Camping in the Fraser Valley
North Fraser Valley
As you approach Vancouver, campsites get as rare as courtesy in rush-hour traffic. Out in the Fraser Valley, where folks have more breathing space, there are a number of stunningly beautiful public campgrounds.
East of Maple Ridge, the countryside becomes noticeably less populated. The well-marked turnoff to Rolley Lake Provincial Park is at the mill town of Ruskin and lies 6 miles (10 km) north of Hwy 7. Before reaching Ruskin, the highway passes beside the small river towns of Albion and Whonnock. A ferry service links Albion with Fort Langley on the south side of the Fraser. Although much more modest in size than Golden Ears Provincial Park, Rolley Lake Provincial Park’s vehicle/tent campsites are more spaciously laid out. Special features include hot showers and darling Rolley Lake nearby. There is a camping fee.
A second major park worth investigating for overnight camping in the North Fraser Valley is Sasquatch Provincial Park. The park, named for the elusive Big Foot reputed to inhabit this densely wooded region, is located on the east side of Harrison Lake, almost 4 miles (6 km) north of Harrison Hot Springs. Harrison Hot Springs lies 4 miles (6.5 km) north of the junction of Hwys 7 and 9. Rockwell Drive leads out to the park and winds beside chilly Harrison Lake’s east side to the park’s Green Point day-use area. Warmer waters are found in the three small lakes located several miles inland from Green Point. Two of them – Hicks Lake and Deer Lake – feature vehicle campsites spread out near their shores. On summer evenings, natural history talks are presented at the amphitheatres at both sites. Hicks is the larger of the two lakes. The facilities at diminutive Deer Lake are geared more towards families with young children.
There’s camping west of Harrison Lake on Harrison Bay, where vehicle/tent campsites are located just south of Hwy 7 beside the beach at Kilby Provincial Park. The setting is lovely, but there’s not much privacy between sites here.
South Fraser Valley
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. Chilliwack and Skagit both make you kick up some dust along their gravel approaches.
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. Follow either of two signed exits as the highway passes through Chilliwack. During summer months the gatehouse at the entrance to the park is open 24 hours a day. If you are seeking camping space, register here. At other times of the year simply choose your own site. There are four campgrounds within the park, at Entrance Bay, Clear Creek, Delta Grove, and Maple Bay. The sites at Delta Grove are the closest to the lake. All campgrounds have very clean facilities, though the amount of hot water for showering depends on the time of day and the number of visitors competing for it. Firewood is supplied at the campsites. An overnight camping fee is charged from April to October; at other times camping is free, but services are limited.
Chilliwack Lake Provincial Park is located about 30 miles (50 km) east of Cultus Lake. Take the Chilliwack Lake exit (exit 104) south from Hwy 1, then go 9 miles (14 km) south on No. 3 Road to Chilliwack River Road, and finally 26 miles (42 km) to the lake. The pavement gives way to a well-maintained gravel road for the last 7.5 miles (12 km). Situated on a bluff at the narrow lake’s north end, the park has vehicle/tent sites, the most attractive of which are located beneath some large ponderosa pines at lakeside. A wide, sandy beach spreads out below the bluff while, high above, the snowfields of Mount Corriveau present themselves like the Great Wall of China. There’s a soothing sound from the nearby Chilliwack River, which drains north out of the lake and immediately turns to whitewater. The lake and river form the park’s southern and western perimeter, respectively. An old trail follows the river to its confluence with Post Creek. Bootprints keep the path smooth in summer, while in winter these trails are popular with cross-country skiers.
There are also rustic Forest Service recreation sites near Chilliwack Lake at Post Creek Campground and at the lake’s midpoint at Paleface Creek Campground. (Note: Of the two, Paleface is less prone to rowdies, though there are no guarantees at any of these unsupervised sites.)
If you look at a map of the Skagit Valley prior to the 1960s, you will notice that a road once ran through here into Washington State. Seattle City Light power company logged the Washington side of the valley and flooded it in the late 1960s to provide hydroelectric power. Although the Skagit’s headwaters lie east of here in Manning Provincial Park, the river flows south into Ross Lake. Assuming its river form again at the lake’s south end, it flows through Washington’s own Skagit Valley to meet Puget Sound near La Conner. There are three campgrounds located along the road into the Skagit Valley, which begins off Hwy 1 just west of the town of Hope at the eastern end of the Fraser Valley. Take the Hope Business Road exit and drive a short distance to the well-marked Silver-Skagit Road turnoff. A sign posted here for the benefit of American visitors indicates ‘Hozameen 38 Miles.’ (Hozameen – or Hozomeen, as it’s spelled in Canada – is the site of a US ranger station at the north end of Ross Lake and the only road access to the lake.) Silver-Skagit Rd is paved for only a short distance south before turning to well-graded gravel for most of its 43.5-mile (70-km) length. Watch for Silver Lake Provincial Park, 3.7 miles (6 km) past the bridge over Silverhope Creek. A small campground is located here with several dozen vehicle/tent sites. Although not within the Skagit Valley itself, the rugged landscape that rises above this campground gives a flavour for what lies ahead.
As the road leads south of Silver Lake, it passes beside some of the best fishing streams in the Lower Mainland. There are many small wilderness campsites visible from the road beside Silverhope Creek, and the Klesilkwa and Skagit Rivers.
Just south of the entrance to Skagit Valley Provincial Park is Silvertip Provincial Campground which, along with the Ross Lake Provincial Campground 15 miles (25 km) farther south, provides the best sites for camping. There are well-spaced vehicle/tent sites at Silvertip, the prettiest of which are located on the banks of the Skagit River. The forest here is a thick mix of Douglas fir and western red cedar. The wind whistling through their branches, combined with the Skagit’s rushing water, soundproofs the environment around each campsite and gives campers a sense of privacy. Mount Rideout rears up behind Silvertip, at 8,029 feet (2447 m) so tall (and the campground so close) that its peak is obscured from view here by its lower ridges. You only get a true sense of its grandeur when you look up as you journey farther south towards Ross Lake. Ross Lake Provincial Campground has vehicle/tent campsites on the lake’s north shore. Some sites sit in an open area beside the lake, while the majority are set back in the shelter of the nearby woods. Although not as cozy a setting as Silvertip, the views from here are stunning, as several major peaks rise above the lake. Owing to their height, the tops of these Cascade Mountain peaks escaped the most recent period of glaciation and boast a more rugged, less rounded appearance than their Coast Mountain counterparts to the north.
Bring your own dry supply of kindling, especially early in the season when the firewood is often still wet.
A short distance south of the Ross Lake campground is another extensive campground at Hozameen, Washington. Just past the ranger station’s A-frame residence is a boat launch, beach, and dozens of campsites beside the lake. On a benchland above the lake are several dozen more sites, most of which remain unoccupied except on American long weekends in summer. There is no charge for camping at Hozameen.
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.