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Elle Ossello | 09.09.2016

Cultus Lake in southwestern British Columbia delivers on most everyone’s idea of what a camping weekend should be. From cracking a lakeside beer and casting lines to thrilling waterslides and old-growth forests, this area has it all. As if you weren’t already sold on the area after peeking through the photos, here are five reasons why you should spend a weekend at this warm freshwater lake.

1. It’s Ridiculously Close

When the abbreviation B.C. shows up in a place name, most U.S. residents are deterred by border crossings and the notion that, however lovely the natural gem, it’s not worth the long drive. While that argument may hold up when it comes to many weekend adventure spots in B.C., the same simply can’t be said for Cultus Lake.

Once over the border, getting to Cultus Lake is a simple and straightforward endeavor—one that will cost you a mere 30 minutes of your day. It’s only 90 minutes from Vancouver and 2.5 hours from Seattle. Once you cross into Cultus Lake Provincial Park, you’ll feel like you’re a world away.

2. Wake up Lakeside

There’s hardly anything lovelier than waking up early and having your coffee as you watch the rising sun slowly illuminating a placid lake. The experience here is heightened as the old-growth treetops catch the light and the alpenglow smolders atop the jagged snow-covered peaks of the Skagit Range.

While you can’t bank on solitude or quiet—Cultus Lake is choice for families with young kids—these campsites offer surprising privacy and a wealth of amenities for tent and RV campers alike.

  • Entrance Bay Campground – The nearby day use area has an easy boat launch, a playground, and a swim area.
  • Delta Grove Campground – Adjacent to Clear Creek Campground, it has sites with the best access to the lake, though they still aren’t technically lakeside.
  • Maple Bay Campground – Only used as overflow once Delta Grove and Entrance Bay have filled up. It’s always a nice day use area.
  • Clear Creek Campground – You’re likely to find the most privacy at this campground. If that’s your cup of tea, head for sites C46-C66.
  • Sunnyside Campground – Closest to the Cultus Lake Water Park. Like Delta Grove, it has relatively good access the lake.
  • Honeymoon Bay Campground – This is one of two group campgrounds in the park. Group size minimum is 15, and the maximum is 50. There are two sites at Honeymoon Bay.

3. See an 800-Year-Old Tree

If you’re staying at Delta Grove Campground (or any campground in the park, really), there’s no excuse for not making the 2-kilometer round-trip jaunt to see the oldest tree in the park, the Giant Douglas Fir. To put it into perspective, this behemoth Doug fir was just a sapling when Genghis Khan was roaming the earth.

Cultus Lake is situated in the transition zone between the Coastal Western Hemlock and Coastal Douglas-fir biogeoclimatic zones. As such, western hemlock dominates the understory along with verdant moss, ferns and a wealth of other wet-climate flora. Meandering down this short trail to the Douglas fir is a great way to get a snapshot of it all.

4. Endless Kid-Friendly Entertainment

When kids think about their ideal summer afternoon outside, Cultus Lake has got to be a pretty accurate representation. Not only are we talking playgrounds, grassy fields, swimming in the lake, docks to run around, and fishing, but the nearby town of Cultus Lake sports go-karts, mini golf, bumper boats, and a waterpark with enormous slides.

Cap a day like that with hot dogs over a campfire, and you’ll be dealing with some tired, happy kids.

5. It’s a Gateway to Excellent Adventuring

No kids? That’s fine too. Cultus Lake is situated within the Skagit Range, so there is no shortage of jagged, rocky, thickly forested hills and peaks. The area is known for its lakes, pristine hiking trails through verdant forest, and also for its world-class mountain biking.

If you’re staying at one of the campgrounds within the park, you won’t even have to move your car to bag Vedder Peak (as long as you don’t mind a bit of walking up a logging road). This 17-kilometer round-trip delivers you to the top of Vedder ridge, and is privy to 360-degree views of the Fraser River Valley.

Utilizing the same old logging road and access point, mountain bikers gain access to an extensive network of excellent single track. Most come for the green-rated Femur and Sunnyside Up. Those with a bit more skill opt into the beloved and high-adventure MongoLloyd and Electric Lettuce. The best part? You can choose to pedal or opt for a shuttle. 


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