Best Places to Camp in British Columbia
June 7, 2008
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The Globe and Mail recently ran an article on the best camping sites in Canada, the article itself only had room to list six, but the readers wrote in and added many more.
Here are the camp sites for British Columbia:
GARIBALDI PROVINCIAL PARK, BRITISH COLUMBIA
Comment “Watching the glacier change colours with the setting sun is a
delight at dusk, preferably with a refreshing and well-deserved
beverage in hand.”
– Wendy Royle, Vancouver
Highlight More than 90 kilometres of hiking trails wind past
evocatively named alpine geography such as Black Tusk, Panorama Ridge,
Sphinx Glacier and Castle Towers.
Ambience It’s a nine-kilometre trek from the access-point parking lot
to the reader-recommended Garibaldi Lake Campground, so it’s safe to
assume few campers will have toted boom boxes or beer kegs.
Amenities Garibaldi Lake Campground is a bare-bones, 50-site setup:
four day-use cooking shelters, pit toilets and a sink (the water isn’t
potable). Open fires are prohibited, as are pets.
Diversions In summer, it’s all about hiking around Garibaldi Lake.
Several renowned trails branch out from the access parking lot or the
campsite, including treks to Panorama Ridge and the Black Tusk.
Swimming is refreshing to say the least, as all the park’s lakes are
Flora and fauna Many dense Douglas fir, western red cedar and western
hemlock forests cover the park, as do alpine meadows. Grizzly and
black bears, mountain goats and deer roam the area.
Pest factor Visitors should take precautions against bear encounters.
Insider tip Sites 12 to 18 are clustered right next to Garibaldi Lake.
Information The Garibaldi Lake parking lot is a 90-minute drive north
of Vancouver. Campsites are available on a first-come, first-served
basis. Visit www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks.
RATHTREVOR BEACH PROVINCIAL PARK, BRITISH COLUMBIA
Comment ” A beautiful spot with lots of hiking trails, a fabulous
beach that goes for miles and a great campground that is well-
maintained and monitored.” – Anonymous, Nanaimo, B.C.
Highlight It’s a short stroll from any of Rathtrevor’s many campsites
to the celebrated sandy beach. At low tide, the Strait of Georgia’s
waters recede almost a kilometre; when the ocean rolls back in over
the hot sand, swimming prevails.
Ambience The park is especially popular with families, but the sheer
size of the beach prevents overcrowding.
Amenities The park’s 174 vehicle-accessible campsites include three
hot-shower buildings, flush toilets, an adventure playground and
several freshwater taps. There are 25 more walk-in campsites, with pit
toilets and two picnic shelters nearby, and four group sites.
Diversions Rathtrevor buzzes with activity over the summer. A Nature
House and amphitheatre run interpretive programs seven days a week;
there are 5.5 kilometres of easy walking trails; and swimmers,
fishers, paddlers and windsurfers flock to the beach. The park is
famous among birdwatchers for the Brandt geese migration, from March
15 to April 15, in which these shore birds use the beaches of
Rathtrevor and Craig Bay as staging and feeding areas on their spring
migration to Northern Canada and Alaska.
Flora and fauna Along with Douglas firs, Western red cedar, hemlock,
balsam, spruce, arbutus and maple trees cover the park. Several
species of wildlife can be spotted in the park, including deer,
otters, mink, eagles, osprey, hawks, vultures and owls.
Pest factor During the Brandt geese migration, dogs are not allowed on
certain parts of the beach. Backcountry areas are also not suitable
for dogs, owing to possible bear encounters. Raccoons
can be troublesome in the campsites.
Insider tip Campsites 20 and 21 are among the closest to the beach –
less than 50 metres away – and there’s no road separating them from
Information Rathtrevor is a two-hour drive north of Victoria.
Jack Jones from Clearwater, BC, Canada writes: No question, the
Berg Lake Trail in Mount Robson Provincial Park, British Columbia.
My family makes it a yearly trip. It’s such an incredibly
beautiful place up behind Mt Robson in the sub-alpine. The views of
the glaciers and sawtooth peaks are breath-taking. The best part of
the trip is the hike. It’s not for the out of shape or faint-hearted.
