Camping in the Okanagan
You could spend months exploring the Okanagan Valley region. There are more than 60 provincial parks, and dozens and dozens of recreation sites. If you want the basic campground, with pit toilets, campsites, and firewood, the provincial parks will satisfy. They are popular, however, and souls looking for more undisturbed places will not want to miss wilderness camping in some of the remote areas, such as Okanagan Mountain Provincial Park. Here’s your briefing on the parks that are a good destination for day trips, easy camping, and picnics, from south to north along Hwy 97.
About two minutes south of Osoyoos on Osoyoos Lake, considered the warmest lake in Canada, is Haynes Point Provincial Park. Part of the attraction here is the park’s rainbow trout and bass fishing (there’s a boat ramp) and its wildlife. A little more than 12 acres (4.8 ha) of the park are covered by a marsh and sandy spit lined with cottonwoods, making it great place for observing some of nature’s fascinating creatures and their habits. Swimmers will like it too, and the lake-frontage campsites are the ones to aim for.
Inkaneep Provincial Park 4 miles (6 km) north of Oliver on Hwy 97, is a cool riverside respite from the Okanagan sun. A trail provides access to the Okanagan River and some good spots for camping, fishing, and canoeing, but take binoculars; the area’s thickets are a well-known habitat for birds such as the black-headed grosbeak, American redstart, northern oriole, and many others. Some unique flora and fauna are present in the nearby ecological reserve.
There are campsites in two separate campgrounds on the west side of the lake in Okanagan Lake Provincial Park, 15 miles (24 km) north of Penticton. This is a scenic, well-developed site, with sandy beaches along the lake backed by uplands of ponderosa pine and sagebrush. The park is open year-round and is suitable for day use and picnics, but campers should be prepared for crowds during the peak season. Across the lake (accessible by boat) is over 24,700 acres (10,000 hectares) of wilderness in Okanagan Mountain Provincial Park. Take Hwy 97 15 miles (24 km) north of Penticton.
If you’re looking for a short break from the central Okanagan’s summer heat, Bear Creek Provincial Park may be the place to visit for easy camping and picnics. Here, 15 minutes from downtown Kelowna, is everything from soft beaches to a wild, rocky canyon. On the lakeshore are beautiful, sandy beaches and a parkland campground with showers and a horseshoe pit. In the open hillside behind the campsites are 14 miles (23 km) of trail to explore. Wildlife abounds here. Take Hwy 97 6 miles (9 km) west of Kelowna. The park’s on the west side of Okanagan Lake.
Fintry Provincial Park is a getaway with a historical flavour. Located on the west side of Okanagan Lake, its site was the transportation hub of the valley; Hudson’s Bay Company fur brigade traders passed through here. Easy walking through the park will bring you to the waterfalls and the deep pools of Shorts Creek. The surrounding hillsides have a canopy of ponderosa pine and Douglas fir. In addition to the campsites, there is a large picnic and day-use area. Take Westside Road off Hwy 97 (south of Kelowna) and drive north for 21 miles (34 km) north of Kelowna on Westside Road.
The rocky, forested headlands and sheltered, sandy bays of small Ellison Provincial Park await you on the east side of Okanagan Lake, just a few miles south of Vernon. Walking trails provide access to the headlands that separate two beautiful bays, offering boulder-climbing excitement and wildflower photo opportunities. The bays are good fishing spots, attracting carp, burbot, kokanee, and trout. (A car-top boat launch is located just north of the park, and a full boat-launch facility is about 5 miles (8 km) north of the park.) Take Hwy 97 for 10 miles (16 km) south from Vernon; there is paved access from Vernon only.
Located northeast of Vernon at the southeast end of Mabel Lake, Mabel Lake Provincial Park is situated in a valley formed by the glaciers of the last ice age. The park’s sandy shoreline is backed by a forest of hemlock, red cedar, and birch, in sharp contrast to the drier ponderosa pine and Douglas fir forests of the Thompson Plateau to the west. Summer camping here is ideal for those who prefer a cooler locale than the Okanagan Valley. You might spot a deer or black bear; you’ll definitely see a variety of waterfowl and other birdlife. The lake offers good rainbow-trout fishing. From Vernon, take Hwy 6 east to Lumby, then go northeast. It’s 50 miles (76 km) to the park; the last 22 miles (35 km) are gravel.
