Good Sam RV Travel Guide & Campground Directory

Visiting British Columbia on Your Next Road Trip

British Columbia is one of Canada's most popular outdoor retreats. This vast province offers more natural wonders than any other part of Canada and, much like the American West, is an absolute haven for RVers. Plus in British Columbia campgrounds and RV camping resorts abound. To the east, the Canadian Rockies rise thousands of feet into the sky. To the west, the dense, fir-lined forests melt into the Pacific Ocean, where one can find coastal beauty in cities like Vancouver and Victoria or natural escapes in places like Vancouver Island and the Inside Passage.

Emerald Lake was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the 1980s for its paleontological treasures.

Just at the point where Alberta becomes British Columbia, is the Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park, which possesses the most impressive peaks in all of the Canadian Rockies. For starters, there’s Mount Assiniboine towering nearly 12,000 feet; even the "smaller" peaks surrounding it reach nearly 8,000 feet. The downside is that the park is somewhat secluded and grants limited access. However, if you’re the kind who likes to strap a pack to your back, Mount Assiniboine is quite a reward for any hiking excursion.

As you make your way west, crossing into the province of British Columbia, the Yoho National Park welcomes visitors year-round to the western edge of the Canadian Rockies. The park itself is home to some magnificent beauty, including 30 "three-thousanders," that is to say, peaks measuring more than 3,000 meters (almost 10,000 feet). This range offers not only impressive views, but also some of the wildest creatures in North America; including brown bear, mountain lion and moose. Unlike the sometime crowded Lake Louise, which lies just over a mountain, the serene setting of nearby Lake O'Hara is secluded by surrounding canyons and makes for a relaxing visit to this wilderness world. British Columbia RV camping resorts nearby accommodate the family tent camper and big-rig RVer, with a wide range of sites.

Over the years, paleontological riches have consistently been unearthed at the nearby Emerald Lake. Justly named for its sparkling emerald water and green, rolling hills that surround it, Emerald Lake was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the 1980s for its paleontological treasures. The biggest of Yoho's lakes, Emerald Lake offers miles of hiking along its shoreline, including a trail leading to the Wapta Falls, a voluminous body of water that topples from the surrounding mountainside.

If you head west of the Yoho National Park, the terrain begins to ease as you pass over the Continental Divide and into the Rocky Mountain Trench. There you will find the Kootenay National Park. Established in 1920, the park showcases nearly 600 square miles of landscape more diverse than its two national park counterparts to the east; lush meadows, crystal clear lakes, dense forests and more. Above the tree line, well into the background, stand an impressive range of mountains, though not as forbidding as those to the east. British Columbia campgrounds span the park perimeter.

Marble Canyon is a 2,000-foot canyon carved out by the meandering Tokkum Creek. Today the walls of the canyon are so polished after centuries of wind and rain that the limestone walls resemble marble (hence the name). And then there’s the Paint Pots, a series of pools formed by river minerals, compliments of the Vermilion River that flows nearby. For the backpacker, this region offers a grand hike to Rockwall, a spectacular 3,000-foot cliff overlooking the valley floor far below.

West of the Canadian Rockies and deeper into British Columbia is Glacier National Park. Straddling the U.S.-Canada border, Glacier National Park was designated in 1886 to protect a host of environmental goodies. Maybe they did too good of job protecting, as much of the area is inaccessible, except for serious backpackers, hikers, and the like. What Glacier does offer are a few exceptional roads and railways so you don’t miss out on the fantastic scenery. The Abandoned Rails Trail is one such meandering roadway that crosses through Rogers Pass, a national historic site. The Bear Falls Trail and the Hemlock Grove Trail reveal equally rewarding scenery as they gently pass through this often harsh terrain. Although Glacier National Park is inviting during the summer months, the winter months routinely prove a difficult time to visit with roads regularly buried beneath feet of snow.

The adjacent Mount Revelstoke National Park offers forests of 600-year-old red cedar in these lush hills. Although serving as a wonderful example of a British Columbia rain forest, the real draw to Mount Revelstoke is its abundance of wildflower-covered meadows lining the valley floor. Take the 16-mile Meadows in the Sky Parkway as it winds itself up the side of Mount Revelstoke and its 6,388-foot summit. If visiting during the summer months, the meadows near the summit are a dazzling display of wildflowers.

The region's last national park is the Waterton Lakes National Park. Because of the geological formations and sudden upheavals of ancient times, Waterton Lakes National Park is the site of some of the most dramatic changes in scenery in western Canada. Rolling prairies suddenly end and turn into jagged mountainsides rising thousands of feet into the air. Relatively small in comparison to the surrounding parks (202 square miles), Waterton manages to preserve several charming lakes and waterways. In 1932, Waterton Lakes National Park was linked to its southern neighbor, Montana's Glacier National Park, making it the world's first International Peace Park.

As you head west from the mountainous region of eastern British Columbia, the province's western stretches welcome visitors with a varied environment all its own. Coastal islands are covered with pine forest, majestic rivers careen through rocky valleys, and beautiful cultural centers lay only miles from pristine wilderness escapes. The west coast of British Columbia remains as Canada's most-visited region, and most British Columbia campgrounds are located here. Although summer months may bring the crowds to cities like Vancouver and Victoria, outdoor escapes are plentiful along the coast's fjord-like shoreline, or around the interior mountain ranges.

Using Vancouver as a starting point, an introduction to British Columbia can be had through several short and convenient excursions. The famous ski resort in Whistler offers spectacular skiing during winter months. Skiers from around the world regularly flock to this region to enjoy the long ski season found at both Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains. During the summer months, try out Highway 99, known as the Sea and Sky Highway. Along the way you'll be able to soak up spectacular views of Howe Sound where rocky cliffs slip into chilly waters down below.

No visit to Vancouver would be complete without spending time on Vancouver Island. In fact, put this on the top of your "Things to Do” list. The largest island on North America's western coast, Vancouver Island covers nearly 12,000-square-miles of lush rain forests as well as considerable stands of fir trees. While a visit to the city of Victoria is a must when exploring the island, take advantage of Vancouver Island's vast stretches of beaches and coastline. You’ll find the Pacific Rim National Park along the western rim of the island. Comprised of three distinct sections - the West Coast Trail, the Broken Islands, and Long Beach – the park is a unique setting, incorporating such characteristics as craggy cliffs, a meandering shoreline, sandy beaches and the ever-present rain forest.

Upon the completion of your Vancouver diversions, hop the Trans-Canada Highway as it makes it’s way eastward into the interior of British Columbia. Originally a path taken by 19th century pioneers, today's travelers can skip the hardships of those over a century ago and simply enjoy the impressive scenery along the highway. While this stretch of the road shows off plenty of natural splendor outside your window, there are a few natural wonders that should not be missed.

The Fraser Canyon Highway leads to Hells Canyon, a 600-foot-deep niche carved out along the raging Fraser River. While descending into the canyon is all but impossible (maybe that has something to do with its menacing name?), a gondola-like tram is available to ease visitors to the canyon floor and a suspension bridge facilitates crossing of the white rapids of the Fraser. Next, visit what is regarded as the hottest place in Canada, the Rapids at Lytton. Set at the confluence of the Fraser and Thompson Rivers, these rapids are widely regarded as the best whitewater rafting in the entire country. Finally, follow the highway northward until you reach Cache Creek. This unusual area is a far cry from the rocky and wet canyons just south of it. Rather, Cache Creek is a dry, arid desert environment complete with coyotes and rattlesnakes.

Article Courtesy of Woodall's Campground Directory. Search for British Columbia Campgrounds.