Monday, April 1, 2013

Review: E.C. Manning Provincial Park - Lightning Lake Campground

View from Cascade Lookout -
many of the distant peaks are located in the US
Location: 3 hrs from Vancouver or the Okanagan
Website:  BC Parks
Map: Campground Map or Google Maps
Camping Facilities: Car camping at this campground, backcountry available elsewhere in the park
Grade: B
Stargazing: Very good, if you can make your way to the lake at night
Summary: A nice campground in a fantastic park.

Thoughts: It was a good start to our camping experience - a great horned owl positioned itself just above our picnic table to get a better look at what we were doing.  It was too dark for photos, but the memories will suffice.  Not that these owls are in any way rare, but having one calling out, sitting at the fringe of your campsite gives you a sense of wilderness (even if he was just cruising for scraps).  E.C. Manning park is beautiful spot that is probably well-loved by Vancouverites during the peak season, and fairly well attended by visitors in low season (the campground was probably half full on this Saturday night in late September). A fun fact - Lightening Lake campground is just 10 km from the US border.  There is no shortage of backcountry camping sites in Manning, and hiking opportunities abound.  There is also a beautiful drive you can take to the Cascade Lookout, then further on to the Subalpine Meadow trail, which offers some spectacular views.

Why is there a trail running through
these sites?
The Lightening Lake campground succeeds where many car camping parks have failed in the past. They do a pretty good job of providing good understory to improve privacy and sites are reasonably well spaced out.  The staggering of sites isn't perfect, but if you try hard enough, you can probably position yourself so that you aren't peering into other peoples sites. One interesting feature is that there seems to be a trail running behind the sites in the southern part of the larger loop; good for connecting parties requiring multiple sites, but I can't figure out why else they would do that. I'm sure most people don't want strangers traipsing through the back end of their campsites, so it's a bit odd.

The shore of Lightening Lake
If you can make your way down to Lightening Lake at night, you might be able to catch a good glimpse of the stars.  Otherwise, I'm not sure how much success you'll have; there is also a trail around the lake (the Lightening Lake Loop Trail, imaginatively enough) but it looks dreadfully boring since you're just circling the lake. There are plenty of great trails to be discovered in this part (unfortunately, due to time constraints, not by me), why would you waste 2 hours circling the same view?  The Lake does seem to have a nice picnic area, and might be a nice change of pace to set up for breakfast, watch the sun rise, stuff like that.

Map of Subalpine Meadow Area
What I can highly recommend is the drive to the top of Subalpine Meadow, which has one short loop (for those in rush) that can give you a taste of the scenery in this park.  If only there were enough time in a 2 week tour of the western mountain ranges to fully enjoy a place like this.  But I must say, my friends, 2 weeks is probably not enough time to spend in this park alone, given the hiking and camping options available here.  For those who are just searching for a fun weekend in the outdoors, you're sure to find something that suits your desires in Manning park.  For those who plan on staying longer, I envy you.

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