If I was still a teen, I’d have stayed at Knutsford Campground because of the name alone. Being an adult, I’m inclined to say I booked here for convenience, with a sprinkling of exasperation, but it was mostly because of the name. Don’t let age mislead you regarding maturity.
The first day of our boys’ trip through central BC in the summer of 2023, hunting gold, rocks, and fossils had us driving to Kamloops from Calgary. That’s a decent day’s drive for an aging guy like me. We would be heading to Princeton next but wanted to spend a night in Kamloops to do a little gold panning on the Tranquille River before heading out.
This river is home to a recreational panning area that has become YouTube famous thanks to gold celebrities like Dan Hurd. My son and I were keen to see if it lived up to the hype. Spoiler alert … it most definitely did.
Finding a campground proved more difficult than finding gold, however. There just aren’t that many campgrounds in or near Kamloops, especially if you hope to avoid being too close to a railroad. There’s literally nothing near the panning reserve.
Eventually, I just gave up and booked us a site at Knutsford Campground. It would require some backtracking through Kamloops to get to Tranquille, but at least we’d have a peaceful sleep. Hopefully.
LOCATION AND SETTING OF KNUTSFORD CAMPGROUND
Knutsford Campground is found on the west side of Highway 5A approximately 6 km south of the west end of Kamloops.
Knutsford is a tiny rural community with a few homes, a community centre, a handful of businesses, and a couple dozen acreages. One of those businesses is the campground. Another is an asphalt and aggregate recycling centre. It’s right next door to the campground. Yeah. I didn’t think that one through.
The campground is located at the bottom of a valley surrounding (and sometimes over top of) a small brook lazily making its way north to Kamloops. This little valley is a wee part of a much larger and broader valley extending south from the city.
Being it lies in a valley with a water body flowing through, the campground is far greener than the surrounding hills and ranch land. There are numerous trees … poplar, willow, and even maple … with plenty of lush underbrush too. The surrounding land, by contrast, is brown and bleak. Only when you gain elevation into the rolling mountains does greenery return with any enthusiasm.
The access road into Knutsford Campground passes a small RV and vehicle storage lot. It then winds down into the valley, passing several modest cottages/houses and mobile homes. Several times during the day and into the evening we’d hear music coming from these places. Country music, of course. Thankfully it never spilled into the night disrupting our sleep.
The same can be said of the road. Highway 5A may not be as busy as the TransCanada, but neither is it void of traffic. Logging trucks were regularly noticeable with their engine brakes chattering as they passed by. And the recycling business got a bit noisy with dump trucks and waste haulers the morning of our departure. But, hey, no trains!
KNUTSFORD CAMPGROUND LAYOUT
Knutsford Campground displays the more organic layout I’m fond of. The kind that takes you back to the days when things just expanded as needed rather than all being planned out beforehand. Sure, it makes for some odd-shaped campsites, but ultimately it results in a homier feel.
The central hub of the campground is an elongate loop with three strips of campsites along the exterior and interior of the loop road. Only the far east side of the loop road is void of sites. A straight extension to the south has sites on both sides of the road as does a similar extension to the north. A green space tucked into the northeast corner has additional tent only sites.
In total, there are 116 campsites at Knutsford Campground. Of those, 40 have full services, 48 have power and water only, and 28 are unserviced tent sites. The full service sites are all within the central loop on the west side. The tent sites are in two groupings, one in that northwest field and the other on the west side of the southern extension. The power and water sites can be found in all three sections of the campground.
Almost all amenities at Knutsford Campground are located right smack dab in the centre of the campground. Two structures house the office, store, bathroom, showers, laundry, and sani-dump. Only the playground (in the northeast green space), country kitchen, and second bathroom (both at the start of the north extension) are found elsewhere.
Splitting the entire campground in half, is the babbling brook that flows through from south to north. Many sites back onto it which may or may not be appealing depending on your patience with water noises and mosquitoes.
CAMPSITES AT KNUTSFORD CAMPGROUND
Organic campground layouts beget organic campsite dimensions. Knutsford Campground is no exception, though I readily admit it’s far from the most bizarre suite of campsites I’ve ever seen.
Most of them are back-ins. I found one pull-through but there may be another one or two. It’s hard to know since the campground map doesn’t differentiate the two.
