Now that temperatures have risen above freezing and the sun is shining, we couldn´t help but day dream about all the hikes and camping trips we want to take this summer. But then we asked ourselves – why wait?
Here in British Columbia, we´re blessed with relatively warm temperatures compared to the rest of the country. So why not take advantage? However we must note – For those more accustomed to camping in the summer, the winter is a completely different beast. The below-freezing temperatures and dangerously unpredictable high avalanche terrain that characterize our province´s backcountry is no joke. Having the adequate education on safety and etiquette in the outdoors is a bare minimum before attempting any of these camping spots.
Even with that in mind, we can´t stress enough the importance of doing all the necessary preparations and research on snow and weather conditions before. Go with someone you know who is experienced and be hyper-aware of the changing conditions in the area. You´ve also got to keep in mind that access to these stunning BC winter camping locations requires either ski touring or snowshoeing in – and might not be for everyone.
For more information on etiquette and respect in the outdoors (all seasons), check out 7 Key Principles To Leave No Trace For Your Next Outdoor Adventure. There are also plenty of resources online on the importance of layering, the proper equipment necessary and other potentially life saving tips.
Now – Here´s 5 beautiful winter camping locations that we´re itching to check out.
1. Poland Lake, Manning Park
One of the most popular locations around BC for winter camping, E.C. Manning Park offers plenty of backcountry camping locations among various trails. The park has also just opened several drive-in, or managed winter camping sites like Skyview, Lone Duck and Cambie Creek. Poland Lake in particular is a unique site, alongside a picturesque alpine lake. There is plenty of snow up-there and if you get lucky, clear skies to star gaze from this remote location.
2. Elfin Lakes, Garibaldi Provincial Park
Garibaldi Park is a favourite for those wishing to explore the backcountry of world-renowned ski terrain along the Sea to Sky corridor. The popular Elfin Lakes public shelter is currently closed because of the pandemic, but that doesn´t mean you can´t adventure to this same, stunning winter camping location! Feast your eyes at astounding mountain-top sunsets, overlooking the most beautiful coastal range. Ski touring up here is really popular for a reason.
3. Forbidden Plateau, Strathcona Provincial Park
One of Vancouver Island´s most coveted spots, Strathcona Provincial Park is stunning year round. However, the winter here is very special with plenty of snowshoeing terrain, stunning gladed trails and picturesque alpine lakes. The highly popular Forbidden plateau trails are great options for those wanting to avoid difficult terrain but still experience the beauty of the backcountry. Much of this area falls inside dangerous avalanche terrain, so if even if you´re doing a day-hike, be adequately trained in backcountry safety and prepared with the necessary equipment.
4. Gold Creek, Golden Ears Provincial Park
This nearby site to Vancouver offers those wanting a winter camping experience, without the deep backcountry adventure. A safe option in terms of terrain, Golden Ears Provincial Park is a nice spot for beginners. The Gold Creek Campground is drive-in for those just wanting the sites, without the trekking. Even though this site is more accessible compared to others on the list, the dangers of cold temperatures still apply – be smart.
5. Porteau Cove Provincial Park
For those wanting to winter camp but not stray far from the ocean, it doesn´t get much more perfect than this. A favourite spot of ours in the summer, Porteau Cove Provincial Park is open for camping year round. It is in a prime location for any hikes you may want to do along the Howe Sound Crest Trail and literally right at the water´s edge. If you get lucky, you might even see a group of scuba divers heading to the old ship wreck sites on the other side of the pier.
If you´re looking to visit some of BC´s provincial parks, check out this interactive map that includes information on closures and what to expect at this time of year. Otherwise BC Parks also has information on other incredible winter experiences all over the province that we suggest checking out.
Please note reservation for backcountry camping is necessary for many of the provincial parks (normally for a small fee). Check ahead to see if this applies to you.