say that all the doggies we did encounter were petrified of the metal grate stairs, of which there were many. Unless you can carry your furry friend up and down many flights, please leave your pooch behind, pet parents!
  • Bring water and stay hydrated!

High Pines Trail

moderate, 1.7 km loop

The towering trees cast long, shadows across the trails and dappled sunlight spotlighted gems in nature; the pine cone, the acorn, fallen oak leaves on lichen, and a pine tree caught in the rays of light.

Ready to explore this wild beauty? See the High Pines Photoblog

The Shield Trail

moderate, 4.8km, backcountry

Follow the Old Addington Road to the Shield Trail and hike deep into the forests of the southern Canadian Shield.

The moderately difficult trail takes hikers through a rugged landscape where settlers, miners and lumbermen once tried to carve out a living.

Most of the evidence of their lives here has been reclaimed by nature. ?

Walk on pine needle carpets and rockface, over roots and around boulders while admiring the varied wilderness.

Pass through hardwood forests, cedar lowlands, marshlands, and near a beaver swamp along your journey through Bon Echo’s beautiful backcountry trails.

The Abes & Essens Lake Trail

moderate to difficult, backcountry
3 interconnecting looped trails
Clutes 3.5km, Essens Lake 9.6km, Abes 17km

This was the most challenging trail that we attempted during our time at Bon Echo Provincial Park.

Trekking poles were incredibly handy to navigate the paths in the wilderness, including some steep areas, rock obstacles and natural steps that required a real stretch to reach.

A midafternoon hike under the filtered light of the thick forest canopy, with long shadows running across the trails made it feel like the evening is quickly approaching.

There are five backcountry campsites along the Abes and Essens Lake Trail for those looking for a camping adventure in the wilderness of the Canadian Shield.

From Hiking and Paddling to Glamping and Backcountry Camping

Not only does Bon Echo Provincial Park have a plethora of activities for day-trippers, but there are also many choices for overnight adventures!

Go glamping in the Cabin on the Hill, camp cabins or yurts but, if you prefer camping, there are multiple types of sites from easily accessible to hike/paddle access only backcountry sites. With so much variety, you’ll be able to find the right site for your level of comfort and exploration goals!

? Bon Echo Provincial Park, Ontario.
? Traditional Lands of the Anishinabewaki ᐊᓂᔑᓈᐯᐗᑭ, and, Omàmìwininìwag (Algonquin).

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#notsponsored – In 2019, Mike and I travelled for Lennox & Addington and created a two-part series “Can You Hear the Bon Echo?” and  “Can You Hear the Bon Echo? Chapter 2” experience blog. I shot hundreds of photos over the course of our three days exploring Bon Echo Provincial Park, many of which didn’t appear in the blogs.

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The Narrows at Bon Echo