With the Victoria Day long weekend upon us, it’s time to turn to the outdoors for a much needed break in our routines. The spring sun is shining, the flowers are blooming and many of us are dusting off our camping gear and heading out on the year’s first big camping trip. But May can be a busy month, and it is easy to overlook some of the basics before heading out, such as reserving a campsite. Luckily, many of BC’s Provincial Parks offer a number of first-come, first-served campsites.

 

BC’s parks have it all, from peace, quiet and a chance to reflect amid the surreal beauty of the backcountry, to white-knuckle thrill rides on world-class mountain bike trails and hair-raising alpine hikes. Or, maybe you are just looking for a convenient place to take the family for a weekend out of the city. In any case, there is likely a non-reservable campsite found in a park near you. Just remember that you are not the only one looking for that perfect place to post up for the weekend – arriving early is your best bet for claiming one of the spots we have described in the following listings. Here are 11 first-come, first-served campsites to check out in BC this May long weekend:

1) Birkenhead Lake Provincial Park

40 first-come, first-served campsites, Birkenhead Lake Provincial Park is found north of Pemberton, or about 90 km north of Whistler. The lake is a popular fishing destination, particularly for Kokanee and Rainbow Trout, so don't forget to bring your rod. There are also a number of hiking and biking trails, which give you the chance to spot mountain goats as they navigate the cliffs above the lake. Keep an eye out for spotted owls, as well!

 

2) Nairn Falls Provincial Park

Conveniently located within a five-minute drive of the village of Pemberton, Nairn Falls Provincial Park offers 34 first-come, first-served campsites. The falls themselves are one of the park’s main attractions, plummeting for an impressive 60 m (195 ft) and creating a series of potholes in the rock canyon below. While visiting the park, keep an eye out for the rubber boa, one of the world’s most cold-tolerant snake species and the smallest of the boa constrictor family at just 45 cm (18 in) in length.

 

3) Golden Ears Provincial Park

Although this is one of the busiest parks in BC, located just an hour’s drive from downtown Vancouver, it is also one of the largest at 62,500 hectares (154,440 ac) in size. The park has an extensive hiking trail system, making it easy to get away from the crowds. There are 98 first-come, first-served campsites split between two campgrounds at Gold Creek and Alouette Lake. Canoeing is a favourite activity on the lake, and there are even some paddle-in campsites you can check out for a more secluded experience.

 

4) Saltery Bay Provincial Park

Found on the Sunshine Coast, just a short ferry ride from Vancouver, Saltery Bay Provincial Park offers 17 first-come, first-served campsites surrounded by mature forest near the shores of Mermaid Cove. Search the tidal pools for starfish, sea urchins and crabs, but don’t keep your head down for too long or you may miss the orca whales and sea lions that swim the waters surrounding this beautiful campsite.

 

5) Englishman River Falls Provincial Park

Located a short drive from Nanaimo along the Englishman River, this park has 48 first-come, first-served campsites nestled in old and second-growth forest. Hiking trails lead from the campground to walking bridges over the river with views of the namesake falls. Legend has it that local First Nations found the skeleton of a white man near the waterfall, giving the river its name.

 

6) Silver Beach Provincial Park

This lakefront Park offers 35 first-come, first-served campsites surrounded by Douglas fir and aspen at the head of Shuswap Lake’s Seymour Arm. While the park is very popular in the summer, chances are it won't be too busy this May long weekend. Once here, explore the remains of the Ogden ghost-town or test your luck for the 19 species of fish that live in Shuswap Lake.

 

7) Whiteswan Lake Provincial Park

Although access to this park along the Whiteswan Forest Service Road can be treacherous, the two sparkling mountain lakes and natural hot springs are more than worth the journey. 120 first-come, first-served campsites split between six different campgrounds, lakeside hiking trails, three boat launches and trophy-sized rainbow trout make this an ideal Victoria day long weekend getaway.

 

8) Champion Lakes Provincial Park

Known as one of the Kootenays’ most family-friendly camping destinations, Champion Lakes Provincial Park offers 51 first-come, first-served campsites along with opportunities for fishing, canoeing, hiking and mountain biking. The Champion Lakes themselves are a chain of three lakes surrounded by old-growth forest, making for a picture-perfect weekend escape just a short drive from the community of Fruitvale.

 

9) Lac La Hache Provincial Park

Found along Highway 97 in BC’s beautiful Cariboo region, Lac La Hache offers 53 first-come, first-served campsites set in the shade of a stately Douglas fir forest on the shores of the lake of the same name. The old Cariboo Wagon road runs through the park, and though it is now merely an overgrown track, it was once a major travel route for prospectors making their way to the Cariboo gold fields. These days you will have better luck fishing for the abundant kokanee and lake trout than you will finding any gold.

 

10) Paarens Beach Provincial Park

This little-known Provincial Park is set on the shores of Stuart Lake, which is one of BC’s largest natural lakes at 70 km (43 mi) in length. There are 26 first-come, first-served campsites available at the park, along with a wide sandy beach and a boat launch. Stuart Lake is part of a chain of lakes that is famous for its fishing, with a 12 kg (27 lb) rainbow trout and a 16 kg (35 lb) char having been reported caught in nearby Takla Lake.

 

11) Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park

If you find yourself in the north of BC, the Liard Hot Springs are a must-visit destination. Located along the Alaska Highway, there are 31 first-come, first-served campsites available conveniently close to the second-largest hot springs in Canada (but probably the most scenic).

 

 

 

While BC’s Provincial Park system offers a lot of great camping opportunities, it should be noted that there are also hundreds of rec sites scattered throughout the province that offer first-come, first-served camping. You can find a comprehensive list of the res sites at sitesandtrailsbc.ca. You will also find many of them in our Mapbooks and GPS Maps, along with all of the parks listed above.  

 

Did we miss your favourite first-come, first-served campsite in BC? Leave a comment below, or share your camping adventure on Instagram using #brmblife for a chance to win prizes and be featured on our feed.  

 



 

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