Car Camping + Day Hikes in Bon Echo Provincial Park!

I spent this past weekend enjoying the ‘luxuries’ of car camping for a few days. I travelled up to Bon Echo Provincial Park for two nights of car camping with my parents, where we completed three short hiking trails, and enjoyed other activities such as canoeing, swimming, and playing cards in the shelter while it poured rain.

Campsite at Bon Echo

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Our campsite! (Highly recommend the Hardwood Hill campground)

Some of the luxuries of car camping:

  • Waking up to the sound of pouring rain, and knowing you can relax in the tent as long as you’d like
  • Eating meals with more than 1 or 2 ingredients (and fresh fruits + veggies!)
  • Cold cans of beer
  • Sleeping in the mansion that is a free-standing two-person tent

Photographic representation of the luxuries of car camping

Since this is a hiking blog, I’ll focus on the three trails we completed: the High Pines trail, the Clifftop Trail, and the second loop of the Abes and Essens Trail. Each of these trails will have a short section below.

High Pines Trail

Distance hiked: 1.7 km // 1.06 mi

Steps taken: 3,360

Time on the trail: 49 minutes

Kristin on the High Pines trail, Bon Echo

Conquering climbs on the High Pines Trail!

The High Pines Trail is a short trek around a forested loop. It doesn’t offer much in the way of spectacular views, but was still quite a lovely walk through the woods. Though it is short, there are a couple of good climbs and the trail is fairly rocky & rooty at points. This trail was definitely a great intro to my weekend in the park, and if you’re looking for a quick walk in the forest I recommend it!

Wandering through the woods

Clifftop Trail

Distance hiked: 1.5 km // 0.94 mi

Steps taken: 3,291

Time on the trail: 54 minutes

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The Clifftop Trail is probably the most popular hiking trail in Bon Echo PP. It is only accessible by boat, and there is a ferry that will take you across the short stretch of Mazinaw Lake that separates the trailhead from the main area of the park. You can also rent canoes and kayaks to paddle across to the trail. This trail starts off with around 200 stairs to climb right off the bat! There are a few lookout points along the trail, which offer great views of Mazinaw Lake below. This trail is not a loop, meaning you have to hike out to the last lookout point, and then hike back along the same trail. After you get up the initial stairs, the trail is not super strenuous, although it was definitely rocky and rooty at some points, and there was a bit of very minor scrambling up and down some rocky areas. This trail is definitely for you if you like lake views!

On top of Mazinar Rock

The Clifftop Trail on Mazinaw Rock, Bon Echo

Enjoying the view from the top!

Abes and Essens Trail

Distance hiked: 9.6 km // 6 mi

Steps taken: 14,862

Time on the trail: ~ 3 hours

A 10k hike along the Abes and Essens trail

The Abes & Essens Trail was the longest hike of our trip, and the one I was most excited for. We saved this trail for Sunday (my last day in the park), and spent the morning huddled in our dining shelter playing card games as it poured rain. Luckily, the weather cleared around noon, meaning we still had time to set off on our hike after lunch. There are three loops to this trail, meaning you can choose how long you want your hike to be: the first loop with a distance of 3.8km, the second loop with a distance of 9.6km, and the third loop with a distance of 17.1km. The entire trail could definitely be hiked in a single day, but there are also campsites offered on the second and third loops. We wanted a long-ish hike, but were short on time, so we chose to hike the second loop.

I really enjoyed this trail! It was definitely interesting getting to hike a longer trail with my parents after doing so much solo hiking this summer. The trail wound through a variety of different forest types, offering views of a couple lakes and several wetland areas along the way. It was a moderately difficult trail, with several good climbs and some rough terrain.

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We had fun exploring the shores of the lakes and wetland areas, and checking out the campsites. The campsites looked alright… I’m not sure I would return for a solo hiking trip (the trail is just too short for that to work for me), but it would definitely be fun to come back with a group and do a more relaxed style of trip. The part of the trail that wound around Essens Lake was super nice. There is a cool little rocky island out in the middle of the lake covered with trees. Around the campsites on this lake, we started noticing that the area had been affected by what looked like a fairly recent forest fire. We wondered if this was caused by some careless campers… there was a pretty huge section of forest that was covered with scorch marks!

There were a couple boardwalks to cross, and a nice little bridge over the top of Clutes Lake, and everything was in great shape! The trail was well marked and maintained, and easy to follow. I wish we could have seen what the third loop was like, but that long of a hike just wasn’t in the cards that day. At the end of the trail, my dad commented that it was “a good workout for people over 50”. Haha! It was a good workout for me too, although I could have hiked longer for sure. I was definitely ready for an awesome dinner when we got back to camp though! We made a lentil chili with cheese, and fry bread on the side. Ah the joys of car camping.

That wraps up my weekend spent in Bon Echo Provincial Park. It was my first time visiting this park and it did not disappoint! I especially recommend it if you are a lover of rocks and/or geology.

Mazinaw Rock at sunset and one of our favourite pictographs

Some highlights of the trip:

  • A sunset paddle along Mazinaw Rock, taking in the incredible geological sights as well as some native pictographs
  • Taking in the awesome view of Mazinaw Lake from the end of the Clifftop Trail
  • The rain stopping at the perfect time for us to squeeze in the awesome Abes and Essens Trail
  • Getting to enjoy a ton of relaxing time around camp! Roaring campfires, card games, mid-day reading breaks and naps, and cold beers!
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