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Chasm Provincial Park – A Hidden Gem in British Columbia’s Cariboo Region

In British Columbia we are fortunate to have a wealth of spectacular destinations. Sometimes, however, on our way to somewhere else we stumble onto a gem hidden in plain sight. Chasm Provincial Park, located just north of Clinton in the Cariboo region, is one of those destinations.

Chasm Provincial Park, near Clinton | K. Walker

While en route to Green Lake Provincial Park, we noticed a roadside sign for Chasm Provincial Park. Knowing nothing about it, but seeing that it was only a four-kilometre detour from Highway 97, we decided to investigate. The road accessing the park is paved and easily accessible while towing our tent trailer. When we arrived at the parking area we found that we had it basically all to ourselves which made it easy to park and turn around.

Chasm Provincial Park protects a spectacular canyon carved by glacial melt water. Today, the steep canyon walls display the layers of the multi-coloured lava flows that form the Fraser Plateau. The canyon is over eight kilometres long, six hundred metres wide, and three hundred meters deep. It is basically a baby Grand Canyon right here in British Columbia!

Chasm Provincial Park is a photographer’s dream. With easy access and spectacular views, you could easily stay right in the parking lot and spend a significant amount of time observing and photographing the rock formations and layering on the canyon walls across from you.

Chasm Provincial Park, Cariboo | K. Walker

For those who want to venture a bit further afield, there is a network of informal and unsigned hiking trails. The BC Parks website notes a trail following an old road that winds from the parking area around the top of the canyon and then down the southern edge of the chasm and offers spectacular views and a nice walk through the protected ponderosa pine forest. While the viewpoint area is fenced, once you venture beyond the main parking area the fencing ends and the trail skirts the canyon edge. Caution is necessary especially when visiting with children or pets.

Chasm Provincial Park, Cariboo | K. Walker

During our trip, we stuck to the north side of the canyon, following the trail from the parking area and outhouses alongside the canyon rim. This short and informal trail provide plenty of amazing viewpoints and given the unplanned nature of our visit to Chasm Provincial Park we felt that this gave us a good taste of the area without needing to break out our hiking shoes and backpacks. The next time I travel through the Clinton area I will certainly plan for a longer trip in Chasm Provincial Park in order to explore the south rim trails and maybe even try to make it down to the lower elevation lakes and marshes that dominate the southern end of the park.

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Whether you have fifteen minutes or several hours to explore, Chasm Provincial Park makes an excellent detour when travelling along Highway 97 near Clinton. I found the geology of the area unexpected given the much more dominant terrain of rolling grasslands, which for me made the discovery of Chasm Provincial Park all the more dramatic and a true a hidden gem in the British Columbia interior. There are no campsites here.

For those looking for nearby camping opportunities check out the camping map.

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Big Bar Lake Provincial Park in the Cariboo, British Columbia

If you don’t mind a little jaunt off the beaten (and paved) path, Big Bar Lake Provincial Park, 42 kilometres northwest of Clinton, makes an excellent weekend escape in the South Cariboo.

Dusk was setting as we arrived at our campsite and a quick reconnaissance showed that we had a path directly from our site down to the water’s edge. In addition to these site-to-lake trails, the park also has numerous locations to access the water including a boat launch and day use area with picnic tables and an adventure playground.

Campsite at Big Bar Lake Provincial Park | Kimberly Walker

Big Bar Lake is a gorgeous canoe destination. The water sparkles and there are numerous places where the shallow, sandy bottom gives an almost tropical appearance. The lake is well known as a fishing destination, but despite our best efforts we came up empty handed on this trip. Other fishermen we talked to said the fishing had been hot a few days before, but things had slowed considerably, which made us feel slightly better about the situation!

Plenty of Places to Paddle Your Canoe | Kimberly Walker

After tucking our rods away, we decided to paddle to the end of the lake and look at all the cabins on the opposite side of the lake from the campground. The cabins range from gorgeous and modern to derelict and abandoned looking. Some rustic structures right near the end of the lake left me wondering the history of the property and wishing I knew more about the history of the region as a whole.

Otter Marsh at Big Bar Lake Provincial Park | Kimberly Walker

Before long, unsettled weather struck and we could see black clouds building at the campground end of the lake. Bad weather can come up quickly on the water, and we had barely made the decision to turn around and head home when we were stuck with gale force winds, driving rain and hail, and extremely rough water. Boating safety is paramount, and it is essential that anyone headed out on the water, no matter how calm it appears, be prepared. At an absolute minimum, this means always wearing a life jacket. Because we were canoeing with a dog, we decided to take extra precautions and pull up on shore and wait for the squall to pass. As we were hunkered down, we saw several paddle boarders wearing only bathing suits and carrying no safety equipment whatsoever struggling to make it to shore. Thankfully, the storm passed quickly and everyone was safe, but this was a sobering reminder of how quickly things can turn bad on the water.

Walk Along Otter Marsh | Kimberly Walker

Next, we decided to trade water for land and hike the 3.5 kilometre Otter Marsh Interpretive Trail that leaves from the day use area of the park. Make sure you wear mosquito protection as the mosquitos were ferocious and most of our hike actually took place at a light jog. But the views were spectacular and the interpretive signage along the trail did a great job of educating us about the area and pointing out specific features to look for including tree species, glacial activity, volcanic activity, and the diversity of grassland and forest habitats.

View of Big Bar Lake | Kimberly Walker

Since we travelled early in the camping season, we were happy to have a waterfront site in the Lakeside Campground from which we could view the lake while sipping tea and reading books. If we travelled to Big Bar Lake during the height of summer, the Upper Campground, which was completely empty while we were there, might be more appealing as it provides more shade and larger campsites, including double sites, than the higher density, waterfront area where we stayed.

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Whether you are seeking land or water adventures, it’s always a great day to #campinbc and Big Bar Lake Provincial Park is an excellent destination to explore.

For other camping options in this area and elsewhere in British Columbia go to our Camping Map.

Share your BC travel and camping photos using hashtag #campinbc #explorebc #bcnice.

Published: March 18th, 2021

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