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Summer Van Life BC Road Trip: Salmo to Lockhart Beach

Welcome back as I continue my summer van life road trip across the breathtaking landscapes of British Columbia. As a retired, solo female traveller, on my annual BC road trip, I find solace and inspiration while road tripping, especially when first discovering the previously unvisited treasures of my magnificent province. I travel in my converted cargo van, Wanda. I got Wanda during the pandemic when travel options were scant but my wanderlust was undiminished. When I retired, I vowed to do a better job of exploring my province and country. There's no way that I will give up international travel, but I now spend my summers road-tripping in Wanda. To read about my previous adventures all across Canada, I encourage you to check the "Canada" category on this blog. For Wanda adventures, click on the category labelled "Wanda". My ATB (Approved Travel Buddy) Mady and I also rented camper vans when we explored Ireland and the UK, and Iceland, so you might want to check those categories, too!

This blog post marks the fifth installment of my 2023 Summer Van Life Road Trip series, where I share my experiences, discoveries, and insights from this year's journey. If you've been following along, you'll have read about the unforgettable stops at Okanagan Lake Provincial Park, the beautiful and refreshing Christina Lake, the picturesque and peaceful Columbia Gardens Winery, and the serene town of Salmo, BC. Come meander with me as I continue my journey in the Kootenay Region of BC as I wind my way to Lockhart Beach Provincial Park, with a brief coffee stop in Creston, BC.

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My BC road trip, so far

BC Road Trip: The Kootenay Region

Most of my trip has been in the region known as The Kootenay Region or "The Kootenays". The borders of the geographical region are not really clear as there are many different ideas as to which of the outlaying towns might be included. The administrative region is divided into two official areas known as West Kootenay and East Kootenay. Other unofficial areas are Central Kootenay and Boundary Country (which runs along the Canada-USA border). British Columbians tend to use the plural (The Kootenays) and singular form interchangeably.

The Kootenay Region has a rich indigenous history that spans centuries. The land was traditionally inhabited by the Ktunaxa (pronounced tun-a-ha) Nation, who have deep ancestral ties to the area. Traditional Ktunaxa values demonstrate a deep respect for the land and sustainable hunting, fishing, and gathering techniques. The Ktunaxa people established extensive trade networks with neighbouring First Nations.

image courtesy of

As European settlers arrived in the 19th century, significant changes were introduced to the Kootenay region and the indigenous communities living here. Colonization, which included the introduction of diseases and the displacement of traditional lands, had profound negative effects on the Ktunaxa people and their way of life.

The original settlers were miners, loggers, and rail workers. Gold was discovered in thee mid-1800s and the area experienced a silver rush in the 1890s. As settlement of the area increased, the Canadian Pacific Railway expanded its tracks across the mountains of southern British Columbia. The railroad's arrival in Creston connected the settlement with the rest of Canada and helped it grow into the community it is today. (The selection of Creston was a huge scandal at the time, which I'll discuss when I report on my visit to Fort Steele in a couple of weeks)

Today, the region has a large network of outdoor activity operators including one of the oldest ski resorts, Red Mountain, and the largest resort, Revelstoke Mountain.

Coffee and Catching up in Creston

The community of Creston is a great place to stay if you want a base to travel through the region. As one of the larger centers, Creston also boasts that the community offers everything from wine tours and yoga retreats to backcountry wilderness excursions.

I wasn't planning on staying in Creston on this trip but a good friend, Madhuri, was in Creston and invited me to join her for a coffee as I passed through. Madhuri, an avid cyclist who often embarks on thrilling bicycle road trips, spends much of her time in Creston and has a wealth of knowledge of the area.

I arrived a bit ahead of time, so I stopped at the local Creston Valley Information Center, situated right beside the main highway with a gorgeous view of the wide Creston Valley. I gathered some information on the road ahead and, most importantly, picked up a ferry schedule to plan my route forward. Across the street from the information center was a delightful art gallery housed next to a restored grain elevator. I didn't have nearly enough time to browse before meeting Madhuri.

Our meeting point was the renowned Buffalo Trails Coffee House, a local coffee shop that is right on the main route through town. As I arrived, I was drawn to the inviting patio, with comfortable seating and blessed with both shade and refreshing misting sprinklers—a true respite from the summer heat.

