Manning Park, British Columbia - Hiking, Kayaking, Skiing and Fun

A view of Lightning Lake in Manning Park, British Columbia
A view of Lightning Lake in Manning Park, British Columbia | Source

Manning Park is a large and popular provincial park in British Columbia, Canada. It offers a wide range of both summer and winter activities. The park has an area of over 70,800 hectares and contains diverse landscapes and facilities, including mountains, sub-alpine meadows, forest trails, rivers, lakes, a resort and campsites.

In summer, Manning Park is a great place for camping, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, swimming, canoeing, kayaking and fishing. Winter activities include nordic and alpine skiing, snowboarding, skating, snowshoeing and snow tubing.

Manning Park’s full name is E.C. Manning Park. The park was established in 1941 and was named after Ernest C. Manning, the Chief Forester of British Columbia from 1936 to 1941. Mr. Manning died in an airplane crash in 1941. He was a keen supporter of the idea of preserving land for the enjoyment of future generations.

The park is located in the Cascade Mountains in south central BC and is about a three hour drive from Vancouver. A Greyhound bus travels from Vancouver to the Manning Park Resort, allowing people without a vehicle to visit the park.

Another view of Lightning Lake, with the Rainbow Bridge in the background
Another view of Lightning Lake, with the Rainbow Bridge in the background | Source
The Rainbow Bridge at Lightning Lake
The Rainbow Bridge at Lightning Lake | Source

Lightning Lake in Manning Park

Manning Park's two entrances are marked by portals showing attractive animal carvings. The west portal has a wood carving of a marmot while the east portal shows a bear. Both animals can be found in the park. There is easy access to trails beside the main road that passes through the park. Some people's first stop in the park is Lightning Lake, however.

Manning Park contains a chain of four lakes known as the Lightning Lake Chain. The four lakes in the chain are Lightning Lake, Flash Lake, Strike Lake and Thunder Lake. Lightning Lake is the nearest lake to the highway and offers swimming (but no lifeguard), fishing, canoe, rowboat and kayak rentals, and a boat launch. (Last summer the area around the boat launch also sold ice cream!) Motorized boats aren't allowed on the lake. If someone wants to fish they need a fishing licence, which can be bought online.

Lightening Lake is a beautiful place. It’s surrounded by a trail which provides many different views of the lake and great photo opportunities. It’s also a good place for bird watching. In the late afternoon or evening visitors may discover beavers in the lake.

Ambitious walkers can continue past Lightning Lake to explore the other lakes in the chain. The trail isn't difficult, but it is time consuming. It shouldn't be taken without some thought. The Rainbow Bridge allows people to travel to the other side of Lightning Lake. Although this bridge has prominent warning signs telling people not to jump from it, it's a popular diving launch. The lake is narrow and deep under the bridge and is very tempting for divers of all ages. People dive at their own risk, however.

The Similkameen River Valley in Manning Park
The Similkameen River Valley in Manning Park | Source
A high mountain trail in Manning Park
A high mountain trail in Manning Park | Source

Hiking in Manning Park

Manning Park contains many trails for explorers. They provide walks ranging from short and gentle strolls to challenging full day or overnight hikes. A steep road near the Manning Park Resort enables visitors to drive to the Cascade Lookout and sub-alpine meadows instead of walking. In summer there is a lovely display of flowers in the meadows.

The trail that travels around Lightning Lake via the Rainbow Bridge is nine kilometres long. BC Parks advises visitors to allow a time of 2.5 hours to complete the Lightning Lake loop. The trail that travels beside all four lakes in the Lightning Lake Chain is twenty five kilometres long when the journey starts at the Lightning Lake parking lot. The route can be made five kilometres shorter by starting at the Spruce Bay Beach parking lot. The return journey along this trail will take between 6 and 8 hours, depending on the starting point and the speed of travel. The lake trails are mostly flat, with a few small elevation changes.

Hikers need to be aware that weather conditions in Manning Park can change rapidly, especially on mountain trails, and should bring appropriate clothing and supplies. Some of the park's trails are frequented by people and are near Manning Park facilities. Others travel through quiet areas that are far from help. Hikers need to be prepared for potential problems.

