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Chilliwack Lake Campground: beaches & trails

The weekend I’d booked for us at Chilliwack Lake Campground fell in the middle of two weeks of forecasted rain for the Lower Mainland. We’ve been camping a few times in rain and I know it’s not much fun in a tent. So I put a bit more prep into this trip and decided we’d head out anyway. If the weather was bad, we could always pack up and come home. I’m glad I didn’t decide to cancel our trip due to the weather, because we had a mostly sunny (albeit chilly) weekend playing in this beautiful provincial park.

Chilliwack Lake Campground review: beaches and trails and family fun

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Chilliwack Lake Campground

Located about two hours from Vancouver, Chilliwack Lake Campground is a good hour off the highway down a narrow road with glimpses of mountains through the tall evergreens. We left most of the traffic behind at the Cultus Lake turnoff, and enjoyed the paved road stretching away east before us. Chilliwack Lake Provincial Park is situated at the north end of the lake, offering three campgrounds, a day use area with a boat launch, and numerous hiking trails.

We arrived on Saturday afternoon and set up our campsite. The first thing I noticed about Chilliwack Lake Campground is that the campsites are a lot closer together than at other provincial parks we’ve camped in. We felt sandwiched between the two parties on either side of us (and at night, our tent was close enough to our neighbor’s fire that it wasn’t hard to eavesdrop on them for several hours). Compared to Cultus Lake Provincial Park or Golden Ears Provincial Park, Chilliwack Lake Campground was a bit disappointing.

Our campsite at Chilliwack Lake Campground, with our tent, picnic canopy, and sun shelter.

Once we had our tent set up, we raised the new picnic canopy I bought for this trip. It amply covered our picnic table, and the wall on one side also helped offer some privacy from our next-door neighbours, who were less than a stone’s throw away. (If the forecasted rain had showed up, I planned to move the picnic canopy over the tent for an extra layer of protection.) We also set up a sun/wind shelter that came with our tent; we’ve rarely used it in the past, but this time, it  provided some added privacy from one set of neighbours.

With the campsite squared away, we headed off to find the playground. It had been listed under “Facilities” on the BC Parks website, but wasn’t indicated on the map. The older three girls rode out on their bikes to search for it and soon returned with the good news that it wasn’t too far away. In fact, once I knew where it was, I could just see it through the trees (and RVs) from our campsite. The playground was simple—mostly a slide, ladder, and pretend hollow log—in the middle of an open green space, but it gave the kids a place to play and meet other kids.

Adventure Playground in the Paleface Campground.

Cooking over the Fire

The kids were soon hungry, so we headed back to our campsite to make supper. Since the ranger hadn’t come by yet with wood, I pulled out my stove and canned Chunky soup for supper. Lily figured out how to set up the stove and I reached for the fuel bottle… which wasn’t there. It was still sitting up on the shelf in the hall closet, where I store it safely away from the rest of the camping gear. I looked at the can of soup I’d already cracked open. Okay, we’d be cooking soup over the fire too… once we had some wood.

The kids munched on the croissants I’d brought for breakfast while we tried to entertain ourselves and watch for the ranger. Finally, I started a fire with two half-burnt leftover pieces of wood in our fireplace and some scrap colouring pages from the truck. We saw the ranger drive past once, too late to flag him down for wood, so Sunshine took off on her bike to find him and request a wood delivery. I put the pot of soup over our small fire and resumed watching for the ranger. When he arrived, we bought three bundles of wood and quickly had a roaring fire going for our soup and a pot of hot water for tea later.

After supper, I took turns with the older girls watching the fire or playing frisbee at the park with the younger kids. As usual on our first night, I tried to keep them up a bit later to help with bedtime. We had our s’mores to the music of our neighbours’ country radio. Then we crawled into the tent and I read a couple chapters of Dragonslayer (a Wings of Fire book) aloud. That put Joey and Pearl to sleep, while the rest of us got to listen to our neighbours’ loud conversation (with plenty of swear words interspersed) until past midnight.

Hiking Lindemann Lake

On Sunday morning, we woke up to clear skies still and had a cold breakfast. I set out lunch fixings and we divvied them between the older three girls’ daypacks. Sunshine was the water bearer, Lily had most of the food, Jade had the chocolate covered almonds to keep everyone hiking, and Pearl got a backpack with wipes and back-up clothes for Joey. Usually I get him to carry that himself, but I suspected I’d be carrying him before too long.

