One need not despair over the lack of camping spaces in BC Provincial Parks, because there are over 40 recreations sites in the Shuswap. And, as a bonus, these sites provide more of a wilderness-like experience than the parks. You can locate these campgrounds using either a map book or the website, sitesandtrailsbc. As well, there are a number of smaller, lesser-known parks that do not fill up with pre-bookings.
Most of the sites are accessible using a car, SUV or truck via fairly wide logging roads. While there are minimal fees for many of the larger campgrounds, the small ones are often free. Most are located on lakes or streams and offer a variety of activities, including paddling, boating, fishing, hiking, and swimming. Sometimes it can be difficult to find firewood, so it is best to bring your own.
One of the best places in the Shuswap to go camping is on Adams Lake, as there are many sites available and if one is full, you can easily drive to the next one. Adams Lake is a great place to go during the summer to escape the crowds. Beginning with Bush Creek Provincial Park just a few kilometres north of the sawmill, there are eight more campgrounds to enjoy. You need a boat or canoe to access the Spillman Beaches, on the east shore across from Brennan Creek, where there is also a small campground and a waterfall to explore.
Our favourite Adams Lake destinations are at the north end of the lake, where one can paddle around small islands and to the wetlands at the mouth of the Upper Adams River. The nearby Momich Lake campgrounds are still closed due to the massive wildfire that devastated the park in 2009, however the popular Momich River campground on Adams Lake remains open. For the adventurous, the long drive to Tum Tum Lake is worth the bumpy ride, as this beautiful glacier-fed lake is surrounded by old growth cedar and is a delight to paddle on.
The Mabel Lake area is another great destination, with many campgrounds to enjoy. A great way to access the area is via Three-Valley Gap, where one could begin camping at Frog Falls or at Wap Lake. One of the best sites is at Cottonwood Bay where you can paddle north to a great sandy beach. Further to the south there is a campground near Cascade Falls, one of the Shuswap’s most spectacular waterfalls, because it spreads out widely as it cascades over a rock face.
At the southern end of Mabel Lake is a provincial park with comfortable campsites, spacious lawns, picnic tables and a sandy beach. From Mabel Lake, one could head east to explore the Upper Shuswap. Sugar Lake has a number of campsites where one can launch a boat or canoe to fish or just enjoy the peaceful waters. Before the Brenda Falls dam was built that turned the once much smaller Sugar Lake into a reservoir, this was a farming valley and the remains of a house and a chimney can be found on one of the islands.
Heading north of Sugar Lake, one can visit the majestic Rainbow Falls in Monashee Park and hike into Spectrum Lake to either camp or to simply enjoy the spectacular views of Mount Fosthall. The long drive up to Greenbush Lake is worth the trip, as there is a lovely camping spot there amongst tall trees. This is a great lake for paddling or boating and there are also hiking trails to enjoy. Watch for the old log cabin there that was likely built by a trapper or prospector.
In the hills south of the Shuswap River between Ashton Creek and Kingfisher lies Hidden and Baird Lakes, which are best known for fishing. There are 54 campsites here that provide good access to the lakes. There are many more camping areas adjacent to sub-alpine fishing lakes in the hills north of Kingfisher, including Elbow, Spruce and Noreen Lakes.
The Shuswap region is blessed with a multitude of backcountry camping areas that offer a quiet place to unwind and appreciate nature. In fact, there are still some canyons and mountainous areas, where logging roads have not penetrated that have never been explored. One need not travel to distant locales to find adventure, as the Shuswap has it.