The Best (Off-The-Radar) Campgrounds in British Columbia

The Best (Off-The-Radar) Campgrounds in British Columbia

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British Columbia’s provincial campgrounds are known to be crowded all summer long. But before you stop camping this weekend, there’s some good news. When spontaneity bites, don’t assume you’re unlucky. Instead, browse the following list of lesser-known campsites and get your hands dirty.

Coast and Vancouver Islands

Sydney Point, Gulf Islands National Park

Much of what makes Gulf Islands National Park so special is only accessible by water, and that includes this campground on the northern tip of Sydney Island. But for this campsite you don’t need your own boat to get there. A passenger ferry from the city of Sidney on Vancouver Island shuttles campers four times a day and has plenty of space for all your camping gear. Once on the island, settle into one of the 29 campsites just steps from the wharf. Many look out from the forest above the grass of the beach and the sea. Sit back and enjoy the sunset, hike around the Lagoon Trail and spot the dozens of waterfowl that flock here, pass hours of browsing the endless sandy beach or searching for treasure in the pools at low tide. pc.gc.approx

Photo credit: Go Mabit

Gray Bay, Sandspit

Haida Gwaii may be out there in the North Pacific, but there’s still a lot going on at the island’s campgrounds. Not so much this one. Half an hour south of Sandspit, Gray Bay sits right next to Hecate Strait, the shallow sea that separates the archipelago from the mainland. A mix of gravel and grass pitches sits just steps from a sandy beach. At low tide the sand stretches out and the shelling is excellent. At either end of the beach, trails lead along the shoreline – one to Secret Cove and the other to Cumshewa Head – past many historic First Nations sites. The campground and shoreline are part of the Kunxalas Heritage Site/Conservancy, an area of ​​significant Haida cultural value.

Sunlund by the Sea, Lund

The charming coastal village of Lund is literally down the road. The small town on the Sunshine Coast is the starting point for the PanAmerican Highway (although some say the PanAm starts in Deadhorse, Alaska) and the Sunshine Coast Trail. It is also a jumping off point for sea kayaking and sailing excursions in Desolation Sound and the Discovery Islands. This campsite is a short walk from the marina, the heart of the city. It caters mainly to motorhomes and vans, with only a few tent pitches, but apart from long weekends there are almost always free places. It’s an ideal base for exploring the wilder end of the Sunshine Coast, the eclectic shops of Lund or a last night before embarking on a longer expedition south. sunlund.approx

Source: Destination BC/ Boomer Jerritt

Ralph River in Strathcona Provincial Park, Campbell River

You won’t find many campgrounds with taller trees for shade than along the Ralph River in the heart of Strathcona Provincial Park on Vancouver Island. About an hour west and then south of Campbell River, the campground sits on the eastern shore of Buttle Lake, surrounded by the highest mountains on the island. Shaded by towering old Douglas firs, hemlock and western redcedar, the sites are pleasant and shady; Expect improved mats, roads and restrooms this year and next. Several excellent hikes lead into the nearby rainforest and mountains and there is swimming, canoeing and fishing on the lake. A slightly longer drive than other nearby campgrounds, Ralph River tends to be quieter and even on the rare occasions when it is full there is an overflow area, so few are ever turned back.

Owl Creek Recreation Area, Pemberton

The private campgrounds and BC Parks, which are only hours away from the Lower Mainland, tend to fill up quickly, but the more rustic campgrounds at BC Forest Service Recreation Sites are much quieter. It is one of those east of Pemberton and only a few minutes drive from the paved roads. There are actually two locations here, one on the Birkenhead River and one closer to its confluence with Owl Creek. Both are open grassy areas with stands of trees, including fruit trees, inherited from an old farmhouse. In addition to exploring and fishing along the two rivers, the Pemberton Valley is teeming with recreation: farm tours, mountain biking trails throughout the valley, great day hikes in Garibaldi Provincial Park, end in Whistler just 40 minutes south, hot springs and boating. local rivers and lakes.

Caribou Chilcotin

Blue Lake Resort, Boston Bar

The Fraser Canyon region is full of activities: fishing, hiking, rafting, cable cars and swimming. With dedicated hiking trails, a motorless lake, excellent swimming, and plenty of shade, Blue Lake Resort is an ideal base for exploring. In a valley suspended above the town of Boston Bar, the campground and cabins are at the heart of the area’s activities and are easily accessible by car from the Lower Mainland. Many pitches at the campsite are too small to accommodate longer motorhomes, so there is often room for more compact motorhomes, vans and tents, even on busy weekends.

