Squamish Access Society Updates 2017: camping, vanlife, parking etc.
May 24, 2017 update
(mods/admin you might want to make this a sticky for this season)...
There are several changes that are happening in and around Squamish for the 2017 Climbing Season, particularly with regard to camping and parking. Below we (the Squamish Access Society, SAS) breakdown the general issues (#vanlife “wild” camping, and parking) as well as updates to specific climbing areas.
The increasing popularity of #vanlife has also come to Squamish and has put pressure on the limited parking near the Chief and Apron. BC Parks staff has noted that long-term monopolization of parking spaces by overnight campers using vans/RVs/cars at the Chief and Apron lots is reducing availability for day users. Beginning May 5, 2017, BC parks will be implementing their “Compliance Action Plan” for parking and overnight camping at the Stawamus Chief, Apron, Murrin, and Shannon Falls parks. BC Parks has posted no overnight parking signs in all parking areas for these parks. This will be enforced with late night requests to vacate the lots or be ticketed and/or towed at your expense. At Murrin and Shannon Falls, access gates are to be locked at dusk. Vehicles in the parking lot after dusk will have to phone the towing company to have the gates unlocked for a fee. If van dwellers continue their attempts at overnight parking, BC Parks will likely construct additional gates for the Apron and Upper Chief lots to regulate their access in 2018 (thereby limiting access for climbers coming down after dark).
SAS is working with the District of Squamish (DoS) and The Ministry of Forests, Lands & Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO) to develop a very low cost, minimal facility for van parking in the Squamish area. The earliest that such a place will be ready is in 2018. There is also possibility for another van camping later in the summer (of 2017). Please see our website and Facebook page for updates. In the meantime, please do not use the Chief and Apron lots and follow the suggestions in the “Wild” camping section below for appropriate options.
This mode of camping primarily along the Mamquam FSR/ Stawamus River in culturally-sensitive areas and very close to residential neighbourhoods is perhaps the biggest issue currently straining the climber-community relations in Squamish (even though not all of these campers are climbers) and endangering our working relationships with the public, the DoS, BC Parks and the FLNRO.
Along the Mamquam FSR, from 0km to The Stawamus River Bridge at 2.5 km, FLNRO, DoS and BC Parks are collaborating to enforce no camping and overnight parking bans through ticketing and towing. There are much more appropriate places to practice respectful/leave no trace “wild” camping and #vanlife further up this FSR, the Squamish River valley or other areas.
SAS is currently working with the FLNRO is develop a new campground in this area which will hopefully open in Summer 2018.
At peak times, don’t be surprised if you can’t find space at Murrin or the Chief if you show up later in the day. Don’t be tempted to shoehorn your vehicle into an unofficial space or along HWY 99. Since summer 2016, BC Parks has been enforcing strict parking rules through a contract to a towing firm. Part of the reason is to maintain access for emergency vehicles. BC Parks is to continue strict enforcement of posted parking restrictions by towing violators, as it did in 2016. Expect stepped up enforcement especially on holiday weekends and in the peak July - August period. Consider carpooling if at all possible. On the positive side, our lobbying of District of Squamish and BC Parks on this issue has begun to show results as the expansion of the Smoke Bluffs parking lot was completed earlier this year. We are actively advocating a shuttle bus between Squamish, the Chief and Murrin from 2018 onwards, as well as increased parking expansion at other lots.
Chek and the Outpost:
In 2017, Chek and the Outpost are going to be a busy area. The FLNRO campground is undergoing renovation and expansion beginning in May 2017. This will affect both parking for day use and camping in general. More details can be found at: http://squamishclimbingmagazine.ca/access-update-chek-canyon-recreation-site-expansion/
There will also be active logging in the area, which will be using the Conroy Creek road (Chek/Output access road). SAS has worked to minimize the impact on climbers. There will be traffic control onsite during hauling operations so no radio is necessary, but climbers must obey all traffic personnel. More details can be found at: http://squamishaccess.ca/chek-and-cat-lake-logging-from-april-2017/
The latest logging updates we have indicate road building will occur from May 24 2017 until the third week of June. Hauling is currently scheduled for September 2017.
Finally there will be filming going on May 25-27. On May 25 and 27 traffic will be restricted to alternating directions. On May 26 there will be no public parking at Chek and climbers will be required to park on the highway. SAS suggests that climbers avoid Chek during this day.
Climbers are competing with hikers, fishermen and picnickers for parking space. See “parking” comments below for more details. On the positive side, anyone who hasn’t visited Murrin for a few years will find the place transformed by many new cliffs and the new “Loop trail” network. Increased popularity amongst climbers brings other pressures; SAS and BC Parks have started planning a new outhouse closer to the climbing areas near Pet Wall that will likely be completed by 2018. Additionally, Murrin Park is located within a culturally significant area for the local Squamish First Nation. Please treat the area with respect. See #vanlife above regarding parking and overnight parking restrictions at Murrin Park.
Smoke Bluffs Park:
The expanded parking lot is approximately twice the size of the old lot, but is already filling up on busy weekend days. If it is full, the gravel lot opposite the Squamish Adventure Centre may have space. SAS has emphasised the importance of the Adventure Centre lot as overflow parking for the Bluffs to District of Squamish.
Overnight parking is not allowed at the Bluffs parking lot. Similarly there is no camping allowed within the Smoke Bluffs Park itself.
The newly-scrubbed cliff, Free and Easy, by the Mamquam Blind Channel below High Cliff is well worth a visit. There are topos in situ at the cliff.
The biggest change is that the Chief campground will include strict enforcement of the two weeks per year stay limit (with ID checks) and the fee structure moving to a whole site rather than per camper charge. Related to this, climbers should absolutely not camp for free by the Stawamus river. It creates problems with several different groups: local residents, stream-keepers and the Squamish Nation. Again see #vanlife above for further discussion.
Looking forward to 2018, the Chief Campground will be significantly expanded and will also be included in BC Parks online reservation system from summer 2018. This will be beneficial to visiting climbers who want to secure camping prior to arrival, but may change the character of the campground over time. When implemented, 50% of the campground’s sites will remain first-come, first-served.
Squamish Access Society
Director at Large
Thank you for such a thorough explanation. Your time and effort are very much appreciated.
Is it going to be unreasonable to expect to find a site to park a van for a week without reserving from a private company the last week in July? I've never camped in Squamish before and apparently this is not the deal year for it. Without being able to reserve online I'm curious about whether I should make alternate plans.
As a side note, with a 2 week maximum stay, do you know of any plan to crack down on companies, like this one on Airbnb (BC Campervans $69/night) that are essentially hoarding the limited sites and subleasing them? It seems like commercial exploits of the limited campsites available this season is particularly harmful to the average tourist.