Stone Sheep and Motorhome on Highway
By Cheryl Rhodes
According to Destination Canada, hiking, watching wildlife, and camping are the most popular activities for Canadians when traveling domestically, and where better than British Columbia to experience all three!
British Columbia has walking and hiking trails for all fitness levels – everything from easy, flat trails on river dykes in Pitt Meadows, Matsqui, Quesnel, and other towns, to several day hikes with moderate to extreme levels of difficulty. The scenery on B.C.’s hiking trails ranges from the Pacific Ocean to old growth forests to colourful canyons. Get outside and enjoy nature.
Popular hikes include the picturesque West Coast Trail in Pacific Rim park on Vancouver Island, the Stawamus Chief in Squamish, Golden Ears Park in Maple Ridge, the Grouse Grind, the Okanagan High Rim Trail between Vernon and Kelowna, Iceline Trail in the Kootenays, the Berg Lake Trail in Mount Robson in the Rockies, and just about every ski resort during the off-season. Lesser known hikes can be found by checking a town’s web site or Club Tread, a great resource that lists hikes in the Pacific Northwest, the level of difficulty, and other information such as how to get there and where to park. Another source for Vancouver and area hikes is Vancouver Trails.
British Columbia is home to lots of wildlife, including marine mammals migrating along our coast, and our province lists many species including 488 birds, 142 mammals, 18 reptiles, 22 amphibians, 83 freshwater fish and 368 saltwater fish that can be found here. Unless you have a boat or enjoy scuba diving, much of the marine life won’t be visible, but whale watching tours can get enthusiasts a little closer to whales on their migratory trip between Alaska and Mexico. Our urban parks are full of squirrels, rabbits, and sometimes deer and coyotes plus many bird species, but generally most wildlife such as black bear, moose, elk, and bighorn sheep are found nearer the mountain ranges of BC. For more information check out the blog on the best places to spot wildlife in British Columbia.
People who love camping can stay at provincial campsites, private campgrounds, some national parks or BC Forestry sites. British Columbia provincial parks have some of the best campgrounds anywhere in the world. They’re well tended with good sized sites, have bathroom facilities, are clean, safe, and the views can be stunning with anything from mountains to lakes. There’s an online reservation system for provincial sites and if choosing popular campgrounds like Haynes Point in Osoyoos, book well in advance.
In the past campers who like to book online reservations using B.C.’s Discover Camping website often found it difficult to make a reservation where and when they wanted. But in 2017 BC Parks made a number of changes to the reservation system that have improved the ability to book a campsite. The reservation system now opens in January rather than mid-March and the three-month rolling reservation window has been extended so that you can book four months in advance of an individual campground’s first reservable date. Other changes have also been made.
Also in 2017, if you want to support BC’s provincial parks and show off this beautiful province, you can buy a BC Parks licence plate for your car, truck or RV, with a choice of three great BC scenes. Net proceeds from the sale and renewals are invested back into the parks system.
In celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday, Parks Canada is offering free 2017 Parks Canada Discovery Passes which provides entrance to all their National Parks and National Historic Sites. It does not include free camping however, campsite rates still apply.
Hundreds of privately owned campgrounds can be found throughout the province, from rustic sites to resort-style RV parks. Once you know the area or community you are heading for, check out the campsites on this website.
The bonus about camping, hiking, and watching wildlife in British Columbia is that its easy to combine them and make it a three for one deal! Happy trails!
Published: March 9, 2017
Cheryl Rhodes writes from Surrey, British Columbia where she lives with two dogs and three horses. She’s the author of 5 novels and a cookbook, and enjoys traveling, photography, swimming, geocaching, reading, and writing mysteries. Visit her at www.cherylrhodes.com