Bon Echo Provincial Park Camping: Everything You Need To Know About The Park

From the swimming and canoeing to the epic cliffs and the petroglyphs. We layout all of the top things to do in Bon Echo Provincial Park!

The cliffs of Bon Echo Provincial Park - Top things to do in Bon Echo Provincial Park

With the summer whizzing past us, we realized that we hadn’t been camping yet. After the previous summer camping at Mara Provincial Park, and later hiking through Killarney Provincial Park with kids, we were anxious to visit one of our favorite Ontario parks. Bon Echo Provincial Park. We booked one of the few remaining car camping sites and we were anxious to find the top things to do in Bon Echo Provincial Park.

What is Bon Echo, Provincial Park

Bon Echo is an Ontario Provincial Park in South Eastern, Ontario. Bon Echo is located about an hour-and-a-half north-east of the city of Kingston and 6 km north of the town of Cloyne. The Bon Echo contains several lakes, the most famous of which is Mazinaw Lake. Mazinaw Lake is the second deepest lake in Ontario and features the stunning Mazinaw Rock, home to the largest collection of native pictographs in Ontario.

These indigenous pictographs, rock paintings are found on the escarpment cliffs. Bon Echo has been consistently rated as one of the top Ontario Provincial Parks. And for a small park, it packs in a tremendous amount of excitement. Mazinaw Rock alone stands over 100 meters high. This massive cliff dominates the landscape of Bon Echo. And although it is home to some of the park’s best attractions, it is by no means all that Bon Echo has to offer!

Top things to see in Bon Echo Provincial Park from above

We arrived in Bon Echo mid-morning on a 3-hour drive from Toronto. The weather was absolutely gorgeous. And we quickly got about setting up our tent and campsite for our visit before heading to the Bon Echo Lagoon to see everything that Bon Echo had to offer.

Top things to do in Bon Echo Provincial Park

The Bon Echo Lagoon

Our campsite was in the Hardwood Hills section, a short 5-minute drive to the Lagoon in Bon Echo. If you’re looking for the top things to do in Bon Echo Provincial Park, the Lagoon is the center of all the action. This calm bay is where the boat rentals take place as well as where the Mugwump Ferry boards.

During the weekends, the local volunteer group Friends of Bon Echo host a bbq where you can grab some food and save yourself some cooking. The land surrounding the lagoon wraps in a crescent moon shape and has an easy path to explore. One of our favorite spots is just past the beach where the path wraps back towards the entrance of the lagoon. It’s a great shallow swimming spot for kids. And it offers great views of the cliffs as well.

Aerial view of the Lagoon in Bon Echo Provincial Park - Top things to do in Bon Echo Provincial Park

Canoeing, Kayaking or Paddle Boarding

We had reserved a canoe for our visit to Bon Echo prior to our arrival. We wandered from the parking lot to Bon Echo Outfitters, located right at the Lagoon and filled out our paperwork for a 24-hour rental. Canoes or Kayaks are, in my opinion, the best way to experience beautiful Bon Echo, Provincial Park. As you visit the lagoon, there is no hiding that it’s one of the most popular activities.

Canoes, Kayaks, and paddleboards are everywhere, and the calm waters make paddling along the spectacular Mazinaw Rock a treat. These small, nimble boats also offer a great way to experience the incredible native pictographs up close. The boys absolutely loved the treasure hunt of trying to find the pictographs and even spent some time hanging off the side of the canoe in the cool waters.

A mother points to a native pictograph from a canoe - Top things to do in Bon Echo Provincial Park

If you are looking for a challenge, there is a 21 km canoe route in Bon Echo called the Kishkebus Canoe Route. The Kishkebus canoe route takes you past the pictographs and beyond. The route includes a 1.5 km portage, so beware of how much gear you are carrying with you. Mazinaw lake can get quite crowded with motorboats and paddle boats. If you are looking for something a little quieter, Joe Perry Lake has some beautiful areas to explore. It also has a nice sandy beach that is far less crowded than the one near the Bon Echo Lagoon.

An aerial shot of a family canoeing across a lake - Top things to do in Bon Echo Provincial Park

Hiking in Bon Echo Provincial Park

Bon Echo is packed with amazing hiking trails. There are some great family-friendly hikes, including the Bon Echo Creek Trail or the High Pines Trail. But the most famous hiking trail in Bon Echo Provincial Park is the Mazinaw Cliff Top Trail. We docked our canoe at the busy ferry dock at the base of Mazinaw cliff. The Mazinaw cliff hike starts with a climb up some stairs where you’ll find the only toilet on the hike.

The hike is a short 2.5 km walk over rocky paths and features gorgeous well-maintained lookouts. The boys absolutely loved scrambling over the rocks and racing along the paths. Outside of the lookouts, a few visitors took to the edges to do some sunbathing and relaxing. The beautiful weather and amazing skies made for some truly spectacular views.

