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.
Cultus 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. This 656 hectare park is almost perfectly divided by the 5km long Cultus Lake. The northwest portion of the park remains undeveloped with most of the visitor facilities concentrated in the southeast portion of the park. Adjacent to the southeast boundary is the International Ridge Provincial Park, 1,905 hectares of untamed wilderness, which together with Cultus Lake Park provides a large protected natural environment in the Columbia Valley. In the past, Cultus Lake was known as Swee-ehl-chah or Tsowallie by local native people. The lake was named after an old native legend, which considered the lake to be bad. Cultus is a Chinook word derived from the Salish word Kul meaning bad or worthless.
Cultus Lake has the third largest campground in the province after Manning and Golden Ears. There are 295 vehicle/tent sites divided amongst four separate campgrounds throughout the park – Maple Bay, Delta Grove, Clear Creek and Entrance Bay. All of the campgrounds are located on the east side of Cultus Lake near the highway. The campsites range in size, location and features, and include some group campsites. In addition to basic facilities, flush toilets, showers and a sani-station are provided. These campgrounds, as well as their adjoining day-use/picnic areas are wheelchair accessible. There is also a children’s playground at the Entrance Bay campground. There is no camping permitted on the west side of Cultus Lake.
Entrance Bay, Spring Bay, and Maple Bay all have a beach and picnic day-use area, where neatly trimmed grass lawns roll down to the shoreline. Tall cottonwoods shade the banks of the beach and the narrow pathways that traverse the shoreline. No matter what time of year you visit here, the setting bespeaks long, hot, breezy summer days. Change houses and washrooms are provided near the beaches. In the summer, educational interpretive programs are offered at the amphitheatre located in the Maple Bay campground.
Campground Dates with Full Services and Fees:
Clear Creek campground, May 19 – September 4
Delta Grove campground, April 13 – October 9
Entrance Bay campground, April 1 – October 9
Maple Bay campground, June 16 – September 4.
Cultus Lake is a popular location for waterskiing and jet-boating, but one of the most enjoyable ways to visit here is in the tranquillity provided by a canoe or kayak. You don’t have to paddle far out from the undulating shoreline to get a good look at International Ridge, which rises above the east side of the lake. In fall, the ridge blazes with colour. There are two boat launches available – one is located at the Maple Bay campground and the other is at the Entrance Bay campground. For those that are able to find a peaceful corner away from the boating enthusiasts, Cultus Lake contains stocks of Coho, Chinook, pink and sockeye salmon, rainbow and cutthroat trout, and Dolly Varden.
Cultus Lake isn’t the only attraction in the park, as there are several hiking trails nearby. The most popular is the 5km trek to the top of Teapot Hill, which offers fantastic views of Cultus Lake and the surrounding Columbia Valley. Because the slopes of International Ridge are forested with an eye-pleasing mix of everygreen and mature deciduous trees, the hillside burns with colour in fall and gleams with fresh green in early spring. Salmonberry bushes are plentiful in this lush, ferned environment. Another favourite is the short 40 minute Giant Douglas-Fir Trail, which leads to one of the park’s largest residents. Seven Sisters Trail connects Entrance Bay and Clear Creek Campgrounds. Along the trail, stands a group of large Douglas-fir trees. Cultus Lake Horse Trail is 20 km round trip (5 hours), traveling from Edmeston Road to Watt Creek, which joins the north and south ends of the park.
Cultus Lake Provincial Park, on the east side of Cultus Lake, is located 11km south of Hwy 1. Other provincial parks nearby are Chilliwack Lake Provincial Park and Sasquatch Provincial Park.
Nearby Regions & Towns