Anglers and swimmers alike gravitate to Juniper Beach Provincial Park. Juniper Beach is one of the few access points to the Thompson River between Savona and Spences Bridge. One of the newest parks in British Columbia, it was created to help protect a desert landscape. Some of the world’s best steelhead fishing is found here. In July, you’ll be able to watch sockeye salmon as they travel upstream to spawn in the Adams River. Visitors can pretend to join them by taking a plunge in a large, natural pool that is separated from the river for swimming. Take Hwy 1 east from Cache Creek for about 12 miles (19 km).
Steelhead Provincial Park, a recently created park, is located on the southwest shore of Kamloops Lake. Summer recreation draws a crowd, but at other times you’ll have this park and its wonderfully eroded landscape to yourself. This is an angling hot spot, too. Take Hwy 1 about 22 miles (35 km) east of Cache Creek.
Niskonlith Lake Provincial Park offers camping in a lushly forested environment, sheltered by towering cottonwoods. (Allergy sufferers beware in June.) Spring wildflowers bloom in extraordinary profusion, as birds make their northern migration through this area of the Shuswap Highlands. Come fall, the birds are back again. Fishing and easygoing hiking are both good reasons to camp here. Take the mostly gravel road off Hwy 1 about 9 miles (15 km) northwest of Chase.
The drive north along Hwy 5 from Kamloops brings you almost immediately past the turnoff to Paul Lake; from there on it’s about 60 miles (100 km) until you reach a concentration of parks in the region of Wells Gray Provincial Park, which offers splendid camping opportunities.
Paul Lake Provincial Park lies just north of Kamloops. The park’s vehicle/tent sites are as popular with RVers as the extensive picnic grounds are with day trippers. The park features a car-top boat launch, and an easy, 8-mile (13-km) round-trip hiking trail leads to a great view of the lake and nearby Harper Mountain. Take Hwy 5 north of Kamloops; turn east off the highway and drive for about 11 miles (17 km) on paved road. The total distance from the city is about 17 miles (24 km).
North Thompson River Provincial Park includes a quiet campground with vehicle/tent sites on the banks of the North Thompson River. A riverside picnic area, a playground, and trails complement the campsites in a forested area near the confluence of the Clearwater and North Thompson Rivers. Canoeing and kayaking are superb, as is the hiking. Smooth depressions in the ground are evidence of former Native Canadian habitation in the park; check out the two archaeological sites as well. Take Hwy 5 for 73 miles (118 km) north of Kamloops.
Wells Gray Provincial Park is one of British Columbia’s largest and most spectacular parks. There are five major lakes here, as well as two large river systems, numerous small lakes, streams, and waterways, and a multitude of waterfalls, rapids, and cataracts. Although boating and paddling are major attractions for campers, the area has something for everyone. There are four formal camping areas in the park: at Dawson Falls Campground, located 5 miles/8 km north of the Hemp Creek entrance, Clearwater Lake Campground, Falls Creek Campground at Clearwater Lake, 20 miles/32 km north of the Hemp Creek entrance), and Mahood Lake Campground at the west end of Mahood Lake, 55 miles/88 km east of Hwy 97 and 100 Mile House. There’s also wilderness camping at various sites on Azure, Clearwater, Mahood, and Murtle Lakes.
Visit Spahats Creek Provincial Park as much for the scenery as for a good night’s rest. This small park has a viewpoint from which you can see the 400-foot-deep (122-m) canyon carved by the creek as it cuts through the layers of lava that form the walls of the canyon. Nearby is a waterfall that spills from Spahats Creek into the Clearwater River. The park is popular with visitors on their way to Wells Gray Provincial Park, and in fall is bedecked with glorious colour. From Clearwater, take Hwy 5 north about 7 miles (11 km), and turn west on the paved road towards Wells Gray Provincial Park.
Between Wells Gray Provincial Park and Mount Robson Provincial Park at the north end of the Yellowhead Highway, Valemount has a good municipal campground beside Swift Creek, with vehicle/tent sites. It features partial hookups for RVs and is open from April to October.
