Monday, October 3, 2022
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Abes and Essens Lake Path Hike

By Jamie Ross

I awake with a begin. Someplace fairly shut, an eerie wail has pierced the quiet of the nonetheless, darkish night time. I sit up in our small tent, shake away the cobwebs, and pay attention intently, making an attempt to position the offensive noise. There it’s once more, close by, within the marshlands simply to the south of our campsite, the throaty cry of some heinous creature of the night time.

Now absolutely awake, I acknowledge the cry, not because the scream of the apparition of some misplaced and perished hiker, however because the high-pitched and out-of-tune bugle of a love-sick bull moose within the midst of the autumn rut. I chuckle to myself, and gaze over at my sleeping spouse, as at all times undisturbed by the passionate requires love. I slip out of the tent to reply my very own name of nature, all of the whereas hoping that Bullwinkle doesn’t spy me at nighttime and contemplate me a rival – or worse, mistake me for a beautiful cow moose.

My spouse and I had the need for a fast autumn hike, by way of the splendour of Ontario’s vibrant fall colors. What we didn’t have was a number of time. So, we settled on a simple two-day hike in Bon Echo Provincial Park. The great thing about this park is that it’s central to many city centres in Ontario – shut, however on the similar time, it feels a world aside when you’re on its backcountry trails.

Bon Echo is simply two and a half hours from our house in Muskoka, an equal distance from Toronto, two hours from Ottawa, and simply an hour and a half north-east of the town of Kingston. In case you are a college pupil with a weekend free, or extra mature like me, so to talk, you may get to Bon Echo on a Saturday morning, hike the 17-kilometre Abes and Essens Path as a day journey or in a single day journey, and be again to work or to your courses by Monday morning, completely refreshed and feeling like you could have loved a real wilderness expertise.

Off through a carpet of autumn leaves
Off by way of a carpet of autumn leaves

Issue and choices on the Abes and Essens Lake Path hike

The Abes and Essens Lake path is described as being “reasonable to troublesome” by the park, however I might put it down as excellent for intermediate climbing talents. One of many nice issues about this path is how versatile it’s by way of size; there are three loops which you can select to take, all linked as part of the biggest loop (Abes Loop). Basically, the smaller loops simply lower throughout to the return portion of the largest loop. The smallest loop circles Clutes Lake, and is simply 3.5 kilometres lengthy. The second, known as Essens Loop, permits for an extended trek becoming a member of with the Clutes Lake loop for a complete distance of 9.6 kilometres. We accomplished the biggest loop, the Abes Loop, with a distance of 17 kilometres.

The day was crisp and funky once we hefted our packs on our backs and set off down the path, and although it was mid-October, it warmed as much as summertime temperatures by midday, someplace within the mid 20’s Celsius. The path was rocky, rocks hidden by the rising carpet of fallen autumn leaves, so we needed to take care the place we positioned our toes. Mountaineering by way of a forest of such vibrant color actually made the additional warning price it. After strolling for 1.6-kilometres we reached the cut up for the Clutes Loop. As in most Ontario Parks, the path system is very-well marked and straightforward to comply with. An indication to our left on the cut up despatched us on our means in direction of the Essens Loop. Had we wished to finish the shortest loop, we might have turned proper at this level.

After the cut up we did some reasonable climbing, extra uphill than down, till we reached the second cut up after climbing for 3.6 kilometres. Once more, it was so nicely marked that there was no option to miss it. We caught to the left. The terrain that we have been travelling had already begun to range, now a much less arduous dust path lined within the vibrant fall leaves – and climbing within the Canadian Protect, we spent a number of time strolling over sheer rock, and climbing over and strolling previous large boulders.

Not lengthy after we hiked previous the second cut up and formally acquired onto the Abes Loop, we got here throughout the primary of the 5 campsites alongside the path. Campsite 530 is about excessive on a rocky knoll with a good looking view over Little Rock Lake. It additionally felt actually secluded, though we had solely been climbing for lower than 5 kilometres by the point we reached it. We dropped our packs and loved a peaceable lunch.

Setting off once more after lunch, the path began to move again uphill, and began to really feel rather less travelled. It was nonetheless straightforward to comply with, however there was positively extra development crowding the path’s edges. We traveled by way of extra forest and a grassy discipline earlier than traversing a large swampy space. We tip-toed by way of the wetland, balancing alongside fallen logs and hopping throughout dry hillocks to maintain our climbing boots dry.

Over Canadian Shield rock
Over Canadian Protect rock
The first split in the trail
The primary cut up within the path
Lunch at Little Rock Lake
Lunch at Little Rock Lake

Tenting at Abes Lake

Quickly after the path clamoured out of the marshland onto dry floor once more, we got here throughout the following campsites. We had reached Website 529, our reserved campsite for the night time, after climbing for 9 kilometres. It was a beautiful campsite with splendid views over Abes Lake, and many flat, grassy areas to pitch the tent. All of the campsites on this path have a fireplace pit and picnic desk on the positioning, and a thunderbox close by.