The campsites tend to be narrow with some crammed in pretty close together, but again there are a few with much wider berths. The majority back straight in, but some are angled, particularly in the strip immediately north of the campground office.
Campsites on the west side of the central loop are well shaded with mature trees bathing each in almost perpetual shade. Moving eastward the tree cover diminishes a bit. The strip of campsites on the eastern side of the loop (east of the brook) are almost all completely open to the sun.
The north extension bows outward for unknown reasons making for some deeper campsites that are also completely open. Across from them, though, the tree cover returns a bit giving at least partial shade. The south extension, while only having 9 campsites, grades from open to tree-covered as well.
It quickly became obvious that many of the sites in the central loop are seasonal campers. Extra vehicles and motorcycles covered in tarps along with oversized propane tanks further indicated that these campers aren’t just showing up on weekends. These people live here, though there are some presumably more traditional seasonal campers at Knutsford Campground.
I’ll go ahead and say it. None of the campsites are particularly appealing visually. Some folks have planters with flowers decorating their sites, but otherwise, the place is quite drab with very little space for enjoying the outdoors. I have a hard time thinking this is someplace I’d like to return to.
All campsites come with a picnic table and firepit. The firepits tend to be overturned truck rims, but not always. The picnic tables tend to be metal frames with wood tops and seats, but not always. A couple of sites had vintage hexagonal concrete tables and our tent site had a traditional all wood table.
SOUTH TENT AREA
The south tent area is a strip of 11 tent campsites backing onto the brook that dissects the campground. Across the road from them are 9 power and water RV sites.
The size and shape of each tent site is hard to decipher, with only the firepits denoting when you’ve left one and entered another. Each has a movable picnic table which can be deceiving as to site boundaries since they’re, well, movable.
The sites are primarily grass, though worn areas exist in places that perhaps get less sunlight and/or more foot traffic. Along the river are some thick shrubs and weedy trees that provide a little bit of shade. Some maple trees have been planted out front of a few sites, but they are not yet mature enough to provide significant shelter. Otherwise, these tent sites are open to the sky.
This is where we were given a site (17). It was a nice enough site, wider than it was deep. We had plenty of space for our lone tent. The picnic table was a bit rough.
Although the tent sites have no services, there was an odd accumulation of extension cords in the bushes next to our campsite. Snaking through the trees, across the brook, and onward into the main campground loop, this provided electricity to the tent sites nearby. We made use of it to charge phones. Nice, but weird.
Along the RV side of the road, towards the south end, is a cleaning station. It’s a homemade contraption with a wide sink affixed to a wooden box hiding a drainage basin. All of this is next to an equally homemade garbage bin. None of it was attractive by any means, but it did the job. Cold water only, of course.
As for mosquitoes, they weren’t horrible. Some came out in the evening as temperatures dropped and we could see swallows swooping around to eat them for a period. Thankfully, they weren’t anywhere near as bad as I feared being so close to the brook and shrubs.
NORTH TENT AREA
The north tent area is at the other end of the campground in a large, grass field behind the playground. There are 16 tent campsites rimming the field.
A small parking lot next to the playground suggests the tent sites are meant to be walk-ins. However, there was a clear indication that vehicles had traversed the field. I guess it’s an either-or situation.
Although the field is wide open to the elements, the perimeter has trees. The west side has thick, bushy trees, perhaps lilac, while the east side has weeping willow trees growing. These provide some much-needed shade and will provide even more as they grow to full height and width.
Each site is denoted by a firepit and picnic table. I think there was a water tap here as well.
Some of the sites are tucked far back into the end of the field. A nice, private location when the campground is not overflowing with campers.
PLAYGROUND AT KNUTSFORD CAMPGROUND
I’m glad Knutsford Campground has a playground. I think all campgrounds should have one and too many don’t. That being said, this one is on the modest side.
A combination of vintage and newer, it’s got a couple swing sets, a slide, a wooden playhouse, and a couple climbing structures, one metal and one wooden.
Signage on the playground says the playset was donated by the employees of Spread 5A. I think that name is related to the TransMountain Pipeline expansion and confirms my suspicions that some of the inhabitants of the campground are indeed transient workers.
The playground is located at the front of the green space that becomes the north tent area.
In the heart of the central loop exists the bathroom, shower, and laundry building. Aside from the beautiful flower garden and gazebo in front of it, the building is rather aged and cold looking. Don’t let that fool you.
