Imagine sitting beachside, drink in hand and toes in the sand. There’s a warm breeze, face warmed by the sun and the peaceful sound of waves lapping the shore in the background. You might think you’re on a vacation of a lifetime, but the Northern BC Moms are here to tell you, “Don’t break the bank!” and have a staycation instead! Open your eyes and find yourself at one of the over 100+ lakes within an hours’ drive of downtown Prince George.
Prince George lakes bucket list
We may not have the giant lakes found in the Lakes District of Northern BC, but would you rather have the entire city encroaching on your weekend getaway? Or find your own little piece of paradise on your own private beach?
We love exploring new lakes! The three of us Northern BC Moms have lived in Prince George for about 10 years each and we’ve barely scratched the surface of the Prince George Lake City Bucket List (see below).
Nonetheless, let us tell you what we’ve discovered about the lakes we’ve ticked off thus far:
West Lake is about a 20-minute drive west of town and has so much to offer! See the turn-off left heading out of town just past the Westgate area. There is a giant sandy beach with shallow warm water, a segregated group section with covered area, swings and horseshoes, washrooms with running water, a separate beach for visitors with dogs and a boat launch! There’s no provincial campground at this lake, but there is a little private campground just down the road. We like to go in the AM to avoid the crowds at this popular Prince George beach.
Norman Lake is also out west, but slightly further down Highway 16 West. Turn left onto Norman Lake Road after about 43 km and continue on the dirt road for about another 19 km until you reach the community of Norman Lake. This beautiful lake has rocky shores and is the home to many PGers in the summer months and a few even stick it out in the winter! Bring your rod and tackle. This lake is ripe for the fishing and stocked with rainbow trout!
Purden Lake is about an hour east of town. We camp here at least once every year! The campground is nestled in the rolling mountains east of Prince George on the north shore of Purden Lake. There is a beautiful sandy public beach with tonnes of parking that’s only a slight walk from the camping areas. The sites are roomy and well treed in between, with running water bathrooms and a brand new playground for the kids. There’s also a boat launch so be sure to bring your fishing gear!
Tabor Lake is close to town and makes it perfect for a quick after-work trip! From Prince George, head east along Highway 16 about 15 minutes and take a right on Giscome Road. Lots of people in Prince George live at Tabor Lake year-round. This lake has a private and a public boat launch and is one of the best-stocked lakes in the area with 40 different hatches. There’s always something going on at this lake, year-round!
Mud River is also about 20 minutes west. Pass the turnoff for West Lake and continue on Highway 16. At the bottom of the Mud River hill turn right onto Lower Mud River Road and continue to the Chilako River. If you’ve passed the bridge you’ve gone too far. We love Mud River for its slow-moving, warm water and sandy beach. This well-loved Prince George locale has had a huge amount of recent investments, with a lovely new parking area, fencing and landscaping. It’s a smaller location, and only well known to locals. Shhhh it’s our little secret!
Salmon Valley is a small riverbank community 20 minutes north of Prince George. You can’t miss Salmon Valley as you pass by the new Salmon River Bridge and new public use beach area (with washrooms and parking). There’s also an amazing private campground in the area hosting several events throughout the year. You’ll often find Smokey J’s food truck parked here feeding all the hungry river goers on the weekend! If you want to dip your toes in the water and enjoy the breeze while the kids play, this is the place to be!
Nechako River Park
Nechako River Park is Prince George’s newest park! It’s just off the Nechako River Bridge off Foothills Boulevard. The city just re-vamped this local’s only spot with extensive landscaping, parking, washrooms, trails and picnic tables for all to enjoy! This is the last stop on the annual river float that starts at Wilkins Park (see below).
Wilkins Park is located 15 km west of Prince George via Otway Road (turn off the end of Ospika or off Foothills Boulevard). This park is for day use only and has a large system of trails, a rocky beach with sandy patches, and picture perfect views of the slow moving Nechako River. The picnic shelter can be used for events year-round, equipped with a wood stove. Other amenities include washrooms, picnic tables, fire pits, boat launch and so much room for activities with a large grass lawn before you reach the beach.
