Camping and Hiking with Kids at E. C. Manning Provincial Park, BC

by Josée

E. C. Manning Provincial Park is located in the heart of the North Cascades. Its close proximity to the Lower Mainland and the Okanagan Valley make it a popular location for weekend warriors and avid adventurers alike. Manning Park is a very large and ecologically diverse area, which means there’s so much to explore! Walk along Rhododendron Flats in June to admire the beautiful pink pacific rhododendrons, gaze up at the dark sky and twinkling stars in mid-August and spot a shooting star (meteor) or sit quietly and watch the amazing array of birds and other animals that call this park home.

In the summer months, camping, hiking, trail biking, kayaking and fishing are the activities of choice at Manning Park. Whether you’re passing through or staying the night, the first thing you should do when you arrive is to go to the Visitors Center, located about 1 km east of the Manning Park Lodge, and pick up a map of the area and Jerry’s Search ‘n Sketch – the Ultimate Scavenger Quest! for the kids (available May 2017 to December 2018).

Directions to E. C. Manning Provincial Park

E. C. Manning Provincial Park is located about two hours from Vancouver, BC and about two to three hours from the Okanagan Valley, BC (depending on where you’re coming from) along Highway 3 (Crowsnest Highway). The western park entrance is located 26 km from Hope, BC and the eastern park entrance is located 52 km from Princeton, BC.


There are four fore-country campgrounds at E. C. Manning Provincial Park: Lightning Lake Campground, Coldspring Campground, Hampton Campground and Mule Deer Campground. Lightning Lake Campground is the most family-friendly campground. The large sites are nicely surrounded by trees for privacy and they have such nice picnic tables! The campground also has flush toilets, showers, a new play park, an amphitheater and a couple easy to access trails.

Trails from Lightning Lake Campground: The Lone Duck Trail between site #51 and #53 goes to the Lightning Lake day use area, and another trail between sites #16 and #17 goes to Spruce Bay and connects to the 9 km Lightning Lake Loop trail.

All the sites at Lightning Lake Campground are reservable, and since it’s such a popular place I highly recommend making a reservation early in the year to grab a spot. As of 2017, reservations for campsites can be made up to four months in advance of your arrival date. We booked our August camp spots back in April.

Tip: Standard tent stakes won’t penetrate the hard packed gravel pads at Lightning Lake Campground. Instead try securing the tent fly with rocks or bring large nails and a hammer.

For more information about making fore-country reservations in BC Parks read: Making a Reservation for Frontcountry Campgrounds.


E. C. Manning Provincial Park has an extensive trail systems, so there’s something for everyone. There are short interpretive trail perfect for families with little children, a few moderate trails for those looking to hike for a few hours and longer day hikes and multi-day hikes. During our three days at Manning Park we explored two trails: Lightning Lake Loop and Strawberry Flat/Three Falls.

Lightning Lake Loop

The Lightning Lake Loop is a 9 km trail that goes around the beautiful Lightning Lake. There is a trailhead located at the Lightning Lake Day Use Area and at Spruce Bay. We started our hike at Spruce Bay, crossed over Rainbow bridge, and hiked around the west end of the lake. It’s a nice leisurely hike with minimal elevation. My kids stopped often to jump off rocks, walk on fallen logs, watch birds and stand in the trickling rain. This is one of those trails that you want to take in slowly because it’s just so lovely.

Strawberry Flat/Three Falls Trail

The Strawberry Flat/Three Falls Trail is located a couple kilometers down Gibson Pass Road, just passed Lightning Lake Campground. The hike starts at Strawberry Flats, where are wide flat trail crossed through meadows covered in wild strawberries. Even in mid-August the smell of the last ripening strawberries is intoxicating.

Strawberry Flats finished at the base of a ski area and the trail continues upwards to the first of the three waterfalls. Shadow Falls is located about 3.5 km from the trailhead and this pretty waterfall can be seen rushing into the canyon from the viewpoint. Nepopekum Falls is only a couple hundred meters down the trail and you have to squat down and peer through the trees to see it across the valley. The final waterfall, Derek Falls, is said to be 4.5 km from the start of the trail, but after hiking in 5.3 km tired little legs required us to turn back. It looked like Derek Falls was at least another km or so away on my GPS, so it might be more accurate to say that Derek Falls is about 6 km from the trail head, making this trail a 12 km return trail.

For a more comprehensive list of the trails read: E. C. Manning Provincial Park: Walking / Hiking Trails.

More Fun Things


Another fun way to explore Manning Park is to rent a canoe at the Lightning Lake Day Use Area and go paddling along Lightning Lake. A couple tips, paddle in the morning when the wind is calm and escape the crowds by paddling under Rainbow Bridge and into the western part of the lake.

Daily Programs and Special Events

Join an interpretive walk, listen to guest speakers at the amphitheater and take part in the daily naturalist programs for visitors. There’s always something happening for visitors. Or how about planning your camping adventure to coincide with Lantern Festival on the August long weekend or the Wings on the Wind Kite Festival on the September long weekend.

Have you been to E. C. Manning Park with your kid(s)? Do you have any tips or advice you’d like to share? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.


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1 comment

Emily Peterson September 8, 2017 - 4:08 am

Most people now choose between camping and hotels. So, after reading your article, a lot of people will think about trying to live in camping.
Cheers 🙂


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