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The best BC parks to explore this spring

Spring is a great time for a BC adventure, especially with a faltering loonie making travel south of the border so costly. But you’ll have some tough choices.

Spring is a great time for a BC adventure, especially with a faltering loonie making travel south of the border so costly. But you’ll have some tough choices. There’s still plenty of skiing and snowboarding, but it’s also time to hit the hiking trails, launch the boat and break out the camping gear. 

BC boasts more than 1,000 provincial parks and protected areas –from public beaches, rare eco-systems and endangered wildlife habitats to unique geography and priceless First Nations heritage.

Whether you’re planning a day out with the kids, a photo safari or epic expedition, here’s a short list of parks worth visiting. 

Bring the Family

Vancouver Islandoffers a wonderland of lush forests, ocean shores, seaside towns and adventure-ready parks. A great choice for families is Englishman River Falls Provincial Park near Parksville, where a stroll through silent forests ends at two thundering waterfalls.

Nearby provincial parks include Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park, renowned for its long sandcastle-friendly beach, and MacMillan Provincial Park, where Cathedral Grove’s massive old-growth Douglas firs loom above the forest floor.

For star gazing and wienie roasts, hop a ferry to Salt Spring Island’s Ruckle Provincial Park. The seaside sites are walk-in, but that’s part of the fun: wheelbarrow your gear a few minutes from the parking lot and you have spectacular ocean views, easy hiking trails and kilometres of beachcombing without a car in sight. Ruckle Park is set on a century-old homestead and is still part working farm.

Watch for Wildlife

Imagine watching mountain goats and big horn sheep scampering along narrow alpine ledges, or spotting elk feeding by a forest pool, or seeing huge flocks of migratory birds returning to vibrant wetlands.

Thompson Okanagan is best known for its vineyard-studded hills and abundant orchards, but its lakeside bluffs, pine forests, grasslands and desert landscapes are favoured habitats for everything from deer and black bears to muskrats, beavers and birdlife. 

Vaseux Lake Provincial Park, set on a lakeshore between Penticton and Oliver, is renowned for its wildlife. Besides agile mountain goats and big horn sheep, Vaseux protects a variety of endangered species, including badgers, bats and night snakes. Trails lead to neighbouring Vaseux Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary.

Or head east to the parks of BC’s Kootenay Rockies region. Set among the lakes and snow peaks, Kikomun Creek Provincial Park is home to a wealth of wildlife, including herons, elk and one of BC’s largest populations of endangered western painted turtles.

Dip the Paddle

Desolation Sound is a magical destination for boaters, kayakers and scuba divers. Two ferry rides north of Vancouver, this island-dotted sound is lapped with clear, warm waters, peppered with snug coves and backed by towering snow peaks.

Desolation Sound is home to five parks, all with sheltered shorelines, and one of the best ways to see them is by kayak.

For a very different paddling experience, head east to the Cariboo Chilcotin. This vast landscape of ancient forests, lakes and mountain ranges is the setting for the legendary Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit, a multi-day expedition that follows a series of lakes, streams, rivers and portages in Bowron Lake Provincial Park. The area abounds with moose, bear, beavers, otters and birdlife.

Seek out Northern Treasures

Prefer to relax in a spa-like pool, surrounded by orchids and wandering moose? Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park is three hours north of Fort Nelson. Set deep in BC's northern boreal spruce forest, the hot springs, one of Canada's largest, creates a micro-climate warm enough to support such tropical flora as yellow monkey flowers, ostrich ferns and orchids. A boardwalk passes through the forest and a warm water swamp, leading to an open-air pool where temperatures stay a toasty 42-52°C year round.

More unique geology is on hand further west at Anhluut'ukwsim Laxmihl Angwinga'asanskwhl Nisga'a. Also known as Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Park, this spot, north of Terrace, is the site of a massive volcanic eruption that created an almost lunar landscape about 250 years ago.

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