We Heard You! Rest Area Improvements on the Way in BC

Overhead view of facilities at the new Loon Lake Rest Area on BC Highway 97C.

This blog was last updated FEBRUARY 2018
Our 170 BC Rest Areas are the perfect spot to refresh and recharge before heading out on the highway, and they are about to get a whole lot better.

Since the beginning of 2016, we’ve been working closely with the BC Trucking Association on the BC Highway Rest Area Survey and report. We wanted to get the voice of the trucking industry – what they like and what they don’t like – about rest areas in the province. Their input is important to improving rest areas for everyone.

In total, 835 people took part in the survey. Of those, 72% were long-haul drivers, 19% were short haul drivers, and 9% were local delivery drivers.

Truckers Told Us What They Really, Really Want

Truck drivers were loud and clear about the improvements they want us to make, to create safer, cleaner and more convenient rest areas. These include:

  • Upgrading restrooms to flush toilets, creating more truck parking and installing improved lighting.
  • Adding new rest areas.
  • Offering commercial services at rest areas, like service stations, shower facilities, convenience stores, restaurants/diners, fast food restaurants and other amenities.

trucks & rec travellersHow We’re Responding to Truckers’ Needs

Rest areas are essential, particularly to long haul truckers who have mandatory hours of rest, to stay safe on our roads. These improvements are coming over the next three years:

  • Enhancing existing rest areas by upgrading washrooms to flush toilets, improving lighting, adding more picnic tables, and increasing accessibility and capacity.
  • Building a new Class A rest area at the Loon Lake Interchange on Highway 97C (Okanagan Connector) between Merritt and Kelowna. This rest area has heated restrooms with running water and flush toilets, separated parking areas for buses, commercial trucks and recreational vehicles, and lots of parking for commercial trucks.
  • Looking into commercial services at rest areas, by issuing a request for information on BC Bid, to gauge industry interest in providing goods and services at BC rest areas.
  • We will be offering free WIFI at select rest areas across the province. In total, 25 rest areas throughout the province will have Wi-Fi installed.
  • The following rest areas had Wi-Fi installed in 2017:
    • Britton Creek  Highway 5 – 67 kilometres south of Merritt
    • Mt Terry Fox   Highway 16 – 6km east of Tete Jaune
    • Galena Bay      Highway 23 – 49km north of Nakusp
    • Glacier View   Highway 16 – 7km north of Smithers
    • Taylor River    Highway 4 – 37km west of Port Alberni
  • The rest areas listed below are scheduled to receive Wi-Fi in 2018:
    • Hunter Creek on Highway 1 – 11 kilometres west of Hope
    • Bradner on Highway 1 – 53 kilometres east of Vancouver
    • Cole Road on Highway 1 – 73 kilometres east of Vancouver
    • The Last Spike on Highway 1 – 24 kilometres east of Sicamous
    • Slim Creek on Highway 16 – 120 kilometres east of Prince George
    • Mount Terry Fox on Highway 16 – six kilometres east of Tête Jaune
    • Boulder Creek on Highway 16 – 53 kilometres west of Hazelton
    • Loon Lake on Highway 97C – 40 kilometres southeast of Merritt
Garbage and Recycling Gobblers wait patiently for you outside the new Loon Lake Rest Area.

BC’s mountains, rivers, oceans and deserts make road trips here a wonderful thing. The province’s awesome size also means highway travellers of all kinds need places to take a break, to help them stay alert on their journey.

Do you have a question about BC Rest Areas that we haven’t answered here, or any other transportation related question? Let us know in the comments below.

42 comments on “We Heard You! Rest Area Improvements on the Way in BC”

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  1. I stopped in at the Loon Lake rest area, off Highway 97C, on Thursday, July 24 around 1:00 PM.

    I ended up at the Loon Lake rest area off Hwy 97C because my usual place of stopping, the Merritt visitor information centre, was – to my surprise – no longer in operation.

    The Loon Lake facility was unusable. All of the toilets were plugged and filled to the top with feces, urine and toilet paper. There was a terrible smell. I hate to think of what visitors to this region would think if they encountered this on their journey.

    Aside from the condition of the toilets, I was also surprised that the outside picnic area has no shade at any of the picnic tables. I also felt a little uncomfortable about the remoteness of the rest area, travelling as a single woman. Fortunately there were a few other people there – all of whom were quickly exiting the building quite put out about the condition of the toilets.