It additionally needs to be famous that the entire campsites we got here throughout have been located fairly near the path, so there’s at all times an opportunity that you’ll run into fellow hikers whereas tenting. So, with the ideas of thin dipping in Abes Lake now squashed, I as an alternative returned within the route we had come, to assemble a number of the plentiful dry branches I had spied alongside the marshy space for firewood.

So, with tent arrange, a pleasant dinner cooked over the hearth, and a cover of stars overhead, we loved a beautiful night. We crawled into our mattress sleepy and glad from the day’s hike – which wasn’t lengthy or arduous, however had introduced us to a spot the place we have been alone. Properly, alone, aside from my overly amorous ungulate!

Abes Lake Campsite
Abes Lake Campsite
Evening campfire on Abes Lake
Night campfire on Abes Lake
Sun setting over Abes Lake
Solar setting over Abes Lake

The return hike on the Essens and Clutes Loops

Morning introduced us a mist over Abes Lake, and beavers arduous at work. Fortified with some boiled espresso and a hearty breakfast, we have been off once more, previous campsite 528 which was located on a spit of land on the opposite aspect of the bay. We reached the return cut up for the Essens Loop after climbing for two.1 kilometres. Right here a turbulent creek bubbled by way of crag and boulders, a sturdy log was wanted to cross the brook if we have been doing the Essens Loop. Although the crossing was not needed for our route, my spouse insisted that I clamour out on the slippery log with my backpack for a photograph – hoping for an motion shot, I’m certain!

The return journey on the Essens and Clutes Loops was pretty, hugging the water on this a part of the path. Elements of the return loop have been pretty moist, however there have been sturdy boardwalks to ease our passage throughout the marshiest sections. After 4.5 kilometres we reached campsites 527 and 526, non-public websites that have been the ultimate two supplied. Each supplied good views over Essens Lake

We arrived at our final cut up of the day after 5.5 kilometres. We saved to the left and carried on again to the trailhead and our truck. Bon Echo Provincial Park describes the Abes and Essens Path as a “backcountry path,” and it actually gave us a cushty and straightforward in a single day hike, one which you could possibly actually accomplish in a day. However, you probably have the time, make it two and benefit from the expertise. We solely noticed two different {couples} on our journey, and had Abes Lake to ourself for the in a single day.

Through the marshland
By the marshland
Crossing the creek on the Abes and Essens Lake Trail
Crossing the creek on the Abes and Essens Lake Path
Boardwalk through the wetlands
Boardwalk by way of the wetlands
Autumn colours on Abes and Essens Lake Trail
Autumn colors on Abes and Essens Lake Path

Abes and Essens Lake Path map

Abes and Essens Lake Trail map

When you go to Bon Echo Provincial Park

Bon Echo is open to be used from mid-Might till mid-October. Apart from the backcountry hike, the park boasts a number of lakes, essentially the most well-known of which is Mazinaw Lake. Mazinaw Lake is the second deepest lake in Ontario and options the gorgeous, 100-metre excessive Mazinaw Rock, with over 260 Indigenous pictographs.


Mazinaw Lake is a well-liked fishing lake for Lake Trout, Yellow Pickerel, Small and Massive Mouth Bass, Lake Whitefish and Northern Pike.

Extra climbing

When you want one thing a little bit shorter than the Abes and Essens Lake Path – strive the Bon Echo Creek Path: 1 km (40 minutes), the Cliff Prime Path – 1.5 km (1 hour), the place stairs and a pathway take hikers to the highest of Mazinaw Rock to 3 commentary decks overlooking the lake, Excessive Pines Path – 1.7 km (1 hour), or the Protect Path – 4.8 km (2 hours).


Kishkebus Canoe Route – 21 km (6 hours) loop, reasonable to troublesome

This present day paddle takes you previous the Indigenous pictographs to the nonetheless waters of the character reserve on the east aspect of the park. One portage is 1.5 km.

Joeperry and Pearson Lakes

Spend a calming day paddling in motorboat-free lakes, or reserve one of many 25 backcountry campsites. There’s a 500m portage from the car parking zone to the launch.

Mazinaw Lake

Launch your canoe or hire one on the Lagoon to paddle on Mazinaw Lake. Head over to Mazinaw Rock to view one in every of Canada’s largest seen collections of Indigenous pictographs.

Mississippi River Canoe Route – 104 km (5 days), 17 portages.

The way to guide a backcountry campsite

Guide campsites 5 months prematurely of your arrival. For extra info and hyperlinks to reserving a campsite go to the Ontario Parks web site.

Additional studying on hikes in Ontario

Click on on the photograph to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

Backpacking the Abes and Essens Lake Trail in Bon Echo Provincial Park, Ontario



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