view of mazinaw rock

How to plan your day-trip to Bon Echo

Bon Echo Provincial Park has long been a favorite destination for day-trippers, and this year is no exception!

However, there is a capacity to how many day-visitors the park can accommodate.

Planning a day-trip to Bon Echo? Check out our top tips for a fun and frustration-free visit:

  1. Do I need a reservation if I’m visiting for the day?
  2. How do I know if the park is already at capacity?
  3. How much does it cost to get in?
  4. What are the park hours?
  5. When is the best/worst time to visit?
  6. Where can I park?
  7. Are the boat tours available?
  8. I only have a few hours: What trail should I hike?
  9. What should / shouldn’t I pack?
  10. Can I bring my dog?
  11. Where can I get lunch?
  12. Can I stay overnight?
  13. What is one thing park staff want me to know?

1. Do I need a reservation if I’m visiting for the day?

While 17 parks in the province are piloting advance sales of daily vehicle permits in 2021, Bon Echo is not one of them.

At Bon Echo, you must obtain your daily vehicle permit at the main gatehouse upon your arrival. Permits are distributed on a first come, first served basis.

2. How do I know if the park is already at capacity?

Our staff post real-time capacity updates on Twitter.

We will be posting updates when we anticipate reaching day-use capacity, or if the park is closed for day-use.

3. How much does it cost to get in?

Day-use is $18.00 per vehicle.

In 2021, we’re making it easier for Ontarians to enjoy the outdoors by providing free weekday daily vehicle permits from May 1 to September 2, for all provincial parks Mondays through Thursdays.

Remember: you still need to obtain a permit from our main gatehouse upon your arrival.

4. What are the park hours?

Bon Echo is open from 8:00 am to 10:00 pm.

5. When is the best/worst time to visit?

Bon Echo is busiest on weekends, especially when the weather is nice.

To beat the crowds, try planning a trip Monday through Thursday.

If a busy beach isn’t your cup of tea, consider visiting Bon Echo in the fall season.

bon echo in fall

Crowds begin to quiet down after Labour Day, offering the opportunity for a tranquil paddle on Mazinaw Lake or a relaxing hike on one of our trails.

6. Where can I park?

The Main Beach parking lot is the closest to the day-use area and beach. If this lot is full, the second closest parking lot is the Amphitheatre parking lot.

Parking may reach capacity in either of these lots on our busiest days. In that case, we encourage you to park in one of our lesser-used lots, such as the lots at South Beach.

Please remember to only park your vehicle in designated parking lots that can accommodate you. It is not permitted to park on empty campsites or along park roads.

7. Are the boat tours available?

Sorry, the interpretive boat tour and ferry to the Cliff Top Trail are not operating in 2021.

8. I only have a few hours: what trail should I hike?

If you’re only visiting Bon Echo for a few hours but you’d like to hit the trails, there are options for you!

Bon Echo Creek Trail – 1 km one-directional trail, taking approximately 40 minutes to walk

The Bon Echo Creek Trail follows along the bank of Bon Echo Creek and is mostly flat, making it a great first hike for our youngest visitors!


High Pines Trail – 1.7 km loop, taking approximately 1 hour to hike

The High Pines Trail is the perfect length for visitors looking to go on a short, yet scenic hike. This trail will take you through a beautiful mixed forest ecosystem.

Shield Trail – 4.8 km loop, taking approximately 2 hours to hike

The Shield Trail is the optimal choice for visitors who want to spend their day on a trail! In only two hours, hikers will encounter mixed forests, a beaver pond, and a lakeside ecosystem.

9. What should/shouldn’t I pack?

What you should pack: sunscreen, hat, water, snacks, swimwear, PFDs for kids, a change of clothes, towels, bug spray (with DEET), and reusable picnic items.

What you shouldn’t pack: alcohol (only permitted on your registered campsite, not on the beach), firewood (no campfires on beach), and drones.

person on beach

We don’t recommend packing: large pieces of beach equipment (including volleyball nets, oversized umbrellas or sun shelters (these can be hard to place on busy days), radios, and single-use plastics.

You can find garbage cans located throughout the park.

We encourage visitors to practice the “pack it in, pack it out” method. Please be prepared to bring larger items of garbage (such as broken chairs or beach umbrellas) home with you.

10. Can I bring my dog?

Absolutely! Please keep in mind that dogs are not allowed on our beaches.

That doesn’t mean your furry friend can’t go for a swim! There is a designated pet beach located between Main Beach and South Beach.

dog at beach

After a dip in the lake, take a walk on the Pet Exercise Trail located at the South Beach parking lot.

Pets can enjoy off-leash play at both of these locations! But remember, please always pick up after them, and don’t leave it hanging.

11. Where can I get lunch?

Greystones Gift Shoppe and Café operated by the Friends of Bon Echo offers hot and cold beverages, baked goods, and ice cream!

Greystone Cafe
Greystones Café

You will also find a variety of restaurants and eateries in the nearby towns of  Cloyne, Northbrook, and Denbigh.

12. Can I stay overnight?

Yes, but Bon Echo is an extremely popular summer camping destination and often fills up months in advance.

backcountry site

If you are interested in camping at Bon Echo, book in advance through Ontario Parks’ online reservation system or phone line.

13. What is one thing park staff want me to know?

If you ask any of our staff, they will tell you that taking care of a park this big is a team effort.

We work hard to ensure Bon Echo is clean and its ecosystems are healthy and intact.

person hiking

Park visitors have a role to play in keeping Bon Echo healthy by asking themselves: how can I help protect and preserve the park?

Helping to protect and preserve the park might look like:

  • disposing your garbage in designated waste bins to reduce litter
  • staying on designated trails and pathways as to not disturb the ecosystems found along the trailside
  • respecting wildlife by not leaving food scraps behind to be consumed. It is important for wild animals to maintain their natural diet, which does not include human foods

Learn more about helping to protect and preserve parks.