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Camping in British Columbia: Tips for First Timers

For some people, planning a two week camping trip is second nature. Simply pull neatly organized camping supplies out of the garage, reserve some campgrounds and load up the family in the RV. Then there are those that have never gone camping before. The thought of figuring out how to sleep, cook and survive at a campground in the great outdoors is equivalent to summiting Mt. Everest. 

Photo: Silvana Clark

Relax. With a little advance planning, anyone can have at least a “semi-successful” camping experience guaranteed to provide great memories. How can you forget dad tipping over in his canoe while reaching for a stray paddle? You’ll always remember the look of delight as your preschooler pokes a stick through her hot dog and roasts it over a campfire.

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Camping, whether in a borrowed tent from your neighbour, or in a $100,000 RV, boils down to spending time with family and friends. A time to get away from work, school and Netflix. Even kids glued to their electronics will gain an appreciation for nature as they wade in icy streams, or paddle a kayak for the first time.

Take games with you to keep everyone entertained. Photo: Silvana Clark

The following are a few simple tips to help ease the stress of planning a camping trip. Even if you just pick five tips to try, you’ll be way ahead of other first-time campers!

  • Start small. This is not the time to plan a trip to Glacier National Park if you live outside British Columbia. Start small and drive to a campground within an hour of home.
  • Don’t have a tent or RV? No problem. See if you can borrow a tent from a friend or rent an RV. This lets you experience a few aspects of camping without making a big financial commitment.
  • Make sure to make reservations at your campground. Many times, off-season reservations aren’t necessary, but why take the risk?
  • Decide ahead of time what type of campground you want. Looking for a deluxe campground offering an Olympic sized swimming pool and organized kid’s programs? Or would you prefer something more laid-back with hiking trails and a chance to relax by a lake?
  • Arrive early at your campsite, especially if you are unfamiliar with your RV or even how to set up the tent. You’ll be more comfortable getting your campsite ready if you don’t have “neighbours” sitting in their lawn chairs watching you muddle your way through leveling your RV. Speaking of RV’s…make life easy and ask for a “Pull Thru” site where you simply pull the RV through a site. No awkward backing into place!
  • Bring a variety of card and board games in case the weather turns on you. Be brave and ban all electronic devices during the camping trip. That goes for adults as well!
  • The Dollar Store is a camper’s best friend. Purchase a variety of plastic storage buckets to use for easy organization. Fill one with basic First Aid supplies. Don’t forget bug spray! Other tubs can hold condiments, plastic dishes, and glow-sticks for late night fun.
  • While at the Dollar Store, pick up some flip flops for every family member to use in the campground washrooms and shower.
Having fun in the water. Photo: Silvana Clark
  • Bring a tablecloth. Most campground picnic tables are a bit rough and rugged. A plastic tablecloth adds elegance to your dining!
  • It wouldn’t be camping without a campfire! Before you leave home, have kids make simple fire starters. Cut cardboard toilet paper rolls in half. Stuff each half with dryer lint, then wrap each piece in wax paper. Twist the two ends, which serve as your wick when placed on the firewood.
  • A play pen or pack and play keep crawling babies safe. It’s easy to get distracted while setting up a campsite, so play it safe and have your little one watch you from a safe, contained place.
  • When you register, ask if any kid’s programs are available. It’s nice to break up the day with an organized event geared to kids.
  • When it comes to food on your first-time camping trip, forget the fancy recipes. Try a version of the ever popular “Walking Tacos”. Simply give everyone their individual bag of Fritos. Heat up a can of your favorite chili and plop a few spoonful’s in the bag. Top with cut up tomatoes, shredded cheese, sour cream and salsa. Dinner with no dishes!
  • Camping should be a time for all family members to relax, instead of one person “stuck” with cooking and cleaning up. There’s nothing wrong with cereal for breakfast and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch. Bring some prepared hamburger meat from home to barbeque for dinner. Add a packaged salad mix and some purchased potato salad and you have a meal. After you have a few camping trips under your belt, try cooking in a Dutch oven or making breakfast burritos over the campfire. Just Google, “Easy Camping Recipes” and you’ll have ideas galore!
Kids at play. Photo: Silvana Clark

Camping trips are a chance for family members to connect in a different setting than in front of the TV. Even if you are hesitant about sleeping in the great outdoors, challenge your family to give camping a try. You may find fresh air, hikes and good old S’mores make for a wonderful weekend!