Bonnie Way carries her 3-year-old son in an Ergo on a dayhike.

The Lindemann Lake trailhead was about a five minute drive from the campground (or within walking distance, if you want a slightly longer hike). At 10 am on a sunny Sunday morning, the parking lot was already packed, with cars starting to line up down the road. We visited the outhouses at the trailhead and then started up the trail. As Pearl clambered over the boulders and roots along the first part of the trail, she kept shouting, “This is the best trail ever!”

A 5-year-old and a 3-year-old pick their way over the trail through the boulder field on the Lindemann Lake Trail.

Joey made it halfway up the trail before asking for a ride. Despite a few stops to catch our breath on the steep section, we arrived at Lindemann Lake within an hour. The kids promptly pulled out lunch and began to devour it. We watched a few brave souls swim in the lake and smiled at a few other families with young kids who’d also made the trek. Despite steep sections on the trail, Lindemann Lake is a beautiful and doable family outing.

After eating and relaxing for an hour, we hiked back down the trail. Lily and Jade ran most of the trail together (in a desperate dash for the outhouse at the trailhead, because the back-country outhouse at Lindemann Lake was an absolute disaster). Joey was going at a great pace himself until he tripped and landed on one knee and asked for a ride for a bit. At the bridge, I convinced him to walk again, and he finished the trail on his own two feet.

On the way up, Pearl had complimented every person we met on something—their shoes, their hair, their hoodie—earning delighted smiles and comments about how cute she was. On the way down, she turned her attention to the dogs, practically interviewing every dog owner: “What type of dog is that? What’s its name? Is it a boy or a girl? Can I pet it?” As the trail was quite busy, and every second party seemed to have a dog, that really slowed our pace.

Chilliwack Lake Beach

Back at our campground, we traded hiking gear for beach attire and walked down to the day use area. There’s a boat launch there and a narrow stretch of sand between the lake and the hill up to the campground. Several other groups were already scattered here, but we managed to find a square of sand underneath a somewhat shady tree. We snacked some more and played a few games of Ludo on a magnetic board game set I’d picked up (just in case we spent the weekend hiding out in our tent or under the picnic canopy due to rain).

Two sisters play a magnetic board game on a beach.

Then the kids got busy building bridges and ponds and burying each other in the sand. I finished reading Treasures: Visible & Invisible while moving my beach mat to stay in the sun. A few rain clouds drifted past but the sun always popped out again, sparkling on the warm water. The kids seemed immune to the chill in the air; Pearl was in and out of the water like it was 30* out, while I kept my long-sleeve shirt on over my T-shirt.

Two siblings playing on the beach at Chilliwack Lake.

As I watched them digging in the sand, working together and playing various games, I thought of my own childhood spent at various lakeside beaches in Alberta. Our campfires are a new tradition to me, because I grew up backpacking with my family through the backcountry of Jasper National Park, where open fires aren’t permitted. Our dayhike up to Lindemann Lake (with its tent pads and bear poles) had me dreaming about bigger backpacking trips with the kids.

In the evening, we roasted our hot dogs and s’mores over the fire. The girls took turns chasing Joey to the park and back. I anticipated a quieter night, as half of the campground was now empty and the party group beside us had departed. We crawled into the tent earlier and read a few more chapters of Dragonslayer to help everyone settle down. By 9 pm, it was “lights out” in the tent.

Packing Up and Heading Out

Joey was up at 8 am on both mornings, making me wish for the camp stove and a hot coffee. Instead, I had my Plexus pink drink and a scone and then started dismantling our campsite. The kids were soon helping out, either by finding all the tent pegs scattered around our site and unhooking clips on the tent, or throwing sleeping bags into a bin and rolling up Thermarests. Within a couple hours, the back of the Durango was once again loaded up and the campsite was as bare as when we’d arrived.

10-year-old and 8-year-old help take down the tent.

Now I’m planning our next camping trip and thinking about what gear we need to make it more fun. What campgrounds are on your list for this summer? What’s your “must-have” camping gear or family traditions?

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