Yet another popular, scenic spot in the north Okanagan is Echo Lake Provincial Park east of Lumby, with its large group campground, boat rentals, cabins, and campsites at Echo Lake Resort, within the park.
Camping in the The Shuswap
Shuswap Lake Provincial Park is wildly popular. Everything you need for summer fun is right here: camping, picnicking, fishing, boating, paddling, swimming, hiking, windsurfing, sailing, houseboating, water-skiing, nature study, photography, visitor programs, and bicycling. With 7 miles (12 km) of paved trails, Shuswap Lake may also be the cycling capital of the BC Parks system. The park is open in the fall during the Adams River salmon run. (Don’t confuse this park with Shuswap Lake Marine Provincial Park). Take Hwy 1 about 56 miles (90 km) east of Kamloops, turn off towards Scotch Creek, then go about 12 miles (20 km) farther.
Shuswap Lake Marine Provincial Park is one of the most popular boating and canoeing locations in the Southern Interior. Shuswap Marine park is comprised of sites located around the perimeter of Shuswap Lake (on Main Arm, Seymour Arm, Anstey Arm, Salmon Arm, and Mara Lake). All locations are popular for fishing and water sports, and some offer hiking and nature study. Some sites are road accessible, but most are water-access only. Facilities at the sites vary from nothing to wilderness tenting sites with a pit toilet. An undeveloped camping area is found near the mouth of Celesta Creek at Albas, five rustic sites are provided at Encounter Point, and five wilderness campsites are located in an attractive forested setting at Two Mile Creek. There are rustic campsites at Anstey Beach, five at Anstey View, seven wilderness campsites at Four Mile Creek, and wilderness campsites at Marble Point.
Silver Beach Provincial Park is located at the end of a long, gravel road at the head of Seymour Arm on Shuswap Lake. Its size and distance from Hwy 1 keep many visitors at bay. Check it out for yourself; it’s worth it. This part of the lake is as blessed with sandy beaches. Houseboaters come here to get away from it all. The park’s forest setting is lovely – Douglas fir interwoven with aspen. Paddle around the mouth of the Seymour River to watch the salmon spawn from mid-August to mid-September. Also nearby are the remains of a gold-rush town. Go almost 11 miles (17 km) on Hwy 1 from Chase northeast to Scotch Creek, then take the 40-mile (65-km) logging road to the park.
Herald Provincial Park is also situated along the shore of Shuswap Lake, on Salmon Arm. The park is very popular and fills up quickly during July and August. For these months, reservations should be made well in advance. If you can’t make a reservation, put your name on the waiting list for the small number of first-come, first-served sites that are available each day at noon. Campsites are located both at lakeside and a short distance uphill in the cool forest. Swimming, fishing, and bird-watching are the order of the day here. For picnickers looking for a break from Hwy 1, it’s worth the short drive to reach the park, situated on the grounds of an old homestead; there’s a feeling about the place as if you’ve come to visit your grandparents. Take Hwy 1 east of Tappen for about 7 miles (12 km).
Yard Creek Provincial Park lies just east of Sicamous on Highway 1. Despite its roadside location, the park offers quiet, shady camping and is a pleasant stopover camp or even base camp when exploring the Shuswap. The icy temperature of Yard Creek precludes swimming on even the hottest days. Conversely, for much of the year, moist conditions prevail here in the eastern reaches of the Interior wetbelt. Take Hwy 1 almost 10 miles (15 km) west of Sicamous.
Camping in Similkameen Country
If you’re looking for a getaway less than three hours’ drive from Vancouver, Manning Provincial Park in Similkameen Country is it. There are six additional provincial parks that offer camping to travellers in the region south of the Okanagan Valley.
Manning Provincial Park has rain forests on its west side, grassland slopes on its east side, and between the two extremes lies a land of wild rivers, crystal lakes, towering peaks, and alpine meadows. The park is brimming with recreational opportunities year round. Hiking trails are its chief draw, but the park also offers horseback riding, swimming, canoeing, fishing, mountain biking, and, in winter, cross-country and downhill skiing. There are four camping areas: Hampton Campground, Mule Deer Campground, Coldspring Campground and Lightning Lake Campground. The latter is especially popular during the summer months. Wilderness camping is permitted in designated areas, but open fires are not encouraged. Manning Provincial Park straddles Highway 3 between Hope and Princeton. The park’s western entrance is 16 miles (26 km) east of Hope, its eastern entrance 30 miles (48 km) southwest of Princeton.