Two young boys wearing wet suits look over a railing at the lagoon in Bon Echo - Top things to do in Bon Echo Provincial Park

Pro-Tip: There is only one portable toilet on the Mazinaw Cliff Hike. It is located just off the main trail near the dock.

Swimming at Bon Echo Beach

After returning from our canoe ride, we wandered over to the far side of the Lagoon to experience the boys favorite part of our Bon Echo visit, the beach. Bon Echo has a nice, sandy beach that is divided into two roped off sections. Right off the beach is a toddler depth area perfectly suitable for D to splash around in, and the deeper area that reaches a depth of 1.2 meters. C’s favorite was the deeper area. It is there where he spent his time practicing his swimming and diving. The sandy bottom makes the beach area perfect for splashing. 

The sandy bottom of Bon Echo beach is great. It gets a little weedy further out. But I don’t recommend going out too far anyways as there are a lot of boats that like to zip through the calm waters of Lower Mazinaw Lake. The area surrounding the beach is busy on weekends and features a number of picnic tables and charcoal bbq pits for cooking, so the beach alone is a whole day destination for many visitors to Bon Echo Provincial Park.

Aerial view of a family smiling at the tip of a lagoon - Top things to do in Bon Echo Provincial Park

Pro-Tip: The beach area and picnic tables can fill up fast. If you plan on spending the day there, arrive early to ensure you get a good spot.

Camping in Bon Echo Provincial Park Family Campground

One of the first things that appear when researching the top things to do at Bon Echo Provincial Park is camping. Bon Echo Provincial Park camping is excellent. The campsites in the park are a bit close in some spots. But the sites are large, relatively flat, and offer great coverage. After drying off, we headed back to our Bon Echo campground for dinner. You can access the Ontario Parks reservation tool here.

Unfortunately, the area was suffering from a drought, so a fire ban was on. But with a portable bbq, we were able to cook up some spaghetti and sausages and topped it off with some uncooked smores before calling it a night. Our campsite was large and relatively secluded from the other campsites. We stayed in a non-electric, radio-free zone. But some campsites in Bon Echo Provincial Park have electrical access and allow music.

A young boy wearing a wetsuit climbs out of a tent - Top things to do in Bon Echo Provincial Park

Pro-Tip: When camping, be prepared to bring your own cooking stove. A fire ban means that no fires of any kind are allowed in the park

Bon Echo Provincial Park has car camping, as well as 30 backcountry campsites. The backcountry campsites in Bon Echo include both hike-in and canoe-in campsites. These backcountry campsites in Bon Echo are found on Joe Perry and Pearson Lake. Some of them are even located on sandy beaches. There are also 5 backcountry sites located along the Abes and Essens Lake Trail on the cliffside of the park. For those looking to camp on Pearson Lake, canoe access may be difficult in low water.

Bon Echo also has both cabins and yurts for those looking for a more comfortable nature experience. Bon Echo also offers cabins and permanent tents for those looking for something a little less down-to-earth. Before you head camping, Campsites in Bon Echo book VERY quickly. I recommend booking early, even for the backcountry sites to make sure you don’t lose your chance. It’s a great idea to check to see if you have all the best family travel gear. From backpacks to kid-carriers, you can check out our favorite travel gear here. Or you can check out some of the best camping gear below.

Other Top things to do in Bon Echo Provincial Park

While Bon Echo Provincial Park is not as large as many Provincial and National Parks in Canada, it packs a tremendous amount of beauty into a small area. A weekend visit makes it tough to take all of the top things to do in Bon Echo.  If you’re looking for the top things to do in Bon Echo Provincial Park, here are a few more things you can check off.

Mugwump Ferry Ride

The Mugwump Ferry is a 12 passenger pontoon boat offering a quick trip across the narrow Mazinaw Lake. It docks at Mazinaw Rock, the starting point for the Mazinaw Rock cliff hike. The ferry is small, but the boat rides in Bon Echo run regularly throughout the high season. The Mugwump Ferry is run by the Friends of Bon Echo Provincial Park. And it includes a knowledgeable guide who can help to prepare for the hike along the Bon Echo Cliffs.

Mazinaw Lake & Mazinaw Cliffs Boat Tour

The Friends of Bon Echo also offer a guided boat tour of Upper Mazinaw Lake. The Mazinaw Lake & Cliffs Boat Tour takes place on a larger 26 passenger pontoon boat. The pontoon boat for the Bon Echo Boat Tour is covered. That helps to keep the hot summer sun off of your head for a while. The Mazinaw boat cruise is led by a well-spoken guide who will point out and explain the various sites of Bon Echo. It’s a great opportunity to learn about Mazinaw Rock, the 1000-year-old native pictographs, and the nature surrounding the park.

