Camping at Charleston Lake

Length of stay: 2 days
Visited: July 2021

Charleston Lake is located in Eastern Ontario. It has been carved out of the Frontenac Axis, which is a narrow extension of the Canadian Shield. The park is situated along a large portion of the lake and offers a variety of activities in and around the water, including boating, paddling, fishing, fishing, swimming, hiking and camping.

Day 1: Cider and Camping

After eating lunch at Rideau River Provincial Park, we hit the road again and drove to Charleston Lake where we planned to spend the next night. Along the drive we stopped at Busl Cidery to sample some cider. We ordered a flight each and drank our cider while sitting on the terrace overlooking an apple orchard and lavender field. We ended up buying four bottles of our favourite flavours afterwards.

We rolled into the park just after 2:30p.m. On the drive to the gatehouse we saw a massive snake cross the road right right in front of the sign to brake for snakes (how fitting).

After checking in, we drove to our site to set up our tent and eat a snack. We then headed back out to do some hiking. We first hiked along the Hemlock Ridge Trail (1.7km loop, rated moderate). There is a small parking lot at the trailhead, which is also located a few hundred feet from the Beech Woods Trail. The Hemlock Ridge Trail winds along a ridge of hemlocks, passes by a beaver pond and leads through fractured sandstone crevices and rock faces. The trail is marked with numbered posts along the trail and signed with blue markers.

We then hiked along the Beech Woods Trail (1.8k, loop, rated easy). The trail passes through a mature beech forest, open oak-sedge meadows, tall hardwood forests and a small pocket of white pine. There are also a few interpretive panels that explain more about life in the forest, on the forest floor, below and in the canopy of leaves and in open clearings in the forest.

The beech and sugar maples looked sickly. The leaves were sparse and in some ways it felt like it was spring. The gypsy moth caterpillars have wreaked havoc in some areas in Southern Ontario, including by the looks of things, Charleston Lake.

Afterwards we went to hike along the Quiddity Trail (2.4km, rated easy). For the first few hundred metres, the trail follows along part of the Tallow Rock Bay Trail (10km loop). The terrain is relatively flat and there are a couple of boardwalks to cross a marshy area.

The path then branches off. The Quiddity Trail to the right and Tallow Rock Bay Trail straight ahead. We followed the signs and kept to the right. The trail leads deeper into the forest, past a portage marker to Killenbeck Lake. The portage looked like it was in rough shape as it was very muddy and overgrown with vegetation. I would not want to be carrying a canoe through that.

The trail then leads to a scenic lookout of Charleston Lake and the beach area. We sat along the rocks to admire the views for a few minutes before turning around and walking back the way we came. We wrapped up shortly after 5:30p.m. But before eating dinner, we decided to go for a swim.

Despite the late hour, the beach was still packed and there were lots of people in the water. We traded in our hiking shoes for flip flops, grabbed our towels, and changed into our bathing suits. The water was surprisingly warm. The swimming area is buoyed off. Since Charleston Lake doesn’t allow motor boats, we swam underneath the buoys towards deeper waters to avoid the other swimmers.

Afterwards we drove back to our campsite to make dinner. We even made a campfire, which was the first on this trip, since it was not raining in the evening.

After the sunset, we got ready for bed. Tomorrow is another day.

Day 2: Views of the Lake

And speaking of firsts on this trip, it didn’t rain overnight. We woke up to blue skies and sun. After making breakfast, we leisurely packed up the car. We then headed out to hike along the remainder of the shorter trails in Charleston Lake.

We started first with the Sandstone Island Trail (2.6km loop, rated moderate). The trail weaves through the forest, passes along the shore of Charleston Lake and features some neat rock and geological features. The trail also features a rock shelter that was used some 1,200 years ago by the Aboriginal people of the area.

We then hiked along the Shoreline Trail (2km loops, rated moderate), which as the name suggests, leads along the shoreline of Charleston Lake and provides fantastic views of the rocky shoreline, windswept pines and islands.

The trail is well-signed with blue markers with a hiker symbol and also has signposts at each of the junctions to assist with navigation. The trail passes by two backcountry campsites (#501 and #502), which can be accessed along this trail or by canoe. Unfortunately both these sites were still occupied, otherwise we would have checked them out. The trail also passes by a picnic site complete with a picnic table overlooking the lake.

We wrapped up our hike shortly before 11a.m and hit the road again. We planned to make two more detours before spending our final night of our road trip at the cabin.