Playing on the beach. Photo: Silvana Clark

For more Camping How-Tos check out these blogs

For campgrounds & RV parks in BC go to the BC Camping Map.

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

It’s always a great day to #CampinBC

Golden Ears Provincial Park has Lots of Camping Options

Golden Ears Park Entrance Sign | Steve Young

Golden Ears Park Entrance Sign | Steve Young

Out for one last trip with my camping buddies and every year we choose Golden Ears Provincial Park as our end of “summer” camping trip not just because it’s close to home for the group, but it’s also quiet and serene.  If you just sit with your eyes closed you will hear the birds – chickadees, robins and the occasional raven as well as see some sweet little Chipmunks.

We have stayed in Alouette and Gold Creek campgrounds numerous times over the years. Golden Ears is one of the busiest Provincial Parks run by BC Parks and it is less than a two hour drive from downtown Vancouver (approximately 48 kms).  Golden Ears is located 18 kilometres north of Maple Ridge and covers 55,000 hectares.  The park was named after the twin peaks which are referred to as “Golden Ears”.

Trail at Golden Ears Park | Darlene Oswald

Trail at Golden Ears Park | Darlene Oswald

There are three main campgrounds as well as a walk-in Campground at Alder Flats on the West Canyon Trail. There is a sanidump for the RVers and don’t worry if you don’t have the coins – you can pay at the ticket booth.  There is a boat launch, a highly popular day use area that has canoe rentals. The lake has a roped off area for swimming and water fun and is large enough for water skiing.

Beach at Alouette Lake at Golden Ears Park | Darlene Oswald

Beach at Alouette Lake at Golden Ears Park | Darlene Oswald

Alouette Campground – the largest campground has 205 back in well treed campsites, a great playground for the children and also has lighted flush washrooms with showers as well as pit toilets strategically placed throughout the campsite.  Its main camping season runs from the middle of June to the beginning of September.

Golden Ears Park Trail to Beach | Darlene Oswald

Golden Ears Park Trail to Beach | Darlene Oswald

To go to North Beach Campground you will need to check in at the ticket booth and they will give you directions to get to this little unknown part of paradise that has 54 campsites including some great pull-through campsites that are great for RVs, but be forewarned, there is no running water and pit toilets are the only washrooms available, so this could mean a short drive down to one of the other two campgrounds that have water taps.  It does operate from the middle of June to the beginning of September.  Gold Creek Campground which has 149 sites that can accommodate tents, tent trailers, travel trailers and I’ve seen a few big rigs and it operates from March to the beginning of October and also has winter camping starting the first week of October which runs until the end of March.  There are also two group sites available year-round that can accommodate 15-30 people.

Moss Covered Trees Golden Ears Park | Joss Penny

Moss Covered Trees Golden Ears Park | Joss Penny

Are you wanting to get in touch with nature?  There are quite a few trails around with different levels from beginner to novice.  You have to check the posted signs because not all trails allow bicycles and are meant for foot traffic only.  Some of the trails are Menzies Trail, East Canyon and West Canyon as well as a switchback trail and the Eric Dunning Trail. The ticket booth has a great Trail map for purchase.  There’s also a lower and upper falls trail. And if you get really adventurous, there’s even horse trails. Now that’s not all, there’s a store on site that carries the basics, so if you forget something it’s right there for you. But remember it is only open during the summer months.

For more info on the park visit Golden Ears Park.

For places to camp in British Columbia go to Camping & RVing BC Camping Map.

Post your BC travel and camping photos using the hashtag #CampinBC

5 Great Tips for the New Camper in British Columbia

If you live in Canada you know that a camping trip is one of the best ways to see this amazing country. To fully embrace what makes Canada so special, invite someone who has never camped before to join you on your next camping trip and introduce them to one of Canada’s best features – the wilderness!