A tour boat drives along the steep cliffs of Bon Echo provincial park - Mazinaw Lake & Cliffs Tour Boat

Hotels Near Bon Echo Provincial Park

Camping in Bon Echo isn’t for everyone. So, if you’re looking for some great hotels near Bon Echo Provincial Park to use as a home-base for your day trips, there are a few options. The Mazinaw Residence Inn is the closest hotel near Bon Echo. Each of the rooms has both a fridge and a microwave. Another option is Limerick Lake Lodge and Marina in Gilmour. Each cabin has a full kitchen.

Kayak and Canoe Rentals in the Lagoon

If you don’t have your own boat, paddleboats, canoe’s, stand up paddleboards, and kayaks can be rented from Bon Echo Outfitters right at the Bon Echo lagoon. They have a great selection of boats. And they are offered on a first-come, first-serve basis. The canoes are light Life jackets, paddles, and safety gear are all included in your rental. Bon Echo Outfitters has life jackets and paddles for both children and adults. So it’s easy to get the whole family out on the water.

Our experience earlier in the summer of glamping on Manitoulin Island was incredible and cultural. Bon Echo Provincial Park, which offers a much different experience of Ontario’s beauty, is also a great way to spend a weekend or long weekend when in Ontario. The top things to do in Bon Echo Provincial Park include activities for all ability levels from beach bums to adrenaline junkies and everything in between. You may also be interested in checking out the 5 National Parks in Ontario. You can read about those here.

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Bon Echo Provincial Park is one of the best family campgrounds in Ontario. And with all these great activities, it’s not hard to understand why. If your favorite activities include hiking, camping, fishing, or boating, Bon Echo has exactly what you’re after. And it all comes in a package that makes camping with kids incredibly easy. If you are looking for great family camping in Ontario, Bon Echo should be right near the top of your list.

Have you ever been to Bon Echo Provincial Park? Tell us your favorite part of the park in the comments below. Or swing by our Facebook page and share a photo. We’d love to know more about your journey!

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About the Author

Kevin Wagar is a professional traveler and family travel expert living in the Greater Toronto Area. His beautiful wife Christina impressed on him her love of travel and they have made exploring the world an integral part of their life. With the birth of their two boys, Kevin and Christina have made it their mission to show others that traveling with children isn't as scary as it sounds and that kids can benefit from experiencing the world outside of their front door and beyond.

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  1. I have always wanted to visit Ontario. I have friends who live there so maybe one day I can and when I do I can visit Bon Echo Park. πŸ™‚ Sounds like a great place to hike and get some nice photos.

    1. Absolutely. We spent a lot of time splashing in the water. Even though it’s the second deepest lake in Ontario, the waters in the shallows are very comfortable.

  2. Bon Echo Provincial Park looks like an adventurous weekend getaway and the scenic natural beauty is just breathtaking! Loved your video!

  3. GORGEOUS!!! You are going to laugh at me though. I Google Mapped it to see how far it is from Seattle, Wa… yeah 40 hours. Maybe one day though! I am sure your family had an amazing time!!

  4. I would love to go camping there! As a kid, my family used to rent an RV, but tent camping is so much more adventurous and I would have loved to do that as a family. Your photos are stunning as usual πŸ™‚

  5. Reminds me of many places here in Gippsland where we can go camping, Forests, lakes hiking and such. We love pitching a tent and having a good camp fire. Always makes me laugh how North Americans refer to anything with sand near water as a beach. In Australia a beach is technically only by the ocean lol

    1. Hahahaha, I hear you. It’s funny, Canada has the largest coastline in the world, but so little of it is swimmable. We hang on to every stretch of sand like it’s gold.

  6. Love these photos! What awesome memories for your little ones to have. I can’t wait for the weather to get warmer here in New Zealand so I can do some canoeing myself! Thanks for sharing these lovely photos!

  7. I went to Queen’s (in Kingston) and had no idea this place existed! What a wonderful way to adventure and cool off in Ontario. I can’t believe it’s been a year and a half since I left Canada (and 8 since my last visit to Kingston)!

  8. Bon Echo sounds like such a great place for a family outing. I know that you guys love to spend the time out of doors during the warm months. Keep treasuring that family time it doesnt last long.

  9. I would have liked to have more time when I was in Canada and get a chance to visit a national park too. It’s always a reason to come back through, seeing all these special places. The kayaking sounds lovely, especially when you can get so close to the murals. And who can say no to a bbq in nature?

  10. The lagoon seems a great place to have lots of fun with the family. I always love the choice of the places where you go with the kids. I am sure they will grow up to be well rounded personalities because of the early and great experiences you are providing them.

