May 21, 2018 7:00 am
Updated: May 22, 2018 9:57 am

Get off the beaten path: camping in Northern British Columbia

Camping at Exstew Falls in Northern B.C.

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From the rugged west coast of Haida Gwaii to the ancient forest east of Prince George, Northern British Columbia offers memorable camping experiences for  families and adventurers alike. There are full-service RV sites, beachfront and lakefront tent sites and backcountry cabins in scenic settings across the region. Why head north? Untouched wilderness, quiet nights under the stars and accessibility of camping reservations are just the beginning.

 

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“What we have up north is very hard to find elsewhere,” says Erica Hummel, CEO of Tourism Prince George. “People come from all over the world because we have raw, untouched wilderness and amazing, beautiful experiences.”

 

It’s much easier to get a reservation at a campsite up north compared to other parts of the province, and when you arrive, the visit is relaxing and restorative. You likely won’t have to worry about the noise coming from the neighbouring campsites.

 

“You can be completely alone in the vast wilderness of Northern B.C.,” says Blaine Estby of Northern BC Tourism. “Depending where you are, and what time of year, you can watch spawning salmon in the rivers and bears feeding on them; deer, moose, elk and sheep foraging around you; northern lights above you—and you can have it all to yourself.”

 

Wherever you go, Hummel recommends taking some time to research the region before hitting the road and preparing for potential wildlife interactions. Many destinations are out of internet and cellular service, so she suggests packing a paper map and doing your online planning before you leave. (AdventureSmart, Wild Safe BC and Drive BC are good resources.) You should also check the weather and road conditions, and fill up on gas when you spot a station as they’re few and far between in remote regions. “It really is about planning ahead and preparation so you can experience and enjoy the landscape,” she says.

 

Here are some campsites across the region where you can soak in the wilderness and have a wild adventure.

Naikoon-Agate Beach and Misty Meadows Provincial Park, Haida Gwaii

This park on the traditional land of the Haida Nation is home to historic village sites and other places of cultural and spiritual significance. There are two full-service campsites in the park (Agate Beach and Misty Meadows), a Haida longhouse cabin with two bunks and a woodstove, and three rustic log shelters along the hiking trails. Backcountry camping is also permitted. Whether you want to beachcomb with the kids or test your survival skills in the deep wilderness, Naikoon is the perfect place to do it.

Surfer camping on North beach in Haida Gwaii.

Kleanza Creek Provincial Park, Terrace

Nestled in the rock canyons of the Coast Mountains, this park features rich old-growth forest and history. Kleanza means gold in the Gitxsan language, and searching for the precious metal started in the creek in the late 1890s. Today, visitors can set up tents or RVs at campsites and hike around the canyon and creek, where you may see the pink salmon spawn if you visit in the fall. Whitewater kayaking is popular in the park, but no rentals are available so make sure you bring your own equipment.

Kleanza Creek Provincial Park.

Anhluut’ukwsim Laxmihl Angwinga’asanskwhl Nisga’a (Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Park), Nass Valley

This trailblazing park is the first to be jointly managed by a First Nation and BC Parks and is also the first to combine interpretation of natural features and native culture. Visitors can explore the volcanic landscape and learn about the legends of the Nisga’a through a guided three-kilometer tour to the volcanic cone or by following the five short interpretive trails. Hunting and fishing are permitted, but licences must be obtained from the Nisga’a Lisims Government.  Vehicle-accessible camping is available on a first come, first served basis, and walk-in wilderness camping is also permitted.

Babine Mountains Provincial Park, Smithers

This haven for hikers in the Skeena Mountains showcases glacier-fed lakes and subalpine meadows. You’ll be walking on trails first laid by the Wet’suwet’en and Ned’u’ten peoples, who still use their traditional land for hunting, trapping and fishing as well as spiritual activities. Visitors can find shelter at the Joe L’Orsa Cabin, a log house with a woodstove that sleeps up to 20 people in bunks. The cabin is first come, first served, so you should be prepared to sleep outside if it’s occupied.

Hudson Bay Mountain from an evening of jet boating on the Bulkley River in Smithers, northern British Columbia.

Beaumont Provincial Park, Fort Fraser

This family-friendly park offers a range of water activities from wading in the clear Fraser Lake with little ones to waterskiing and windsurfing. There’s also a playground and a boat launch where you can head out to catch some char or rainbow trout. There are 49 vehicle-accessible sites as well as five lakefront walk-in sites.

Monkman Provincial Park, Tumbler Ridge

This vast park is home to a network of backcountry campsites, allowing adventure-seekers to spend days weaving through the alpine meadows and forested valleys, pitching their tents at different spots along the way. The stunning scenery includes powerful waterfalls and pristine alpine lakes. Small caves with fascinating features can also be found along one trail and visitors are welcome to spelunk, while taking great care to not disturb the fragile environment. Vehicle-accessible campsites are also available and are first come, first served.

Brooks Falls, Monkman Provincial Park, Tumbler Ridge UNESCO Global Geopark

Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park, Fort Nelson

This park brings new meaning to the popular practice of “forest bathing.” As you sit in the second-largest hot spring in Canada surrounded by lush boreal spruce forest, you can reach a new level of relaxation. A well-maintained boardwalk leads to the Alpha pool, which is open to the public and has temperatures ranging from 42° C to 52° C—slightly higher that the average hot tub. The popular vehicle-accessible campsite fills up in the summer, so make sure you book in advance.

Bison along the Alaska Highway in northern British Columbia

Takla Lake Marine Provincial Park, Fort St. James

Calling all kayak campers: the Stuart-Trembleur-Takla Lake boating system boasts some 300 kilometers of waterway to explore. There’s a series of small parks along the chain of lakes where you can set up camp or just take a break on the beach. In addition to wilderness camping, there are two campgrounds on Stuart Lake, which is one of the largest lakes in the province: Paarens Beach Provincial Park and Sowchea Bay Provincial Park.

Salmon Valley Campground, Prince George

This private campground along the Salmon River offers little luxuries you won’t find at provincial sites. There are showers, laundry and a store serving ice cream, making this an ideal stop if you’re spending a few weeks visiting the more rustic sites. After you clean up, you can even have a family photo session with the professional photographer/campsite owner, or participate in a photography workshop. You can also enjoy the nearby Huble Homestead Historic Site, the Goodsir Nature Park and the Northern Lights Estate Winery.

Dining at Northern Lights Estate Winery, Prince George B.C.

Canadian Camping and RVing Week runs from May 22 to 27. For more information on camping in BC, see Camping & RV in BC.

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