It is a 2 night, 3 day excursion of about 50 km round trip. There are
no garbage cans. Everything you pack in you must pack out. There is a
grueling 1000m climb over 3 km. This is the part the separates the
adventurers from the tourists. Everyone that you meet up top has the
same attitude, a reverence for nature. When you camp across Berg Lake
from the glacier, you can hear the glacier ‘calve’ at night, which
means part of the glacier breaks off and falls into the water. There
is this tremendous roar and then crash and then two minutes later you
can hear the waves reaching the shore. It is truly spectacular. Most
importantly is the journey we make as a family. When you spend that
kind of time together and endure the physicality required by the trip
you can’t help but bond and come together as a family unit. I get
choked up just thinking about it. We first did the trip when my son
was 6 and my daughter 8. They were awesome! I think about his little
legs doing the 50 km round trip in three days. Last year, we took
Gramma who turned 60. Robson has always been one of my Mom’s favorite
spots but she had no idea that the best part of it couldn’t be seen
from the road. She had recently recovered from a hysterectomy and this
was truly a life-affirming event for her. Again, the hike is a real
metaphor for life. The struggle, the reward, the beauty and the
journey we make together. You’ve got to be in shape to do it but the
challenge is amply recompensed. The Berg Lake Trail in Mt Robson
Provincial Park is by far the best camping experience I’ve ever had.
We’ll go again this year, see you up there!
Edward Ralfe from Fernie, Canada writes: Long Beach, south of
Tofino. Pitch your tent just off the edge of the sand.
Kathryn Murray from Toronto, Canada writes: The Tatshenshini
River and the Alsek River meet in the wilds of northern British
Columbia. There is no finer campsite in Canada than at this
confluence. The flat plain at the river’s edge makes for an
unbelievable location for a campsite. Tents are scattered among the
wildflowers. In every direction are snow capped mountains, with
glaciers dotting their sides. The river, glacier fed and fast flowing
is laden with salmon. During the day, grizzly bears wander the banks
and sandbars feeding on the salmon. At night, the stars are forever.
And in the morning, the mist hangs over the land as the sun’s rays
break through. Nature abounds — eagles, ospreys, bears, lynx, owls,
and the list goes on.
I have camped for over 30 years across Canada. There is no
campsite that even comes close to this. you are left with the feeling
of peace and harmony and one with nature. And after all, that is what
camping is all about.
Kathleen Snyder from Parksville, Canada writes: My favorite
camping spot is right on the water at 4 All Seasons at Cedar on
Vancouver Island. There are only about four sites right on the water
where you can pitch your tent. Beautiful views of the sunsets. There
is a natural pool built into the rocks.
Michael Banfield from Vernon, bc, Canada writes: my favourite
camping spot is the Sandy Beach-3rd cove South of parkig lot at
Sombrio Beach, on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. Lovely sandy
spot under and immense overhanging spruce tree. A fresh and potable
water creek flows across the beach to the ocean. The Roicky cove (2nd
one south)is full off small bits of dry firewood for the picking.
Following the creek into the cleft you come across a beautiful
waterfall which is carving away the sandstone. the closer to the
falls, the less vegetation on the walls of the cleft. the headland
between the third and fourth cove has been undercut by the ocean,
producing a standing height cave with openings to the sky which can
produce some spectacular ephemeral images. If you go around or over
the headland to the fourth cove, you will see Sombrio Creek waterfall,
which plunges directly into the ocean. At night you can drift of to
sleep to the gentle sussurus of the waves, sometimes accompanied by by
the barks of sea lions or the blowing of whales. A truely magical
place, which I have been tavelling to for almost forty years now. When
we first went there, my kids were in backpacks, and we hiked about 90
minutes through old growth forest. Now, one can drive to within about
100m of the first cove. A twenty minute beach walk takes you to my
special place. ENJOY!
John Mullrooney from Calgary, Canada writes: To me, the best
place to pitch a tent in Canada is Gray Bay, Queen Charlotte Island,
British Columbia. My girlfriend and I have camped from coast to coast
to coast for many, many years and this place is truly magical. What
could be better than watching the sun move horizontally across the sky
for hours deep into the night, sleeping peacefully by the water, and
making up late to the call of orcas mere metres from shore??
It’s truly heaven on earth for us and anyone else that travels
the great distance to be there…
Chris Killey from Canada writes: In a country blessed with so
many scenic spots to camp, one sticks out in my memory from 15 years
ago. My wife and I were on Vancouver Island, heading to the Carmanah
Valley to hike in the majestic old growth forests. Just before we took
our rental car on the (forbidden, according to the rental agreement)
dusty, gritty logging roads, we spent one night camped at Gordon Bay
Provincial Park, by Duncan, on the shore of beautiful Lake Cowichan.
