Photo: The view at Silver Lake Provincial Park. Source: Michael Russell Photography.
September and October are great months to be camping in Vancouver, Coast & Mountains. The crowds are practically non-existent and the weather can be fantastic provided that you’re prepared for cool mornings, warm afternoons, and crisp evenings. Sure, the seasonal rains may flirt with us now and then, but don’t discount the fact that autumn frequently gives us amazing weather.
Here are 5 camping destinations in Vancouver, Coast & Mountains worth experiencing this season:
1. Granite Falls:
Photo: Kayaks along the beach at Granite Falls. Source: Karl Woll via Flickr.
Considered one of the most spectacular camping trips out of Vancouver, Granite Falls is a beloved local secret. That secret? It’s only accessible by boat.
Officially a part of Indian Arm Provincial Park, Granite Falls offers rustic beachfront camping at the base of the 50m tall waterfall. The campsite is small, but it does have basic amenities such as pit toilets and water, although most campers simply gather water from the falls themselves.
To get there most people go by kayak, departing from North Vancouver’s Deep Cove then following the coastline up Indian Arm until they reach the waterfall. “You can’t miss the falls” says local kayaking enthusiast Joshua Lee. He also told us that it’s best to go in and out with the tide in order to make this 18 km journey easier. On average it takes a minimum of 3 hours of paddling one way.
Cortes Island blogger Paddlesheep camped at Granite Falls in 2008 and writes, “A pleasant trail leads from the main campground along the shore, to some other camp sites along the water. The roar of the waterfall was very soothing that night and lovely to fall asleep to.” But the waterfall isn’t the only attraction. According to Tourism Vancouver, up to 60,000 Pink salmon can be seen spawning along Indian Arm every year from July until October… so keep your eye out for this truly incredible sight!
2. Mount Richardson Provincial Park:
The location of our favourite Mount Richardson campsite: Tuwanek. Source: Google Maps
It’s just a coincidence that our second camping destination is also only accessible by boat, but this one will make you feel like you’re camping in your own private temperate rainforest! Located along the eastern shore of Sechelt Inlet about a half hour drive north of Sechelt, Mount Richardson Provincial Park offers three distinct boat-accessible campsites at Oyster Beach, Nine Mile Point and Tuwanek.
The Tuwanek campsite is what truly left us feeling as though we discovered our own secret beach in the midst of the temperate rainforest. We discovered it by accident while canoeing along Sechelt Inlet a short distance from the community, also called Tuwanek – a small collection of houses, cabins, and the Tuwanek Hotel – all at the end of Sechelt Inlet Road.
This coved beach is covered in barnacle-covered stones, but the campsite is set back within the forest, under a canopy of old, majestic evergreens. There is a pit toilet and picnic tables, but the only source of water comes from the stream, so it’s best to bring your own. Finally, there is really only one campsite here and it’s first come first serve, but if you’re willing to chance it and can claim it for your own, you’ll feel as though the world’s your oyster.
3. Manning Park:
Hiking at Manning Park in October 2010. Source: el Florian via Flickr.
Some of my favourite childhood camping memories are from Manning Park – a mammoth provincial park east of Hope along the Crowsnest (Hwy 3) in the Coast Mountains. With over over 70,844 hectares of rugged forest-clad mountains, deep valleys, alpine meadows, lakes and rivers, it’s an ideal destination for nature lovers. I personally think it makes a great weekend camping destination if you have a car and you’re seeking easy access to the mountains.
Officially known as E C Manning Provincial Park, Manning Park’s campsites are well maintained and are all accessible by car or RV. They have basic amenities like water, toilets and firewood, but don’t have any RV hookup services. Although a few of the campsites have closed for the summer, there are still a few which are open until October 11.
At the moment there are 64 campsites at Coldspring (open until October 11), 143 campsites at Lightning Lake (open until October 11), 49 campsites at Mule Deer (open until September 26) and 2 sites at Lone Duck Group (open year round). The close dates are weather-dependent, depending on the first snowfalls.
4. Silver Lake:
Here’s something I recently discovered: Skagit Valley doesn’t only exist in Washington State. It also extends into British Columbia between Hope and Manning Park. And it’s precisely here in the Skagit Valley – 12km southwest of Hope along a gravel road – where you’ll find rustic camping along the pristine, undeveloped Silver Lake in Silver Lake Provincial Park. Basic amenities include water (from a hand-pump) and pit toilets.
Getting to Silver Lake is really easy by car. There are excellent directions on the BCParks website, but because it’s off the beaten path, Silver Lake’s apparently off the radar for most drive-up campers.
Local blogger SilentWhisper1 recently camped at Silver Lake during this past August and writes, “Silver Lake is beautiful. The nights were cold, though sitting by the fire kept things warm while gazing up through the old growth trees at shooting stars. Silver Lake and its surroundings is rich with history. I swear the whole time I was there I was feeling the ancient natives and their spirit among us. The mountains around the lake are massive and very close. The beauty is post card material.”
5. Joffre Lakes:
Photo: Camping at Upper Joffre Lake in October 2010. Source: Dan Bewley via Flickr.
Our final autumn camping destination is a little more hardcore than our other choices, simply because it’s walk-in/wilderness camping. Located between Pemberton and Lillooet on the Duffy Lake Road (Hwy 99), Joffre Lakes Provincial Park offers turquoise glacial lakes and some pretty serious alpine hiking.
According to Mike Chang at Vancouver Trails, “The trail to Upper Joffre Lakes can be quite steep in sections and campers should be in excellent physical condition and able to hike in all the required camping equipment and supplies.” Enough said.
You can camp year round at the Upper Joffre Lake site which is 5.5km from the parking lot where there are 24 walk-in backcountry campsites. According to ParksBC, “The campsite may fill up on weekends so it is best to get there early.”