Summer may be over, but it’s not yet time to pack away your travel gear. Autumn is perhaps one of the best times to get out and explore British Columbia’s outdoors. B.C.’s provincial and national parks offer an extensive network of locations, and it’s not hard to find a new place to explore or an old favourite to rediscover.
“There are a lot of great things about visiting our parks in the fall,” said Shelley Bird, the public relations and communications officer for Mount Revelstoke and Glacier national parks. “There are fewer crowds and it’s cooler so you don’t get so hot when you walk around. The sun also sets earlier and, in the cool, clean air, the stars in the night sky are truly spectacular.”
And while much of British Columbia’s forests are coniferous, the changing colours of the season can be found in parts of the province.
“The provincial parks network is very extensive,” said Julia Crawford, marketing specialist for B.C. Parks. “We have some 1,030 provincial parks across the province. That includes frontcountry, backcountry, marine parks, historical and heritage parks; there’s a variety of parks for every interest. What’s great is that a lot of them are close to towns or cities making them very accessible.”
“Across the province, each region is unique in terms of climate and geology,” said Crawford. “You can go to the west coast and get these beautiful ocean views and old growth forest or you can go into the Kootenay-Okanagan and in the fall you can see stands of larches and aspen turning colour. You will get a whole different outdoor experience in each particular part of the province.”
When it comes to accommodation, many parks offer camping, whether that be rustic campsites where you can pitch a tent, or serviced campgrounds where you can get electrical and water hookups. Crawford suggests visitors check the B.C. Parks website for each park to see what is offered. Some parks have cabins that people can reserve or, in some cases, occupy on a first-come-first-serve basis. These are rustic cabins where people need to bring their own bedding and cooking supplies. Some National Park sites also feature Otentiks, semi-permanent tents already set up with beds and other services.
For those not interested in roughing it, many parks are located near towns with excellent hotel and lodge options along with restaurants where they can enjoy local dining.
If you want to get outdoors this fall, here are some great suggestions of parks in eastern B.C. and the province’s interior that are worth a visit:
From rugged mountains to the world’s only inland temperate rainforest, Mount Revelstoke is a land of unparalleled beauty. It features its share of backcountry trails to explore, but is also easily accessible, featuring the only alpine area in the national park system that can be accessed by paved road. The Meadows in the Sky Parkway is a scenic drive that is popular with visitors and a favourite with cyclists.
Glacier National Park is not only known for its towering mountains, but is also a site of great historic importance. The discovery of Rogers Pass allowed the Canadian Pacific Railway to complete its cross-country train route, which connected Canadians from coast to coast. Visitors can learn about that that history at the Rogers Pass Discovery Centre before heading out to explore the park’s many hiking and biking trails.
Not far from Nelson, you will find Kokanee Creek Provincial Park which features more than a kilometre of sandy beaches that are great for walking and exploring. It’s also a great place for boating. For those who’d rather stay on land, they can walk or mountain bike among the old growth western cedar and grand firs of Kokanee Creek Canyon.
Kootenay Lake Provincial Park has been called a hidden gem. Davis and Lost Ledge areas are particularly quiet and offer beautiful lake and mountain views. They are excellent spots for people who like to fish or get out on the water in canoes or kayaks. The park even offers wifi (for a fee) so you can post photos of your adventures that will make your friends jealous.
No roads run through the spectacular mountain scenery of this provincial park. The only access is via the backcountry trails that traverse it. But for the hiker prepared for any weather, the reward in fall is the beauty of the larch colours that paint the landscape. Parts of the park are already closed for the season, so check for updates before you go.
One of the best places to access Kootenay Lake by boat is at Pilot Bay. You can just get out to enjoy the water or maybe try some fishing for trophy-size Gerrard rainbow trout. Hikers can enjoy the many trails along Pilot Peninsula, including an easy walk to the historic Pilot Bay lighthouse that has been restored by area volunteers.
Located on the western shore of Slocan Lake, the poetically named Valhalla Provincial Park preserves much of the towering peaks and unique biology of the Valhalla Range of the Selkirk Mountains. It is uncrowded any time of year, but even more so in the fall. Visitors come to enjoy the beauty of the lake and its extensive network of hiking trails. Some of its campsites are only accessible by boat.