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Charleston Lake

Charleston Lake Provincial Park - main photo of the park
Notice :

The Slim Bay Bridge is closed. Tallow Rock Bay Trail is no longer a loop.

What you'll like:

  • A favourite family camping destination offering excellent swimming, boating, fishing and wildlife viewing
  • Rocky lake and forest landscape that is an extension of the Canadian Shield
  • Great hiking trails including a vantage point from the highest peak in the county
  • Nature Centre and Natural Heritage Education program

Camping Experiences

By the Numbers

  • Total Campsites - 236
  • Electrical Campsites - 107
  • Backcountry Campsites - 10
  • Group Campsites - 3
  • Yurts - 4


Charleston Lake offers a variety of camping opportunities, available in three separate campgrounds, which can accommodate equipment ranging from a tent to a large RV. 
For those looking for a different camping experience, Charleston Lake also has 10 interior campsites.  Each site can be accessed by water or via one of the park’s hiking trails.  The park also has four yurts which are ideal during the cooler months or as a way to experience camping with a few extra amenities.


Car Camping

Charleston Lake offers camping in three separate campgrounds. The Bayside and Shady Ridge Campgrounds are located adjacent to the lake in a mature, wooded setting. The Meadowlands Campground is located in a younger forest with some partially open sites for those sun seekers.

Each campground has a mixture of electrical and non-electrical sites and can accommodate camping equipment ranging from a tent to a large RV. All campgrounds offer treated drinking water and comfort stations with flush toilets, showers and laundry facilities. Hiking trails, Nature Centre, Day-Use area and Amphitheatre are only a short walk away.


Group Camping

Charleston Lake offers three group camping sites located away from our campgrounds.  Each site can accommodate up to 40 people.  Vault toilets and treated drinking water are adjacent to the sites.  Each site has a large, level grass area, a covered picnic shelter and fire pit.  Electricity is not available.


Walk-in Camping


Backcountry Camping

Attention, the Slim Bay Bridge is closed. Tallow Rock Bay Trail is no longer a loop.

Charleston Lake offers 10 interior campsites which are grouped into five clusters; Buckhorn, Bob’s Cove, Hidden Cove, Captain’s Gap, and Covey’s Gap. All interior sites are located on the shores of Charleston Lake and can be accessed either by water or by hiking trail. Depending on site selection it takes from ten minutes up to two hours to reach your site. All sites come equipped with three elevated tent platforms, a picnic table, a fire grill and a privy. These sites are excellent for visitors who want to see a different side of the park or for those who are developing their interior camping skills.



Number of Yurts at Park: 4
Site Number(s): 313, 315A, 315B, 315C

Charleston Lake has four yurts located in Shady Ridge Campground which can accommodate up to six people per yurt.

Maximum 6 people


Each yurt comes equipped with two futon bunk beds, a table and chairs, garbage/recycling containers, propane BBQ, picnic table and fire grill. A communal treated drinking water tap is on-site, toilets and a comfort station are close by as is the Shady Ridge beach. Sites 313, 315A, 315B, 315C offer barrier-free access.

The yurts at Charleston Lake do not have electrical service or heat.

What to Bring

Visitors should bring their own bedding, cookware and dishes.

Visiting in Winter

Please note that domestic animals (pets) are not permitted in the yurt or on site and smoking is prohibited in all facilities. Cooking in yurts is not permitted.


Parking for one vehicle is included in your rental fee.

How to Reserve

Reservations can be made online or through our call centre by calling 1-888-ONT-PARK.


Rustic Cabins

Number of Rustic Cabins at Park: 1
Site Number(s): Tall Pines Cabin

Located on the eastern shore of Charleston Lake, south of Huckleberry Hollow. Cabin occupants get full use of park facilities including comfort stations, visitor services activities, hiking trails, beaches, boat launch, etc.

This cabin is water access only. It is approximately 2km from the boat launch to the cabin.

Maximum 6 people

  • The cabin has approximately 640 sq. ft. of interior space (1 bedroom, kitchen, living room/dining room), plus two exterior decks
  • The bedroom has a double/queen bunk bed, a fouton in the living room (sleeps 2), dining room table and chairs, Muskoka chairs on the deck, picnic table and fire pit. A propane BBQ with side burner is also included.
  • There is no electricity service at this cabin. Solar powered interior lights and a mini-fridge are provided. A composting outhouse is also included.
  • A dock is provided at the cabin
What to Bring
  • Remember to bring items such as a vessel to get you to the cabin, food, cooking/eating utensils, pots/pans, blankets/linens, pillows, potable drinking water, firewood, etc.
  • Firewood, ice and potable drinking water are available in the park campground.
  • Rental canoes are available to reserve by calling the park directly, we can’t guarantee one is available if it is not reserved.
Visiting in Winter

Maximum of 6 people or one immediate family (mother, father & children).

