Ellison Provincial Park is one of the most beautiful parks in the Okanagan. With its turquoise clear waters, unique rocky, forested headlands, and large sandy beaches, you’re in for a treat.
Located only 20 minutes from downtown Vernon on the eastern shores of Okanagan Lake, Ellison Provincial Park is a must-visit and easily accessible destination.
For nature lovers, Ellison is a laid-back paradise where you can enjoy camping, hiking, biking, water sports, swimming, scuba diving, cliff jumping, climbing, and more. There’s no shortage of outdoor activities set amongst the stunning, natural landscape!
Ellison Provincial Park’s day-use area and large campground are well suited for families, couples, and anyone that wants to spend time in nature. The campground has 71 large, vehicle-accessible campsites that can accommodate everyone from tents to large RVs.VERNON WEATHER
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Where is Ellison Provincial Park?
Ellison Provincial Park is only 20 minutes south of Vernon on the north-east side of Okanagan Lake. Its ideal location on Okanagan Lake, which is the Okanagan’s largest and most popular lake, makes it a favourite among locals.
Ellison Provincial Park is 17 km (20 mins) from Vernon, 58 km (1 hr) from Kelowna, and 130 km (2 hrs) from Penticton. It’s one of many campgrounds on Okanagan Lake – other nearby campgrounds on the lake include Fintry, Bear Creek, and Evely.
Since Ellison is close to Vernon and very centrally located in the Okanagan, people come from all over the valley to enjoy the beautiful day-use beaches and hiking trails.
The road to Ellison is 100% paved. In a few places, the road is narrow and a little windy as it winds along the cliff’s edge – don’t be scared, though! It’s not bad. Take your time, go slow, and don’t feel pressured from drivers behind you and you’ll be fine.
Directions to Ellison Provincial Park
There’s only one road to Ellison, making it very easy to find. The beautiful drive from Vernon to Ellison winds along Okanagan Lake and offers a glimpse of lakeside life.
To reach Ellison Provincial Park, make your way to Vernon and get onto Highway 97. At the Highway 97 and 25th Avenue intersection (aka, the bottom of Hospital Hill), turn west towards Okanagan Lake.
Stay on 25 Avenue, which eventually turns into Okanagan Landing Road and then Eastside Road. Simply stay on the same road for approximately 16.5 km until you see a wooden provincial park sign on your right. When you leave behind the lakeside homes and lake, watch for the Ellison park sign.
Turn right into the park and head downhill through the trees. You’ll soon reach the campground. Continue straight through to the large day-use parking lot if you’re not camping.
The gate at the top of the hill is locked nightly from 11 pm to 7 am (and during the winter).
Camping at Ellison Provincial Park
I highly recommend camping at Ellison Provincial Park! It’s a beautiful, relaxing campground that has a great mixture of nature and creature comforts.
The campground has 71 vehicle-accessible campsites which are broken up as follows: 61 reserveable, 10 first-come first served, and 8 double sites. The Ellison campground is suitable for tents, vans, trailers, and RV camping.
The campsites are well-spaced out and, while the forest is by no means dense, there’s enough tree and underbrush cover to give you decent privacy and plenty of shade.
Camping at Ellison is available from the beginning of April through mid-October. For exact dates, refer to BCParks.ca. Campsites are generally large and very well-spaced.
How to Get a Campsite at Ellison Provincial Park
Although Ellison isn’t as well known as other campgrounds in the Okanagan, it does fill quickly during the summer and reservations are highly recommended. During the spring and fall, it’s easier to camp without a reservation.
If you’re eyeing up the campground (which you should be), there are three ways to camp at Ellison Provincial Park: reservations, first-come first served, and overflow.
Have you ever wanted to try out an RV or van? Try Outdoorsy (it’s basically Airbnb for RVs and trailers – save $50 with this link) or Escape Campervans (based out of Vancouver and Calgary) to experience #vanlife without committing to it!
Vehicle-Accessible, Front-Country Camping
The Ellison Provincial Park campground is exclusively front-country camping. Backcountry and marine camping aren’t available – but you can moor a houseboat on the pet beach.
The campground is nestled in a mature Douglas fir and Ponderosa pine forest. The forest isn’t dense, but there’s lots of space between sites and plenty of undergrowth. Even though you can see your neighbours through the trees, they’re far away and you can enjoy plenty of privacy.
Campsites along the outside loops are the most private, with the exception of #12 and #13 which back onto a nearby vacation resort.
Ellison’s campsites are very well-maintained. Each site has a fire ring, large wooden picnic table (that can’t be moved), and level gravel pad.
During the summer, fire bans are often in place which means you can’t use the firepit. However, you can use propane firepits instead (not available on-site).
The campsites at Ellison can accommodate trailers and RVs up to 50’. Site-specific information, including pad size, is available at BCParks.ca. All campsites are back-in only and you may have to watch out for low-hanging branches. There are no hook-ups.
