Buntzen Lake Paddle

Quick Facts

  • Parking: 49.338198, -122.857502
  • Launch: 49°20’24.4″N 122°51’32.1″W (Ok to drive up to the launch point but need to park the car in parking lot afterwards)
  • Traffic: extremely busy on weekends especially in the warmer months, parking lot is almost always full within 1-2 hours of opening. We don’t even try to come here on weekends in the summer any more. Come with a Plan B in case you get turned away at the gate. A free day-pass reservation system was introduced in 2022 to control the overwhelming demand, so now you know for sure whether you got a parking spot or not.
  • No cellphone reception anywhere in the park.
  • Launching type: ramp/beach
  • Motor boat allowed: Yes, but almost never seen
  • Typical paddling distance: South to North Beach 2.7km
  • Facilities: flush toilet, picnic area, sandy beach, hiking trails
  • Difficulty – easy, friendly for beginners. In the warmer months, a southerly wind picks up in the afternoon which could make paddling back to the launch point difficult, so allow ample time for the return leg.
  • Overall score – 8/10

Most updated Paddle report: July 2024

Paddle report: February 2021

On a previous attempt, we came to Buntzen Lake around noon on a Saturday to find the park entrance closed again even in January. We joked that we had the least amount of luck with Buntzen Lake out of all the places we visited, because our success rate of actually making it to the parking lot has been about 60%.

We came back on a weekday in February and finally made it. After a hike to North Beach and back on the service road, I hopped on the board for a quick winter paddle.

The still lake, fresh cool air, and lingering mist made for a serene atmosphere.

Buntzen Lake in the winter was very quiet but I wasn’t the only person enjoying a peaceful recharge. There were some canoeists and even a swimmer that day.

I turned around and were greeted with some dramatic cloud formation

and a bald eagle that watched me silently as I approached the South Beach. A downside of doing a winter paddle was the short daylight hours, and the park closed at 5pm. A park employee started honking on the beach to warn people about the closing time.

Paddle report: July 2020

Buntzen Lake is extremely popular, and even more so during the COVID19 Pandemic. In the years past, it was recommended that people arrive before 11am to get a parking spot. However, we have tried as early as 9am and still hit a roadblock as the parking lot was full. There is conflicting information on whether they reopen access in the afternoon as people leave the park, but officially they don’t. So for the rest of the summer, we avoided coming there on weekends.

We did end up having a great day at Buntzen Lake on a weekday. We managed to grab a great spot away from foot traffic and set up camp.

One of the several picnic tables around Buntzen Lake.

After lunch, I drove right to the boat launch area to pump up and launch the paddleboard. Easy peasy.

Took Junior for a spin first.

Then it’s downwind to North Beach! 3.1km took about 30 minutes.

I even radioed back to base: “wind is behind me, so it’s going great! But on the way back, I think I’ll take at least twice as long…”

With a significant southerly wind especially on the lake, it was definitely a struggle to paddle back from North Beach. A 10 second pause was enough to turn me around 180 degrees and start pushing me north again. At some point I thought my fin must have caught something because I felt like I was not moving at all regardless of how hard I paddled.

The wind also created choppy waves, but thankfully they were predictable and as long as I was perpendicular to it, they just slapped on the belly of my paddleboard.

Eventually, after an 80 minute battle, I got back to the park.

Tina had a go as well.

Overall, Buntzen Lake was an amazing place to paddle. Great scenery with a towering mountain, perfect size for exploring without too much boat traffic or waves, and fantastic facilities on the shore: flush toilets, changing rooms, dozens of picnic tables, green grass fields, protected swimming area, and the super convenient drive-up boat lunch area.

South Beach

It’s definitely worth the 1 hour drive from Vancouver. We liked it so much that we went back a different day and did a combo hike/paddle trip.

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7 responses to “Buntzen Lake Paddle”

  1. […] Buntzen Lake is an amazing place to paddle. At 3.7km from the north end to the south, it’s big enough to keep a beginning paddler busy for a few hours without getting bored. It features some impressive views of the surrounding mountains. Launching is easy from a sandy beach or a paved boat ramp. Being a larger lake on this list, wind can pick up and pose a challenge for beginners. Although motorboats are allowed, I’ve never seen anyone speeding on this lake. In fact, I very seldom see any motorboats at all, only the occasional fishing boat, sitting quietly waiting for their catch. It’s extremely busy on the weekends, so go as early as you can (gate opens at 8am) if you must visit on a weekend. Have a back-up plan if you can’t make it before 9am. […]

  2. Thanks for the thorough trip review, my friend and I actually used this to help with planning our trip. A shame that the launch point is towards the south and that southern winds tend to be a thing here, so you’re usually going upwind on the return T_T

    • Thanks for the positive feedback! I was surprised by the wind that picked up in the afternoon the first time I visited as well. Thanks to your comment I will update this blogpost to make it more abundantly clear about the southerly wind. Happy paddling!

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