Sasquatch Provincial Park is located just past Harrison Hot Springs, about two hours away from Vancouver (depending on traffic and where you’re coming from). This summer, this little park made the perfect three-night getaway for us and a few friends. I picked the kids up from their dad’s place on Sunday night at 5 pm and we headed out to our campsite. We then had Monday and Tuesday to hike, swim, and chill before breaking camp on Wednesday and coming home.
Getting to Sasquatch Provincial Park
Sasquatch Provincial Park is tucked between Harrison Lake and the Fraser River, just past Chilliwack. You can take either Highway 7 (a smaller, meandering highway with plenty of opportunities to stop at roadside stands or grab last-minute items in Maple Ridge or Mission) or Highway 1 (zooming through Abbotsford and Chilliwack—hopefully—to get you to your campsite).
When you slow down for the sleepy town of Agassiz, you’re almost there. Next, you’ll take a few turns through Harrison Hot Springs and then follow the windy paved road along the lakeshore to Sasquatch Provincial Park.
I find the signs for this park aren’t terribly clear once you pass the entrance. There are several campgrounds within Sasquatch Provincial Park. We’ve camped twice at Bench Campground (one night last summer, three nights this summer) and both times, it was rather hard to find. Bench Campground and Lakeside Campground are both located on Deer Lake; there’s also a campground at Hicks Lake (continue past that to find the next two campgrounds).
You can download the map from the BC Parks website before heading up there if you haven’t been before.
Things to Do in Harrison
We arrived at our campsite around 8 pm, unloaded the kids’ bikes, set up our tent and picnic shelter, and found the water tap and outhouse. When it started to rain, we piled into the tent for bedtime. I’d brought along the fifteenth Wings of Fire book for our nightly read-aloud, and read via flashlight while darkness (and rain) fell outside. All night, I listened to the rain pattering the tent.
In the morning, Joey was up soon after the sun and ready to go play. The rain had stopped, but most of our campsite was wet. I pulled out breakfast and tried to keep the kids quiet so we didn’t have any angry neighbours. Slowly, the other kids wandered out of the tent. I read my own book while they explored our campground, rode their bikes around the campground loop, and played in the forest, but the temperature remained cool and cloudy. It didn’t feel like a beach day.
Just before noon, with everyone seeming rather bored, I suggested we head into town. We jumped into the truck and drove back to Harrison, where we found the Visitor Centre (just off the main street). We were the only ones there, and were greeted by the friendly staff member and a dog. While I asked about hiking trails and kid-friendly activities, the kids explored all the information and books about sasquatches. We left with a few souvenirs and a map.
When we left the visitor centre, we walked over to Qwolts Park, located on the west edge of town against Harrison Lake. The main street in Harrison (where the hotel, cafes, and beach are located) is pay parking but if you’re willing to walk a few blocks, you can park for free on the other streets. We passed the hotel and Harrison Watersports and crossed a bridge over the Miami River into Qwolts Park.
First we saw a large concrete structure with salmon and sasquatch art on the outside. This was some sort of fish ladder, to help salmon get from the Miami River into Harrison Lake, but in July, it wasn’t operating. The younger kids had fun posing beside the giant First Nations sasquatch (and trying to imitate his pose) while the older girls and I read the history shared on the signs. I was fascinated to learn that the sasquatch actually comes from First Nations legends about the local area.
The trail continued along the edge of Harrison Lake to the origin of the hot springs. Here, we found an old, brick Roman-esque structure around the springs. The pool itself was rather dirty but the air had the typical rotten eggs smell associate with mineral springs. Beside the springs is an open pool where we dipped our fingers in the water just to see that it was indeed quite warm (especially compared to the very cold Harrison Lake on the other side of the path). Water is piped from here back to the hotel spa and the public swimming pool.
We continued down the trail until it turned and climbed steeply into the trees. The kids were dubious about following it, but we did climb up to have a view of Harrison Lake and the water treatment facility below us. The clouds still hung low over the mountains around the lake. I was amazed at the size of Harrison Lake and envious of the few boats that were puttering along it.
