A Primer to Canada’s National Parks in British Columbia
National Parks are one of my favourite places to visit. In fact, after my husband and I got married in 2014, we packed almost everything we owned into a storage locker and set out on what turned out to be a 78-day camping trip across Canada focused primarily on visiting our National Parks and National Historic sites, guided by our National Geographic Guide to the National Parks of Canada.
Parks Canada has 148 National Parks, Historic Sites, and Marine Conservation Areas in the country. Of these 148 sites, nineteen are in British Columbia, which gives us plenty to explore!
Here are a few highlights to whet your appetite!
Hiking in Yoho National Park
- The 8.5 kilometre one-way trail in Yoho National Park to the Twin Falls Tea House National Historic Site is definitely worth your sweat! On the way back, take the alternate route passing by Marpole Lake for some spectacular views and to enjoy the black and orange streaked cliffs.
Meadows in the Sky Parkway, Mount Revelstoke National Park
- How often do you get to cover almost 2,000 metres of elevation in just 26-kilometres – and on a good paved road, nonetheless! Mount Revelstoke National Park provides that opportunity. For those feeing more adventurous however, leave the car at the bottom and hike the 10-kilometre Summit Trail to the top.
Kayaking the Broken Group Islands in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve
- For an adventure like none other, leave the city behind and head to Pacific Rim National Park Reserve’s Broken Group Islands. The Broken Group is made up of over one hundred islands of various sizes, some of which offer camping. If you are an experienced kayaker, you can head out on your own. If not, many tour operators can assist you with all stages of your trip. Make sure you give yourself at least three or four days to paddle to really experience the Broken Group.
Relaxing at Radium Hot Springs in Kootenay National Park
- For utter relaxation, head to Radium Hot Springs in Kootenay National Park and soak your troubles away. The odourless and clear naturally heated mineral pools are the biggest in Canada. The facility also offers a full-service day spa in case you are somehow still holding on to your worries after your soak in the hot springs.
Step back in History at Fort Langley National Historic Site
- Experience BC’s birthplace at Fort Langley National Historic Site. Try your hand at gold panning, watch the sparks fly in the blacksmith shop, and then stay overnight in the fort in an oTENTik
No matter which National Park or National Historic Site you choose, breathtaking scenery and fascinating history are waiting for you. Canada’s National Parks truly are some of the best places in the world, and living in British Columbia, we are so lucky to have many of them in our own backyard. The National Parks and National Historic Sites in British Columbia are:
- Yoho National Park
- Rogers Pass National Historic Site
- Mount Revelstoke National Park
- Glacier National Park
- Kootenay National Park
- Gulf of Georgia Cannery National Historic Site
- Fort Langley National Historic Site
- Gulf Islands National Park Reserve
- Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Sites
- Pacific Rim National Park Reserve
- Fort St. James National Historic Site
- Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site
- Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve and Haida Heritage Site
- Chilkoot Trail National Historic Site
Note: During the summer of 2020 amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic you may find some services, facilities and programs closed. For private campgrounds check at BC private campgrounds. For information on BC Parks go to the BC Provincial Parks website and Parks Canada for their updated details. Please make sure you follow BC’s health and safety recommendations when camping and traveling in this province.
Check out more blogs in the National Parks & Historic Sites series:
Share your BC camping and travel photos using hashtag #campinbc, #TravelinBCLocal, #ExploreBCLocal, #StayLocal #BCLocalStaycation
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, BC is a Great Place to Visit in the Off-Season
One of the best parts of living in British Columbia is being close to both the mountains and the sea. BC has a lot of mountain-based national parks, but it also is blessed with a spectacular coastline – and none more spectacular than what you find in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve on Vancouver Island.
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is made up of three units spread along the west coast of Vancouver Island. Long Beach, the unit furthest north is the most accessible and arguably the best known. It is named after the 16-kilometre long stretch of sand lining Wickaninnish Bay and offers abundant opportunities for beach-combing, storm-watching, and surfing. Further south, the Broken Group Islands section is made up of over 100 small islands and is a dream destination for beginner and advanced kayakers alike. Further south still, the West Coast Trail is a challenging 75-kilometre backpacking route not to be taken lightly.
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is a popular summertime destination, but it should not be overlooked for an “off-season” getaway. In the winter, the Pacific Ocean is whipped in to a frenzy and the storm watching is second to none. No matter which season you plan your visit, you will find many things to see and do while you are there.
What to do
Highlights in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve include:
- Beachcombing: One of the best things to do in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is beachcombing. Pack a picnic lunch and spend the day wandering the shores of Long Beach. Bring your dog, too. Long Beach is one of the only dog-friendly protected areas in Canada, however dogs must be on-leash at all times.
- Kayaking: With some advanced planning, kayaking the Broken Group is an adventure you will never forget. The Broken Group is rich in wildlife, including sea lions, whales, and bears. It is also home to unique coastal features including sea arches and sea caves.
- Kwisitis Visitor Centre: Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is on the traditional lands of the Nuu-chah-nulth people. At the Kwisitis Visitor Centre you can take in the spectacular views from the deck before heading inside to learn about the area through a variety of exhibits. After your time at the Visitor Centre, head out for a self-guided walk on the Nuu-chah-nulth Trail.
- Surfing: Numerous licensed operators work in Pacific Rim and without too much trouble you should be able to find someone who can hook you up with rentals and lessons. Don’t forget a wetsuit, the water is cold even on the warmest summer day.
- Storm Watching: Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is not only a summertime destination. In fact, from November to March the park comes into its own as a winter storm watching destination and is known worldwide for its huge waves.
In the Area
Tofino and Ucluelet have capitalized on their coastal location and proximity to Pacific Rim National Park and both offer a variety of activities and attractions. In Ucluelet, check out the Wild Pacific Trail for an easy coastal walk. My favourite section of the trail is the 2.5 kilometre Lighthouse Loop that takes you out to the 102-year old Amphitrite Lighthouse. In Tofino, consider joining a tour or hiring a charter and heading to Hot Springs Cove, a series of natural hot pools accessible only by boat or float plane.
Where to Stay
Camping in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve can be a bit tricky as there is only one campground within the Long Beach unit. The Green Point Campground offers 94 drive-in sites and an additional 20 walk-in sites. During the summer season, advanced reservations are a must if you want to stay in the park itself. A handful of private campgrounds are available in both Tofino and Ucluelet, but just like in the National Park, make a reservation ahead of time if you are travelling during the busy summer season.
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve offers a huge range of opportunities for exploration. From highly accessible and popular options in the Long Beach Unit to the extreme backcountry of the West Coast Trail, you are guaranteed to find something to suit whatever your heart desires. Keep in mind this park’s popularity when planning your trip. It can sometimes be a challenge to find accommodation on busy summer weekends and you will be greatly rewarded if you book your trip in advance. Don’t worry, though, with 16 kilometres of sandy beaches in the Long Beach Unit, you are sure to find a place that feels as though it is meant just for you.
If this area interests you, check out our drive:
From Coast to Coast on Vancouver Island: Vancouver to Tofino
Check out more blogs in the National Parks & Historic Sites series:
Share your BC camping and travel photos using hashtag #campinbc
Published: August 17th, 2017
Connect With Us