A deer at the Coldspring Campground
A deer at the Coldspring Campground | Source

Exploring Nature

A wide variety of plants and wildlife can be observed in Manning Park. Early July is the best time to see flowers in the sub-alpine meadows. The blossoms provide a beautiful but delicate display. Visitors are asked to be careful they they keep themselves and their dogs on the trails.

Researchers have discovered 206 bird species in Manning Park and 63 mammal species. Mammals include squirrels, ground squirrels, marmots, wolverines, beavers, chipmunks, pikas, deer, moose, coyotes, cougars and bears. Rainbow trout swim in Lightning Lake.

If you stop to eat on a mountain trail in Manning Park you may discover that you have whiskey jack visitors. The whiskey jack is also called the Canada jay, grey jay or gray jay. It has a white or light grey chest and belly and a dark grey back. Whisky jacks are so bold and eager to get handouts from humans that they will often land on a person's hand to take food.

Whiskey jacks or Canada jays feeding from a person's hand in Manning Park
Whiskey jacks or Canada jays feeding from a person's hand in Manning Park | Source
A Manning Park campsite
A Manning Park campsite | Source
Bridge from the Coldstream Campsite to the Canyon Loop Trail
Bridge from the Coldstream Campsite to the Canyon Loop Trail | Source
Fishing, canoeing, rowing and kayaking are popular at Lightning Lake
Fishing, canoeing, rowing and kayaking are popular at Lightning Lake | Source

Camping

The highway that travels through Manning Park is known as Highway 3, the Hope-Princeton Highway or the Crowsnest Highway. Three campgrounds border the highway. The campsites are pleasant and are surrounded by trees. About fifty percent of the campsites in the campgrounds can be reserved while the other fifty percent are available on a first-come first-served basis. The campgrounds have water and pit toilets.

The closest campground to the west portal of the park is the Coldspring Campground. It's situated on the right side of the road (if you are traveling from Hope), 40 km from the portal. This is the campground which my sister and I always aim for. It’s a very popular site and fills up quickly, so reservations are definitely advised.

The Similkameen River flows right by the Coldspring campground. The nicest section of the site is the branch that travels down to a bridge that goes over the river and connects to the Canyon Loop Trail. There are frequent animal visitors to the site, including deer, chipmunks and a variety of birds. Campers have to obtain water from a pump near the campground entrance, which could be seen as a disadvantage. On the other hand, the campground is very near to the resort and to Lightning Lake, which is an advantage.

Mule Deer Campground, which is the closest of the three campgrounds to the east portal of Manning Park, is also located next to the Similkameen River, but the Hampton Campground is on the other side of the highway, away from the river. It's a nice site, but is less popular because it doesn't provide access to the river.

There is also a campground beside Lightning Lake. All the campsites here must be reserved. Unlike the previous three campgrounds, this site has flush toilets and hot showers. The Lightning Lake campground is located near an amphitheatre, which has scheduled visitor programs open to all campers.

The Manning Park campgrounds don't provide electrical, water or sewage hook-ups for recreational vehicles. However, a sani-station is located on HIghway 3 about 1 km east of the Manning Park Lodge.

Manning Park has a website which is a great resource for park visitors. It describes the park and its facilities and enables people to make campsite reservations. It also has important information about wilderness and winter camping in the park.

Popular Campgrounds at Manning Park

Campground
Number of Campsites
Reservations
Water Supply
Special Features
Coldspring
64
Optional
Hand pump
Similkameen River
Lightning Lake
143
Required
Tap
Lightning Lake, Hot showers, Flush toilets
Hampton
99
Optional
Tap
None
Mule Deer
49
Optional
Tap
Similkameen River
Cabins at the Manning Park Resort
Cabins at the Manning Park Resort | Source

Manning Park Resort

Manning Park Resort is located by the main highway and is one kilometer away from the Coldspring Campground, on the right side of the road if you are driving in a west to east direction. The road to Lightning Lake meets Highway 3 by the Manning Park Resort and is on the same side of the road as the resort.

The resort has a lodge and cabins which are open in both summer and winter. It also has a store, a restaurant and a pub, which are open to everybody. The store sells food, gifts, basic toiletries, first aid essentials and camping supplies. In winter, downhill skis, cross country skis and snowboards can be rented at the resort.

The Manning Park Lodge has a number of facilities for its guests, including a heated indoor pool, a sauna, hot tubs and a gym. There's an ATM in the lobby. The resort also provides wifi access.

