Johnson Lake is a small lake in the interior of BC. This beautiful lake features tropical waters and a white sandy lake. In recent years Johnson Lake has gotten quite a bit of attention as social media has exposed this secret gem in BC.
Only accessible by dirt roads, this remote lake may only be an hour and a half from Kamloops, but have you feeling like you’re a world away. Floating on Johnson Lake will have you feeling like you’re in the Caribbean with the clear turquoise waters.
Johnson Lake is located in British Columbia’s interior, about 5 hours north of Vancouver. Its mountainous location makes it a perfect weekend getaway from Vancouver.
Why visit Johnson Lake?
People travel from all around to come to this slice of tropical paradise in BC. A complete paradise, Johnson Lake is home to some of the clearest water in BC. With up to 100ft visibility, this lake has some of the clearest water you will come across in Canada.
Sunsets in Johnson Lake can deliver some of the most beautiful sights built around romance. The recreation site is the perfect area to see the sun go down behind the mountains. Sunset in Johnson Lake will have the mountainscape perfectly reflecting off the water.
When is the best time to visit Johnson Lake?
The alpine location of Johnson Lake makes it a bit of a colder climate than neighbouring cities. The rural location makes Johnson Lake largely inaccessible in the winter. Even if you were to make it to the lake, the water is crisp even in the summer. In winter, the roads will be rough and the lake will be frozen.
The best time of year to go to Johnson Lake is mid July to early September. While these are certainly the busiest months to visit, the long warm days will have you enjoying every second of this tropical BC destination.
You can expect “mountain weather” at Johnson Lake meaning the weather will change quickly. A cloudy sky can clear to pure blue in a matter of an hour. You can go from clear blue skies to rainy storm weather in no time.
How to get to Johnson Lake?
If you’re coming from Vancouver to Johnson Lake, you will want to first make your way to either Kamloops or Salmon Arm. From Kamloops, you will head north to Barrier and then head east. This route has you on a paved road until you turn onto Minnova road where you will spend the next 20 minutes driving down the dirt road to Johnson Lake.
When heading to Johnson Lake from Salmon Arm, you will find yourself driving on the very well groomed dirt road of Adams Lake Forest Service Road. It is only once you turn away from the water to a smaller FSR that the road begins to get bumpier.
Before we went to Johnson Lake, we read many reviews urging 4×4 vehicles only to attempt the trek to Johnson Lake. The road from Johnson Lake to Adam’s Lake is a bit rough but with caution can be made by 2-wheel drive vehicles.
Things to know about Johnson Lake BC
Johnson Lake is quite remote and very busy in the summer.
What makes the water so clear? Most lakes are fed water through incoming river channels. Johnson lake is fed by an underground spring that feeds water up through the limestone. This combines with a white sandy lake bottom to give the lake a clear/turquoise colour.
How big is Johnson Lake? The lake is 5km long and about 200m deep.
Can you swim in Johnson Lake? Yes! Johnson Lake is a great lake to swim, snorkel, kayak and play on.
Is Johnson Lake cold? The water in Johnson Lake certainly has a crisp bite to it but the warm sun beams down making the cooler water welcomed in the summer months. If you want to swim in warm water we suggest visiting Johnson Lake BC in the late summer months (we went on August 15 and the water was warm).
Can you boat on Johnson Lake?: Motorized boats are not permitted on Johnson Lake. You can bring electric powered boats though!
Are the beaches at Johnson Lake sandy? Despite having a sandy bottom, Johnson Lake’s shores are more rocky than sandy. This doesn’t pose a big problem as you will want to be out in the water, not on the shore.
Is their fish in Johnson Lake? Yes! Johnson Lake is stocked with rainbow trout. There is a smaller lake called Little Johnson Lake that is used as a Kamloops Rainbow Trout habitat. This means that Johnson Lake in BC will be stocked with 2 to 5-pound Rainbow trout.
The cool thing is that the water is so clear you can watch the fish swim underneath your boat, or even from the shore.
Are there bugs at Johnson Lake? Johnson Lake, like any other still body of water, has a fair amount of bugs. This is especially true at certain times of the year. Bugs can be quite bad in the area from June – July and have normally died down significantly by August. Be sure to bring some bug spray and citronella candles to keep the mosquitoes away!
Are dogs allowed? Yes dogs are allowed at Johnson Lake BC. Technically, they have to be on leash in any Kamloops Recreation Site now.
