your paddlesports destination

Ross Lake in British Columbia

by cebs

Trip Overview

Technically this trip takes place entirely in the US although the very north end of Ross Lake does cross into BC. I took the entire family on a 5 day backcountry paddle into Ross Lake. The family consisted of me, my wife, 2 year old daughter, 7 year old son, 16 year old daughter and her 17 year old boyfriend.

We started in Ferndale, WA about 20 miles south of the US/Can border. We went east a bit to cross at the Sumas/Mission crossing as it is usually laid back and quick. We got a very late start and crossed about 12:30 the morning of the 4th. We got into Hope about 1:30 and drove the 40 mile, Silver Creek dirt and gravel road down to Ross Lake and Hozomeen ranger station crossing back into the US with no checkpoint. Now 2:30 we made the trip in about 3 hours with a canoe and a kayak on top.

We decided to sleep a bit but the 2 year old kept that short getting us up at 5am. The weather was perfectly clear, around 60F and a very still lake. We finally had the boats packed and everyone up by 8:30 and took off at 9am.

I paddled the canoe with some welcomed sporadic help from my wife. We had the bulk of the gear and the two small ones. My older daughter and her boyfriend took the Pamlico 160T with everything that would fit under it's decks.

We paddled slow and easy stopping about midway for a 2 hour lunch and some rest. We got to Cat Island after 6 hours of paddling on very smooth water.

It was a crowded Wednesday as we saw at least 3 boats but fishing season did just start on the lake 3 days earlier.

There are several boat-in camp sites along the north end of the lake and many more on the south end. Along the east bank is the safest place to paddle as it is usually the least windy and there are many more places to stop than the west bank, although they are still only a few. They all have bear boxes, firepits and pit toilets stocked with paper.

We had a very restful next 3 days. The teenagers used the canoe to fish and play around. The rest of us used the Pamlico to travel to various hiking spots. One day my son and I explored Lighting Creek. The canyon is gorgeous and within a 1/4 mile you hit very turbulent but beautiful whitewater. We beached the yak and walked up the boulders for a nice view.

The trip back was a little more hurried and I got a little more help from the wife. We made it back an hour sooner with a 30 min break for lunch. The winds were tricky coming up and switching directions but ultimately we got lucky and they died down all together.

It was Sunday when we came home and we ran into a lot of paddlers who were starting their week or were in the middle of a long paddle. The lake was more crowded then we've seen in the past but we still saw less than 10 people per day.

We got a lot of complements on having the guts to take the kids out on such an adventure but we didn't think anything of it. My only limiting factor was getting all the stuff in the boats. The kids had a great time and I'd do it again in a heart beat.


The ranger staff was great and they kept the pit toilets stocked with paper and campgrounds clean.


16 ft Coleman canoe
Pamlico 160T


You need a backcounty permit to go into the lake, but they are free.


Drive north through Whatcom county, WA and cross the Canadian boarder at any crossing. Turn east on the 1 to Hope, BC for about 60 miles. Turn South on Silver Creek Road, In 40 miles you hit Hozomeen Campground and ranger station.
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Water Type: Flat/Sheltered Water
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip