Once you’re off the main highway, a huge selection of camping possibilities present themselves. There are many excellent, small, user-maintained Forest Service sites available to the explorer at no cost. Unfortunately, a good map, a strong sense of direction, a little luck, and occasionally a really big four-wheel-drive vehicle are necessary to find these pocket campgrounds. If you’re not into searching back roads for Forest Service campsites, but instead want the formality provided (for a fee), maps are available at Visitor Centres located in major towns along Hwy 16.
One of the easier Forest Service sites to find in this area is the Hogsback Lake Forest Service Site. The turnoff south of Hwy 16 is 6 miles (10 km) east of Vanderhoof. The lake is about the same distance beyond on Mapes Road.
Follow the signs 35 miles (57 km) north of Vanderhoof on Hwy 27 to Fort St. James, and then on to your choice of two provincial parks on the 60-mile-long (100-km) Stuart Lake: Paarens Beach Provincial Park or Sowchea Bay Provincial Park, located just 3 miles (5 km) west of Paarens Beach, both along Sowchea Rd. Reservations are possible at Paarens Beach Provincial Park by calling the BC Parks reservation line, between May 1 and September 15. Note: Most parks in this region do not officially open until late May, once the snow has melted and the ice is gone from the lakes.
Beaumont Provincial Park lies just off Hwy 16 on Fraser Lake near the community of the same name, 25 miles (40 km) west of Vanderhoof. The site has open views of the big lake, and the breeze that blows here helps keep the mosquitoes away. In the 1840s, Beaumont was the site of historic Fort Fraser, and there are still a few signs of the habitation around the park.
Ethel F. Wilson Memorial Provincial Park, on Pinkut Lake, is located 14.5 miles (24 km) north of the town of Burns Lake via unpaved Babine Rd, and is popular with local anglers plying the waters for rainbow trout.
About 7 miles (11 km) beyond the Ethel F. Wilson Provincial Park is the first of three campgrounds situated along the western shore of the massive Babine Lake. Camping at Babine Lake Marine Park (Pendleton Bay) , is primitive. Most people use this area as a starting point for excursions onto Babine Lake. Farther up the lake is RRed Bluff Provincial Park, named for iron-stained cliffs that plunge into Babine. There are camping fees in summer for use of the campsites. The park is located 28 miles (45 km) north of Topley off Hwy 16 on paved Granisle Hwy. About 24 miles (40 km) beyond Red Bluff, past the community of Granisle, is Babine Lake Marine Park (Smithers Landing). This is the most northerly of the parks on Babine Lake, and lies 34 miles (56 km) off Hwy 16 on Granisle Hwy. There are primitive sites and very little development past the boat launch.
Tyhee Lake Provincial Park, located just north of Telkwa, less than a mile (1 km) north of Hwy 16, is a lightly forested park in the Bulkley Valley and has vehicle/tent sites. The main activities in the park are swimming, boating, fishing, and bird-watching.
Houston’s Steelhead Park is one of the largest and most attractive municipal parks along Hwy 16. Look for it in the centre of town beside a giant fly-rod. Pretty catchy! In summer, the vehicle/tent site is surrounded by colourful shrubs and flowerbeds.
The Northwest features truly beautiful campgrounds, most of which are easily reached from the main highways. After a full day exploring the region, stroll through old-growth forests in search of wildlife, throw a line in the water, or just sit back and drink in the dramatic landscape.
After Hwy 16 leaves Smithers heading west, the first campground is Seeley Lake Provincial Park, located 6 miles (10 km) west of New Hazelton. The Hazelton Mountains and the sheer pyramid of Mount Roche Deboule form a dramatic backdrop, and the lake provides trout fishing, canoeing, and wildlife viewing. You’ll also find a fascinating Native legend about a mythological monster associated with Seeley Lake posted here. The tale was used to instruct children on the need to respect all of nature’s creations, a lesson that is still timely today.
Kleanza Creek Provincial Park is located 6 miles (10 km) east of Terrace on Hwy 16. Located in a truly lovely setting in a canyon beside a creek, and ideally suited for picnics, the park runs along one side of the Skeena River and both sides of Kleanza Creek. Hiking trails lead to views of the canyon and abandoned gold mines.
Lakelse Lake Provincial Park is located 12 miles (20 km) south of Terrace along Hwy 37. To get there, follow signs to the park from Hwy 16 on the Terrace-Kitimat Airport access road. This is a popular, well-developed campground, set in old-growth forests.
Ferry Island Municipal Campground and Park is located just east of Terrace near the junction of Hwys 16 and 37, on Ferry Island in the mighty Skeena River.
Exchamsiks River Provincial Park (vehicle/tent sites, including several on the banks of the river) is one of the most beautifully situated parks in the region. A Sitka spruce forest towers above the campsites, picnic tables, and boat launch. The campground is located beside Highway 16, about 34 miles (55 km) west of Terrace.
Prudhomme Lake Provincial Park lies 10 miles (16 km) east of Prince Rupert on Hwy 16 on a small lake, with a boat launch for anglers and paddlers. It’s also the closest public campground for those connecting with BC Ferries’ Inside Passage route and the Alaska ferry. For a dip in refreshing water, sunbathing, or a walk along a rain-forest nature trail, Diana Lake Provincial Park, adjacent to Prudhomme Lake Provincial Park, is a much-frequented day-use area with facilities, close to Prince Rupert.
For a campsite farther from the highway, Lachmach Forest Service Campground is accessed via the Lachmach Forestry Road; four-wheel-drive vehicles are recommended in heavy rain. Turn northeast off of Hwy 16 near the abandoned town of Haysport, near Prince Rupert. The roadside campsites are in a forested setting at the south end of Work Channel. The campground offers fishing, and the only facility provided is a primitive boat launch.
