Camping at Cal Cheak Recreation Site

Quick facts:

  • First-come-first-served, maintained RSTBC Rec Site
  • 3 groups of campsites: Callaghan Camp, North Camp, and South Camp
  • $15/party/night. Exact cash only. Party = 1 vehicle, max 6 people.
  • Location: 15 mins south of Whistler Village, 2 minutes north of Brandywine Falls Provincial Park by car
  • Facilities: picnic table, fire pit, pit toilet, garbage bins, bear cache. NO running water.
  • First come first served.
  • Fairly robust cell phone reception.
  • Close to the fast flowing Cheakamus River and Callaghan Creek, whose soothing white noise can be heard throughout the campground, but it’s not visible from most sites.

With the addition of Baby Bro, we thought camping in 2022 was mostly off the menu for us. With Grandpa’s help, I did manage to sneak in two trips to Rolley Lake in the spring with the two bigger boys, but Baby Bro was much too young at the time.

As we entered September, the forecast called for one last hot weekend. After a short deliberation, we decided to go for it. Baby Bro is approaching 6 months old and doesn’t usually need to feed at night so often any more.

With only few days of notice, making a reservation at any of the nearby provincial parks is out of the question. Our only hope was trying a First-Come-First-Served destination. Our only prior experience with FCFS sites was at Ruckle Provincial Park, and it was honestly quite stressful.

We settled on the Cal Cheak Rec Site, which had been on my radar for a while now. We scouted the place a few months ago when we visited Whistler, and it looked very nice and clean. We also had Whistler as our back-up plan. If we couldn’t get a site, Tina already picked out some hotels that were still available.

We left Vancouver in the early afternoon on Friday, and got to Cal Cheak at 5pm. I found a blogpost that had some nice info on Cal Cheak. The Callaghan Camp is the first of the 3 groups of campsites, so most people would drive through it first. It is heavily treed and feels like a provincial park campground.

Callaghan Camp
Bear cache

We skipped Callaghan and headed for South Camp, thinking Callaghan would probably get filled up first. Even though we arrived at 5pm on a Friday, there were several spots for us to choose from in South Camp. But around 6pm, as more people arrived after work, the whole campground was full.

There must have been extensive updates to the campground, since we found about 15 new campsites between the Callaghan Camp and South Camp on the outdated map. These new additions were very large, RV-friendly gravel pads, with sparser trees and less privacy. But many of the old South Camp sites were very small and could barely fit a car and a tent.

This whole area is between the Callaghan Camp and the South Camp. I think it’s considered an extension of South Camp.

We didn’t see any site that was water front. Consulting the map again, I think there are some walk-in river front sites that require going down some trails and stairs to get to.

We settled on one of the big sites and set up camp.

Middle Bro helping out while Baby Bro watched.

Our neighbours were all very quiet and respectful. No loud partying or unpleasant behaviour that could sometimes be seen in unmonitored campsites.

We paid the camping fees at the dropbox. Envelopes were provided where I put my name, license plate number, site number, and # of nights staying. Exact cash only.

A sign informed me that the camping fee is per party per night, and a camping party is defined as maximum 6 people and 1 vehicle. Since my parents were joining us for a night, they would have to pay an extra $15 fee for the 2nd vehicle.

“Camping Fees: $15 per vehicle per night. Max party size per campsite is 6 people or 1 vehicle. Additional people or vehicles require another permit.” The last point makes me think we can have 2 cars on one campsite if we pay $30.

The quality of the campground was comparable to the more rustic campgrounds in provincial parks. The nearby Nairn Falls Campground came to mind, but it is about 30 mins north of Whistler.

The only major difference is that there was no water source in Cal Cheak. One could potentially gather water from the rivers and treat it, but that would take extraordinary effort. On top of that, the campground is downstream from Whistler Wastewater Treatment Plant on Cheakamus River. Needless to say, we brought about 20 liters of water from home for this trip.

With no running water, only pit toilets were available. The toilet near our campsite was the new foot pedal “flushing” pit. It’s very pleasant as far as pit toilets go, since it’s bug-free and we didn’t have to stare at a big messy hole in the ground.

As planned, Grandpa and Grandma joined us on the second day after knowing we have secured a spot. We noticed a lot of turnover of campsites each morning, as approximately have of the campers around us left right around breakfast time. I think the chances are good for securing a campsite if one could arrive before noon.

Being so close to Whistler, we spent most of our 3 day weekend hiking, paddling, and biking there.

Biking the Valley Trail:

Paddling Alta Lake:

Hiking Train Wreck Trail:

But we had some fun at the campsite too, just doing the usual camping stuff.

Spooky night time walk:

Fun time at Grandma’s place:

Story time and bed time:

Morning coffee:

It was a fantastic success for Baby Bro’s first time camping. He was positively toasty in his bunting suit when the temperature dropped near 10 degrees celsius. He woke up only once on the first night, so he was allowed to camp a second night. He woke up 5-6 times in the second night though, which reminded Tina why she didn’t want to bring a baby camping.

In any case, the camping season is probably over this year for us and (we ended up camping one more time in the fall) by next year, Baby Bro would be a camping pro like his brothers.

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