My progress on the Ontario Parks Challenge can be found here

84 thoughts on “Camping at Charleston Lake

  1. kagould17 says:

    Ooooh, a cidery. That’s a nice bonus. I also like how you juxtaposed rolling into your campground after having your flights. Too bad about the gypsy moth devastation. The spot looks like it has a lot to offer. Happy long weekend. Allan

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It was such a nice day and we figured we might as well treat ourselves after already visiting two parks earlier in the morning. Besides, it’s always good to support the local businesses. The gypsy moth caterpillars have been especially terrible this year. We had an infestation in our town as well. Fingers crossed we get a cold enough winter (never thought I’d be asking for that) to kill them off. Happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy the rest of your weekend. Linda

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Snakes skeeve me out too. I was joking to K that we should just drive over it (except I wasn’t actually joking). How terrifying to see three of them on your canoe trip to Georgian Bay. That would have tainted my memory too.

  2. says:

    Another very cool couple of days’ hiking by the look of it. For me, snakes are cool…we’d have been chasing a photo pose! But cider…I really can’t take it…Michaela can, in small doses, but I really can’t stand the stuff!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Snakes freak me out. I’m glad we saw the snake crossing when we were in the car at least. Cider is quite popular here in Ontario and there are lots of different brands and flavours to try. It’s just like drinking apple juice, which can be dangerous. I guess it’s not for everyone, which means there’s more for me. Enjoy the rest of your weekend (and time in Greece). Cheers. Linda

  3. John says:

    This looks like a really beautiful place to hike, wow! The snakes wouldn’t bother me, just let them go by, keep your distance. ☺️🇨🇦

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I’m glad we finally had nice weather during our road trip as the scenery and hiking at Charleston Lake was incredible. Many parks in southern Ontario have those brake for snakes signs and I thought it was so hilarious to finally see a snake at one of those crossings. What are the odds!? Enjoy the rest of your weekend and happy Canadian Thanksgiving.

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        Same, especially one that huge. I didn’t even realize we had snakes that big here in Ontario!

        We had a lovely Thanksgiving yesterday. This was our first time hosting a holiday for our family in our new house. Thankfully the weather was beautiful and we were able to eat outside.

  4. ourcrossings says:

    Such a beautiful park. Is there anything better than sitting outside on a beautiful summer evening, basking in the glow of a fire, chatting with friends and family as the flames flicker in front of you? I can’t wait for camping season to start again as I miss sitting by the fire 🙂 Aiva

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Having a campfire is one of my favourite things about camping. It’s always a nice way to end the day. Plus, a good way to stay warm when the sun goes down. Hopefully you’ll be able to sit by the fire soon. Enjoy the rest of your weekend. Linda

  5. Dee Min says:

    Oh my my my … there are soooo many things I loved about this hike. I tasted cider and sat by the bonfire and perched on that worn wooden bench and day dreamed a bit (I think my imagination did a good job thanks to your rich storytelling). Thanks so much for this vicarious journey. Such a moment with these gypsy moth though (that’s nature —the good “bad” and not-so-pretty)

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s crazy how having nice weather makes such a difference in terms of our moods and how much we’re able to do in a day. It was awesome to have a full day of sunshine and I’m glad we made the most of it. All this talk about cider makes me think we should drink one of the bottles we bought with dinner tonight! Take care. Linda

  6. Lookoom says:

    This Charleston Lake serves as a focal point for many of the outdoor activities we like to enjoy during the summer months. You’ve done a good review of the trails, there are enough for a few leisurely hikes.
    It’s good that you have a picture of the snake, because the juxtaposition of the cider tasting and the roadside sign had left me imagining a different scenario … 🙂

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Charleston Lake has enough activities (and then some) to keep us busy for the two days that we visited. The trails were all very well maintained and signed and the beach area was really nice. It’s also conveniently located close to a few other parks and a cidery. Oh, and it offered some pretty good wildlife viewing! I’m not a fan of snakes, but I couldn’t help but laugh that we actually saw a snake cross the road at the brake for snakes crossing!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      No kidding! There’s a few parks in southern Ontario that have these brake for snakes signs and this is the first time that I’ve ever seen a snake cross the road. Of course it happens right at the crossing sign. Talk about great timing!

