Travel Scenic Highway 23 North of Revelstoke, BC to Mica Dam & Begbie Falls
In 2020, we decided to explore a region of British Columbia which was new to us. We have camped extensively throughout Vancouver Island, the Interior, Okanagan and the Kootenays but had not camped in the area north of Revelstoke.
Highway 23, north of the city, was the start of our adventure. With no camping reservations this time, our first two nights were at BC Forest Recreation sites on the shores of Lake Revelstoke. Our first night was at Wadey which has 30 sites and is located about 25 kilometres north of Revelstoke, and then our second night was at Carnes Creek (the south campsite), 11 kilometres further north. Carnes Creek was my favourite, probably because I really liked our site which was overlooking the lake. Carnes Creek has two campgrounds, the south location which has 27 sites and the north with 19 sites and a boat launch.
From Carnes Creek, we did a day trip north up the scenic Highway 23 for about an hour to the Mica Dam. It was such a beautiful paved road, winding its way along the lake and very little traffic. Being married to a retired Socials Studies teacher always proves to be educational! My personal tour guide was quick to educate me about the dam and its history. Located 135 kilometres north of Revelstoke, its water flows from Kinbasket Lake south through the dam into Revelstoke Lake. It took six years to build and opened in 1973 as part of the 1964 Columbia River Treaty; it is the tallest dam in Canada and is operated by BC Hydro.
Just before you reach the dam, you will see the old village of Mica Creek which had a population of 4,000 workers and their families when the dam opened. It is a pretty impressive, lake-view site which even includes a swimming pool, golf course, curling rink and an old ski chalet. It also had a high school which closed shortly after the dam was built. Most of the buildings of the old town site are still being used by the dam maintenance employees.
Before we left Carnes Creek, we paddled our kayaks along Revelstoke Lake, under the bridge and up the actual creek. It was a beautiful, calming paddle with the current gently pushing us back down when we were done.
After camping at Carnes Creek, we packed up and moved to Martha Creek Provincial Park (18 kilometres north of Revelstoke). This is a very popular and impressive park; it has lots of sites; 29 of them were new in 2019. It has a very large picnic area, great beach and is attractive to anglers.
On our way home we stopped for a hike at Begbie Falls (about 10 minutes south of Revelstoke on Highway 23). What a lovely hike! The trail winds its way through the trees down to the falls and to Upper Arrow Lake. Not only did we get to see the falls and the beach, but the salmon were also spawning (September). There are different trails you can use but we accessed the trail-head through the Begbie Falls Recreation Site, located at the end of the Begbie Falls Forest Service Road. This access point was a gentle downhill to the beach and falls and not too long.
We are definitely looking forward to our next camping trip anywhere along Highway 23, such a beautiful part of our province!
For camping accommodations in this area and elsewhere in British Columbia check out the Camping Map.
Share your BC travel and camping photos using hashtag #campinbc #explorebc #bcnice.
Exploring History in New Denver, British Columbia
Not only is B.C. wild and beautiful, it’s rich in history too. Last summer we took a road trip through the Kootenay Rockies region, hoping to get a taste of some of the wildest camping Canada has to offer.
Just 13 kilometers east of New Denver lies Sandon. The town is lovingly preserved by its residents––which you can pretty much count on one hand!
A good place to start your tour is The Prospector’s Pick which functions as the Visitor’s Centre and Gift Shop. With any luck you’ll get to meet Vida Turok, a Sandon resident, while taking a look at the memorabilia and vintage collectibles. Vida is warm and friendly, and will tell you all about the town of Sandon. Those of you with a heart for adventure will connect with her adventurous spirit. She moved to Sandon after falling in love with the town while on a 100 days hike through B.C.
After picking up some ice-cream, or a hot coffee, take a look at the Brill Trolley Interpretive Display. These vintage buses from cities like Vancouver, Calgary, and Saskatoon found a permanent home at Sandon when they proved popular with visitors. Now you can tour the inside of Trolley #2201 during season.
As you continue down the path and up the hill you’ll see Sandon’s crown jewel, the Silversmith Power & Light Generating Station. It’s been operating since 1897, and today still runs 24 hours a day, providing green energy for Sandon and New Denver. Impressively, all of the machinery is original and it’s family-owned and operated.
At its height as a booming silver town, Sandon, was a state-of-the-art city with a population of 5,000. It was the first town in B.C. with the capability to provide electric power to every citizen. Today this hydroelectric power station is the first utility in B.C. to receive federal green hydroelectric certification.
You can round out your tour with a look at the Steam Locomotive and a visit to the Museum. The museum is the only attraction that is not free at $5 admission.
Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre
During its decline, Sandon served as a Japanese Canadian Internment Camp during WWII. We learned more about this period in history at New Denver’s Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre.
There is an admission fee of $9 per adult to tour this National Historic Site. In fact, it’s the only site in all of Canada where you can learn about this part of WWII history.
In 1942, 22,000 Japanese-Canadian citizens were forced from their homes along the coast of B.C. and relocated to internment camps. As you tour this National Historic Site you are actually walking through what once was The Orchard internment camp.