I wanted to continue on down the trail to Sandy Cove, but other hikers returning told us that it had taken them two hours to do the hike. We hadn’t yet had our picnic lunch and the girls were worried about getting a parking ticket (the free parking was good only for two hours) so I gave in and we walked back to our truck.
We stopped at a playground to have our picnic lunch (as I happened to have all the food in the back of the truck). The kids played for a few minutes and then we drove to the Spirit Trail in the East Sector Lands. There is a big sign at the trailhead as well as outhouses here, and picnic tables a bit further down the trailhead. The visitor centre lady had told us that the trail took about half an hour to hike; my kids ran it in about half that time.
The highlight of this hike was the clay masks on the trees. A local artist has created around fifty masks, which hang high in the trees as you hike the trail. The kids had a blast spotting and counting masks (but we do not have a final, accurate count as each of them had a different number). The younger kids were charging ahead on the trail and actually ran the loop in the middle twice (we got back to the Y in the trail and they swung left and I just smiled and followed them, waiting to see when they’d realize they were going in circles. Unfortunately, an older sister complained and told them they’d done it twice and should go right next time.)
Coffee and Ice Cream and Bug Spray
We had hoped to go to the public pool after our hike, but unfortunately, it was still closed, due to a shortage of life guards. Instead, we walked to Muddy Waters Cafe where the kids got ice cream cones and I got a large latte. Then we made a very important stop at the local general store for more mosquito spray.
Last summer when we were camping at Sasquatch Provincial Park with our friends, I never noticed the bugs. Living on the west coast, I don’t usually worry about mosquitos and we rarely take bug spray with us anywhere. This year, the mosquitos were AWFUL! We noticed them soon after we arrived and the ranger warned us that these were “three-year mosquitoes”.
Apparently there are some mosquitos that lay eggs way above the usual water level. Once every three or four years, when there’s enough water that the level of the lake rises to the eggs, those mosquitoes hatch and we get a year with TONS of mosquitos. We went through several cans of mosquito spray and after-bite lotion in our three nights there, even with trying to keep our arms and legs covered when the temperatures cooled off.
Our friends arrived that evening to camp in the double site next to us. We helped them set up their campsite and then had roasted hot dogs and smores for supper before continuing our read-aloud and heading to bed.
Swimming at Deer Lake
Tuesday dawned sunny and bright as we’d hoped for our day at the lake. We had a lazy start to the morning while we waited for a few more friends to join us for the day at the lake. Just before noon, I led a parade of kids (bearing floaties and swim gear) down to Deer Lake. We spread out lawn chairs, sun shelters, towels, and snacks and water and watched the kids splash around in the lake.
Deer Lake is a fairly shallow lake with a rocky beach and a rocky bottom. The kids found it easiest to wade and swim with their water shoes or waterproof sandals on, as the rocks on the bottom were hard on the feet. Once they were in the water and swimming, they had a blast splashing around. We kept a close eye on them as a wind tended to blow across the lake, pushing the floaties further out than they expected.
Some of the younger kids dug in the rocky sand, creating a little pool. Others found tadpoles along the edge of the lake, and began filling a bucket for observation. An eagle flew over the lake. Other people brought their dogs down to play, paddled around the lake on stand-up paddleboards, or ventured out to fish. At the end of the day, we packed up the kids and the gear and marched back to our campsite for supper.
On our last morning at Sasquatch Lake Provincial Park, we packed up our campsite and then headed back down to Deer Lake for a quick swim. The mosquitos were less prevalent down there (which was great as we were out of bug spray) and we had the beach to ourselves. I jumped in and swam with my older girls and we just enjoyed the sunshine and the beautiful views there.
Then it was time to drive home. Our little getaway to Sasquatch Provincial Park was over for this summer, but there’s so much to do there that I know we’ll be back again for more hiking, swimming and exploring!