Soo River 4x4 Adventure
Updated: Jun 22
Vancouver is known for it’s proximity to the mountains and wilderness. However, even though these beautiful places are within eyesight it’s easy to feel trapped within the city. When I lived in Vancouver my biggest fear was that it would be too hard to get to the wilderness and I wouldn’t go — I worried that I’d end up working three jobs to pay for my rent and expensive weekend breakfasts and have no time for camping. However it turned out that was not the case (and I didn’t actually live in Vancouver long enough for it to financially cripple me). These are the details of one exploring trip we took in the Soo Valley.
I grew up camping in provincial parks and at designated forestry sites, my forestry parents taught me a lot about camping and the wilderness. There are a lot of trees I can no longer name (sorry dad). Daniel, however, grew up camping basically wherever he wanted living the outdoor lifestyle my parents taught me to judge and not to follow. Now I’m left to find my own judgement between exploring and trespassing, and seeing this beautiful world before humanity takes more chunks out of it. A tricky part of camping in BC is that the campsites fill up fast, which leaves little room for campground spontaneity. One fine weekend, with only one night to camp I did a bunch of research and found various suitable places we could stay that didn’t involve a provincial campground reservation. So on a Saturday morning in August we took off in our 97’ Toyota 4Runner in the direction of Whistler.
For this adventure we only had one night, so we planned to go somewhere up near Whistler, less than two hours from our home-base in Vancouver.
Driving the Sea-to-Sky the first thing we noticed is how incredibly blue and turquoise the ocean is up there, and how even with the massive drought (summer 2015) everything was lush and green. When we got to Whistler Daniel realized that he forgot to pack a sweater or jacket or anything remotely warm as we headed up into the alpine. So we stopped in Whistler, which had absolutely nowhere to find a cheap sweater (but a several places to buy expensive outdoor clothing). We headed into Pemberton and Daniel bought a ski jacket for seven dollars at the thrift store and I bought an offroad map book for thirty dollars at a gas station. A value/cost comparison says be both did pretty well on the Pemberton transactions.
In the book we located a series of roads around Soo River, and hoped that there would be no gates and somewhere to camp. When we first detoured off the highway the gravel road was really nice and well-maintained, we actually passed a Jetta coming the other direction, making the lifted 4Runner feel a little unnecessary. The road quickly splits so you can follow the river on the north or south side and there was actually a little encampment of people hanging out at the junction giving us hope of finding somewhere to camp.
We took the road north of the river first and after about 8 km we turned off onto another road that wound our way up the side of a mountain to spectacular views. From that viewpoint we saw a lake which we thought had located it on the backroads map and decided to try and find it. Retracing our path we went back to the break and took the south road for a while and then up a steep embankment, it was signed as a 4X4 road only in the map book and I would say that is justified, the Jetta would have been ruined in it’s first three minutes on that road.
We knew we were headed to the ancient cedars trail but we didn’t really know what to expect when we got there. We emerged from our wilderness road into a parking lot full of cars. Which was disorienting after being on the backroads seeing all these city slickers who had obviously came from another direction in their volvos. The Ancient Cedars Trails are very poorly marked. We took a route that was signed as a 4X4 only, which winded around and around until I’m fairly certain we were on a walking path and we quickly pulled a 180 before pissing off any hikers. We eventually found the lakes, they were nice, small and buggy. And although we found a couple small cabins and a yurt we weren’t confident that we would be allowed to camp there. Again, very poor signage. So we retraced our steps once again and headed back down the mountain to where we had been earlier in the afternoon.
We winded up the south side of the Soo River and found a ledge to camp on. Since seeing the Jetta on the lower roads at the beginning of the day we hadn’t seen anyone on this side of the 4x4 only road so we pulled over and set up camp. Of course it was only fifteen minutes after that that we saw someone else on the ridge, but they didn’t come over.
We camped in that beautiful spot and it rained all night. In the morning we quickly packed it all into the truck and drove out to the main route, and directly into an Ironman Triathlon cycling leg. Turns out the main highway has loads of road closure signs but we were in the woods. We ended up being stopped at a cafe for two hours waiting for the roads to open again before heading back to the city.
All in all it was a great little system of roads, the views were spectacular and the water was gorgeous everywhere we went.
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