Shane Lake is located in Prince George’s Forests for the World, a park that’s a tiny bit of wilderness embedded in the middle of the city. The 18 km of trails is packed into about 1.5 square km, but the lake is actually only about a 5-minute walk from the Cranbrook Hill entrance. Turn up Cranbrook Hill from Foothills Boulevard, take a left onto Kueng Road and find the parking area at the end of the road. We love coming to Shane Lake for hiking, fishing and all the wildlife! Come prepared, we’ve run into everything from bear, deer, cougars and moose! Follow the Spruce City Wildlife Association for future fish release and learn to fish dates!
Ness Lake Regional Park is located 35 km northwest of Prince George via Highway 97 and Chief Lake Road. There is lovely beach access to the lake with picnic tables, fire pits, toilets and change houses for the swimming at the beach.
Camping is not permitted at the public use area, but there’s also a private resort, Ness Lake Bible Camp, available for event rental. The camp also runs their own annual public events: family weekend, mother/daughter, couples, women’s weekend and the polar bear dip in January! We’ve attended a few times and loved all the camp activities: 22 shooting, axe throwing, archery, fishing, zip-line, paintball, rope swing, rock climbing, slack-lining, kayaking, arts & crafts, music lessons and water sports!
Ferguson Lake Nature Reserve
Ferguson Lake is home to public trails, a viewpoint, picnic site, dock, canoe launch and fishing for rainbow trout! This lake is for non-motorized boats only and as such is picturesque and serene. This small lake’s trail loop around is only a few kilometres long and accessible with big wheels only. There are a few boardwalks, but does get quite mucky in the spring or on rainy days. Head north of Prince George on Highway 97, take a left onto North Kelly Road. Continue until you see the signs for Ferguson Lake Nature Reserve. Bring bug spray! This lake can get buggy!
Bear Lake aka Crooked River Provincial Park is one of our go to lakes in the area. It’s a popular camping and day-use area for Prince George residents. We think it’s so popular because it’s super close (40 minutes from downtown)! It also has an amazingly long spanning tiered sandy beach for public use and a smaller sandy beach area near the new playground in the camping area, so that makes it one of the local lakes with the best beaches! Other activities and features include canoeing, cycling, hiking, fishing, swimming, wildlife viewing, picnic sites, playground, sani-dump, showers and washrooms. After a long day at the lake, make sure to hit up the Bear Lake Eatery Food Truck for a quick lunch or milkshake (located 1 minute north of the campground next to the Bear Lake gas station).
Cottonwood Island Park
Cottonwood Island Park is a very popular year-round recreation destination located where the Nechako and Fraser Rivers meet. This land is the traditional territory of the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation. The park trail system is a great way to explore the river’s edge and the wilderness in the area. This park’s trails connect to the city’s over 100 km of trail in the Centennial Connector Trail Loop meeting Lheidli T’enneh Memorial Park at kilometre zero. Here you’ll find people jogging, walking, biking, throwing a stick for the dog or having a picnic at the covered area. It’s also a great location for photos with beautiful river views and newly revamped beautiful bridges! Not far off is a paved boat launch, ample parking and the train bridge over the Nechako River.
If your lake day looks like strapping the kids in the van and hauling a wagon of stuff with you, check out Northern BC Mom’s blog post on the best Family Friendly Lakes in the area! Or if you’re headed out for more than just a day trip, don’t leave before reading up on our Family Camping post or Move Up PG’s post: Provincial Campgrounds in Every Direction! Whatever you do, just make sure to get out, and enjoy all the lakes Prince George has to offer! We challenge you to complete the Prince George Lake City Bucket List!
There’s truly so much to explore right out your door. We are so blessed to live where we do…wish you were here! #PrinceGeorgeBC #MoveUpPG #NorthernBCMoms
-Kate of Northern BC Moms