As we sipped our drinks and I happily devoured a slice of delicious banana bread, the conversation flowed effortlessly. Madhuri regaled me with her latest two-wheeled escapades, recounting the breathtaking landscapes and hidden trails discovered on her cycling odysseys.

It was during this exchange that Madhuri recommended Lockhart Beach Provincial Park as a stopover along my journey. She spoke of its great location, lovely beach, and quiet campground.

BC Van Life Road Trip: Journey to Lockhart Beach

Leaving Creston behind, I followed Highway 3A north towards Lockhart Beach. As I followed the route that skirts along the east shore of lower Kootenay Lake, the surrounding scenery gradually transitioned back from urban to British Columbia's stunning wilderness. The day was hot (and my A/C sucks!) so I was pleased to enjoy the sudden cooling that announced the predictable afternoon thunderstorm.

The rain became quite heavy and I made the decision to stop at Boswell Harbour to wait it out. This natural harbour played a vital role in the development of British Columbia, particularly during the era of steam-powered transportation. Steamships, including the famous sternwheelers, plied the waters of Kootenay Lake, connecting Boswell Harbour to other communities along its shores. These vessels transported goods, supplies, and people throughout the region.

Today, there is little to see of its previous importance. It is now simply a lovely bay with an inauspicious boat launch and a sign board recounting its illustrious past. As the storm passed and the sun peeked back through the clouds, I carried on down the road to Lockhart Beach Provincial Park.

I arrived around 16:00 on a Tuesday afternoon, on the American long weekend. It's a small campsite with only 18 sites. There were several sites left but it filled up by about 18:00. I chose a site next to the camp hosts and got to work setting up camp.

After I settled into my campsite, I decided to explore the park. As I crossed the day visitor parking area I could hear the sound of a creek and followed my ears. I wandered along the creek for a while before turning around to find the beach. Had I followed the creek the whole way, I would have ended up in Lockhart Creek Provincial Park.

Lockhart Beach itself is across the highway from the campgrounds. Crossing the highway is not nearly as dangerous as it sounds. There is fairly light traffic, with great gaps between vehicles.

As is typical for the area, the beach is a rough sand and pebble beach -- water shoes will be appreciated. There were quite a few people enjoying the late afternoon sunbathing, swimming, kayaking, paddle-boarding, and fishing but I walked a little further and found a piece of beach to enjoy all by myself. I particularly enjoyed the trees that offered a nice shady place to lay down my towel.

History of Lockhart Beach and Surrounding Area

The earliest artifacts of human habitation in the region were found in the southern Purcell Mountains, and they are part of what is called the Goatfell Complex. Both Lockhart Beach and Lockhart Creek Provincial Parks are located within the traditional territory of the Ktunaxa Nation. Lockhart Creek Park includes many Indigenous trail systems, as well as traditional use areas. The challenging Lockhart Trail begins at Lockhart Creek.

The Ktunaxa traditionally had a very wide-reaching territory that extended east to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains where they would hunt buffalo. Some scholars believe that the modern-day Ktunaxa are the descendants of a group that was forced eastward and off the plains as the Blackfoot Confederacy came to dominate the region.

The first Europeans to enter the area that is now the provincial park were possibly led by Alexander Mackenzie during his expedition in the late eighteenth century. Mackenzie and his team may have been the first Europeans to make contact with the Ktunaxa.

During the 1800s, settlers moved into the area mainly to work in the gold or silver mining industry, or later, the forestry industry. The area was important during the construction of the Kootenay Lake Ferry which became an essential transportation link connecting Kootenay Lake communities. Nowadays, most of the cities in the region feature resorts that cater to skiers and other outdoor adventurers.

Lockhart Beach Provincial Park Campground Review

Location: 🏕️🏕️🏕🏕️🏕Lockhart Beach Provincial Park is located about 45 minutes north of Creston and about 20 minutes from the Crawford Bay Ferry. Many travellers will drive right past the Park but for those wanting to pause before crossing the lake, this makes an ideal stop making it easy to catch an early ferry the following day

Amenities: 🏕️

Lockhart Beach Provincial Park is a basic provincial park, with unserviced sites and pit toilets. There is no shower or potable water available, but the price ($23 CAD) reflects that. There were camp-hosts on site. Cell reception was acceptable with 2-3 bars of service. Using my cell signal booster, I was able to increase that to 4-5 bars.

