Living in the interior of British Columbia, we are blessed with mountains and lakes, and scenery that can take your breath away. Johnson Lake BC is known around our area as the “Caribbean of the North” with its unbelievable crystal clear water (you have to see it in person to believe it) and the multi-colored shades of blue and green.
About Johnson Lake BC
People often wonder in amazement about how the water gets its beautiful colors which is a result of the underground spring water flowing up through the surrounding limestone rock formation.
Big Johnson Lake is situated remotely between Barriere and Adams Lake, is 5km long, and is approximately 200 feet deep. Johnson Lake BC is located at 3800 feet elevation, so the weather from Sun Peaks is the most accurate as they are both at similar elevations.
Johnson Lake near Barriere is one of the prettiest lakes in BC, and it is no wonder why it is so popular among locals.
How to Get to Johnson Lake
Johnson Lake, BC is a ninety-minute drive from Kamloops and Shuswap and the best way to get there is to take Hwy 5 to Agate Bay Road at Louis Creek. Agate Bay Road is a paved road with lovely scenery for 22 km along the way until you reach Minnova Road which becomes a gravel road for the remainder of the 16 km to Johnson Lake British Columbia.
It is a beautiful drive to Johnson Lake and along the way, we saw lots of cattle on Minnova Road. The cows lined the road, blocked the road, and napped in the grass on the side of the road. It made for an entertaining drive!
Once you arrive at the turnoff to Johnson Lake BC you will have two choices. You can access the lake at the privately owned Johnson Lake Resort if you are a guest.
Otherwise, you can access Johnson Lake by the public side which is an additional 6 km drive along a gravel road with major potholes and downed trees. There is a very small campground and minimal public parking so get there early for the best access.
What to Bring for a Day at Johnson Lake, BC
Johnson Lake is remote and takes effort to visit. We must all do our part to protect the fragile ecosystem while enjoying the clean wilderness area. There are no garbage cans so what you pack in, you must pack out. There are a couple of picnic tables on the public side of Johnson Lake and bathroom facilities but you must bring your own toilet paper. Here is a list of suggested items to bring to make your visit an enjoyable one:
- Camping chairs to sit and relax when not on the lake
- Picnic blanket
- Cooler and lots of food and water for the day at the lake as well as snacks for the drive
- Waterproof sunscreen and hat
- Bug Spray
- Sandals or flip flops
- Life Jackets
- Extra layers depending on the time of year
- Garbage bag for any trash made during your visit
- Toilet paper for bathroom facilities
Remember to protect and preserve the fragile ecosystem at Johnson Lake by packing up everything that you brought in.
Things to do at Johnson Lake in BC
Johnson Lake is a beautiful, isolated wilderness lake that can be enjoyed for what it offers. The area does not have too many amenities but there are fun activities in the water that will keep you mesmerized all day.
There are very few parking spots at Johnson Lake so we highly suggest that you arrive early! Once we arrived and parked on the public side of Johnson Lake, we unpacked our truck and were lucky enough to score a picnic table near the water. The trees line the lake so there is no beach and there are only a couple of small spots to launch kayaks, small boats, and paddleboards.
We brought an inflatable paddleboard with us which is amazing to travel with because it easily folds up into a travel bag. It takes roughly ten minutes to inflate and we all took turns pumping the air into it.
The day we visited Johnson Lake, there were only a handful of people there so we pretty much had the lake to ourselves. The water was ice cold but it did warm up a little in the middle of summer. The top of the water gets warm, but the bottom is still quite cold. Regardless of the temperature, the color of the water is exquisite and the surroundings are so remote and peaceful.
The fishing at Johnson Lake is best in June and July when 1.5 to 2 lb. trout are common. If you have a special fly or lure, you may be rewarded with a 3 to 5-pound trout. We brought along our tackle box to do some fishing and see if we could catch some fish. We came a bit early in the season and our boys are young and restless so they didn’t catch anything but certainly enjoyed trying!