Our stakes were sunk into the soft forest floor, admidst the same
large old trees that we would drive 2 1/2 hours the next day to marvel
I have only been there once, and have camped so many
spectacular places since (rugged Gros Morne, Bon Echo with its awesome
granite rock face, the reedy north shore of St. Lawrence past Quebec
City, wind swept Tofino, also on Vancouver Island, Lionshead on
Georgian Bay surrounded by limestone cliffs), but that one night in
the peaceful forest on the shore of the clean, blue lake) is indelibly
etched in my mind.
I will be back there one day.
M Smith from Canada writes: Tsusiat Falls, West Coast Trail is
my pick for best place to pitch a tent. Giant driftwood logs provide
private little ‘rooms’ in which to set up camp; smaller logs are
perfect for an evening fire, enjoyed against the sun setting over the
Pacific. The ‘never-ending falls’ make a naturally beautiful backdrop
for the pool below where one can enjoy a refreshing dip after the
day’s hike. And there is nothing like drifting off and waking up to
the sound of the surf washing up on the golden sand.
Jake Kayak from Canada writes: The Broken Group Islands in
Barkley Sound, part of Pacific Rim National Park is one of my favorite
places to camp. Accessible by paddling, water taxi or the Francis
Barkley out of Port Alberni. We have kayaked here a number of times on
self-guided trips (inexperienced people should consider a reputable
tour operator for safety and comfort). On all of our trips, we have
brought friends or family who have had limited if any previous
kayaking experience. This is a wonderfully beautiful area with pretty
islands and some amazing beaches. It can get busy in the summer, but
we enjoy meeting other fellow voyagers. Last summer, we hired a water
taxi so that our four-year old could experience this with us. We base-
camped and did day trips. Upgrading our gear from ultralight to
ultracomfortable really helped (thicker sleeping pads, bigger tent,
two stoves, etc.). Check out Alberni Marine Transport for more info
(they rent kayaks and have a lodge at Sechart Whaling Station). I hate
to share this with everyone! If you are looking for something more
secluded, take the Uchuck III from Campbell River to get to Kyuquot
(and the Bunsby Islands).
Rebecca Shields from Vancouver, Canada writes: I have never
seem more beauty then Desolation Sound on the north end of the
Sunshine Coast in BC. The water access only protected marine park
boasts the most stunning array of wildlife, where you can pick fresh
oysters right off the bottom of the inlet floor. Take or rent a kayak
fleur beleski from surrey, b.c., Canada writes: The best place
to pitch a tent in British Columbia is in Bowron Lake Provincial Park,
along the shores of a chain of lakes, but you will have to paddle your
canoe to get there. The lakes are located in central B.C. close to the
old historic gold town of Barkerville in the Cariboo Mountains. They
form a 360 degree traverse totaling 116 km, which you canoe and at the
end of each day, pitch your tent, cook your meal, exhausted but
exhilarated. The wilderness experience can be completed at your own
pace, usually 5 – 10 days. You will have to bring all necessities with
you and portage your canoe and grub in several places where the lakes
join. Take care that the black bears don’t steal your food as there
are no stores to replenish your supplies once on the route. In such
cases, campers have been known to share, but only the essentials. Your
camping experience is gratifying because you arrive at a different
location every day under your own power, then appreciate the joys of
cozying up in a two-person tent. There are few places left where you
can experience the beauty of nature—moose, waterfalls, sandy
beaches, rapids, mountains and glaciers—in an entirely uninhabited
part of the planet but still not so remote and yet easily accessible.
It’s not for everyone; only those with a sense of adventure. (details
on the B.C. Parks website firstname.lastname@example.org) Alex & Fleur Beleski
Rachel Capon from Kingston ON, Canada writes: In a past life, I
was a Kayak Adventure Guide in British Columbia. I had the honor of
traveling through the waters of BC, and sharing the beauty and wonders
of this place with my clients and fellow guides. On one particular
trip in Nootka Sound, I found the perfect spot for my tent. Our group
had found a gorgeous bay to spend the night. Jetting out from one side
of this bay was a little tiny island. It had about ten trees on it and
just enough room to pitch two small tents. I found a little area with
the softest earth ever (for an avid camper, this is a very important
detail). Positioning my tent perfectly I was perched just above Nootka
Sound looking out into the Pacific Ocean. It was this view from my
tent that inspired me to take a view from my tent door for the next
couple of years. I hope one day that I will get to pitch my tent hear
again. Until then, I will be forever searching for that gorgeously
soft earth that brings the most peaceful of dreams to a tired camper.
