Overnight hikes:

🕔Jul 21, 2008

To me, there are two types of camping.
The first entails packing your truck’s box to the brim and driving to your destination. Your list of supplies usually includes your meat-grilling sticks or even a grill itself, a cooler full of grub (including, of course, hunks of meat or other grillables), lawn chairs, games for the kids and some kind of not-that-tiring sports equipment for the adults (a Frisbee or Bocce balls, perhaps). You might even strap a couple of bikes onto your car. After a rowdy night of socializing by the fire, you creep into bed, either hoping your neighbours will shush soon—or feeling guilty for being so loud so late yourself.
Your bed is either of two options. The not-so-luxurious possibility is a tent with sleeping bags, while the second option—easiest to tidy and ultra-comfortable (in the appropriate vehicle)—is a mattress and blankets in your car or under the canopy of your truck.
When you camp like this, you usually want for nothing. You can bring anything and everything you might need or desire (unless, of course, you mistakenly thought you had stuck your wool slippers in with your clothes, but really they are still tucked under your bedside table at home). This kind of camping is fabulously easy, comfortable and relaxing, and requires little planning.
The second kind of camping is at the same time much heavier and much lighter. It involves you, your chosen mates, a backpack full of only the minimum of your lightest gear and food, and ideally a solid pair of firm and supportive hiking boots. Depending on the weather, you are likely wearing or carrying layers of breathable yet warm and (at the very least) water-resistant clothing. Your tent, sleeping bag and thermarest are also firmly tucked into or tied onto your pack.
With this type of camping, you bring only what you can carry. Therefore, you must weigh each item, mentally and literally if you wish, to decide whether it is worth that extra bead of sweat dripping into your eyes while you trudge up and down a trail. Which items are and aren’t worth their weight may differ considerably for everyone. My brother, for instance, chose to hoof a bladder full of several bottles of wine along the West Coast Trail many years ago. For that same seven-day journey, however, I was reluctant to bring even an extra pair of socks.
Hike-in, no-trace camping requires more organization, sweat, and maybe even tears. But the rewards can be grand: gorgeous views, fantastic photo opportunities and, more often than not, soothing silence and privacy. A brush with wildlife may be in the cards too—though it’s not guaranteed to be rewarding.
Although I prefer backpacking to car camping, most summer weekends my friends and I are packing our vehicles instead of our packs. This is likely true for many in the North. This summer I’ve made a pact with myself that I will hike to somewhere wonderful and camp overnight at least once and preferably a few times.
Here are some easily accessible and relatively easy (not too simple but not at all grueling) overnight backpacking trips that might just do the trick—for me and for you.

Cape Fife Hiking Trail, Haida Gwaii
The Queen Charlotte Islands are famous for their wet, green and breathtaking old-growth forests. The Cape Fife hiking trail, approximately 10 kms in length, offers just that and more.
This low-elevation route crosses from Grahams Island’s north coast to its east coast, ending at a camping shelter on East Beach, close to Rose Spit, the northeast-most point of the islands. Depending on the trail and weather conditions, the hike can take anywhere from three to six hours, one way.
Hikers should be ready for any type of weather conditions, and should bring drinking water as none is available. The shelter has a wood stove and sleeping area for about four people, but it’s a good idea to bring a tent in case other hikers have claimed the cabin before you.
To get to the Cape Fife trailhead, drive east from Masset about a half hour to the Tow Hill parking lot, and park here. Walk across the Hiellen River bridge and look for signs indicating the start of the trail.

Sleeping Beauty Mountain Trail, Terrace
The Sleeping Beauty Trail is about six kilometres long and takes approximately two hours to get to the top. The terrain starts off steep in an old clearcut, then changes to switchbacks in beautiful old forest. At the top, you will find small, clean alpine lakes and fabulous mountain views.
Camp here, and relax. If you wish, wake up early, leave your heavy gear at the campsite and explore the three mountain peaks to the west. You can spend the whole day discovering the area but make sure to turn around with enough time to get back to your gear and your vehicle, if you are planning to spend only one night.
To get to the trailhead, drive west from Terrace on Hwy 16 and turn right onto the West Kalum Forest Road just past Kitsumkalum. After about 9 kms of driving, turn left at the Sleeping Beauty Trail sign. Drive approximately 10 more kms. Park at the Sleeping Beauty Trail signpost, then hike 1.3 km up the gravel road to the trailhead.
Though a 4 × 4 vehicle is not required, it is helpful.

