This snow camp post is going to be a bit different than my usual posts. Most notably because it was a snow camp that I did with Girl Guides, but more interestingly because it’s a snow camp experience that doesn’t require backpacking!
I’ve done two snow camps with Girl Guides now. The first was at the Mount Seymour Group Site, and the second at the Lone Duck II Group Site in Manning. Both are located ~100 metres from the car and have warming huts, so it makes for a great experience for beginners because you can try snow camping with the safety of a warming hut and without needing lightweight backpacking gear.
The challenge for the average person is that these are both group sites, so it’s hard to utilize them if you only have a small group. The good news is that, as the name suggests, Manning has a second site called Lone Duck I, which is a first come, first serve campground through the winter. So if you’d like to try snow camping for the first time, this site is a really great option because you can carry in whatever gear you need and there is a warming hut for this site too. It’s basically an open-campground, so you might even meet some cool new people!
The site is located past the Lightning Lakes day use area, but before the summer campground and strawberry flats area. You pull off the main road and there’s a parking lot for both sites. Both are located next to the lake and the cross country ski track, so depending on your interests, you can go for a long ski or take your snowshoes out on the lake, which is generally frozen through the winter.
We lugged our gear in along with a lot of firewood. We had lunch in the hut first and then got to work setting up our tents. Unfortunately there wasn’t a lot a snow, even in early January (and none of it was fresh), so we didn’t have to dig down very far, but it was also very crunchy conditions. Trex did really well setting up their tents, especially considering it was the first time snow camping for most of them.
Once settled, we took our snowshoes out on the lake for an adventure. We stuck close to the shoreline as a precaution at first, but the lake was extremely frozen, so we eventually wandered a little bit further out. We snowshoed to the bridge that separates the two lakes (making sure to get back on the actual trail to avoid the river, which doesn’t usually freeze). We crossed the bridge before snowshoeing back across the lake to the campsite again. It was only ~3-4km, but it was good to do a bit of exploring. It had been pretty sunny when we arrived, but the clouds were doing really weird things, so we ended up with some interesting cloud formations on the lake.
After returning, we decided to get the woodstove going for the rest of the night. The conditions were really mild and it was only just below zero, so quite warm for first timers. But we still planned to keep the hut warm all night as a precaution in case anyone was really cold in the tent. I have to say… I love backpacking, but I was definitely a fan of the woodstove! It made the hut so cozy and it’s so large we were also able to use it as a 4 burner stove. It had a hard time actually boiling water, but it was great for melting snow and we even used it to cook our chili for the evening.
Our evening was pretty chill and we sang some campfire songs and played a lot of cards. Eventually we all crawled into our tents and one of the guiders kept the fire going overnight. Overnight reviews were a bit mixed. One tent stayed very warm, but another struggled. No one gave up and crawled into the hut, but there were definitely some improvements to be made.
Overall it was a great first trip and no one was freezing, but I’m not super enthusiastic about trying snow camping backpacking with Girl Guides. Finding warm enough gear that can be carried is a real challenge. I hope Elfin Lakes re-opens the hut again soon because I think that would be a good option for Guides. Though we are lucky that Girl Guides owns their own hut on Hollyburn Mountain as well, so we hope to explore there next year.
In conclusion, Manning Park is a great place for beginners and I’d recommend the Lone Duck I site if it’s your first time. Me and Carolyn actually tried to do Lone Duck for our very first snow camp, but we missed the turn-off to the highway and were 40 minutes down the Coquihalla before we realized, so we ended up doing Falls Lakes instead!