Ellison Provincial Park accepts both cash and card. They even have a portable machine, so you can use your card right at your campsite.
|Seniors*||$16/night*Applies from the day after Labour Day to June 14|
*While I do my best to provide up-to-date fees, there may be a discrepancy between what’s posted here and the actual cost.
Camp Host Information
The camp host is located just down the road from the information sign at the park entrance, near site #59. They sell firewood, ice, and an assortment of treats (including ice cream bars). They also have tourism brochures and a free book exchange.
For firewood, the camp hosts regularly drive around in the evening. It’s easy to catch them and grab a few bundles of firewood. There’s also a firewood delivery sign-up at their campsite.
Facilities + Amenities at Ellison Provincial Park
Ellison Provincial Park has plenty of facilities and amenities that will make your visit, whether you’re camping or visiting for the day, more comfortable and enjoyable.
From flush toilets, warm showers, drinking water, and dishwashing stations to an amphitheater, playground, and paved trails, you can enjoy plenty of creature comforts at Ellison.
Day-Use Beaches at Ellison
There are three beautiful beaches at Ellison Provincial Park. The sandy beaches are tucked away in two secluded bays on Okanagan Lake and are less crowded than others in Vernon or Kelowna. Don’t get me wrong, they can still be busy, but not as busy.
One of the beaches is even pet-friendly, so your furry friend can enjoy frolicking in the water!
Access to the two swimming beaches, Otter Bay and South Bay, is via one of two steep, paved trails from the campground above. One trail starts from the day-use parking lots; the other between sites #61 and #62. Switchbacks and benches make the climb easier.
In addition to the beaches, the waterfront which runs the entire length of Ellison has plenty of private areas you’ll only find by exploring the rock bluffs.
Otter Bay is one of two main beaches at Ellison. It faces north and looks towards Evely Campground and Adventure Bay. Douglas firs line the bay and provide lots of shade.
The north of the beach is quite rocky and becomes sandier the further south you walk. At the south end of the beach, a small trail lets you explore the unique rocky shoreline. The rocks here are large and fun to explore and swim around.
The swimming area at Otter Bay is lined by buoys and is known as the Underwater Dive Park. If you’re into scuba diving, Ellison is a great place to dive! You can check out a dive dome, an old tug boat, and a sunken speedboat.
At the north end of Otter Bay, an access road connects the beachside handicap parking with the picnic area. This road is gravel and runs the length of the beach. At the end of the access road, there’s a pit toilet and water tap.
Just above the beach, numerous picnic tables line the access road. They all have great views and easy access to the lake. Behind these picnic tables, there are two group picnic areas complete with campfire rings, log benches, and even a volleyball net.
South Bay is another main beach at Ellison. It’s bordered by tall, rocky headlands and stretches south towards the pet beach. These rocky headlands are very fun to explore; people even boulder and climb the granite walls that separate South Bay with Sandy Beach.
The sand at South Bay is finer than Otter Bay and the water is much clearer. On sunny days, the water turns a stunning blue-green and is reminiscent of tropical waters – it even gets decently warm.
A low rock wall separates the beach from the picnic tables. There are seven picnic tables, surrounded by shady Ponderosa pines, at South Bay. There’s also a large swimming area, marked by buoys, and a few mooring buoys farther out.
Although there isn’t a bathroom on the beach, there are two flush toilets located between South Bay and Otter Bay. There’s a water tap at the beach.
Ellison Provincial Park has a dog-friendly beach, Sandy Beach, at the southwestern end of the park. It’s a beautiful beach and your furry friends will enjoy running up and down the beach and splashing in the water.
It’s the smallest of the three beaches, but the fact that your furry friends can enjoy the water make up for that!
To access the pet beach, follow the trail located between sites #11 and #12. The trail borders the nearby vacation rentals fence for a short distance before heading downhill through the forest.
Things to Do at Ellison Provincial Park
With the park’s natural beauty and prime location on Okanagan Lake, there’s no shortage of recreational activities at Ellison. Enjoy swimming, hiking, camping, fishing, scuba diving, climbing, biking, kayaking, paddle boarding, and more.
Swimming at the Beach
With three beautiful beaches and plenty of space for everyone, beach days are a must while visiting Ellison.
The lake is relatively warm and has a gentle, sloping bottom which makes it great for swimming – especially with little ones. The sand is a little pebbly, but still very easy to walk on with bare feet. There are also plenty of picnic tables if you’d rather enjoy some shade.
And don’t just stick with the beaches! Explore the rocky headlands and take a dip.
There are no lifeguards on duty, so please look out for yourself and others.
Unfortunately, swimmer’s itch is sometimes present at Ellison throughout the year. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to protect yourself. After swimming, use the outdoor shower between the two beaches so you can quickly clean off, then dry yourself well. If you do get itchy, use calamine lotion.
There’s a great network of bike-friendly, multi-use scenic trails at Ellison. Whether you’re into casual loops around the park or adrenaline-pumping mountain biking, there’s a biking trail for you.
Kids and other casual bikers can easily bike around the campground on paved roads. Some of the roads are a little steep, especially for the kiddos, but the hills are short enough that it’s no big deal to push a bike up if needed.
