The final camping trip of the year: it has all the potential to be a sad occasion. But as we found out, it’s hard to be sad when you’re lounging lakeside on a sandy beach in 30 degree weather. Very hard indeed.
We got to enjoy 3 days of this on our recent trip to Monck Provincial Park on Nicola Lake. Established in 1951, the original land was donated and was the site of an old homestead. Today it’s home to 120 dry and dusty campsites, nestled in the pine trees, plus access to the lovely Nicola Lake. It’s just 30 minutes or so north-east of Merritt, BC.
The climate is very hot and dry, so expect to spend most of the day by the lake (oh, darn). Adjacent to the sandy swimming area is a day use area with uncovered and covered picnic tables. There’s also a playground and horseshoe pits (just ask at the entrance gate for shoes). The large, open field is great for bocce, frisbee or whatever other lawn games you might have brought along. There are also two First Nations pit house depressions in the field – story goes, the local First Nations peoples used to winter in them (although as some kids discovered, they also make sweet bike jumps).
The park also features a 5km interpretive hike. We decided to do this on the second day – in hindsight, we probably should have left earlier when it wasn’t quite as hot, as the trail was quite exposed and the temperature was close to 30 degrees. But it was still enjoyable. The first half saw us climb up the hill behind the park and experience some fantastic views of the lake from between the pine trees. There’s also a neat section where you walk along a huge exposed rock face. The second half took us down the hill, across the road and along the water. Near the end, you end up passing right by the park’s swimming area – so bring your suits along, you’ll want a dip! Note that there are several steep sections on this hike (going both up and down) and that you have to cross the road twice. It took us about an hour total. There is an alternative, much shorter loop that starts from the same spot and only takes about 20 minutes. I’d recommend the longer route though, if not simply for the views!
As I mentioned above, the campsites are quite dusty due to the hot climate. If possible, try to score one of the spots with partial or full shade (as some of them are quite exposed). The upside of the hot summer temperatures is that it stays warm quite late into the evening, so even with the fire ban we were able to hang out in t-shirts quite comfortably at night. If you have a boat, bring it – there’s a boat launch in the day use area and the lake is quite large so there’s lots to explore on the water. If you have kids, bring them too – there were all kinds of little ones playing on the beach and riding bikes around the campground.
Although our camping is done for the season, our last trip was probably the best of the summer. We’ll definitely be visiting Monck Park again!
ps – if you do go and aren’t in a rush on your way home, consider stopping in at a cool heritage site – Murray United Church.