The bathroom interior is quite nice, reflecting an recent renovation. The men’s side had a sink with hot and cold water beneath a mirror, two urinals, two flush toilet stalls, and two showers, one at either end.
The showers are coin-op but allow you to control the water temperature. They also have magnificent, large showerheads that’ll drown you in pleasant streams of water.
The cleanliness of these bathrooms has been mentioned in online reviews of Knutsford Campground and I was wondering what the truth would be. The day of our arrival, they were spotless, and I immediately decided the reviewers were petty. The next day, however, I found beard clippings all over the bathroom sink. Some guys just aren’t courteous.
At the rear of the building is a small, coin-op laundry room. They have three sets of stacked washers and dryers plus a wash basin. Not the usual amenity found in campgrounds of this size, but with workers living on premises, a must have. The state of the laundry room interior gives you a good idea of what the bathrooms might have looked like prior to renovation.
Tucked into a corner next to the wash sink is a little library with books for borrowing. Beside that, an ironing board. That is something I’ve never once seen in a campground launderette.
A second bathroom is shown on the campground map existing somewhere out where the northern extension begins. I think I found it, though it’s hard to tell. There is no signage, and it was practically impossible to get to without crossing what appeared to be active campsites.
From the outside it’s a cute little log structure, almost like an oversized playhouse. I never managed to look inside. Why it’s even here, is a mystery. The south extension doesn’t have one and it is equally as far from the main bathroom as the north extension.
I suppose a single dump station will suffice for 48 sewerless campsites. What perplexes me most about the sani-dump at Knutsford is location. Situated immediately north of the bathroom and shower building, using it would surely clog the main road through the core of the campground. Having multiple campers needing to use it would be an gong show.
Apparently, I’m not the first to think this way. Alongside the dump station outlet are two portable RV waste tanks. These enable campers to empty their RV tanks without having to move the entire RV to the sani-dump. I’d advise using these at Knutsford Campground for sure.
One thing that caught my attention when researching Knutsford Campround, was the Country Kitchen BBQ Shack. Not that it’s anything peculiar, I just don’t see such things on campground maps too often.
I found it at the beginning of the north extension near the second bathroom. It’s got a homemade look to it; a modified garden shed most likely. Unfortunately, it was shuttered the day we were there, and a pickup truck was parked partially in front of it. I never did get to look inside. Perhaps campers enjoy BBQs on summer weekends.
CAMPGROUND OFFICE AND STORE PLUS HOST
We arrived late in the afternoon of a long weekend Monday, and I think management was already in recovery mode. The office was closed and nobody was around to check us in. Our site confirmation was posted on the building exterior, and we just went to our allotted campsite and set up.
The office building is made of shaped logs with a covered porch out front. Multiple blooming flower baskets make for a welcoming presentation. It’s located immediately across the road from the bathroom/shower building.
I never did make my way inside during our short stay. Looking through the windows it appears that a bare minimum convenience store accompanies the office. I could see two coolers inside, one for ice cream treats and the other possibly for ice. An assortment of condiments lined a shelf above the freezers. Being so close to Kamloops, there really isn’t demand for a robust store here. Just emergency items or treats.
Right next to the office is a campground host. I didn’t see them either, but the items in their yard moved around so someone was home. It looks like you can purchase firewood from the host. We never had to since another tent camper who was leaving soon after we arrived, gifted us their leftover wood. Thank you, kind stranger.
We spent only one night at this campground and I’m glad that’s all we needed of the place. It suited our requirements well, but Knutsford Campground is obviously not a vacation spot. It may be an ideal, frugal place for temporary or transient workers to set up their “home” but if you’re looking for a weekend of relaxation or a weeklong family vacation, you’ll probably want to go somewhere else.
I’ll grant Knutsford Campground 3 Baby Dill Pickles out of 5. The bathrooms and showers are nicely upgraded, and the modest playground is nice to have. The garden and potted flowers pretty up an otherwise underwhelming campground void of scenery. Even the brook was rather disinteresting.
None of this should be taken as denigrating to the campground or its proprietors. It serves a valuable function and does so well, for the most part. I’m glad I found it and enjoyed our night there. If you’re in similar need while travelling through Kamloops, check it out. Even if only for the name.