Hiking and Biking Trails
While we did not do any hiking or biking during our visit, there is the Johnson Lake Trail System that offers trails of varying lengths from 3 km to 22 km long. The Johnson Lake Trail System was originally established in 2006 for horses, but it is suitable for all levels of hiking and biking. The trial options are:
- JOHNSON LAKE LOOP TRAIL – 22.4 KM
- HAGGARD CREEK TRAIL – 8.7 KM
- JOHNSON VIEW TRAIL – 3.4 KM
- SOUTH BARRIERE LAKE – 5.9 KM
- SOUTH BARRIERE-JOHNSON CONNECTOR – 3.6 KM
- NORTH VIEW LOOP – 4.1 KM
- SOUTH BARRIERE TRAIL – 5.9 KM
Johnson Lake Activities
Johnson Lake is a stunning lake worth seeing, but it is remote, and there isn’t much else around other than the crystal clear water. The activities to be had at Johnson Lake are mostly water-based so make sure you come prepared for a full day on the water.
- Canoe & Kayak
- Stand Up Paddleboarding
- Swimming and snorkeling
- Splash around in the shallow water near the edge of the lake
- Fishing for Trout
- Cruise the lake in a small motorboat or inflatable dinghy
- Take advantage of the bird watching and look for wildlife
- Bring your camera for epic landscape photography
Where to Stay Near Johnson Lake, BC
Visitors to Johnson Lake Provincial Park will be delighted with this scenic destination, which is limited only by their imagination. The park offers 12 campsites that rent out on a first-come-first-serve basis. You must get here very early in the morning to try and get a camping spot!
Johnson Lake Resort is a wonderful option to stay right on the lake, but at present, the resort is closed until the owners provide an update which is expected in early 2023.
Sun Peaks Resort is the perfect place to do a day trip to Johnson Lake. You could stay at Sun Peaks Grand Hotel and make the hour’s drive to Johnson Lake for the day. Use my discount code “caravan” to receive 15% off your stay with no minimum night stay requirements. There are also many vacation rentals available in Sun Peaks Resort.
Barriere is another great option for places to stay. Check out the vacation rentals available in nearby Barriere and do an easy day trip to Johnson Lake.
Is There Camping at Johnson Lake BC?
There are only 12 campsites available at Johnson Lake Forestry Rec Site and they are on a first-come, first-served basis.
The owners of the Johnson Lake Resort on the other side of the lake have decided to keep the resort closed again for the 2022 season and will provide their next update regarding the resort in early 2023.
Are dogs allowed?
Yes, dogs are allowed but make sure they are leashed and you are in control of your dog at all times. Johnson Lake BC can get quite busy and there will be many people around with not a lot of space away from the water.
How Far is Johnson Lake from Kamloops?
Johnson Lake is an easy ninety-minute drive from Kamloops. The final 6kms to the lake are full of potholes and makes for a rough drive but otherwise, it is a pleasant road trip.
How Far is Johnson Lake from Sun Peaks?
Johnson Lake is roughly 70 minutes from Sun Peaks. To reach Johnson Lake in Barriere from Sun Peaks Resort, drive for 9km and take a sharp right turn on Heffley Louis Creek Road. Travel along this road about 29 kilometers past scenic farms and ranches until you get to Agate Bay Road and turn right.
After 11 kilometers, turn onto Minnova Road and drive 18 kilometers until you reach the entrance to Johnson Lake Resort. You will need to drive a final 6 kilometers along the worst part of the drive with large potholes until you reach the Ministry Of Forests Campground at the other end of Big Johnson Lake BC.
After a full day on the water, it was time to pack up and begin the drive home. We deflated the paddleboard and put it back into the travel bag, and loaded everything back into the truck, including the garbage that we made during our time there. As the day progressed, more and more groups of people arrived and the parking lot was full by late morning. When we left in the late afternoon, there were cars lining the road into Johnson Lake, so we made the right decision by getting up early and arriving before the masses appeared.
One last look at the beautiful water of Johnson Lake. It requires effort and planning to get here but once you arrive you will be glad you did! Although Johnson Lake in BC has gained notoriety in the last couple of years, it is still considered a hidden gem and worth exploring with your family and friends.
Casandra Karpiak is a travel writer and owner of Savoteur. A Toronto native with Danish roots currently residing in British Columbia, her travel writing has been seen on The Associated Press wire, MSN, FOX, CBS, NBC, Entrepreneur, 24/7 Wall St, Times Daily, and many more. When she’s not traveling, she can be found at hockey arenas all over BC cheering on her two young sons.