Campsite: 🏕️🏕️🏕🏕️

My site was a good size, exceptionally clean, and included a picnic table and fire pit. It was mostly shaded and there was a good amount of privacy between sites. It had a good balance of direct sun and shade.

Nearby Activities/Services: 🏕️🏕️🏕🏕️🏕

It may be a humble campground but there is much to explore in the area for those looking for adventure, including the various water activities, challenging hikes, caving or glacier tours, and hot springs (after the ferry).

Noise Levels: 🏕️🏕️🏕 Considering the proximity to the highway, it is remarkable how quiet the campground is. The trees filter the traffic noise during the day and it gets very quiet overnight. There was a group who were partying but they shut the noise down promptly at 22:00 pm, when "quiet hours" begin.

Aesthetics: 🏕️🏕️🏕 It's a small campground but well-laid out and impeccably maintained. The sites are arranged to take advantage of the trees to offer shade and screen the highway from the views of the campsite.

Overall, this was one of the best basic campgrounds I've visited. I would recommend it for an overnight stay or to use as an inexpensive base to go on day trips in the area.

Nearby Attractions and Activities

Lockhart Beach Provincial Park has a great beach and the adjacent Lockhart Creek Provincial Park serves as a gateway to a plethora of nearby attractions, especially for those looking for some adventurous hiking.

I didn't do any adventurous hiking, so I can't make any recommendations except to tell you to do your research carefully. Less experienced and solo hikers are not advised to attempt these hikes which include challenging "scramble" sections and unmarked routes.

Cody Caves Provincial Park: Amongst those with a sense of adventure and a thirst for exploration, a visit to Cody Caves Provincial Park is highly recommended. Just a short drive away from Lockhart Beach, this park is a subterranean wonderland of limestone caverns adorned with stunning stalactite and stalagmite formations. A guided tour with Cody Caves Tours will take you deep into the caves to see the hidden world beneath the surface. Friends of mine took this tour and raved about the experience.

I struggle with claustrophobia, so I always manage to find a reason to drive past. I am totally fascinated by caves so I suspect I will find a reason to stop on a future road trip.

Pilot Bay Provincial Park: Although I didn't stop in on this trip, I have previously visited this tranquil oasis between Lockhart Beach and Crawford Bay. Pilot Bay Provincial Park offers walk-in tenting camping only but is a great place to visit for a day. Visitors can explore the calm waters by kayak or canoe, try their luck at fishing, or simply relax on the sandy beach and soak up the sun and the surrounding natural beauty. The Pilot Bay Lighthouse is a popular walk. This really is a hidden gem well worth a visit.

source: unknown (I had it saved on my computer but it wasn't labelled and I don't remember taking it)

Ainsworth Hot Springs: A visit to Ainsworth Hot Springs is the perfect remedy for anything that ails me. Located on the opposite shore of the lake, it is a short drive from the ferry. These natural hot springs are a blissful oasis of warm mineral-rich waters surrounded by stunning mountain views. I am hoping to visit these later in the summer as part of my wanderings around the Hot Spring Loop.

Final Thoughts

Lockhart Beach, with its rich history, tranquil ambiance, and natural beauty, is a sanctuary for weary road trippers seeking solace and rejuvenation. It is also a gateway to some grand outdoor adventures nearby. The campground is basic but so is the price. I would stay here again if I was looking for a single-night stay and a refreshing swim.

Thank you, fellow meanderers, for joining me on my summer van life road trip, tracing the footsteps of my adventures across the diverse landscapes of British Columbia. Your support, encouragement, and companionship have made this journey even more meaningful.

I invite you to follow my travels by subscribing to this blog. You'll receive notifications whenever new content is posted. You can also stay connected through my Facebook page, Facebook Group, Twitter, Instagram, and my newly created Threads account, where I'll be sharing more snippets, photos, and stories from my ongoing road trip.

I hope Lockhart Beach and its surrounding wonders will inspire you to set off on your own summer road trip to seek new places, delve into history's whispers, and immerse yourself in the natural world.


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