Gwillim Lake Provincial Park
Guide

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Introduction

Set along the eastern foothills of the mighty Canadian Rockies, Gwillim Lake is a scenic, remote and ruggedly beautiful park. The park's crown jewel is the 2700 acre (1110 ha) Gwillim Lake, a placid, pristine body of water offering tremendous opportunities for paddling and angling. Tens of thousands of acres of wild forests, prairies and mountains can be found to the north of the lake; this vast wilderness of wood, rock, water and wind is an adventurer's paradise, inviting intrepid adventurers to traverse its unmanaged trails and camp in its scenic back-country.

Photographers can snap action shots of eagles, elk and bear or take sweeping panoramas of the the looming mountains in the west. Overlooks and picnic areas are provided to let visitors relax and take in the landscape's grandeur.

The Gwillim Campground, managed by a private concessionaire, sports 50 primitive campsites set in thick woodlands. Opportunities for swimming, hiking, fishing, paddling, wildlife watching and more are all just a few steps away. The campground's open season is dictated by the weather (there's little winter maintenance on the access road, so snow effectively closes things down) but visitors can generally expect spots to be open from mid-May through September.

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Transportation in Gwillim Lake Provincial Park

Driving

Though the park is in a remote part of British Columbia, it is quite accessible. BC Highway 29, also known as the Don Phillips Way, cuts through the western edge of the park, and the short access road leading to the park's campground branches directly off of 29. The highway and access road are both paved and well-maintained, and the former, cutting mostly across the bottoms of river valleys, does not have any particularly steep or winding sections to worry about. Drivers in this part of British Columbia should always be on the alert for snow, slush or other adverse driving conditions, which can occur just about-year round.

The two nearest towns are located on Highway 29 as well; they are Chetwynd, about 30 miles (50km) to the north of the park, and Tumbler Ridge, about 30 miles (50 km) to the south of the park. Both towns offer services including gas stations, restaurants, groceries and camping supplies.

Parking

The campground is located near the end of the short park access road, and it sports 50 back-in campsites. These can accommodate small to moderate sized rigs and trailers. Additional parking is also available near the boat launch and at the day use area; both of these are within walking distance of the campground.

Public Transport

Campgrounds and parking in Gwillim Lake Provincial Park

Campsites in Gwillim Lake Provincial Park

Reservations camping

First-come first-served

Gwillim Campground

The campground at Gwillim Lake is primitive but beautiful; spots are set near the shore (some offer excellent lake views) and are shaded by birch, aspen, spruce and pine. Each campsite has a picnic table, and the camping loop has three restrooms, a water spigot and a small children's play area. Given the park's remote location, conditions are understandably rustic; no electric, water or sewage hookups are available, however, and the park does not have a dumping station. No supplies are offered here either; for food and camping staples, you can head to either Chetwynd or Tumber Ridge, both about 45-minute drives away.

A hiking trail, which skirts the shore of the lake, can be accessed directly from the campground loop, and the boat launch, overlook, and several day use areas are all within walking distance.

Gwillim Lake Campground sports 50 spots in total, all of which are first-come first-served. The campground's open season (generally from May through September) is contingent on road conditions and snowfall.

Alternate camping

Seasonal activities in Gwillim Lake Provincial Park

In-Season

Hiking

Gwillim Lake offers opportunities for both casual walkers and hardcore hikers to enjoy the area's rugged beauty. On the lighter (though no less scenic) side, the Lake Shore Trail is an easy stroll, accessible via the campsite, which provides wonderful lake views and lets walkers stroll underneath the mighty boughs of towering pine and spruce. For more seasoned and ambitious adventurers, there are many miles of un-maintained trails which wind their way across the park's massive wilderness. If you're heading out on any of these, be sure to bring orienteering gear, such as a map and compass.

Fishing

Gwillim Lakes is, unsurprisingly, quite popular with anglers; the surrounding forests and mountains offer a scenic and wonderfully rugged setting, while the lake's pristine waters provide a habitat for a significant variety of fish species. Bull trout, lake trout, burbot (also called 'lingcod'), northern pike, and Arctic greyling are among the species that fortuitous anglers can expect to pull from the water. Make sure you've got a proper British Columbia fishing license before casting!

Canoeing/Kayaking

The provincial park's main attraction is its namesake, the gorgeous, 2700 acre (1100 ha) Gwillim Lake. Canoers and kayakers can enjoy the lake's limpid sparkling waters and explore its many miles of tree-lined shores. Paddle out to the middle of the lake and soak up the views or bring a rod and reel and find a great angling spot. There is a convenient boat launch located at the end of the park's main road, just past the campground.

Off-Season

Wilderness Camping

While the maintained campground at Gwillim Lake offers a scenic and relaxing (if rustic) place to spend the night, for some adventurous spirits, it may also be an excellent launching point for an expedition into the Canadian wilderness. Back-country camping offers a chance for visitors to experience both tremendous beauty and solitude, and it is allowed throughout most of the park's 80,000 acres (32,000 ha). Trek across streams, over hills and through stands of aspen and birch; take in spectacular montane views and find a piece of ground to call your own, if just for a day or two.

Wildlife Viewing

Gwillim Lake has a rich variety of habitats, which support a plethora of wildlife species. Aspen and birch stands, pine forests, groves of spruce and fir, alpine meadows, rushing streams and, of course, the lake itself, all provide places where native fauna can thrive. Visitors can keep a lookout for black bears, white-tailed deer, elk, porcupine, red foxes and even moose. Birders may spy ruffed grouse, spruce grouse, bald eagles, Canada jay and a host of waterfowl and migratory warblers.

Photography

Photographic opportunities abound at this truly picturesque park. To the west loom the impending Canadian Rockies, whose peaks remain snow-clad for most of the year. The lake's clear, placid surface reflects the forests that surround it, and come sunrise or sundown, beautiful shades of blue, pink, and orange may intermingle in both sky and water. If you're quick on the draw, you might be able to snag a photo of a bald eagle swooping for a fish in the lake, and if you have some patience, perhaps you can capture a deer, moose or bear having a drink on the shoreline.

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