In the last two years our favourite type of weekend backcountry trip has been a base camp style camping trip. The idea is to find a location with an easy hike-in to a nice camp spot, where there is access to good skiing or hiking objectives. In this post I have the described the locations we have been to so far and made a list of future objectives. We are really into spring skiing, so most of the trips have been in the spring, but all the locations would work just as well in the summer. Most destination will have snow until late June/early July. We usually recruit one or two friends to come along. One the first day after setting up the tent Christian will go off to climb/ski something, and the following morning it will be my turn. Our friends will join one or both of us. I have listed the trip from easier to harder (in terms of getting to camp), although this could vary depending on conditions. You can of cause also use this as a resource to easy accessible camp spots - no need to climb mountains.
Cheam and Lady
Mt. Cheam is located just east of Chilliwack. This is a very easy hike in, but the drive is long and require 4WD. From the parking lot it is just 1 km to the end of the road and the start of the trail, shortly after you will be in an alpine meadow that I imagine would make a great summer camp site. We went here in May, so there were still snow and therefor snow mobiles in the meadow. We camped at the summer parking lot.
Cheam and Lady are both great objectives from here. Both are around 3 km and 700 m of elevation gain from the meadows. The trail to Cheam is easy to follow, where as the Lady trail is more of a beaten path that requires a little bit of scrambling. Both also make great ski accents in spring time.
Brandywine meadows is located south of Whistler. This is also a very easy hike in that require 4WD, but the road is not nearly as long or as rough as the Cheam Rd. From the 4WD parking lot it is around 3km and 200m of elevation to the meadows. The meadows are a really nice camping spot both in summer and spring. We went here in May, so there was still snow and we also saw a few snow mobiles. The road has pretty spectacular views. Alternatively the trail can be accessed from a 2WD parking lot lower down. The distance is similar, but it adds a couple hundred meters of elevation. The lower portion of the trail is also not in very good condition.
The obvious objective from the meadows is Brandywine mountain. It is around 3.5 km and 750 m of elevation from the meadows. There is no trail, so you would need to be familiar with navigating in the alpine. You could also get nice view towards fee by gaining the ridge west of the meadows.
This trail is located in the Callaghan valley. The Madeley to Hanging lake trail is around 6km long and gain around 400 m. We had a bit of trouble navigating the roads in Callaghan Valley, and the Madeley Lake Road does officially require 4WD. It is however an easy 4WD and could possibly be done in a 2WD. The trail is of mixed quality - it can be quite muddy at the bottom and the last half is a side hill. It might not be the best location for a very first overnight with kids, but it is a nice campsite by the lake and a spectacular location if you manage to get on top of Gin or Rainbow. Gin is close to lake and a pretty straight forward hike. Rainbow is substantially longer approach and involve scrambling and possibly glacier travel. Neither Gin nor Rainbow have a trail to the summit, so you need to be familiar with navigating in the alpine.
We went here in early June in a low snow year, but I would like to come back to this area earlier in the spring via the winter trail. The winter trail leaves from the biathlon area and it 3km and around 550m of elevation.
This is a bit of a longer trail for this type of trip, but the advantage is that you do not need 4WD and the trail is well maintained. The trail is 7.5km and a little more than 800m of elevation gain. We hiked it in about 3.5 hours (incl. a break) in spring time carrying F. Taylor Meadow has tent platforms and a day use shelter. See the webpage for info about permits and fees.
The closest objective is Black Tusk, which makes for a great summer scramble or good spring skiing. The hike to Black Tusk is around 4.5 km and 700 m elevation gain.
Another great objective is panorama ridge. It is a bit further, but it is an easy hike up and the views are amazing. The hike from Taylor Meadow to Panorama ridge is around 7km and 600 m elevation one way.
Future base camp style objectives
Below I have listed some of the location I would like to explore in this fashion in the coming years. All of these locations can of cause be used as easy access camping trips without adding a climb/ski into the mix. Note that I know nothing about the access, so it could be totally unsuitable for a family hike.
Camping at High Falls Lake (Tricouni Meadows East) and climbing Tricouni
Hiking the trail at the end of the Chance-Tricouni Spur. It is around 1.5 km and 150 m of elevation from the end of the road. The is a rough 4WD after the river crossing.
Spring or summer - anytime after the road is snow free.
Note: We went here in July 2016 - TR
Camping at Rohr Lake and climbing Rancherie Peak and Mt. Rohr
Hiking the Rohr Lake trail from Marriott Basin Rd (4WD) is 2km and 400 m of elevation. Walking the road will just add a few km.
Winter (skiing the road), spring and summer.
Hear that the lake can become very busy in the summer time.
Camping in Tricouni Meadows West and climbing Tricouni.
Hiking the Tricouni Meadow trail from the Tricouni Meadow Spur is 4km and 350m of elevation gain.
Spring or summer - anytime after the road is snow free.
Camping at Semaphore Lakes and climbing Face and Locomotive Mountain
Trail to Semaphore Lake from Hurley River rd is 4km and 350m of elevation (2WD accessible but a long drive).
Anytime after driving the Hurley is possible - probably late May.
Note: We went here in June 2016 - TR
Camping in Downton Creek and try multiple of the nearby peaks
Hiking the Holly Lake trail from the Downton Branch 2 (LC 4WD) is 2.5-3.5 km and 350 - 600 m of elevation gain depending on where you set up camp. Walking the 4WD road will add another 3.5km. Long drive. Summer only as you want the road snow free.
Camping at Joffre Lakes and climbing Taylor, Tszil or Slalok
Trail to Joffre Lakes from the Duffy is 5.5 km and 400 m of elevation (2WD)
Spring or Summer depending on objectives
Camping at Illal Meadows and climbing Illal, Jim Kelly or Coquihalla Mtn.
Hiking from the 3km mark on Illal Creek Rd is 4km and 500 m of elevation. Illal Creek Rd require 4WD.
Late spring and summer as you want the road snow free.
Camping at Blowdown Pass and climbing Gott and Gotcha
Hiking from the 2WD (some water bars) parking lot on Blowdown CreekRd is 4.5km and 600 m of elevation. It is possible to drive all the way in a HC 4WD.
Summer only as you want the road snow free. Long drive.
Camping at Valentine Lake and climbing Cassiope and Saxifrage
Hiking the Spetch Creek Trail from Spetch Creek Road (4WD?) is 6km and 600 m of elevation.
Probably just summer.
Camping at Ring Lake and climbing Mt. Callaghan
The trail to Ring Lake from Callaghan Lake is 8.5km and 450 m of elevation (2WD)
Anytime after driving to Callaghan Lake is possible - probably late May.
Have you ever done a base camp style camping trip with your kids?
Have you ever been to any of the locations above? What are your thoughts on bringing kids here?
Do you have suggestions for other great base camp style camping trips?