If you’re looking for a scenic place to camp, follow the Forest Service roads to Monkman Provincial Park. Up until a few years ago, just getting to Monkman was as big an adventure as exploring the park itself. Washed out Forest Service roads with nearly a dozen creek crossings kept access limited to four-wheel-drive vehicles, and only at certain times of the year. Though still fairly rough, the gravel road has been upgraded and bridges have been built, opening up the park to almost all vehicles.
One of the most outstanding features in Monkman Provincial Park is Kinuseo Falls. At 197 feet (60 metres), Kinuseo Falls is slightly taller than Niagara Falls. Though it doesn’t move the same volume of water as Niagara, it also lacks the tacky tourist get-up of the latter. The falls are located a short, but challenging, stroll from any of the campsites in the wild Rocky Mountain foothills. The campground is also a departure point for people making further explorations into the park.
Kinuseo Falls are just the tip of the wilderness in large (79,000-acre/32,000-hectare) Monkman Provincial Park. Day trippers should try hiking from the campground to the Murray River Crossing (moderate; 9 miles/14 km return). Allow at least two days to hike the 15 miles (24 km) to the south end of Monkman Lake. Don’t rush. Monkman is a place of stillness and beauty that should be savoured. From Monkman Lake you can hike into the surrounding mountains. Remember that the southeast corner of Monkman Provincial Park is prime grizzly bear habitat, and though it is not officially closed to visitors, it is recommended that you not head into this area, for the grizzlies’ sake and your own. Extreme caution should be exercised everywhere in the park to prevent confrontations with the bears, and only experienced backpackers should hike beyond Monkman Lake.
Monkman Provincial Park gets all the glory in the Tumbler Ridge area, but there are some excellent hiking trails nearby that are less lauded but equally pleasing. Multi-use trails surround the townsite, perfect for a day of hiking, mountain biking, or cross-country skiing. There is a clearing on the ridge that buttresses Tumbler Ridge’s east side, which looks for all the world like a bald patch. No wonder it’s known locally as the Bald Spot. To reach it, follow a power line that runs up the ridge to the viewpoint. It’s a mighty steep scramble, but the views west over the town and to the Rocky Mountains beyond are worth it.
Mountain biking, as it is understood in most of the province, is an unknown activity in northeastern British Columbia. Thousands of miles of logging road, both used and unused, stretch out before the fat tires that may be the first to leave an imprint here. Ski and snowmobile trails are plentiful, and see little action in the summer, occasionally for good reason: marshes freeze in the winter, eh? However, the intrepid mountain biker can follow cut lines, trap lines, and other trails that head into the bush. Very few trails have restrictions, so the trail to Monkman Lake can be turned into a mountain-biking trek, with no one to say otherwise.
The Kinuseo Falls campground in Monkman Provincial Park provides 42 vehicle/tent campsites and basic facilities – picnic tables, pit toilets, fire pits, firewood and water. The campground also has a day-use/picnic area and some horseshoe pits. The park is open from May to September and fees are collected from May to Labour Day.
To reach Monkman Provincial Park, travel 35 miles (60 km) south of Tumbler Ridge on Hwy 29. Follow the signs to Monkman’s campground past the colourful but now closed Quintette Coal Mine, which employs nearly half the Tumbler Ridge work force. Watch out for logging trucks and wildlife on the roads.
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