Wildlife at Johnson Lake
While a recent boom in tourism has certainly limited the amount of wildlife in the area. The remote location still offers a lot of stunning wildlife to be seen though. The roads into Johnson Lake will have you driving past cows and horses as you pass by the farms. Once on the forest service road, you will likely see deer on the road.
One of the most common things you will see at Johnson Lake is the dragonflies. Colourful dragonflies and butterflies are seen all over the area. You will hear the call of loons and a paddle onto the lake will likely have these curious birds swimming close by you as they hunt for fish. Squirrels, chipmunks and bunnies are seen throughout the woods at the camping area.
Frogs are another common animal you will see. When camping here, we had a baby frog under our tent. We saw another few along the shore of our rec site #1 beach at nighttime. If you venture away from the campsite, you have the opportunity to see bears, cougars and even moose.
What to do at Johnson Lake?
Paddleboard: without a doubt, the most popular thing to do at Johnson Lake is go paddleboarding. Thanks to the powers of social media and showcasing the look of effortlessly floating as you get a birds-eye view of the depth below you is one of the most amazing things to do in BC.
Kayaking: Johnson Lake is quite large in size and having a kayak will allow you to thoroughly explore all the secret less populated areas of Johnson Lake.
Floating: The water at Johnson Lake is incredibly calm. This makes it one of the best lakes in BC for floating. Blow up your water floaty, grab a cold beer and pretend you’re in The Bahamas.
Looking to pack some beer for your trip? Stock up on some Okanagan craft beer on our downtown Kelowna brewery tour.
Snorkeling: Given the stunning clarity of the water, snorkeling Johnson Lake is one of the best things to do. Snorkeling allows you to get an intimate view of underwater life. While the waters may look tropical, don’t expect an array of colorful fish. Instead, you will see some darker fishes weaving through fluorescent lake grass.
Scuba diving: Johnson Lake is 200ft in depth with water clarity in some areas being 100ft. The waters clarity and lack of underground currents have attracted scuba divers from all over to dive the waters of Johnson Lake.
What to bring to Johnson Lake?
Johnson Lake’s remote location, roughly 1.5 hours from Kamloops, means that you will need to be well prepared for your trip. There is no convenience store in the area to buy more ice, gas, or water meaning it’s important for you to come well prepared.
Water: there is no potable water access at Johnson Lake. It is important that you bring in your own water – and a lot of it
Ice: summers can get hot and the remote location means that you can quickly run out of options if you have no ice.
Hiking shoes: Trails are not well cleared and are often really steep. Having good hiking shoes will allow you to easily navigate the rugged terrain.
Water shoes: At the Johnson Lake campsites and day-use area, roughly the first 15 feet of the shore is rocky. Having water shoes will make trekking into the lake much easier.
Toilet paper: While there are outhouses, they aren’t well maintained. On our summer 2022 trip, the outhouses were completely full, were vandalized, and offered no toilet paper. Most campers should have toilet paper as a part of their camping gear but we recommend bringing extra.
Watersports: There are no watersports rental shops at Johnson Lake. If you want to float, snorkel or paddleboard, be sure to come prepared.
Ear Plugs: There’s a high chance you’ll be woken up in the morning to the sound of paddleboards and floaties being inflated.
Where to stay at Johnson Lake?
Johnson Lake recreation site offers 12 campgrounds, 3 of which have beachfront access to the lake. This BC rec site works on a first come first serve basis. Check-out is at 12pm and sites it costs $15 a night. As with all rec sites in BC, there are camping quiet hours of 11pm – 7am.
On our trip to Johnson Lake in summer 2022, no park rangers came by to collect money making our stay completely free and the rec site appeared completely abandoned.
This is one of the busier lakes we have ever camped at. There was a constant stream of people coming for the day – even during the week. The issue is that these people park in the Recreation sites that are meant to be used by people wanting to camp at Johnson Lake.
Lakefront campsite: Sites 1-3 have lake access with private beach areas.
Forest campsites: Sites 4-12 are forest campgrounds that all back onto a greenbelt.
What to do if you can't get a rec site at Johnson Lake?
The remote location and only 12 first come first serve can make getting a site kind of a gamble. Luckily, if you can’t get a spot in the rec site, there are quite a few areas off the forest service road around the lake that you can pull off to camp. Most of these campsites are marked with a fire ring. As with back roads camping in Canada, it is a free for all out there.
Thanks for stopping by! We loved our stay at Johnson Lake and we know you will too.
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