In Accessible Travel, News & Blog, Opinion

Avid road-tripper and SCI BC Peer Program Coordinator, Ryan Clarkson, has created a map of the numerous places he’s traveled across North America. Here, he’s gathered his top 3 in BC, and top 3 elsewhere, based on their accessibility!

Road Trip Camping Spots: Ryan’s Top Picks

I’ve done a ton of solo camping over the last seven years. The more people view my photos, the more people ask me about where I’ve been and if I have any good suggestions. In response, I decided to create a map (with over 200 camping spots!) and a little write-up on some of my top spots in this blog. I’ve visited most of these locations on more than one occasion and have camped in every month of the year.

Without further ado, I’d like to share my map, along with some of my favorite places below.

My first top-three list is of campgrounds in our backyard of BC, and the other top-three list is of random spots I discovered in the rest of North America (I do encourage road trip camping, after all)!

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Please note: I am an incomplete parapeligic who can walk short distances with canes. This has allowed me to visit some amazing spots. In this blog, I’m sharing some spots that are easy to maneuver for most levels of ability, and others that are remote and may require a family member or friends to help.

Everyone’s idea of “accessibility” will vary, so please keep this in mind when reading the notes on each campsite. I’m basing this off of a ground surface that’s fairly easy to maneuver for those using a manual wheelchair like myself. My mindset is “one push per yard,” meaning for every push of the chair you can go one yard before the ground surface stops you.

1. BC – Agate Beach, Haida Gwaii

Great spot that has a remote feel to it! All of the sites have a view of the ocean, and are close by to other attractions (the nearby trail to Blow Hole viewpoint which is fully wheelchair accessible being one of them). Further down the road from this campground is North Beach. You can drive right on the beach for long distances, and you can even camp on there, too.

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A big part of what makes this spot special is the journey itself. From Vancouver, you’re looking at a 4-6 day drive, which includes a long ferry ride. When you arrive at Agate Beach you will feel like you are at the edge of the world. Crashing waves and rolling fog are the two dominating factors at this spot.

2. BC – Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Park Campground, Nisga’a Provincial Park

This is another spot where the surrounding area is also part of the attraction. Considering that the surrounding area offers so much beauty, it is probably one of BC’s best kept secrets.

Roughly a 90 minute drive north of Terrace, most of this area sits in the Nisga’a Nation. The campground itself sits is in a valley and offers plenty of space.

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There are a ton of aspen trees around that provide a soothing background noise when the wind picks up. Traffic in this area is almost non-existent, especially in the evening. This is good to know because you can wheel from the campground towards the lava field to watch the sunset.

Drive the 73 kms to the village of Gingolx, and you can purchase some smoked salmon from one of the locals. While on your way out there, make sure you stop by the Nisga’a Nation museum, which is small but well worth the stop.

3. BC – Ross Lake, Skagit Valley Provincial Park

This is probably one of the more unique camping options in all of BC, and it might be cheating this list depending on which spot you choose to camp. Ross Lake sits both in Canada and the US. The most Northern tip is in Skagit Valley Provincial Park, while the rest and vast majority sits in the North Cascades National Park.

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There are three campgrounds all right next to each other. One is on the Canada side and will run you $18/night, and two are on the American side and are completely free. The reason I mention the American ones is because while they are on US soil, there is no border station to check in with. You have to enter/leave the area from Canada, so they don’t bother having a station. It’s the only place you can legally cross into the US without a passport!

The camping here is small, but very scenic. If you want a little more accessibility, then the campgrounds on the BC side will be your best bet.

1. North America – Black Rock Desert, Nevada

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Some may know this area as the host of the Burning Man festival, but I know it as one of the best places on the continent to camp.

This open playa (beach) is insane in terms of unique solitude. Depending on the day of the week and time of the year, you could be the only person out there.

Sunsets and sunrises are one of a kind, as is the ability to do 100 miles per hour on the flat hard playa. It can get pretty dusty, and it is impassible when wet (plan accordingly). You also have to pack out what you pack in.

My favourite part is to set up camp nice and early, and then drive around when the sun starts to go down. It is very easy to lose your camp, so you want to use the surrounding landscape as North and South “markers” so you know what area to return to. I usually wheel around naked in the summer because if someone was to drive up to you, you would have 10 minutes to put your clothes back on before they reached you!

2. North America – Prewitt Ridge in Big Sur, California

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The best spot on the California coast, no question about it. The only issue is there are no services, and there will most likely be a fire ban in effect when you’re there. The main “overlook” spot is pretty small, but the whole area is good for camping. Sunsets here are out of this world, and you are situated above the clouds and fog. The ridge is high enough above the ocean it looks like you are sitting right on top of them. It is truly an awesome spot!

I’ve stayed here in the Spring, Summer and Fall, and every time I’ve had spectacular sunset views. The dirt road up to this spot would be best suited for an SUV or truck. There are zero services or toilets, so pack out what you pack in. Unfortunately, this spot is gaining popularity, so you might want to go on a weekday to avoid the crowds.

Tip: You can enter the area off of Highway 1, or you can take the more pleasant drive from Fort Hunter Leggitt army base. I prefer the drive from the base as it is paved and covered in dense forest.  If you choose to go through the base, call ahead and make sure there are no drills going on in the area: (831) 386-2506.

3. North America – Wonder Lake in Denali National Park, Alaska

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There are six campgrounds in the park, all of which fill up seasons in advance from people all over the world. Three of the campgrounds are accessible by your own vehicle, and the other three are by shuttle bus only. The last campground (and subjectively the best) is Wonder Lake, which is at the end of the park road, 85 miles from the visitor centre.

While the park requires visitors to use a shuttle service within the park, you can also apply for a free pass to drive your own vehicle if you have a good reason. All of the shuttle busses have wheelchair lifts in the back.

The mosquitoes are ridiculous, but this campground offers the best views of Mt Denali (McKinley), which is the highest peak in North America. There is a park ranger who gives talks on the area in the evening. The one designated accessible spot has great views. Simply put, this spot is absolutely amazing and is a must-see if you’re visiting Alaska.

Looking to learn about more accessible road trip campsites across North America? Make sure to check out Ryan’s custom map with over 200 destinations he’s explored, view photos on his travel Flickr page, and read more about his solo camping adventures on the blog. Specific questions about the spots he’s been or road trip camping? Ryan’s happy to answer them! Send him an email at rclarkson@sci-bc.ca.

You can also visit our Access BC website to find an accessible outdoor space near you!

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