Mount Robson Provincial Park has three camping areas: Robson Meadows Campground and Robson River Campground both near the western boundary, and Lucerne Campground, just west of the Alberta border. Reservations are recommended in summer; call (800) 689-9025. Wilderness campsites are also located along the Berg Lake Trail. The park’s backcountry trails are open throughout the year, although the vehicle-accessible campgrounds, the day-use areas and the Visitor Centre are generally open only when they are free of snow, usually from May to October. Take Hwy 16 east from its junction with Hwy 5 in Tete Jaune Cache into the park, which is adjacent to the Alberta border and Jasper National Park. Park headquarters are located on Hwy 16 at the Mount Robson Viewpoint on the western border of the park in the Mount Robson Visitors Centre. Park staff are on hand to provide current reports on conditions within the park.
Camping in the Nicola Valley/Coquihalla Highway Area
The scent of sagebrush fills the air in Skihist Provincial Park, a park with a historical flavour. Situated high above the junction of the Thompson and Fraser Rivers, the park encompasses a section of the old Cariboo Wagon Road, used by early settlers and travellers here in the heart of the Thompson First Nation. The best things about this park are the Saskatoon berries, which you can munch on when they’re in season, and the whitewater river-rafting. Arrange a trip at nearby Lytton or Spences Bridge. Go about 5 miles (8 km) north of Lytton on Hwy 1.
Right on the Thompson River, Goldpan Provincial Park is the park of choice for anglers. The Thompson Nation has fished here for centuries, and still do. It’s great for steelhead during the busiest time, mid-October to December. If you’re river rafting, you might overnight here, as Goldpan Provincial Park is used as a rest stop for many commercial river-rafting companies. Swimming is fun here, too. Take Hwy 1 for 6 miles (10 km) south of Spences Bridge.
Monck Provincial Park offers vehicle/tent campsites. Located on the northwest side of Nicola Lake, 13.6 miles (22 km) north of Merritt, this is a good park for the entire family. From Hwy 5, a 7.4-mile (12-km) paved road follows the northwest side of the lake to the park, which is open May through October. Hiking trails, including an interpretive walk to some lava beds, provide spectacular views of the valley and surrounding countryside. The park features a visitor program and amphitheatre, boat launch, horseshoe pitches, and three archaeological sites. This area of the Nicola Valley was a winter encampment for Natives for centuries before European settlers arrived. Pithouse depressions remain near the park’s beach as evidence of their habitation.
Numerous small, rustic campsites are located in this region, administered by Recreation Sites and Trails BC (formerly maintained by the BC Forest Service). They are located near lakes and rivers, blending in with the natural surroundings. Although these sites do not offer sophisticated amenities such as power hookups and piped water, they include basic sanitary facilities, fire rings, picnic tables, and, where appropriate, boat-launch ramps. Access is mostly via narrow unpaved roads, not always suitable for large RVs. Three popular sites with two-wheel-drive access via gravel road are those at Harmon Lake West, Harmon Lake East, and Kane Lake can be reached from Hwy 5 or 5A. To find them, drive about 12 miles (20 km) south of Merritt on Hwy 5A, then about 5 miles (8 km) west on the Kane Valley Forest Road. A brochure/map indicating these sites and many others is available from the Merritt Forest District, in Merritt.
Also accessible via the Lac Le Jeune exit from Hwy 5 is Walloper Lake Provincial Park, 18.6 miles (30 km) southwest of Kamloops.
The largest provincial campground in this area is Lac Le Jeune Provincial Park, located 23 miles (37 km) southwest of Kamloops. From Hwy 5, take the Lac Le Jeune exit. An alternate access route is an 18-mile (29-km) paved road from Hwy 1. Open mid-May through September, this lakeside park with vehicle/tent sites is surrounded by lodgepole pine and pinegrass forests. Besides camping and water sports, it provides lakeshore hiking opportunities, horseshoe pitches, and visitor-program activities in its amphitheatre. The park also contains two archaeological sites.
McConnell Lake Provincial Park is 102 hectares of natural wilderness located just south of Kamloops. The park encompasses several small lakes and is famous for its fly-fishing. McConnell Lake has been known to produce 1.5+ kg rainbow trout!
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.