Manning Park in British Columbia: Hiking, Canoeing, and Skiing
E.C. Manning Park
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.
The park’s full name is E.C. Manning Park. It 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.
Manning 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 resort in the park, allowing people without a vehicle to visit the area.
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.
The park contains a chain of four lakes known as the Lightning Lake Chain. The lakes in the chain are Lightning Lake, Flash Lake, Strike Lake, and Thunder Lake. Lightning Lake is the nearest one to the highway. It offers swimming (but no lifeguard), fishing, canoe, rowboat and kayak rentals, and a boat launch. One summer the area around the boat launch sold ice cream. Motorized boats aren't allowed on the lake. If someone wants to fish they need a fishing license.
Lightning Lake is a beautiful place. It’s surrounded by a trail which provides many different views of the water 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.
The Rainbow Bridge
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 and then continue the journey to the end of the lake or return to where the walk started.
The bridge is named for its shape. Although it 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 from the walkway and from the top of the "rainbow". They do so at their own risk, however.
The 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 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. 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 six and eight 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 park facilities. Others travel through quiet areas that are far from help. Hikers need to be prepared for potential problems.
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 that 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 the park you may discover that you have whiskey jack visitors. The whiskey jack is also called the whisky jack, grey jay, gray jay, and the Canada jay. The bird has a white or light grey chest and belly and a dark grey back. Whiskey jacks are so bold and eager to get handouts from humans that they often land on a person's hand to take food, as shown in the photo below.
Park ScenesClick thumbnail to view full-size
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. Fifty percent of the campsites in the Coldspring and Mule Deer campgrounds are reservable and eighty percent of those in the Hampton campground can be reserved. All of 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 travelling from Hope), 40 km from the portal. This is the campground that I always aim for. It’s a very popular site that fills up quickly, so reservations are definitely advised.
The Similkameen River flows right by the Coldspring campground. The nicest section of the campground 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.
Some Other Places to Camp
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. 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 water.
There is also a campground beside Lightning Lake. All of the campsites here must be reserved. Unlike the previous three sites, this campground has flush toilets and hot showers. It's located near an amphitheatre, which has scheduled visitor programs open to all campers.
The park campgrounds don't provide electrical, water, or sewage hook-ups for recreational vehicles. However, a sani-station is located on HIghway 3 about one kilometre east of the lodge.
Popular Campgrounds at Manning Park
Number of Campsites
Lightning Lake, hot showers, flush toilets
Manning Park Resort is located by the main highway and is one kilometre 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 resort and is on the same side of the road.
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 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 lodge also provides limited wifi access, which it says is suitable for "basic browsing and email".
The resort contains picnic areas, public telephones, washrooms with flush toilets, and a visitor centre. The 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.
Skiing and Winter Sports
The resort operates a ski area in the Gibson Pass Valley, which is located about 15 km from the lodge. 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 people 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
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 the 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.
The Manning Park website is a useful resource for visitors. It describes facilities, hikes, and safety information and enables visitors to reserve a campsite.
© 2011 Linda Crampton