You can get a sense of what life was like under those conditions walking through the 14’ x 28’ shack that usually housed 2 families. One side shows you the conditions the Japanese families would have found it in, while the other side shows you what it looked like once it was inhabited.
As you exit the different halls holding artifacts, you’ll walk through the beautiful Peace Garden.
We love experiencing history on our travels, and in the New Denver area we found what almost feels like a forgotten history to explore. And, though sad, it was interesting to find a connection between Sandon and the Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre in New Denver.
Planning Your Perfect Itinerary
You can enjoy some epic camping and the historic sites above over a weekend. You can explore Sandon in the morning and New Denver in the afternoon on one day. And enjoy hiking and relaxing at your campsite on day 2. Depending on where you’re traveling from, you can also make this part of a larger BC road trip, adding in stops in Nelson, Revelstoke, and hot springs around the area.
When to Go: Between Victoria Day and Thanksgiving (Canadian Thanksgiving is the 2nd Monday in October).
Visiting between these dates gives you access to all there is to do at Sandon and some of the best hiking weather. However, winter camping is definitely a thing in B.C., and some of Sandon is open and/or available by appointment in the winter.
Where to Stay: Be sure to check out Camping & RV in BC’s Campground Map here. We typed in New Denver and set the search radius to 50km to really get a full picture of what’s around. We chose to stay about 30 minutes from New Denver. Our favorites were Summit Lake Provincial Park and we completely fell in love with serene, waterfront Box Lake Recreation Site both near Nakusp.
Road Trip Time: For those of you making your way from Spokane or Kelowna, you’re roughly 4 hours to adventure and history. Heading in from Calgary? Plan on about 6 hours of drive time. Friends in Vancouver and Seattle, you’re about an 8-hour drive away. Note: During 2020 the border is closed to travel between the United States and Canada due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
If this area interests you, check out our drive:
Mountains, Lakes & Rivers in the West Kootenays and Boundary Country
For campgrounds in the Nakusp. New Denver and Sandon areas as well as elsewhere throughout British Columbia go to the Camping Map.
Share your BC camping and travel pictures using hashtags #campinbc, #explorebc and #BCNice.
Glacier National Park is a Spectacular BC Destination
If you type Glacier National Park into your web browser, many of the search results reference Montana’s large national park of the same name. If you dig a little deeper, you will uncover one of BC’s most spectacular and challenging destinations, which covers almost 1400km2 of BC’s Selkirk and Purcell Mountains.
Glacier National Park, in BC’s Kootenay region, is the first national park established in British Columbia and is one of the most interesting parks I have visited, as the spectacular views from the highway are juxtaposed with the challenges of accessibility.
For much of the year, Glacier National Park is blanketed in up to 10 metres (yes, metres!) of snow, making the park inaccessible to all but the most experienced backcountry travellers. While the Trans Canada Highway cuts directly through the park, Rogers Pass can be one of the most treacherous sections of highway in the province with over 130 avalanche paths affecting the highway. By the time the snow melts away in the summer months, the Grizzly Bears have emerged from their winter slumber and many of the hiking trails in the park have restricted access, requiring groups of four people over the age of 12 to hike within three metres of each other.
Backcountry travel in Glacier National Park is not for the faint of heart! Fortunately, Parks Canada has established numerous points of interest within the park that don’t require quite as much dedication and make the park a perfect place to stretch your legs, camp for a few days, and experience some of what the park has to offer.
What to Do
Highlights in Glacier National Park include:
- Bear Creek Falls: A short but steep downhill walk brings you from the highway down to a spectacular waterfall. In the summer, enjoy the cooler temperatures the gorge offers by packing a picnic to enjoy along the creek.
- Glacier House: A luxury destination in the mountains from the early 1900s, the Glacier House hotel was established by the Canadian Pacific Railway. When the railway was re-routed through the 9 kilometre long Connaught Tunnel in 1917, visitors to Glacier House dramatically decreased and the resort was closed and eventually dismantled. Today, you can explore the ruins of the resort near the Illecillewaet Campground.
- Rogers Pass Discovery Centre: A National Historic Site in its own right, the Rogers Pass Discovery Centre is the only part of Glacier National Park that is accessible year-round. An excellent interpretive centre tells the history of the area and the nearby Rogers Pass Summit site offers spectacular views and informative outdoor displays.
- Rock Garden: This walk only takes about 20 minutes, but take your time and explore the moss and lichen covered boulders deposited during the last ice age. The trail consists of a jaunt through the forest, numerous rock staircases, and a trail through large boulders, so bring appropriate footwear.
- Loop Brook: Loop Brook is one of my favourite destinations in Glacier National Park. The trail starts at the Loop Brook Campground and travels just over a kilometre and a half through the forest along sections of the old railway grade. The highlights of the hike are definitely the enormous stone pillars that once carried the railway in a loop through the valley in order to reduce the grade of the railway. Excellent interpretive signage along the trail adds to the experience.
- High-Elevation Hiking: Undeniably, one of the best ways to experience Glacier National Park is to take a hike in the high country. There are numerous trails in the park and the information desk at the Illecillewaet Campground – where many of the most popular hikes depart – has a sign-up sheet for those people wanting to join up with others to form groups of 4.