Silver point, hope

Nestled in the North Cascade Mountains, between the town of Hope and the Canada-US border, is Skagit Valley Provincial Park. Filled with rugged mountainsides, rainforest, rivers and over 50 kilometers of hiking trails, there is plenty to do in this park. Ross Lake Campground is the busiest base, but there are two other campgrounds. Whitworth Horse Camp is for horseback campers exploring the park’s horse-friendly trails. There are paddocks, tie-down posts, and a path that leads directly to a multi-use trail that goes deep into the park. And there’s the more rustic Silvertip right on the Skagit River. It’s popular with anglers during peak fly-fishing season, but is quieter in the summer when the river pools are ideal for swimming. It’s a good base for hiking in the Alps on the Skyline Trail or deeper in the park along the Skagit River or other hiking routes.

Photo credit: BC Parks/Iain Robert Reid

Tunkwa Provincial Park, Lake Logan

Many trout anglers know that the two lakes in this provincial park are some of the best places to catch rainbow trout in the province. The Freshwater Fisheries Society supplies Tunkwa and Leighton lakes with rainbow trout each year and runs a Learn to Fish program there. The three campsites, Tunkwa, Leighton and Leighton North, stretch across the grassland and under the shelter of the trees. Aside from fishing in Leighton and Tunkwa lakes, the prairies are easy to navigate. Keep an eye out for moose, deer, yellow-bellied marmots, and the many species of birds that love the marshy shore. And if you fall in love with the place, it’s one of the few parks that allows long-term camping.

Kootenay and Rockies

Fort Steele Resort & RV Park, Cranbrook

More than 150 years ago, 5,000 people lived in Fort Steele. Today it is mostly a historic town, recreated to look like the days of the gold mines. This campground is nearby and a good base for exploring the East Kootenays. Within a 30 minute drive are the resorts of Kimberley and Fernie, excellent fishing on many rivers, whitewater paddling, hiking, gold panning, golf, small town amenities of Cranbrook and the mining history that shaped the region. Being in between means the campground flies a little under the radar, and there’s plenty of space for all styles of camping – 120 RV sites and 50 tent sites.

Photo credit: courtesy of Camping and RVing BC Coalition

Search for Lemon Creek Lodge

Just outside the Kootenay town of Slocan, Lemon Creek is surrounded by mountains. Hiking trails lead to nearby peaks like Idaho and the Altura Alps and wild landscapes like Dennis Basin. The rivers are free and clear for rafting, swimming and fishing. Secondary roads are ideal for road cycling and there are old railway lines which have been converted into cycle paths. This is just the beginning of this paradise of relaxation. It’s a long way from Vancouver – eight hours – but once you get to the resort, life is easy. The 28 campsites are located in an orchard and shaded by ponderosa pines. There’s a restaurant on-site, as well as cabins and lodge rooms, and the laid-back town of Slocan is a short drive away.

Mount Sir Donald, Glacier National Park

This campground may be frontcountry, but it’s backcountry when it comes to service. No electricity, no running water, no fireplaces, no flush toilets. The advantage of rare amenities is that it is rarely full, even when the other two campgrounds in the park fill up. First come, first served. Once settled, take the short drive to Roger’s Pass Discovery Centre, a visitor center and museum dedicated to the area’s railroad and snow history. Then set off on one of the many hikes. Nestled in the heart of the Columbia Mountains, the trails are either flat valley walks or quadruple burners with sweeping views of the park’s icefields. pc.gc.approx

Near Mlead, Radium

Kootenay National Park is the often overlooked fourth among mountain parks, eclipsed by busier and flashier neighbors Banff, Jasper and Yoho. It’s good. The hiking trails are quieter but no less spectacular, with plenty of ice and rocks to marvel at. And campgrounds also tend to be less crowded, especially McLeod Meadows. Although located right next to the Kootenay River and Highway 93 in a pine forest, the campground is often overtaken by those in nearby Radium or other locations in the park and beyond. It’s a shame, because the campsite is an ideal starting point. In addition to the park’s excellent hiking opportunities, there’s whitewater paddling on the Kootenay — just outside — and mountain biking at nearby Nipika Lodge. pc.gc.approx

Northern British Columbia

Carp Lake Provincial Park, McLeod Lake

Located in the geographic center of the province, two hours north of Prince George, this provincial park is best known for its world-class rainbow trout fishing. There is a jetty at the campsite, making it easy to explore the intricate coastline of islands and bays. Fly anglers should explore the nature trail along the McLeod River. As for the campground, Carp Lake is family-friendly with a playground, horseshoe pit, and picnic area. If you like hiking, plan the short hike to War Falls. For more solitude, anyone with a watercraft can camp at one of the campgrounds on three of the lake’s islands. Although all pitches are busy on long weekends, there is usually room the rest of the summer.

For more information: Discover tips and tricks for finding a last minute campground in British Columbia


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