No cooking in cabin, no pets, no smoking, campfire in approved area only and all natural objects are protected.

  • All rules and regulations governing conduct within the park apply to the cabin
  • No excessive noise at any time
  • Always be considerate of others, private residences are not far from the cabin
  • Always keep the cabin area clean, please remove your garbage/recycling when you leave
  • Do not cut, damage or remove any plants or animals (including wood)

Parking for one vehicle is included with the permit. Additional vehicles must purchase an additional vehicle permit. Parking is available at the boat launch or canoe launch.

How to Reserve

Check-in time is 3pm, check-out time is 11am.

Off-Season - 2 nights minimum

Call the Ontario Parks reservation service at 1-888-ONT-PARK (668-7275) to reserve.

Highlights of Things to Do

Charleston Lake is a destination park where families spend their annual summer vacation and take full advantage of what the park has to offer. Our hiking trails are a cornerstone of the park and offer a variety of experiences. Four interpretive trails, each with their unique theme, allow visitors an opportunity to learn about the natural and cultural history of the Charleston Lake area. The park also offers two longer, more challenging trails (Tallow Rock Bay and Blue Mountain).

Canoeing, fishing and swimming are also popular at the park. Motorboats are not permitted on a large portion of Running’s Bay. This provides a safe area to paddle, swim or enjoy wildlife (canoe rentals are available). The lake itself is well known for fishing and is home to Lake Trout, pike, bass and panfish. Charleston Lake also offers seven picnic sites in various locations on the lake. They are an excellent destination for swimming, fishing, picnicking or just taking a break.

During the peak season, Charleston Lake has an excellent Natural Heritage Education (NHE) program. This program operates the Nature Centre, Amphitheatre, conducts educational programming for all ages, organizes special events and assists in wildlife monitoring and research. Stop by the Visitor Centre for updated programming and information on our NHE program.

Just the Facts

Take only pictures, leave only footprints: don't bring any plants, animals or other natural objects with you. Park regulations prohibit this. For more information on Leave No Trace practices, visit www.leavenotrace.ca.

Sandstone Island Trail: Interpretive trail, 2.6 km loop, moderate difficulty
This trail features the geological and human history of the park.  The highlight of the trail is a rock shelter that was used some 1,200 years ago by Aboriginal peoples of the area.

Shoreline Centennial Trail: Interpretive trail, 2 km loop, moderate difficulty
Enjoy scenic shoreline views along the trail and learn how the Charleston Lake area was a popular vacation destination for many wealthy citizens in the 1880s.

Beech Woods Trail: Interpretive trail, 1.8 km loop, easy
Hikers will get a chance to see mature, mixed forest and diverse habitats.

Hemlock Ridge Trail: Interpretive trail, 1.7 km loop, moderate difficulty
This trail features the plant communities of the park. Hikers will see an old beaver pond and hike through unique rock crevices.

Quiddity Trail: 2.4 km non-looping trail, easy
Hike over a boardwalk crossing a wetland and enjoy the scenic lookout at the end of the trail. The first 300m of the trail including both boardwalks are barrier-free.

Attention, the Slim Bay Bridge is closed. Tallow Rock Bay Trail is no longer a loop.

Tallow Rock Bay Trail: 10 km loop, difficult
Hikers on this trail will get a chance to see the varying landforms that are present on the Frontenac Arch. Hike through meadows, rock barrens, and rock ridges as you walk along the shores of the Charleston Lake. The floating Slim Bay bridge is a highlight of this trail.

Blue Mountain Trail: Varies in length from 5.7 (Huckleberry Hollow access) to 9.8 (Warburton Road access) km, not a loop, difficult
Hike to the top of Blue Mountain where you will get scenic vistas from the highest point in Leeds County. On a clear day you can see the Adirondack Mountains in New York State. Hikers will walk through mature, mixed forests, wetlands, rock ridges and see one of the most natural parts of the park.