Ken Schroeder from Golden, B.C., writes: My pick for the best
camping spot in Canada is: Bennett lake in northern BC. This site is
the best since you can only arrive after hiking the 53.1 Km Chilkoot
Trail or by the train the departs from Skagway Alaska. Your away from
all civilization and you camp next to the historical old chruch and
railway station that still remain there. There are some nice beaches
near by if you dare want to test the cold lake water. Along with the
views and the vast expance of northern Canada make this one of the
best spots to pitch a tent.
John Hughesman from Victoria, Canada writes: There are so many.
But a spot in Yoho I stayed at last summer is a hard one to beat. Yoho
National Park is next to the more famous Banff National park, just
before you cross into Alberta. Yoho is on British Columbia soil and is
one of the many gem’s BC has to offer the camper I was hiking in Yoho
Valley which is most famous for Takakkaw Falls, one of the highest
falls in Canada at 384m. I hiked through the valley on the iceline
trail with a friend to the top of Twin Falls. Twin falls is, as you’d
guess, two waterfalls side by side. They both flow from the same
river, but right before they fall the water flow is split into two.
The result is spectacular, 2 waterfalls plunging 250m to the valley
below. In a area of dozens of impressive waterfalls, this is the one
most worth the hike. My old hiking book (circa 1994) showed a camp
site near the top of the falls. Of course, somethings change after 13
years and we found no trace of a campground. It was late and we
improvised, there was a large ledge about 10 -15 feet below the top of
the falls that was easy to climb down to and could accommodate dozens
of campers. Of course we were by ourselves, in a spot that I
immediately decided was the finest place I ever put up my tent. We
were a short distance from the falls, so we could watch a breathtaking
volume of water rush past our tent. A short distance the other way was
the edge of the cliff and a 250m vertical drop. We were on top of the
world (or, at least on top of Yoho) with a amazing view all to
ourselves! I wish I could include a picture here, so instead a website
with some Pic’s: http://members.shaw.ca/jcdueck/photo_tfmain.html.
They don’t do it justice, but you’ll get the idea. Just remember, the
view is the best from the top. Happy Trails. – John Hughesman
Courtney McLachlan from Vancouver, Canada writes: My all time
favorite camping spot is Alice Lake campground, which is located just
forth of Squamish, BC. As a kid, I used to go there with girl guides
as well as on family camping trips. Many great childhood memories of
learning how to make fires out of (often wet) kindling, and learning
about the local flora/fauna. It’s a beautiful spot where you can lie
on the beach and swim, avail yourself of the nearby coastal mountains
for hiking, and kick back roasting hot dogs and making s’mores at the
end of the day. A true classic, and one of my all time favorite
places. Can’t wait for this summer!
Stephen Ashton from Tofino, Canada writes: There is a beach,
just a 30 minute paddle away from Tofino that is idillyic. The beaches
in Clayoquot Sound are stunning. The sand is fine and the ocean waves
and tides change every few hours. My favourite campsite is located on
Medallion Island, Vargas Island. From the kayak launch in Tofino, you
paddle out past Round Island, and then the channel between
Wickaninnish and Stubbs Island. Due west, you will see the low lying
Vargas Island. After working your way through and around a few reefs,
you will see the sweeping beach. Land, set up your tent and enjoy
beautiful sunrises and sunsets from this spot. There is ample firewood
for a beach fire and a fresh water stream at the southern tip. The
ample driftwood also allow you to set up a comfortable camp. Once
you’ve settle in, you can go out to the Wilf Rocks which is one of the
best salmon fishing spots in Clayoquot Sound. A good catch can be
roasting on a beach fire for the evening feast.
Aaron Archibald from Golden, Canada writes: The most impressive
campground I have experienced is Appleby Dome in the Bugaboo
Recreation Area. This campground is pearched on a granite shelf at the
base of Eastpost Spire with intimate views of Bugaboo Spire, Snowpatch
Spire and Crescent Spire. Clean mountain water flows through the
campground and there are beautifully constructed and well maintained
toilets at the site. To get there: Turn off Highway 95 at Brisco BC
and follow the signs. Drive on dirt roads for about an hour. Watch for
wildlife. Its common to see bear and deer. I’ve only driven this road
about a dozen times and wolves have crossed the road in front of my
vehicle on two occasion. At the parking lot, carefully place chicken
wire around your vehicle to keep the porcupines from chewing on your
brake lines. I lost my brake fluid and had to drive out with only low
gear and emergency brake. Hike a sometimes steep trail about 4 hours
from the Bugaboo Recreation Area parking lot. Keep your camara handy
for cascading waterfalls and alpine flowers. Mountain goat kids have
almost no fear of people and can approach quite close. About 3 hours
into the hike you will come upon the Conrad Kane Hut. This large
heated hut is a good option in bad weather as it provides sleeping
mats, cooking appliances and an opportunity to socialize with outdoor
loving folks from all over the world.