The world’s largest intact coastal rain forest is protected in the Kitlope Heritage Conservancy (Huchsduwachsdu Nuyem Jees). Kitimat is the closest settlement, about 84 miles (135 km) northwest of the protected area by water. The park covers a 784,000-acre (317500 ha) valley, the ancestral home of the Haisla Nation, and includes stands of trees that are more than 800 years old. Three rivers – the Gamsby, Tezwa, and Tsaytis – feed into the Kitlope River, which then enters the head of the sinuous Gardner Canal. Drooping stands of western hemlock interspersed with Douglas fir cloak the domed mountains. As there are no developed trail or camping facilities, first-time visitors are advised to contact a guiding service.
Many parts of this region are worth a short visit, which is what picnics are all about. Smithers Municipal Campground, on Kathryn Lake Rd near Hwy 16 in Smithers, and Ross Lake Provincial Park, about 38 miles (62 km) west of Smithers on Hwy 16, are two such places. Ross Lake also offers canoeing, swimming, fly-fishing, and hiking.
For handy stopping spots with picnic tables and views of the beautiful Skeena River Valley along Hwy 16, check out the Exstew Rest Area on Hwy 16, about 25 miles (40 km) west of Terrace; the Kasiks Rest Area, about halfway between Prince Rupert and Terrace (complete with a boat launch); and the Telegraph Point Rest Area, about 34 miles (55 km) east of Prince Rupert.
Organized camping is sparse in the great wilderness of the northwest. There are some small, 2- or 3-vehicle Forest Service recreation sites in the first 60 miles (100 km) north along Hwy 37 from Kitwanga, and a handful more east of the highway along Forest Service roads. Most Forest Service recreation sites in this region are small, with room for at most 10 vehicles, but there are a few larger sites, including Morchuea Lake, which has a boat launch and good views of Mount Edziza, about 43 miles (70 km) south of Dease Lake. This campground borders the Stikine River Provincial Park and is an excellent starting point for trips into this vast area. Allen Lake Forest Service Recreation Site, a medium-size campground, is located next to the town of Dease Lake. Watch for the Sawmill Point Forest Service Recreation Site, also a medium-size campground, just west of Hwy 37, about 25 miles (40 km) farther north along majestic Dease Lake.
A rough Forest Service road runs southwest from the town of Dease Lake, skirts the Grand Canyon of the Stikine River, and connects with the must-see town of Telegraph Creek. A few miles downriver from Telegraph Creek is a trio of Forest Service recreation sites on the banks of the Stikine: Glenora, Witner Creek, and Dodjatin Creek. Together, these provide space for more than 40 vehicles on the banks of this spectacular river.
French Creek Forest Service Recreation Site, a medium-size campground on the banks of the Dease River, is located 15 miles (25 km) north of Boya Lake. Jade City is located on the Stewart/Cassiar Highway (Hwy 37), 2 hours south of Watson Lake near the British Columbia/Yukon border, an hour south of Boya Lake Park, and 2 hours north of Dease Lake. The Jade Store operates a 40-site camping and RV campground, with clean restrooms and a hot shower available. Although sparcely populated, this is a beautiful area – it really is God’s Country!! The Forest Service site that is farthest north, however, is Morley Lake Forest Service Recreation Site, located about 120 miles (200 km) west of the junction of Hwys 37 and 97. The junction is in Yukon, but the Alaska Hwy dips south into British Columbia for a few miles, and Morley Lake Forest Service Recreation Site is located on the very border. The lake itself is in Yukon, but the medium-size Forest Service site is under British Columbia’s jurisdiction.
Hwy 7 makes its way south from Jakes Corner in Yukon to Atlin and Atlin Provincial Park and Recreation Area. There’s a half dozen Forest Service recreation sites within a 30-mile (50-km) radius of the town of Atlin, the largest of which are Surprise Lake, about 20 miles (35 km) east of Atlin on a Forest Service road, and Warm Bay, just south of Atlin on Atlin Lake. But if you’ve made it to Warm Bay, you might consider going a few more miles to try to find a site at The Grotto, about 12 miles (20 km) beyond Atlin. There’s space only for a few overnight vehicles (it’s primarily a day-use site), but the warm springs here should encourage you to make an effort to secure a spot. If not, the springs are easily reached from the other Forest Service recreation sites.
BC Parks does not maintain campgrounds in any of its large wilderness parks in the northwest. If you plan on camping in these parks, make sure you bear-proof your site, and camp where you will have the least impact on the environment. However, there are three fine provincial parks with camping that most of us only dream about. Meziadin Lake Provincial Park, about 96 miles (155 km) north of Kitwanga, fills up quickly in summer; many of its picturesque campsites are right at lakeside. Kinaskan Lake Provincial Park is located 225 miles (365 km) north of Kitwanga. The campsites in this park are enough to make you drool: killer views west across the wide lake to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. The other campground of substance is Boya Lake Provincial Park, 27 miles (45 km) northeast of Cassiar and about 45 miles (75 km) south of the British Columbia-Yukon border. The blue waters of this lake coupled with the sight of the Horseranch Range and the Cassiar Mountains will make you cry.
Campgrounds & RV Parks
Information on Provincial Park Campgrounds and Reservations, National Park Campgrounds and Reservations, Camping on Crown Land in BC Recreation Sites, Frequently Asked Questions on Parks and Campgrounds, and Provincial Park User Fees. Go to Campgrounds & RV Parks.