Charleston Lake offers many opportunities for paddle sport enthusiasts. Paddlers can explore the lake’s 75 km of shoreline and numerous bays and coves. Portions of Running’s Bay and Slim Bay are designated motorboat-free which enhances the paddling opportunities for our visitors. Sea kayaking has become increasingly popular on the lake as it lends well to this type of vessel.

The park has two portages available for paddlers. One leads to Killenbeck Lake and the other to Redhorse Lake. This provides paddlers with an extra challenge and an opportunity to improve on their portaging skills. Both Killenbeck and Redhorse are excellent paddling destinations as well so visitors have access to three lakes for paddling.

Paddlers can take advantage of our day-use sites as they are excellent spots for a picnic, to swim or to take a break.


Charleston Lake has two designated swimming beaches, one in the day-use area and one in Shady Ridge campground. These beaches are excellent for all ages as the shoreline and lake bed are gently sloping. Both beaches are marked with buoys, however, it should be noted that lifeguards are not on duty and that animals are not permitted on the beaches.


Powerboats are permitted on Charleston Lake except for the designated areas in Running’s Bay and Slim Bay. The lake offers excellent opportunities for fishing, sight seeing, water skiing and other boating activities.


Charleston Lake is widely known as an excellent fishing destination. Anglers fish for Lake Trout, Large and Small Mouth Bass, Northern Pike, Black Crappie, Yellow Perch and other species of panfish.


There is excellent biking on park roads.

Natural Heritage Education

During the operating season, Charleston Lake has an excellent Natural Heritage Education (NHE) program which offers a variety of interactive programs for all ages. Campers can attend guided hikes, evening programs, campfires, children’s programs at the Nature Centre, and special events such as Settler’s Weekend and Star Gazing with Terrence Dickinson.


Charleston Lake offers a variety of excellent birding opportunities for its visitors. Depending on the season, birders have a chance to see Bald Eagles, Red-Shouldered Hawks, Cerulean Warblers, Yellow-Throated Vireos, and Black-Billed and Yellow-Billed Cuckoos.


Charleston Lake has many amenities for its visitors. Comfort stations with flush toilets, showers and laundry are located in each campground. Firewood/kindling, ice, park maps and canoe/kayak rentals are all available at the gatehouse. There are also cold beverage vending machines located at the comfort stations.

The Friends store, located in The Nature Centre, is home to various types of souvenirs. Postcards, t-shirts, sweaters, books, etc. are all available. Please stop by as the proceeds from your purchase go directly to this important, volunteer, not-for-profit organization.

Other amenities such as restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations, theatres, 1000 island boat cruises, etc. are all located within a 20 minute drive from the park.

Just the Facts

Comfort Station(s)

Charleston Lake has excellent comfort stations. One was replaced in 2010 and two more in 2011 meaning that these facilities are completely updated for our visitors. Flush toilets, showers, laundry facilities and barrier-free access are included in each building.

Flush Toilets

Flush toilets are located at each of our comfort stations and in the mini-comfort station in Bayside Campground.

Barrier Free Access

All comfort stations, yurts and the beginning of the Tallow Rock Bay Trail are barrier-free.

Day Use Area

The Day-Use Beach and Shady Ridge Beach are popular destinations for both campers and day-users.  Both beaches are gently sloping and marked with buoy lines.  Lifeguards are not on duty.  Both beaches have an adjacent picnic area equipped with picnic tables and hibachis.


Laundry facilities are available at each comfort station.

Boat Launch

One boat launch is located within the park. It is free of charge to park permit holders. Trailer parking is located adjacent to the launch.


Canoes and kayaks are available for rent. Check at the gatehouse for availability.

Visitor Centre

The Nature Centre at Charleston Lake is home to various displays, events, the Friends Gift Shop and is the hub of our Natural Heritage Education program. During the peak season you can stop by to see a real live Black Ratsnake.

Pet Exercise Area

Charleston Lake has one designated pet beach located beside the Shady Ridge Beach.

Park Location

Park features on this map are representative only and may not accurately depict regulated park boundaries. For official map representation of provincial parks, visit Ontario's Crown Land Use Policy Atlas.

Campground Maps (online)

Online Map

Park Maps (pdf)

Park Overview - pdf

Trail Maps (pdf)

Interior Trails - pdf

Fire Ban


There is no fire ban at this time.

Boil Water


There is no boil water advisory at this time.

Beach Posting


There is no beach posting at this time.

Charleston Lake Provincial Park

Trip Advisor