David Wilson from Vancouver, Canada writes: Near Bamfield on
the west coast of Vancouver Island is a campsite called Pachena Bay
which is operated by the local first Nations Band. The best sites are
located adjacent to the beach and are in a forested area. Pachena Bay
itself is crescent shaped beach about 2 km. long, located on the open
Road access to Bamfield in the camping season is a dusty bumpy
logging road, about two hours from Port Alberni, only the most
committed campers make the trip. Challenging access to the campsite
and surrounding area mean that the beach is uncrowded, sort of like
Tofino 40 years ago.
An added bonus to the camping experience is the local First
Nations delivering to your campsite live fresh dungeness crab. Combine
that with a BC wine and you have entered camper’s nirvana!
Brent Baumgartner from Suzhou, China writes: Soooo many great
spots to choose from and more to discover. Currently, I enjoy camping
around Main Lake on Quadra Island, BC. Quiet, off the grid, clean and
well maintained. No mosquitoes are just part of the charm. There’s a
nasty fly over from Vancouver airport leaving many jet trails in the
sky and something the locals should talk to their officials about.
Otherwise, pure nature but not too hard core for city folk.
allan petrie from Canada writes: There are many beautiful spots
to camp in the Rockies but Takakkaw Falls in Yoho National Park is the
best. Its an easy walk-in campground that even provides wagons to move
your equipment the few hundred yards from the parking area to the
campsites. The pay-off is the 360 degree view of mountains from your
tent, turn slowly, as everywhere you look is breathtaking. And every
view benefits from a focal point which in this case is Takakkaw Falls
across the river with a several hundred foot drop of water along a
cliff face to the bottom where the river resumes. Even though there
isn’t much privacy the type of campers to whom this appeals are
considerate and quiet so you are among people that are there for the
same reason as you. From your tent door, many hikes await, from an
hour or two, to half or full day or several days and they are
astounding in their beauty and naturalness. Gorgeous, gorgeous,
Bob Clayton from Blind Bay B.C., Canada writes: Shuswap Lake
Allan Hewitson from Kitimat, B.C., Canada writes: I am glad to
see so many epeople with so many diverse favories for camping. We’ve
been taking an “in-season” and and “out of season” trip each year to
Takysie Lake, south of Burns Lake in north-central B.C. Takysie is
small and there are only a couple of camps there…but the joy of the
lake is the jumping trout…everywhere. Including, on at least half a
dozen occasions for us, right into the boat. One off season (the week
after closing) we went fishing. It snowed in the night and a black
bear came by, scattered our portable BBQ and sucked the sauce off each
and every briquette. Spectacular rising mountain sides are snow
covered by October. There are trail walks because a number of people
live on the Lake. The peacefulness is only broken by the lonesome
sounds of loons and the ferquent splash of leaping trout. They don’t
do the same thing in many lakes around. Osprey and eagles can be
persuaded to dive and pick up a discarded trout… There’s a beaver
“clearcut” where you will be surprised by the size of the whittled
trees. There’s virtually no traffic and your co-campers are all
friendly and helpful. Wood is plentiful and free and rates are
attractive enough to make the five hour drive well worth while. It’s
our favorite spot of many similar out of the mainstream sites. As
retirees our weekend is any time, so it’s never too busy.
Richard Hawrelak from Sarnia, Canada writes: The East/West
Kootenays in B.C. Along the old Transcanada HWY 1, the most southern
route in B.C. (Michel, Fernie, Cranbrook, Creston, Nelson, Grand
Forks). The B.C. Forestry does an excellent job maintaining camp
sites. Chopped firewood, clean sites, near rivers with trout jumping.
Not too far off the beaten path. Good highways, lots of supply stores.
Near Hot Springs. Can’t beat it. I’m from Fernie, and worked for the
B.C. Forestry. I’ve camped Washington, Montana, Idaho. You can’t beat
the Koots. Enjoy it.
Don Wells from Calgary, Canada writes: Goldstream Provincial
Park B.C. without a doubt———huge trees lots of sunnature! WOW
ben gelfant from vancouver, Canada writes: Anywhere you can’t
get to by road. But…
Fairy Slipper island. Myrtle lake. Wells Gray Park. It is
inaccessible except by a well maintained portage which allows carts so
easy for families. White sandy beaches everywhere on the west arm of
the lake. The best water I have drunk anywhere (after filtering for
potential parasites). Stunning beauty.