Ellison Provincial Park Beach

Over the past couple of years every time my daughter and I were getting set for a weekend camping trip, one of my friends would mention that she would love to try camping.  She didn’t grow up in Canada and hadn’t had a chance as a kid to experience camping.  This summer our schedules finally worked out and my friend and her daughter joined us for their first time ever camping adventure.

Both families learned a lot over the weekend and here are my top 5 tips to make an intro to a camping trip a success.

1. Keep it short and simple  

We decided that our guests would join us on Saturday morning and spend the day and one night at the site. One night is a great way to get a good feel for camping but not too overwhelming for new campers.

Meeting the Park Ranger

2. Make a list of all the camping gear that they will need

List everything from sleeping gear to clothes that they will require including extras like sunscreen and bug spray. Have your new camper check out the list and let you know what they need to borrow.   For our trip, we supplied all the camping gear (tent, stove, dishes, etc) and also ended up bringing an extra inflatable mattress for them.

3. Pick somewhere with a little bit of everything

We booked the weekend at Ellison Provincial Park in the Okanagan which is a great site for new campers.  Ellison Provincial Park has flush toilets, running water, a beach, mountains, playground for the kids, and nature trails which all gave a great first impression. It’s also full of families and different camper set ups – everything from the small single tent to luxury RVs and everything in between.

Frog at the Campsite
Frog at the Campsite

One of the interesting things I learned over the weekend was about the perception of camping. It wasn’t that they didn’t have equipment or access to equipment, it’s that for my friends (and likely many others as well) they had the impression that camping is about driving way into the woods, clearing your own site and being totally isolated from civilization.  While some camping is like that, having access to reserveable spots at Provincial Parks and local campgrounds really opens up the camping world to newcomers, which is less overwhelming and scary!

Camping Staple the Smore
Camping Staple the Smore

4. Keep the food simple

Don’t turn off new campers by making elaborate Pinterest worthy meals that also require endless hours of clean up!  Go classic, s’mores, hotdogs on sticks over the campfire, simple bacon and eggs for breakfast.  Try and mix campfire and camp stove cooking as well. We decided to make pizzas using Pie Irons for dinner but didn’t get the fire going far enough in advance so I ended up constantly trying to get the fire relit, getting some coals going, and supervising the use of the pie irons….in hindsight I should have just followed my own advice and kept it simple and planned to do hot dogs over the fire for dinner. My new little camping buddy agreed – she wondered why we didn’t have hot dogs!

Kids at the Campfire
Kids at the Campfire

5. Be prepared for questions

Everything from how reservations at the park work, to how to use the stove, to what kind of bug/bird/rock/animal is that!  The adage “no question is a bad question” is very true in this situation. The Park Rangers and operators are your best resource. When you check in, think of all the questions that your new campers might ask and get the answers ahead of time. While you are chatting with the Ranger make sure you pick up a copy of Jerry’s Scavenger hunt for the kids to do as well. Or you can download before you set out on your trip. Go to Jerry’s Nature Quest for all the information. It’s an amazing tool to fight any boredom that your camping kids might have, plus they receive a cool prize when they complete it.

Then just go with the flow.  Set some boundaries for the kids, get out some snacks, settle into the camp chairs and let the kids adventure while the adults get a true taste of why camping is so great.  Sit back, relax, listen to the birds and the sounds of kids exploring, and just enjoy Canada.

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To locate campgrounds in BC go to Where to Camp at Camping & RVing BC.

Post your BC camping and travel photos using hashtag #campinbc.

It’s always a great day to #Campinbc.

Yoho National Park, BC – A Jewel in the Canadian Rockies

Emerald Lake, Yoho National Park

Emerald Lake, Yoho National Park

Alberta often gets the credit for the Canadian Rockies, but BC plays host to a spectacular Rocky Mountain parks of its own – Yoho National Park. This park can be visited as a trip of its own, or it can be part of a larger circle tour through the Canadian Rockies. Either way, spectacular mountain peaks, alpine flowers, and shimmering lakes await you in Yoho National Park.