For mountain bikes, the Ellison-Predator Ridge biking trails are where it’s at. The majority of mountain biking trails are located near Predator Ridge which is accessible by trails from Ellison. Check out the North Okanagan Cycling Society for trail maps and details.
You can ride your e-bike at Ellison as long as it complies with BC Park’s biking guidelines. And remember that you have to wear a helmet in BC, so don’t leave it at home!
You can experience the natural, rugged beauty of Ellison Provincial Park by exploring the many hiking trails. Hiking through the hilly terrain, you’ll be greeted with spectacular vistas overlooking Okanagan Lake, discover unique rock formations, all the while getting in a great workout!
According to BCParks.ca, there are over 6 km of hiking trails in the park. Heavy emphasis on the over.
Water Sports at Ellison
When you visit Ellison Provincial Park, whether you’re camping or day tripping, there’s no shortage of water sports to keep you busy.
There are no boat launches at Ellison, but you can carry your gear down to the lake. There are also a number of boat launches nearby if that’s more your speed. Just north of the park, there’s a car-top boat launch and about 8 km north there’s a full boat launch.
Canoeing, Kayaking + SUP
With an extensive shoreline made up of sandy beaches and rocky headlands, as well as hundreds of kilometers of shoreline beyond the park, kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding are a wonderful way to explore Ellison.
Paddle along the shores and see what you can discover! On a calm day, you can easily paddle right up to the rocky shoreline and go for a swim.
Tip: Okanagan Lake is very popular with motorized boats in the summer. Since the lake is quite wide, it’s best to keep your paddling along the shore where you’ll be safer.
Although there are no boat launches at Ellison Provincial Park, there are mooring buoys. From here, you can enjoy a number of water sports, including boating, water skiing, sea-dooing, tubing, wakeboarding, and more on Okanagan Lake.
Boating is very popular in the summer – and for good reason! When the summer temperature in the Okanagan often reaches above 35°C, there’s nothing like a dip in the water to cool down.
Houseboats can moor at Sandy Beach and camp overnight for the standard camping fee.
There are plenty of freshwater fish in Okanagan Lake and you can enjoy fishing while visiting Ellison Provincial Park. Surprisingly, Okanagan Lake isn’t often taken advantage of for its fishing – maybe because it’s so popular with summer sports? I won’t pretend to know.
Kokanee, rainbow trout, whitefish, and burbot can all be found in Okanagan Lake. For more information about fishing on Okanagan Lake, check out BCFishn.com.
Before you head out, make sure you have the correct fishing license. You can buy a license online.
Scuba Diving + Snorkeling
Yes, you can scuba dive and snorkel at Ellison! Otter Bay, known as the Underwater Dive Park, is western Canada’s first freshwater scuba diving and snorkelling park. Items have been sunk just off-shore that attract fish – and maybe the Ogopogo?!
The cliffs between South Bay and Sandy Beach are made of granite and offer truly scenic climbing right next to Okanagan Lake. The small climbing area is mainly used by locals and beginners. If you want to give it a try, local rec groups offer guided climbing and/or day camps.
Hidden in the rugged landscape of Ellison Provincial Park are about a dozen geocaches. You can easily spend a few hours searching for the hidden treasures, all the while experiencing the beautiful forests, rocky headlands, and stunning bluffs.
Wildlife + Plants at Ellison Provincial Park
Ellison Provincial Park is 220 hectares and backs onto a forested mountain, leaving plenty of space for wildlife to live. The types of wildlife and plants you’ll see are in line with what you may encounter throughout the rest of the Okanagan, so keep this in mind for all of your adventures!
It’s very likely you’ll see some sort of wildlife while visiting Ellison – but it’s pretty unlikely it’ll be anything scary! Deer, squirrels, porcupines, and a wide array of birds are often seen throughout the park.
Bears and cougars also live in the area, but are rarely seen within the campground or day-use area. If you encounter these large animals, it’s more likely you’d see them in the mountainous area behind the park.
To keep yourself and the wildlife safe, I highly recommend RecSafe with Wildlife’s bear safety online course. Kim’s doing amazing work educating people about bear and wildlife safety!
Mature Douglas firs and Ponderosa pines make up the majority of the tree cover at Ellison. Low underbrush covers the forest floor.
Cons of Ellison Provincial Park
As much as I love Ellison, there are a few cons that are important to point out so that you can judge these based on your personal needs and wants.
- To access the beaches, you have to walk down a short, but fairly steep, paved trail. Depending on your fitness and health, this could be difficult.
- Swimmer’s itch occurs here.
- Sites #11 to #15 border a cottage vacation resort which really limits privacy.
- The showers are one temperature.
- No RV hookups.
The Ellison campground is also only 20 minutes from Vernon, so if you absolutely need something you don’t have to drive far.
Vernon has everything you’d need, including gas stations, Walmart, Superstore, Canadian Tire, and Rona, as well as plenty of restaurants (local and chain), cafes, and coffee shops.