Finding overnight hikes that kids and parents can take can be a bit of a chore in the mountainous Fraser Valley. Day hikes turn in to too much work for little legs when loaded down with their small pack full of clothes. Those little legs need lots of breaks to play and see what’s happening outside as well, so where campsites may be placed perfectly for adults to get to in a decent day of hiking, they’re often placed so far apart you’d need to plan 3 days of hiking for little legs.
One of our family favourite overnight trips for a first time child carrying their gear is Lightning Lakes in Manning park. It was the first overnight our oldest went on at 3 years old carrying her own pack with everything except her sleeping bag and pad. It was the first entire family overnight the next summer as daddy carried a fully loaded 90L pack and mommy carried a baby in our Osprey Poco Premium.
You’ll find Lightning Lakes in Manning Park. Coming from Vancouver travel east on Highway 1. Around Hope BC get on Highway 3 and follow this to the Manning Park Lodge. You’ll need to stop here to get your backcountry permits.
The trailhead for Lightning Lakes is located a short jaunt up the road by car at the Lightning Lakes day use area. From the day use area proceed around the lower end of Lightning Lake to your right. While the trail does go around the other way, it adds quite a bit to your trip.
From the day use area plan to stay at Strike Lake which has a number of great camp sites, an outhouse and a bear cache. You can get drinking water from the swiftly running creek right beside the campsite. While I say it’s a swiftly running creek, it’s plenty safe for children to play in as it’s quite shallow.
For our family the hike takes 5 or so hours with our oldest (4 the last time we did it) walking and carrying her own backpack with all her gear except her sleeping bag and sleeping pad. By starting mid-morning and taking a bunch of breaks (because that’s what kids need) we easily make it for dinner with some extra play time at the campsite.
From the Strike Lake campsite you have a short hike to get to the end of the lake chain and Thunder Lake.
Overall, this is an easy overnight hike with almost no gradient overall. There are two minor stream crossings that kids can easily handle since they’re barely above the bottoms of boots when we’ve gone. Adults can easily accomplish all the way out to Thunder Lake and back in a day because of the ease of the gradient.