Yoho is the slightly western counterpart of the better-known Banff National Park. Covering 1,310 square kilometres, the park makes up a portion of UNESCO’s Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site. Yoho offers a bountiful range of both easily accessible and more challenging terrain, guaranteeing that you will find something to suit your interests no matter which direction you choose to explore.

Takakkaw Falls Campground, Yoho National Park

Takakkaw Falls Campground, Yoho National Park

What To Do in Yoho National Park

Highlights include:

  • Takakkaw Falls: A 254-metre waterfall with an easy walking trail that gets you close enough to the base to feel the spray. If you choose to stay at the Takakkaw Falls campground, the sound of the rushing water will sing you to sleep each night.
  • Emerald Lake: An aptly named lake that provides stunning scenery and amazing opportunities for kayaking, canoeing, and stand-up paddleboarding. Hungry? Check out Cilantro on the Lake, the bistro-style dining option at the Emerald Lake Lodge offering great food and even greater views.

    Hiking Lake O'Hara, Yoho National Park

    Hiking Lake O’Hara, Yoho National Park

  • Natural Bridge: A short walk to see how the mighty Kicking Horse River has eroded a spectacular gorge.
  • Lake O’Hara: Backcountry at it’s finest! Lake O’Hara is accessible only by reservation, as the area must be accessed by the Lake O’Hara shuttle bus. Both day trips and overnight excursions are available. Check at the Visitor Centre in Field as last-minute spots sometimes come available, but to guarantee your spot make your reservation well in advance.
  • Burgess Shale: An ancient sea in the sky? Accessible only by guided hike, the Burgess Shale is known world-wide as one of the most significant fossil beds in the world.

    Fossil Found at Walcott Quarry, Yoho National Park. Photo: Aaron Purdy

    Fossil Found at Walcott Quarry, Yoho National Park. Photo: Aaron Purdy

In the Area

While you are visiting Yoho National Park, consider taking a day-trip to Golden where you can walk across Canada’s longest freestanding timber frame pedestrian bridge, take a gondola ride to 7,700 feet at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, and hit the links at the Golden Golf Club. There are many more things to do in and around Yoho National Park.

Closest Community

Field, located within Yoho National Park, is the closest place offering any sort of services. This vacation town has numerous restaurants and shops, but if you are looking to do any major resupplying you may need to consider going further afield – no pun intended! Golden is about half an hour west, while Lake Louise is half an hour east.

Natural Bridge, Yoho National Park

Natural Bridge, Yoho National Park

Where to Stay

Yoho has four first-come-first served “front country” campsites. The largest of these is Kicking Horse, which offers showers, flush toilets, and a sani-dump. For a more unique experience, consider staying at the walk-in Takakkaw Falls campground. Don’t let the campground’s walk-in name deter you – Parks Canada provides wheelbarrows to transport your belongings the short distance to the campground and bear boxes to store your food and other scented belongings.

Yoho National Park is one of my favourite places to visit. The combination of alpine scenery and easy accessibility makes it a great option for people of all levels of physical fitness and offers endless opportunities for exploration. Whether you are young or young at heart, Yoho has something up its sleeve to keep you entertained for a day, a week, or beyond.

For more campgrounds in and around British Columbia check out the Camping Map at Camping & RVing BC.

Check out more blogs in the National Parks & Historic Sites series:

A Primer to Canada’s National Parks in BC.

Explore Fort Langley & Gulf of Georgia Cannery Historic Sites and Check Out Some of BC’s Fascinating History

BC’s Gulf Islands National Park Reserve Offers Rich Opportunities for Exploring

BC’s National Historic Sites Offer a Glimpse into the Past – Here are 3 to Explore

Kootenay National Park, BC Offers Great Vistas, Hiking & History

Visit Mount Revelstoke National Park in August for its Stunning Vistas & Wildflowers

Yoho National Park, BC – A Jewel in the Canadian Rockies

Glacier National Park: A Special BC Destination

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve – A Great Place to Visit in the Off Season

Share your BC camping and travel photos using hashtag #campinbc

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Published: August 8th, 2013

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