Indian Arm
Credit: Destination British Columbia

If the warmer temperatures and lengthening days have you yearning to get out and enjoy the wilderness, check out these camping areas that are usually among the first to be snow-free. 

West Coast

Sooke Potholes Regional Park, BC

Although springtime is usually too chilly for swimming, Sooke Potholes Regional Park on southern Vancouver Island has more than 63 hectares of hiking trails ranging from easy to moderate in difficulty — the views from the cliffs are stunning. The campground is at the north end of the park and is operated by The Land Conservancy of BC. The grounds open early in May, after the snow is gone, and the announcement is made on their website. 

Porpoise Bay Provincial Park, BC

Second-growth forest, grassy fields and lots of empty beach characterize this quiet spot on the Sunshine Coast. It is perfect for kayakers wanting to explore the Sechelt Inlet, beachcombers and day-hikers who are interested in an easy stroll. Fires are restricted and you may want to pack a camp stove to cover the possibility of a fire ban. Pets must be on a leash and keep them off the beach, please. If you bring your dog and plan to hike in the backcountry, be aware that bears can be an issue and park officials recommend you don’t take your animals with you into the forest. Off-season camping is free, but there are no services. Fire pits are communal and you will need to bring your own wood; gathering firewood from the area is prohibited. 

Smuggler Cove Marine Provincial Park, BC

The best way to enjoy this park, on the Sechelt Peninsula, is by boat, but serious hikers can trek the four kilometres from the parking area near the highway. If you’ve managed to bring a boat with you, spend time exploring the waterways and remote beaches, otherwise, lace-up your boots and hit the trails. Be cautious of bears, and be respectful of the beavers and other wildlife that call this park home. There are almost no facilities at the campgrounds and you are responsible for carrying out your own trash. 

Indian Arm Provincial Park, BC

The Tsleil-Waututh Nation and the Province of British Columbia have a joint management plan for this beautiful, wild park at the terminus of Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet. There are a number of archeological sites within the park boundaries and plenty of hiking trails for all fitness levels. The park is an excellent area for watercraft and can be reached easily by boat. Several campsites have gravel or wooden tent pads. There is significant wildlife in the area; use discretion when deciding to bring a pet with you. There is no running water and creeks may be dry at times — bring water with you. Fires are not permitted; food and garbage must be hung out of reach of bears. 

Lakeview Park, BC

During the summer this popular beach area on Vancouver Island’s Lake Cowichan is overflowing with swimmers and boaters, but during spring, campers can still enjoy quiet mornings and a lot of solitude. This is a great spot for boaters and there are numerous hiking trails in the area. Get a trail guide online and plan your days before you head out. During the off-season, sites are available on a drop-in basis. The online reservation system begins mid-April. 

East Coast

Ellenwood Lake Provincial Park, NS

Hardier folk or those that won’t be camping until late spring can enjoy the wild beauty of southern Nova Scotia at this out-of-the way park. It is a full-facility camping area, but the crowds don’t show up until the weather gets warmer. Enjoy the walking trails and peaceful beaches before the summer throngs and you’ll have an entirely different experience. Reservations can be made in early April for mid-May camping. The nearby towns have some fun sights to see and the ocean is just 15 km away. 

Butter Pot Provincial Park, NB

Lower trails begin to thaw in late March at this 2,833-hectare park, near St. John’s, NB. This is a great place to spend a few days if you are a fan of watching wildlife. Moose, beavers, and snowshoe hares begin foraging in the spring as the new growth emerges from the snow. Over 200 species of birds have been seen in the park and you could find a warm rock in the sun and listen for hours to the varied calls coming through the trees. Drinking water is available in the park, but may not be turned on until May. Firewood is available on-site. 

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