In the Area
While in the area, consider visiting Mount Revelstoke National Park and Yoho National Park. Take a day trip to Golden or Revelstoke to experience life in a mountain town. Both offer many opportunities for eating, drinking, and recreation. Plan for a meal at the Wolf’s Den in Golden for one of the best burgers you will ever eat. In Revelstoke, stop by the Monashee Spirits Distillery to sample locally made liqueurs.
Where to Stay
Glacier National Park offers three campgrounds: Illecillewaet, Loop Brook, and Mount Sir Donald. All campgrounds are first come first served and offer a place to stay right in the heart of the park.
Glacier National Park is a dream destination for many backcountry and mountaineering enthusiasts, but it also has much to offer the casual visitor. There is a huge variety of hiking trails, from casual walks to demanding backcountry excursions. I have been to the park several times, but I feel like I have barely scratched the surface of what Glacier National Park has to offer and it is one of those destinations that keeps calling me back over and over again.
Check out more blogs in the National Parks & Historic Sites series:
Share your BC camping and travel photos using hashtag #campinbc
Visit Mount Revelstoke National Park in August for its Stunning Vistas & Wildflowers
While travelling to the larger and typically more popular mountain parks of Banff and Jasper in Alberta, visitors who take the Trans Canada Highway will pass through Mount Revelstoke National Park; however, this park is not to be overlooked as a destination all of its own.
Mount Revelstoke National Park is small by National Park standards, covering only 260 square kilometres, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in diversity. The park begins in the valley bottom at 470 metres above sea level and then rises to over 1,800 metres – all accessible by paved road. Summer, however, is a short season in Mount Revelstoke, and the summit is often snow-covered until July. But in August the vibrant colours of the wildflowers grace the roadside and along with the stunning views offered along the way you will have to stop for a photo or two.
Mount Revelstoke National Park is only a hop, skip, and a jump away from the community of Revelstoke. In less than an hour you can go from standing on the mountaintop to having a bite to eat in the city centre.
What to Do
Highlights in Mount Revelstoke National Park include:
- Meadows in the Sky Parkway: The crown jewel of Mount Revelstoke is the Meadows in the Sky Parkway – a 26 kilometre aptly named paved road allowing easy access to the subalpine meadows and its picture perfect carpet of vibrant flowers. Once you reach the end of the parkway, take the Summit Shuttle to the very top and bask in the awe-inspiring views.
- Geocaching: Print your Geocaching Passport from the Parks Canada website before you leave home, then set out on the Soren Sorensen trail. Find five or more of the eight hidden caches, answer the questions in your passport, and then redeem your completed passport for a limited edition Mount Revelstoke National Park geocoin at the Revelstoke Parks office.
- Flowers and Fires: Time your trip for mid-August and take in the short but sweet summer season at the summit. Take a stroll along the short Firetower Trail to the Summit Fire Lookout, originally built in 1927, and imagine what it would have been like to be stationed here, keeping your eyes peeled for signs of smoke on the horizon.
- Valley Bottom Walks: For a change of pace, check out the Giant Cedars Boardwalk Trail or the Skunk Cabbage Boardwalk in the valley bottom and get a sense of just how diverse this National Park truly is.
- Hiking: Mount Revelstoke really comes into its own when it comes to longer hikes. Eva Lake, Miller Lake, and Jade Lake are all spectacular day hikes (a long 19-kilometre day, in the case of Jade Lake) that have the benefit of starting at the top of the Meadows in the Sky Parkway, thus greatly reducing the amount of vertical you need to tackle on foot!
- Nels Nelsen Ski Jump: Hike up Mount Revelstoke’s newest trail and back in history to the Nels Nelsen Ski Jump – last used over 40 years ago!
In the Area
While you are visiting Mount Revelstoke National Park, consider exploring some other sites in the area. BC Hydro’s Revelstoke Dam Visitor Centre allows visitors to get close and personal with hydro generated power in British Columbia with either a self-guided or guided tour. For a true mountain town experience, cap off your time in Revelstoke with a visit to Revelstoke’s own Mt. Begbie Brewing Co. offering one hour guided tours and tastings.
Where to Stay
There is a new (2020) frontcountry campground in Mount Revelstoke National Park – Snowforest Campground which also includes three MicrOcube units that you can rent. There are also lots of other options nearby. Try one of the three campgrounds in nearby Glacier National Park, one of the private campgrounds in Revelstoke proper, or one of the nearby Provincial Parks. My personal favourite is Martha Creek Provincial Park 20 minutes north of Revelstoke. This Provincial Park is lovely – right on the water and far enough out of the community to feel remote while being close enough to pop into town for supplies or entertainment.
Mount Revelstoke National Park can be easy to miss if you are in a hurry to get somewhere else. Plan an extra day or two in your vacation to explore the park – you won’t be disappointed!
Check out more blogs in the National Parks & Historic Sites series:
Share your BC camping and travel photos using hashtag #campinbc
Published: August 3rd, 2017
Connect With Us