Bromley Rock Provincial Park, 13 miles (21 km) east of Princeton on Hwy 3, is a popular swimming hole with vehicle/tent sites in a pleasantly forested site along the Similkameen River. Hiking in the area (just outside the park) affords good views of the Similkameen Valley. Canoeing is also popular here, providing a downstream route to Stemwinder Provincial Park.
Stemwinder Provincial Park has vehicle/tent sites and is located at Hedley on Hwy 3, about 22 miles (35 km) east of Princeton. Stemwinder and Bromley Rock parks are open year round.
Cathedral Provincial Park, 30 miles (48 km) southeast of Princeton off Hwy 3, offers three campgrounds in its core area: Quiniscoe Lane, Pyramid, and Lake of the Woods. Fires are allowed only at Quiniscoe Lake, and private vehicles aren’t permitted in the core area of Cathedral, so you must hike in or arrange transportation with Cathedral Lakes Lodge.
Camping in Boundary Country
Johnstone Creek Provincial Park , located on Highway 3 near Rock Creek in Boundary Country, about 30 miles (45 km) east of Osoyoos, offers vehicle/tent sites situated in a scenic, peaceful area forested with Douglas fir, pine, and aspen. There is a picturesque waterfall on Johnstone Creek near its confluence with Rock Creek. Visitors can fish and hike.
Conkle Lake Provincial Park is located about northwest of Rock Creek. Conkle Lake can be reached by three different routes, however, all three are over rough, narrow, winding roads not suitable for motor homes, low-clearance vehicles, or towed trailers. This secluded park is a perfect place for a quiet vacation. It features vehicle/tent sites set in a forest of western larch, lodgepole pine, alder, and willow, and is a favourite with sunbathers, swimmers, and anglers. It is reached by travelling about 10 miles (16 km) west of Hwy 33 at Westbridge; 16 miles (26 km) from Hwy 3, about 4 miles (6 km) east of Bridesville; or almost 22 miles (35 km) east from Hwy 97 at Okanagan Falls.
You can camp beneath the cottonwoods at Boundary Creek Provincial Park, about 2 miles (3 km) west of Greenwood on Hwy 3, just north of the US border. This tranquil park offers vehicle/tent sites and the chance for patient anglers to catch rainbow and brook trout. Nearby are the remains of the old BC Copper Company smelter, which employed about 400 men from 1901 to 1918.
Providence Lake (also known as Marshall Lake) is located east of Greenwood on Hwy 3. Summer campers and fishers will find vehicle/tent sites at this lovely spot, and mountain bikers and hikers will enjoy the numerous old logging roads and abandoned railways that run throughout the area. Providence Lake cross-country ski trails begin here; pick up a trail map from the Forest Service’s Boundary District Office, 136 Sagamore Avenue, in Grand Forks.
Camping in the Kettle Valley
The Kettle River Recreation Area is named for the river that runs through it, and contains the abandoned right-of-way of the Kettle Valley Railway, which makes an excellent hiking trail. This recreation area features vehicle/tent sites, a picnic/day-use area, water, pit toilets, sani-station, firewood, trails, and an amphitheatre and visitor program. Remains of gold and silver mines that once brought thousands of people to this now peaceful area can be seen on the river’s eastern bank. In winter, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are favourite pastimes. There is a camping fee in summer. Follow Hwy 33 for 3 miles (5 km) north of Rock Creek.
Arlington Lakes Provincial Recreation Area, 6 miles (17 km) north of Beaverdell on Hwy 33, features small campsites on both sides of the southernmost lake. (There are three small lakes strung out in a row.) The area is good for biking and fishing, and a car-top boat launch is available, but visitors should be aware that the sites are heavily used, and although access is good for 2 miles (3 km) from Hwy 33, the road to the northwest site is narrow and not suitable for trailers or motor homes.
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.