  7. Book Club Mom says:

    Another patch and what looks like a nice 2-day excursion! I like the seemingly leisurely pace you keep. And what a nice way to finish the first day with a swim. On to the next park 🙂

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s always a real treat to go for a swim after a day of hiking. It just feels so satisfying to hit the water and wash away all the sweat and bug spray. Another park down and there’s plenty more still to explore! Hope you had a wonderful weekend. Linda

  8. carol hopkins says:

    I am not familiar with Eastern Ontario at all but loved the photos. You made me miss apple picking and the delicious scent of apple orchards. It has nothing to do with your post but I am curious: have you ever been to Burks Falls? It is so pretty there and the river is wonderful for canoeing.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words and for commenting. We’re actually planning on going apple picking next weekend. We’re going to try to make our own cider. I haven’t been to Burks Falls. I just did a quick search to see where it is. I’ve driven by here a few times on the way to North Bay, but have never stopped to check it out. I’ll have to keep this in mind for the next time I’m in this area. Enjoy the rest of your long weekend and have a happy Thanksgiving.

      • carol hopkins says:

        Thanks so much, I hope you & yours enjoy a very blessed and joy-filled thanksgiving. I haven’t been to Burks Falls in decades but remember it as being a very pretty place. 🙂

      • carol hopkins says:

        I remember one Thanksgiving in Ontario when the day was so hot we had to cook the turkey early in the morning in an effort to keep the house from being unbearably hot for sleeping that night.

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        It’s good that you planned ahead. We did not. We contemplated turning the A/C on at one point as it got quite warm inside when we were making all the food. We made chicken this year instead of turkey, so thankfully we didn’t have the oven on all day.

      • carol hopkins says:

        I don’t think we’ll ever have an issue with the weather being too warm here in Northern Alberta. LOL

        We usually do roast a chicken instead – we simply don’t need that much food any more. I hope you enjoyed yours! 🙂

  9. Lynette d'Arty-Cross says:

    What a beautiful park! I’m sorry to hear about the moths – they do a lot of damage. Great that you were able to visit a cidery beforehand. 🙂

    Happy Thanksgiving! Have a good long weekend. Lynette.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      This year was especially bad for the gypsy moth caterpillars and our town got hit pretty bad too. I never thought I’d say this, but I’m hoping we’ll have a cold winter to kill them off.

      I’m not really a fan of beer, but cider on the other hand is a different story! Hope you’re enjoying your long weekend. Happy Thanksgiving to you as well. Linda

  10. carolinehelbig says:

    “Brake for snakes”! I think I would have turned around then and there…one of my biggest phobias. I’m curious though, do you know what kind it is? Other than the snake, the park looks beautiful. I also like the cider and camping combo. Happy Thanksgiving!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I was half joking (but not really joking) to K that we should just keep driving and run it over. I’m not a fan of snakes either. We actually asked about what kind of snake it was at the gatehouse and showed them this picture. They indicated that it’s a Gray Ratsnake, which is endangered in Ontario. I guess it’s probably a good thing that we didn’t drive over it then.

      Hope you’re having a wonderful long weekend. Happy Thanksgiving to you as well!

      • carolinehelbig says:

        Thanks for the info. Never heard of the Gray Ratsnake before now. Hope I only ever see it in a photo. Perhaps it does serve a useful purpose if it preys on rats, maybe???

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        I’ve never heard of a Gray Ratsnake before either. I honestly didn’t realize that we had that big of a snake in Ontario. I don’t imagine there are too many rats in a provincial park, so maybe it’s going after all those chipmunks and squirrels? I don’t even want to know.

  11. Planet Paul says:

    I don’t think that I’m the only one in the UK who associates Canada with bears but not snakes! We think of Canada being too cold but your pics often show glorious weather and I guess that they can be found quite far north. I’ve been meaning to do a post about the UK’s only poisonous snake for a while.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      That was such a surprise snake encounter. I didn’t even realize that we had snakes that were that big here! It’s actually an endangered species so there aren’t too many of them slithering around in Ontario. I had no idea that there was a poisonous snake in the UK. You should totally do a post about it.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Haha, thanks. This was more like a surprise encounter, largely because I had no idea that there were even snakes this big here in Ontario. We had a good laugh that we saw it at the brake for snakes crossing though.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It was nice to finally have a day where it didn’t rain on our road trip. It’s funny how the sun makes such a difference in terms of our mood and how much we’re able (and willing) to do in a day. We were curious to learn about what kind of snake this was too and showed a picture of it at the gatehouse. They indicated that it’s a Gray Ratsnake and that it was quite rare and endangered in Ontario. I guess it’s a good thing that K stopped to let it slither across the road even though I was telling him to just keep driving. Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving long weekend.

