3 people enjoying the view from Blue Mountain, Charleston LakeIf you like to paddle and hike, the trail to Blue Mountain on the east side of beautiful Charleston Lake is perfect for this. Blue Mountain is the highest point in Leeds County. I love the panoramic views it gives you of the surrounding area.

Blue Mountain lookout and trail, Charleston LakeThe trail head to Blue Mountain is only accessible by water from Huckleberry Hollow, so you can paddle and park the kayak or canoe on the shoreline, and follow the winding trail to Blue Mountain’s scenic vista to get an inspiring look at Charleston Lake. It makes for an awesome lunch spot for the paddler and hiker.

Charleston Lake has a reputation for being one of the prettiest lakes in Ontario, with over 100 islands, 100 miles of diverse shoreline adorned with beautiful granite and sandstone rock, hidden coves, large and small bays, and rocky cliffs. It has lots of deep water and shallows. You get the idea. It’s especially interesting for paddlers, boaters, and fishermen.

To top it off, the lake also has one of Ontario’s nicest provincial parks, Charleston Lake Provincial Park, with exceptional natural and man-made amenities for camping, fishing, hiking, swimming, and many other ways you can enjoy your time away from work.

Charleston Lake is a good-sized lake at about 14 kilometres long (9 miles) and 6 kilometres wide (4 miles) at the widest part. As a paddler, I like it because it’s not too big, and it’s not too small. It’s just right for paddling, camping, hiking, fishing, and exploring.

Two kayaks on Charleston LakeOn a bright summer morning under fair blue skies, our group of kayakers launched from the Charleston village public boat launch with free parking off Water Street at the north end of the lake, and paddled south past Indian Head Rock, winding our way around a string of large and small islands.

You can also launch from the south end of the lake from the village of Outlet, or from Charleston Lake Provincial Park’s boat or canoe launches if you are visiting the park.

After a brisk 8 kilometre paddle from the Charleston boat launch to Huckleberry Hollow, we parked our kayaks on the shady shore, changed our paddle shoes for hiking boots, grabbed our lunches, and picked up the well-marked Blue Mountain trail head.

Kayaks parked on shoreline, Huckleberry Hollow, Charleston LakeIt felt good to stretch out the legs on the trail with forty-five minutes of moderate hiking to reach  Blue Mountain’s 194-meter-high scenic vista. If you move fast on the trail, the bugs can’t keep up, otherwise, remember to bring and apply the bug juice in spring and summer.

Blue Mountain lookout, Charleston LakeIt’s called Blue Mountain, but it seemed more yellow to me when we found ourselves surrounded by an explosion of wildflowers. The panoramic view at the top is a pretty sweet reward for a few hours of paddling and hiking, and makes for an awesome lunch spot.

Three people surrounded by yellow wildflowers on Blue Mountain, Charleston LakeAfter enjoying a relaxed lunch sitting on the smooth granite rock, basking in the warm sunshine and gentle breezes, it was back to our labour of love:  A 45-minute hike back down the trail to the kayaks, and an 8 kilometre paddle back to the Charleston village boat launch at the north end of the lake.

In total, we clocked 16 kilometres (10 miles) of paddling and 1 ½ hours of hiking. What a satisfying day on the water and on the mountain!

It’s best to plan this paddle and hike on a fair weather day with light to moderate winds. Be on the lookout for motorboats on the lake. Charleston Lake is popular with boaters as well as paddlers.

Without a good map, a kayak compass, and some navigation skills, it would be easy to get lost on Charleston Lake. There are over 100 islands and 100 miles of shoreline. A GPS helps.

I purchased a colour, topographical map of Charleston Lake Provincial Park at World of Maps in Ottawa, Ontario. You can also buy them at the park for a small fee. I find the map an excellent resource for kayaking the lake and hiking in the park. The water depths are shown in different shades of blue.

Snapshot of a section of the Charleston Lake Provincial Park topo mapAlthough it’s a fairly deep lake, there are shallows and numerous shoals that are not indicated on the topo map.  Some shoals are marked on the lake itself. So be on the lookout.

We had maps, a compass, a GPS, and paddlers who were familiar with the lake, as well as good navigators on this paddle, so finding our way was fairly easy.

Enjoy your visit to Charleston Lake. It’s a great place to paddle and explore!

Happy trails!
Peggy Varner

Kayaks parked on wooded shoreline of Charleston Lake