| North Fraser
As you approach Vancouver, campsites get as rare as courtesy in rush-hour
traffic. Out in the Fraser Valley, where folks have more breathing
space, there are a number of stunningly beautiful public campgrounds.
East of Maple
Ridge, the countryside becomes noticeably less populated. The well-marked
turnoff to Rolley Lake Provincial Park
is at the mill town of Ruskin and lies 6 miles (10 km) north of
Hwy 7. Before reaching Ruskin, the highway passes beside the small
river towns of Albion and Whonnock. A ferry service links Albion
with Fort Langley on the south side of the Fraser. Although much
more modest in size than Golden Ears Provincial Park, Rolley Lake
Provincial Park's vehicle/tent campsites are more spaciously laid
out. Special features include hot showers and darling Rolley Lake
nearby. There is a camping fee.
A second major
park worth investigating for overnight camping in the North Fraser
Valley is Sasquatch Provincial Park.
The park, named for the elusive Big Foot reputed to inhabit this
densely wooded region, is located on the east side of Harrison Lake,
almost 4 miles (6 km) north of Harrison
Hot Springs. Harrison Hot Springs lies 4 miles (6.5 km) north
of the junction of Hwys 7 and 9. Rockwell Drive leads out to the
park and winds beside chilly Harrison Lake's east side to the park's
Green Point day-use area. Warmer waters are found in the
three small lakes located several miles inland from Green Point.
Two of them - Hicks and Deer Lakes - feature vehicle
campsites spread out near their shores. On summer evenings, natural
history talks are presented at the amphitheatres at both sites.
Hicks is the larger of the two lakes. The facilities at diminutive
Deer Lake are geared more towards families with young children.
west of Harrison Lake on Harrison Bay, where vehicle/tent
campsites are located just south of Hwy 7 beside the beach at Kilby
Provincial Park. The setting is lovely, but there's not much
privacy between sites here.
South Fraser Valley
A series of three provincial parks at Cultus Lake, Chilliwack Lake,
and in the Skagit Valley offer camping in the South Fraser Valley.
The scenery at each is startlingly rugged, as tall Cascade peaks
rise above broad, watery surfaces that reflect the mountains' glory.
Cultus Lake is the easiest to reach, and along a paved road too.
Chilliwack and Skagit both make you kick up some dust along their
Lake Provincial Park, on the east side of Cultus Lake, lies
nestled in the folds of the Cascade Mountains, about 7 miles (11
km) south of Hwy 1. Follow either of two signed exits as the highway
passes through Chilliwack. During summer months the gatehouse at
the entrance to the park is open 24 hours a day. If you are seeking
camping space, register here. At other times of the year simply
choose your own site. There are four campgrounds within the park,
at Entrance Bay, Clear Creek, Delta Grove,
and Maple Bay. The sites at Delta Grove are the closest to
the lake. All campgrounds have very clean facilities, though the
amount of hot water for showering depends on the time of day and
the number of visitors competing for it. Firewood is supplied at
the campsites. An overnight camping fee is charged from April to
October; at other times camping is free, but services are limited.
Lake Provincial Park is located about 30 miles (50 km) east
of Cultus Lake. Take the Chilliwack Lake exit (exit 104) south from
Hwy 1, then go 9 miles (14 km) south on No. 3 Road to Chilliwack
River Road, and finally 26 miles (42 km) to the lake. The pavement
gives way to a well-maintained gravel road for the last 7.5 miles
(12 km). Situated on a bluff at the narrow lake's north end, the
park has vehicle/tent sites, the most attractive of which are located
beneath some large ponderosa pines at lakeside. A wide, sandy beach
spreads out below the bluff while, high above, the snowfields of
Mount Corriveau present themselves like the Great Wall of China.
There's a soothing sound from the nearby Chilliwack River, which
drains north out of the lake and immediately turns to whitewater.
The lake and river form the park's southern and western perimeter,
respectively. An old trail follows the river to its confluence with
Post Creek. Bootprints keep the path smooth in summer, while
in winter these trails are popular with cross-country skiers.
There are also
rustic Forest Service recreation sites near Chilliwack Lake at Post
Creek Campground and at the lake's midpoint at Paleface Creek
Campground. (Note: Of the two, Paleface is less prone to rowdies,
though there are no guarantees at any of these unsupervised sites.)
If you look
at a map of the Skagit Valley prior to the 1960s, you will
notice that a road once ran through here into Washington State.
Seattle City Light power company logged the Washington side of the
valley and flooded it in the late 1960s to provide hydroelectric
power. Although the Skagit's headwaters lie east of here in Manning
Provincial Park, the river flows south into Ross Lake. Assuming
its river form again at the lake's south end, it flows through Washington's
own Skagit Valley to meet Puget Sound near La Conner. There are
three campgrounds located along the road into the Skagit Valley,
which begins off Hwy 1 just west of the town of Hope
at the eastern end of the Fraser Valley. Take the Hope Business
Road exit and drive a short distance to the well-marked Silver-Skagit
Road turnoff. A sign posted here for the benefit of American visitors
indicates 'Hozameen 38 Miles.' (Hozameen - or Hozomeen, as it's
spelled in Canada - is the site of a US ranger station at the north
end of Ross Lake and the only road access to the lake.) Silver-Skagit
Rd is paved for only a short distance south before turning to well-graded
gravel for most of its 43.5-mile (70-km) length. Watch for Silver
Lake Provincial Park, 3.7 miles (6 km) past the bridge over
Silverhope Creek. A small campground is located here with several
dozen vehicle/tent sites. Although not within the Skagit Valley
itself, the rugged landscape that rises above this campground gives
a flavour for what lies ahead.
As the road
leads south of Silver Lake, it passes beside some of the best fishing
streams in the Lower Mainland. There are many small wilderness campsites
visible from the road beside Silverhope Creek, and the Klesilkwa
and Skagit Rivers.
Just south of
the entrance to Skagit Valley Provincial
Park is Silvertip Provincial Campground which, along
with the Ross Lake Provincial Campground 15 miles (25 km)
farther south, provides the best sites for camping. There are well-spaced
vehicle/tent sites at Silvertip, the prettiest of which are located
on the banks of the Skagit River. The forest here is a thick mix
of Douglas fir and western red cedar. The wind whistling through
their branches, combined with the Skagit's rushing water, soundproofs
the environment around each campsite and gives campers a sense of
privacy. Mount Rideout rears up behind Silvertip, at 8,029 feet
(2447 m) so tall (and the campground so close) that its peak is
obscured from view here by its lower ridges. You only get a true
sense of its grandeur when you look up as you journey farther south
towards Ross Lake. Ross Lake Provincial Campground has vehicle/tent
campsites on the lake's north shore. Some sites sit in an open area
beside the lake, while the majority are set back in the shelter
of the nearby woods. Although not as cozy a setting as Silvertip,
the views from here are stunning, as several major peaks rise above
the lake. Owing to their height, the tops of these Cascade Mountain
peaks escaped the most recent period of glaciation and boast a more
rugged, less rounded appearance than their Coast Mountain counterparts
to the north.
Bring your own
dry supply of kindling, especially early in the season when the
firewood is often still wet.
A short distance
south of the Ross Lake campground is another extensive campground
at Hozameen, Washington. Just past the ranger station's A-frame
residence is a boat launch, beach, and dozens of campsites beside
the lake. On a benchland above the lake are several dozen more sites,
most of which remain unoccupied except on American long weekends
in summer. There is no charge for camping at Hozameen.