  11. Wow — this park looks gorgeous. It’s been sooo long since I’ve truly been camping. I’d love to go kayaking if I ever make it here. Thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

  12. This place almost looks a bit floridian to me for some reason. Love that you’ve camped here too. I’d love hanging out in the canoes and doing some exploring and also the hiking looks great. I’ve just come back from some camping myself – so relaxing !

  13. There’s so much geographical range in Canada, I’m stunned more people haven’t taken the time to write about it. Bon Echo seems beautiful and I love that even your youngin’ really jumps into everything! Will add that to my radar!

  14. Beautiful place! That lagoon reminds me of my recent trip to Crescent Lake in the Olympics National Park – calm and beautiful water. You always find the best places to go πŸ™‚

  15. Absolutely love reading about your nature adventures. So lucky to have so many national parks. I think Thailand has quite a few but all a bit far from where we live. We either need a long weekend or need to fly down (even then not enough time). A weekend is never enough! I wish companies would give 3 days weekends. That would be perfect.

  16. I love that lagoon! I wanna try SUP and this place looks perfect for it! It reminds me of the camp sites I used to visit when I was a kid. Your kids looked like they had loads of fun!! πŸ™‚

  17. Again, fantastic photography Kevin! It looks like there’s plenty to do for the whole family and looks like you guys had fun. I love camping and exploring the wild so this place would be perfect for me.

  18. The beaches, the activities – kayaking and hiking to be specific and the gorgeous landscape is enough to make me come here again and again. I love these sites that you have in the West that make these nature activities so convenient and accessible. And even safe for kids.

    1. Unfortunately we weren’t blessed with much wildlife during this trip. It’s a pretty busy place, so most of the big animals stay clear, but deer are often seen in the camping areas.

  19. Wow love the video ii looks like your boys had so much fun. I have never been camping but seeing things like this make me realise I’m missing out and need to go

  20. Superb drone footage as usual , Canada is such a great place to camp and be in the alpine wilderness ! Wonder how you get the music for the video ? Did you buy the rights or was it free ?

  21. This is a great post! I’ve never been an adventurous person or been camping in years, and this post has surely got me inspired to visit Canada and maybe give camping a shot! Also, you’ve got some great pictures here!

  22. wow nature, a very nice tourist spot.
    Lake looks very clean, you fishing in the lake? there seemed to be a lot of big fish there
    I also saw your vacation trip very enjoyable.

  23. This park looks incredible! I watched your video and WOW, it is mesmerizing. It is fun to see all beautiful national parks, parks, and nature situated in U.S.A. There are tons and they are all so beautiful!

  24. I have never heard of Bon Echo Provincial Park. It’s amazing how many wonderful natural attractions there are in the world. I would love to go swimming in those lakes. Camping is a little trickier for me because I don’t drive.

  25. What a great piece! I took my husband to this area back in June and we made a note to return for some kayaking and canoeing in the area. Thanks for posting these pics and the info on this park! I have noted this for our next trip east!

  26. Wow, this looks like such a fun trip! I can’t wait to go there myself one day, definitely adding it to the bucket list. So beautiful!

  27. Oh I love such parks. How I can spend days and hours in such parks. I would love to go to camping amidst nature , take a trek along the hills or just sit admiring nature at its best πŸ™‚

  28. What an amazing place for camping. By the looks of it, this place is quite huge. And that video – is that another one of your drone footage? It is a really cool one. Also, my favorite activity would be the kayaking part. I could do that for I dont know how long πŸ™‚

  29. Do you know when water is warmest there? We spent so much time in warm climates by now that I no longer laugh when great folks of Chiang Mai wear furry hats and coats in January. I’ll do the same :). I am contemplating the possibility of an extended Great Lakes trip in 2018 (I know, it’s a long time, but there are tons of logistics involved). Looking for some interesting places relatively nearby. Thanks!

  30. Super adventure-happy park πŸ™‚ would love the cliff climb most, I think. What a great place for kids and those who love to spend their time outside πŸ™‚

  31. Canada’s provincial parks are so great! I love the waterways here, perfect for paddling. And wow, what beautiful shots! That drone really is an incredible tool.

  32. Bon Echo seems like such a great location! Most of my best childhood memories are from camping trips I took with my family; it’s good to see others partaking in the tradition, ha ha!

  33. The picture shows how much your kids enjoyed the canoeing part. I’d enjoy it too, but how’s the weather? Was it not hot? I tried kayaking before and I loved it a lot, felt like I was just playing. Would love to try canoeing next when I get the chance and if I do it at Bon Echo park then that would be awesome.

  34. Such mesmerizing landscapes!
    Canoeing is new to me, I would love to try it out once. One of the clubs here conduct it in small scale. May be I will join it. All of you look professional in it. Great pics.

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