Friday, August 30, 2013

Camping across British Columbia - Champion Lakes Provincial Park

The first question most people familiar with BC will ask - where the heck is Champion Lakes?  And it would be an excellent question.  I myself had never heard of this remote park in the Selkirk Mountains until just this summer.  We wanted to go camping at Surveyor's Lake near Fernie and couldn't find spots over our August vacation.  Therefore, I did an internet search for - lakes, no motor boats, BC.  The secluded Champion Lakes Provincial Park was the winning result.

No motor boats on these lakes

Champion Lakes Provincial Park is located18km NW of the town of Fruitvale, 40 minutes south of the larger town of Castlegar in South West British Columbia.  For my American friends, it is about 3 hours north of Spokane, Washington. 

So, why would a family from Calgary want to drive 7 hours to a remote provincial park in southern BC (much longer when towing a trailer) when there is such great camping within a much closer radius?  Good question actually.  Very good question.  Probably won't happen again for us.  We were on our way to the Okanagan and needed a half-way place to spend our first three nights.  Again, not being able to get into Surveyor's Lake campground in Kikomun Creek Provincial Park, this was our back-up plan.  And as a back-up plan, it was ok.  That's about it.

Loon on the Second Lake

The Campground

The campground was set in an old growth forest and was quite pretty as far as campgrounds  go.  It was very quiet, out of the way, and definitely gave you that sense of reconnecting with nature.  So, if that's what you're after - you've found your paradise!  There was no power in the sites so we heard quite a few generators being run while we were there, and there were no showers or anything fancy like that.  Pit toilets and lots of nature.  That was about it.

Paddling on the Second Lake

The Lakes, Beach, and Playground

There were three lakes in Champion Lakes Provincial Park, although "lake" might be just a nice way of saying "slough."  They resembled ponds more than lakes with Lilly pads, frogs, and weeds.  Putting our kayak and SUP in at the second lake was a smelly muddy business, and even the third lake with the beach was a bit stinky.  The beach was ok as far as beaches go but really couldn't compare to other larger beaches in the area.  If you want a nice beach, Kokanee Glacier is your park of choice!  - and where we will camp next time we are in the Nelson area.

What it looks like to look down at the water on a SUP - Dancing on Clouds

Hello Mr. Frog!

The Second Champion Lake (pond)

There was a playground beside the Camper's Beach at the Third Lake but it was too far from our campground loop to easily walk to.  In fact, everything was spread too far apart.  We had to drive to the playground, drive to the beach, drive to the Second Lake to paddle, etc.  Our second day at camp we just got in the truck and decided to drive to a real beach since we were in the truck anyway!

Paddling on the Third Lake

Camper's Beach

The playground at Camper's Beach

Hiking Trails and Biking

There were no bike trails to speak of because every natural trail had a "no biking" sign beside it.  The hiking trails circled the three lakes and were nice as far as nature walks go.  Nothing more exciting than that.  We did the hike to the First Lake (the most remote and the only one you couldn't drive to) and it was a pleasant walk.

The nicest hike in the area though was definitely the hike up to the lookout above the lakes.  It was a short steep trail that lead us to a beautiful rocky knoll.  We hiked up at sunset and thank God for this hike because it was really the one redeeming thing about this campground.  If I were in the area, I would visit just to do this hike again through a lovely old growth forest.

Sunset in Champion Lakes Provincial Park

View from the Lookout Trail

The boy loves his Daddy!

Me and my Pook

Day Trips

As mentioned above, Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park north of Nelson in the Kootenay area is the crown jewel in this area for beaches, lakes, and places you want to camp!  Next time, we are camping here.  We visited for a day trip and had a lovely time paddling on Kokanee Lake, and playing on a big sandy beach.  There were lots of motor boats on the lake but sometimes you've just got to share if you want access to the best lakes.  No power boats probably means you are paddling on a pond. 

Paddling on Kokanee Lake

Playing in Kokanee Lake

General Opinion of the Park

It's a great place for locals in the Nelson and Castlegar area that want someplace close to home.  It's a great place to connect with nature.  It's fabulous if you  really passionately hate power boats.  Other than that, I'd choose other parks in the area if I wanted to camp in  Southern BC.  Another park that comes to mind in the same area is Syringa Provincial Park.  It is located on the SE end of the Lower Arrow Lake, 19km NW of Castlegar and is another popular place for families that want a nice beach and lake for boating or paddling.

Have you camped in the Kootenay Region of Southern British Columbia before?  Tell me, what is your favourite campground?


  1. I camped at Champion Lakes years ago when my kids were little. I found it a great place for families. My kids loved the sandy swimming beach.

    1. Glad you liked it Linda! I think if I were a local, I'd like it too for a beautiful nature retreat.