Blue Lakes Trail, Hazelton
Not surprisingly, two gorgeous, turquoise-blue lakes await you along the Blue Lakes trail. Like most things in life, they look most spectacular in the sun. The hike from the bottom of the trail to the second lake, a gradual climb on a well constructed trail cut into the sidehill high above the creek that drains the lakes, takes about four hours. The trail crosses numerous creeks as it travels through beautiful old-growth forest. Camping is best between the two lakes.
To get to the trailhead, drive about 8 km south of New Hazelton. Go west on Mudflat Creek road and drive straight to get to the trailhead.
If you have a 4 × 4 vehicle you can drive to the upper parking area, which is about four km. If not, park on the road about 1 km from the highway and hike from there. It takes about an hour to hike to the upper parking lot and trailhead.

Little Joe Creek Trail, Smithers
This 8.5 km trail into Babine Mountains Provincial Park follows Little Joe Creek from its trailhead in McKendrick Pass, climbing gradually except for one steep section. The hike takes about three hours to get to the first of two alpine lakes, which makes for a nice overnight spot.
This trail is especially enticing as it offers opportunities to continue hiking or explore other routes. For example, you can hike up the Little Joe Creek Trail and down the McCabe trail, another relatively easy route in the area. To do this, however, you must plan ahead and leave a vehicle at your final destination.
To get to the Little Joe Lakes trailhead, drive about 4 km south of Smithers and turn left onto the Babine Lake Road. The Little Joe Lakes Trail sign is about 28 km along this road. Turn left here and drive one km to the trailhead.

Ormond Creek Trail, Fraser Lake
This hike is slightly longer, 26 kms round trip, and slightly harder than the others, but the scenery is worth it.
The trail follows Ormond Creek, passing through 300-plus-year-old Douglas Fir forest at its start. This trail passes the Oona Canyon, the most spectacular part of the hike, as well as a waterfall. The waterfall can only be heard from the trail though, so you must listen for it.
The Ormond Creek trailhead is across from Peterson’s Beach Campsite on the north side of Fraser Lake. To get there, head west on Highway 16 and turn right on Stella Road at the small store about three kms along. Drive about 20 minutes and you’ll see the campsite, with a sign, on the right. You can park on the road or in the campsite parking area.

Raven Lake Cabin/Grizzly Den Cabin Trails, Prince George
The trails to the Raven Lake and Grizzly Den cabins offer gorgeous meadows, balsam forests and meandering creeks. The hike takes close to 10 hours if you choose to do the circuit, which passes by both cabins, or two to three hours if you decide to visit only one. The full circuit is 12 km while the route to either cabin is just four km.
The cabins are available to the public for sleeping for free, but they are very basic so still bring all the equipment you would on a typical overnight backpacking trip, except a tent. These cabins are run on a trust system, so leave them as clean as you found them.
To get to these trailheads, drive 89 km east of Prince George on Hwy 16. Turn right on the Hungary Creek Forest Road and follow it for 13 km. A sign for the Grizzly Den Cabin indicates that trail. Park there, on the road, and begin your trek. Parking for the Raven Trail is a little more than two km further along the road.

Monkman Lake Trail, Tumbler Ridge
The Monkman Lake Trail begins at the Kinuseo Falls Campground, about 60 km south of Tumbler Ridge, and continues through Monkman Provincial Park to Monkman Lake. The first sections of this trail, with campsites at seven km and 15 km, can be hiked without difficulty during a weekend.
For those with more time (and energy), continue along the trail to Monkman Lake (at 24 km), passing along the way a series of cascades, including Monkman Falls (pictured here.)
As of this summer, Monkman Park has a new trail: the Monkman Pass Memorial Trail/Hiking Route. This trail/route has been resurrected to honour the area’s pioneers who started building a trade route through these mountains, but whose efforts ended with the outbreak of World War II. The route carries on from Monkman Lake, crossing alpine terrain and leading eventually to the confluence of Fontoniko and Herrick Creeks—where a boat is required to cross the substantial waterway, and a vehicle necessary to get you back to Kinuseo Falls campsite where you began. The total hiking distance of this trek is some 62 km.
(Note: The new Monkman Pass Memorial Trail is a six-day wilderness trip that passes through remote, challenging terrain. For more information about hiking in the area, see the Wolverine Mountain Wilderness Society’s website at: http://www.pris.bc.ca/wnms/. The brochure Monkman Pass Memorial Trail Hiking Route is available from the Tumbler Ridge Visitor Centre.)

These six trails listed are only a fraction of those available in the North. For more information, contact your local Visitor Centre or BC Parks Office. Maps and info pamphlets on specific trails are sometimes available. The internet is also a good reference, as are books about hiking in Northern B.C.
And remember: safety comes first. Make sure you’ve done your research on the hike you plan to do. Check the weather. Check the trail conditions. Check your gear. And once you are ready to head out, ensure you have all the equipment and supplies you need, for hot and cold weather as well as for emergencies.