The resort contains picnic areas, public telephones, washrooms with flush toilets and a visitor centre. Manning Park doesn’t have cell phone coverage. Park staff visit the campsites several times a day if any help is needed. The resort staff are also available in an emergency.

Exploring Manning Park in winter by cross country skiing
Exploring Manning Park in winter by cross country skiing | Source

Skiing and Winter Sports in Manning Park

The Manning Park Resort operates a ski area in the Gibson Pass Valley, which is located about 15 km from the resort. A shuttle bus takes people from the resort to the ski area and operates on an hourly basis. As the resort's website states, the winter priority of BC Highways is to keep Highway 3 open to travellers. The road to the ski area is of only secondary importance. People travelling the route by car should have both snow tires and chains on their vehicle.

The ski area has four lifts to take skiers to their desired hill. It also provides facilities for ice skating, ice hockey, tobogganing and snow tubing. Skating and hockey equipment can be rented. The ski area has its own lodge, which contains a cafeteria and washrooms.

The Route to Manning Park in British Columbia

Two very tired dogs after three active days at Manning Park
Two very tired dogs after three active days at Manning Park | Source

Visiting Manning Park - Advice for Visitors

Some precautions are needed for a drive to Manning park, especially in winter. The highway from Vancouver to the town of Hope is flat and an easy drive, but after reaching Hope you need to be prepared for a climbing and sometimes winding mountain highway on the way to the park. In winter you need to have snow tires in excellent condition.

The town of Hope is located 26 km from Manning Park’s west portal while the town of Princeton is located 52 km from the park’s east portal. Both Hope and Princeton have a hospital. The nearest gas station to Manning Park is located just outside the east portal. It's accompanied by a little store, a postal outlet and a Greyhound bus station. You should definitely make sure that your gas tank is full before you enter the park and watch your gas gauge carefully during your visit.

The drive to Manning Park is well worth the effort and should be no problem for people who know that their vehicle can handle it. The park is a fun place to visit for outdoor activities in both summer and winter and is a wonderful place for nature enthusiasts and photographers.

© 2011 Linda Crampton

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Comments 12 comments

Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 5 years ago from Illinois

This park sounds absolutely beautiful. I have always wanted to visit British Columbia and what you write in your hub is why. I voted this up and beautiful. Thanks for sharing


Bud Gallant profile image

Bud Gallant 5 years ago from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Very well done! I've heard BC is beautiful.

One day I'd like to see for myself, but if this is any indication, it seems to be very stunning.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you very much for the comment and vote, Danette. Manning Park is beautiful. I love camping in the park. When I don't have time to camp I visit the park for a day trip, which is very nice too.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you, Bud! Yes, BC does have some stunning landscape. That's one reason why I like living in the province.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

You live in such a gorgeous part of Canada! Thanks for sharing this beautiful Manning Park with us. What a great place to spend a day or number of days soaking up the beauty of Mother Nature! Voted up and beautiful!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thanks for the vote, Peggy! Manning Park is certainly a lovely place for nature lovers. I'm lucky to be living where I do!


Chatkath profile image

Chatkath 5 years ago from California

Love it - I have also wanted to visit BC for so long! So beautiful! Good job.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you very much for the comment, Chatkath. I hope that you're able to make it to BC one day!


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

Alicia-this is a splendid description about the park and BC. Like Danette, I am enthralled with the beauty of the region and had the wonderful opportunity to see it in passing as I drove from Alaska to Washington.

I think you could have added this to the weekly topic of inspiration: bodies of water. Beautiful and interesting.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you, Denise! I'm glad that you had a chance to see the Manning Park area of British Columbia. I did plan to add this hub to the weekly topic, but as I was writing it I realized that I wanted to discuss more than just Lightning Lake.


Rolly A Chabot profile image

Rolly A Chabot 4 years ago from Alberta Canada

Hi Alicia... Manning is a wonderful place to visit. It has been a few years since I stopped. I was through Hope a few weeks ago and nearly stopped again. The scenery and fishing are exceptional. Heading over to Sicamous again in September to a fairly isolated cabin and some fly fishing in the region. Love your Province...

Hugs from Alberta


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, Rolly. Thanks for the comment. I love British Columbia and its beautiful scenery, but I enjoy exploring Alberta as well. I hope you have a good trip in September!

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