By Valerie Franklin (The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: June 3, 2015

Photo Credit Kyle Pearce : Flickr
If you’re willing to brave the gravel road, the peaceful beaches at Hicks Lake are worth the trip

When I was invited to a rustic wedding on the sandy shores of Hicks Lake, my first question was how far away it was. I thought I knew the Lower Mainland’s geography pretty well, but I’d never heard of it. To my relief, Google Maps showed that it was only a few kilometres north of Harrison Hot Springs. The road to the lake is an intimidating squiggle on the map, but it’s surprisingly easy to get there in real life: as you’re driving into Harrison, turn right down Lillooet Avenue and let it lead you out of town. Follow the lakeside road past waterfalls, craggy cliffs, and cozy vacation cabins until you enter Sasquatch National Park, then simply follow the signs to Hicks Lake along a gravel road. All told, the drive is about an hour and a half if you’re starting from Abbotsford.

Like the rest of Sasquatch National Park, the Hicks Lake area is dominated by thick second-growth forests which are home to all kinds of wildlife; a pair of deer bounded across the road in front of our car as we drove in, and we spotted several bald eagles. But the lake itself is the main attraction: soft, sandy beaches strewn with driftwood and outcroppings of ancient glaciated rock, with Mount Cheam peeking over the hills on the southern side of the lake. The water is clear and fresh with no lake smell — and best of all, there are several small, mysterious islands dotting the lake, waiting to be explored by bold swimmers and kayakers. However, swimmer’s itch has been reported in the area recently, so take precautions if you’re planning to get wet and be prepared to towel off quickly.

The main beach in the day-use area is, unfortunately, dominated by a flock of Canadian geese and the mess they’ve left on the grass, but the surrounding beaches are clean and quiet. Many of the best areas are secluded behind tall trees and boulders, perfect for a romantic picnic or privately sunbathing on the warm rocks. If you’re looking for a more lively afternoon, you can rent kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddleboards at a kiosk near the boat launch during peak season, or, if you prefer walking or biking, a 6 km loop around the lake offers an easy hike with views of the water and the mountains beyond. Much of the path is gravel, so bring closed-toe shoes or you’ll be picking stones out of your sandals for most of the way.

The wedding party rented the group campsite, which is large enough to accommodate up to 40 people and includes its own fire pit, water tap, and outhouses. The regular individual camping spots are also comfortable, although they’re spaced fairly close to each other, so be extra considerate of your neighbours’ tolerance for noise and mess. If you’re planning to roast marshmallows, you can buy firewood from a vendor on the way into the park, but the price is heavily marked up; it’s better to pick some up in Chilliwack or Harrison.

Hicks Lake is a refreshing change from the overcrowded beaches at Cultus or Chilliwack Lake, maybe because it’s too far off the beaten path for those who are just looking for a picnic spot. The 6 km of washboard gravel road was hell on the shocks of our little sedan, especially on the way back, but it’s worth the bumpy trip. If you’re looking for a cheap and not-too-crowded provincial campground, a peaceful place to go canoeing or kayaking, or even an outdoor wedding venue, check this one out. It doesn’t get much better.