      • winteroseca says:

        I so agree about sun influencing mood. Living in England really drove that home. Well, I am glad you stopped. I did have a nice Thanksgiving. Hope you did too

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        Oh I bet. I don’t mind the rain, but having nothing but overcast for more than a few days in a row starts to feel depressing. Glad to hear that you had a nice Thanksgiving. I enjoyed my long weekend as well, but it wasn’t long enough. It was nice to get together with family, some of which I haven’t seen since before the start of the pandemic.

      • winteroseca says:

        I’m glad you had a great Thanksgiving. When I answered your last comment, I didn’t know my Mum was going to end up in the hospital with appendicitis, so it was great food but a bad ending

  12. Ab says:

    What an absolutely beautiful summer getaway you had! I miss the days of people swimming late into the day – feels like a lifetime ago during these autumn days.

    I had to laugh at the irony of spotting the snake crossing the road at the sign that said please break for snakes!

    The sign of the 4 route marker carved in the sound was pretty. They should all be like that!

    And the cider tasting looked exquisite!

    Hope you had a lovely long weekend. Happy Thanksgiving to you and K!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I know what you mean. It feels like the summer and all the camping trips we went on were a lifetime ago. I couldn’t help but laugh at the snake crossing the road at the snake crossing sign either. I was joking (but not not really joking) to K that we should just drive over it. I still can’t get over that we have that big of snakes in the wild in Ontario.

      Besides the snake encounter, Charleston Lake is a really nice park. There are a variety of trails, all of which are well-signed. The beach area is also really nice.

      Our Thanksgiving long weekend was lovely. We spent time with family and ate a lot (too much) food. Hope you enjoyed your time in the Blue Mountains.

      • Ab says:

        I would’ve been very tempted to drive over the snake too! Something about them are so incredibly creepy. 😆 Congrats to you and K for showing incredible restraint.

        Glad to hear your family time was lovely. It’s the one weekend we’re allowed to over indulge in food. We may need to do a few extra hikes this weekend!

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        Snakes skeeve me out too. I found it a bit unsettling (more like horrifying) to discover that we have snakes that big here in Ontario.

        We hosted Thanksgiving for my family on Monday and it was so nice to just stick everyone outside, especially my nieces and nephew. It still feels like we’re overindulging ourselves as we’ve been eating leftovers all week. No complaints, but I could definitely use some hiking this weekend!

      • Ab says:

        Overindulgence during Thanksgiving sounds wonderful! 🙂 And better yet, a nice hike that awaits you this weekend. 🙂 It’ll be here very soon!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The cider was fantastic. Our anniversary is coming up and we were talking about actually drinking one of the bottles we bought at the cidery to celebrate. There isn’t enough cider in the world to make me forget about that snake slithering across the road. I still can’t get over that we have snakes that big here in Ontario.

  13. Island Traveler says:

    Wonderful nature hike. Being close to the lakes this several days made me appreciate its beauty , calmness and outdoor fun. On my last day in Austin my friends and I though of buying a lot by the lake and build our homes made of shipment containers for retirement…early retirement.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I like that sound of that, both in terms of buying a lot with friends on a lake and taking an early retirement. That would be nice!! I find being by the water so relaxing. Enjoy the rest of your week. Linda

      • Island Traveler says:

        Thanks Linda . There is truth in our future hopes and dreams. I do hear people saying they don’t know what to do if they retire early. In my mind my answer is , “So much.” Being away from 40 hours of work per weeks will give us so much time to help others and to help ourselves catch up on life and nature. So much to see and experience in this Planet for so little time. To live simply when retired will give us room to do more that we love doing.

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        I couldn’t agree with you more. I enjoy aspects of my work, but at the same time, I don’t want it to consume my life. It’s all about finding the right balance. Life is so short so we might as well make the most of it and do what makes us happy. To me, that’s spending time with friends and family, travelling, being outdoors, going on adventures, learning, and trying new experiences.

  14. wetanddustyroads says:

    I love the look of the ciders (not so much that of the snake)! And more wonderful trails through your beautiful forests … but have to say, the highlight in this post: LOVE-LOVE your camping fire 🔥!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Ha, I knew you would! Having a fire is one of the highlights of camping. I’m so glad we finally had nice weather in the evening to get a campfire going. The only thing missing was some s’mores.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I still can’t get over that we saw a snake crossing the road at the brake for snakes sign. What are the odds!? I’m glad we had such nice weather to explore most of the trails at Charleston Lake, go for a swim and to have a campfire in the evening. All in all, I’d say it was a great trip.

  15. Afriant Ishaq says:

    Nice story. In my village, there’s a joke if there’s a snake crossing in front of you. A sign that you haven’t showered. Haha it’s just an old joke. An exciting camping experience at Charleston Lake.

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