    • Hi Cathie,

      Thanks for letting us know about the unsatisfactory conditions at the Loon Lake Rest Area.

      I have forwarded your comments to our Operations Manager responsible for Hwy 97C, so that they will follow up with the maintenance contractor. In future, you may wish to inform the contractor directly: AIM Roads Inc at 1 866 222-4204 or email: aimroads@acciona.ca

      Safe journey!

      • Hi Cathie,

        Our Operations Manager has informed me that the contractor for the area is Yellowhead Road and Bridge in Merritt — 250-315-0166. (Sorry for steering you incorrectly to AIM).

        While the requirements are for hourly cleaning between May 15 and Oct 15, tour buses coming through put a high demand on the rest area. Unfortunately, this can happen minutes after the patrol cleans the facility, and then until the next scheduled cleaning, it remains dirty. We are reminding the contractor of the hourly cleaning requirement.

  2. Hello. What are the odds that I will get a lost item returned to me? I left my Acura chip car keys in the ladies washroom of the Coquihalla Lakes SB rest stop around 3:30pm today. I would really like to get them back. Would the cleaning service be able to contact me when they get them? Thank you!

    • Hi Christine,

      Sorry to hear! The maintenance contractor is VSA, so best to contact them to see if they’ve come across your keys: 1-888-315-0025.

  3. Adding DC quick charging for EVs is much appreciated at Loon Lake rest area! Unfortunately, like many others in the EV community, we own a Nissan Leaf so we can’t make it to Merritt so this new Loon Lake rest area charging doesn’t help us. Would love to see DC quick charging added to the Coquihalla route somewhere near the summit.

    One of these rest areas would be ideal:

    – Box Canyon
    – Zopkios
    – Coquihalla Lakes

      • Just heard that Britton Creek rest area is getting a DC quick charge station. Awesome news, if true…

        Can you confirm and if so, when is it expected to go live?

        • Hi there,

          We chatted with the area manager who doesn’t have any firm dates to give you. We are working with BC Hydro to install the necessary infrastructure. Stay tuned!

          • Thank you for keeping us up to date. This possible Fast Charger link is very important to so many of us. Has there been any more word on Britton Creek fast charger? Can you also ask if they will be installing a level two backup? Thank you again.

        • Hello again – the project is currently underway. There were some delays in the hydro/planning department regarding location. We are not managing this project and don’t have any firm dates for completion. The goal is the end of June in time for the summer season. Hope that this helps.

  4. A very well used rest stop and info centre just outside of Merritt was recently closed. It served travellers going to and from Hope, Kelowna and Kamloops. It is badly missed.

    • Hello Merritonian,

      Yes, we have heard that it will be missed. But there is another visitor info centre still located in Merritt and we hope folks find our new rest area useful as well.

  5. What about Self-supported Cyclists? What is the logic behind prohibiting people from sleeping over night in a tent at a rest area?

    It seems to be unethical to prohibit overnight sleeping for anyone.

    • Hi Sam,

      We have done some digging and have found that not all rest areas have “no camping” signs posted. Often they are posted when it’s found that longer-term camping is becoming a problem at a particular rest area. Rest areas can be dark, secluded and remote which lead to safety concerns regarding those camp overnight. Overall, in terms of overnight stays, rest areas were originally envisioned for motorists who are too tired to continue driving and need to pull over and rest for a few hours, but we don’t believe that those who are homeless are turned away. Alternatively, BC Parks campgrounds cover the province and are accessible day and night to travellers seeking inexpensive camping. Hope that this helps!

  6. These rest areas are a bonus to have, just last summer I was on a trip from the coast to Calgary and back in one shot….guess age is catching up with my as on the return trip I was quite sleepy by the time I got to the Salmon Arm area. Found a nice rest stop near town with ample parking and I stopped and managed to catch 6 hours of sleep. There wasn’t a lot of people there and I parked out of the way. Had a washroom handy for when I woke up, continued the trip from there rested which is important for driving in the terrain we have here.

    These things are not only great for truckers but the average traveling public like me. What the ministry needs to do is make sure they are well kept and accessible. The one outside of Salmon Arm was a nice one compared to others I’ve stopped at, clean quiet and allowed for some serious zzzzzs. Just wish my home province had these!

  7. As a woman travelling alone I rarely stop at rest areas. They are often out of the way, dark and unsupervised. Having services would definitely reduce the scary isolation of so many of them.

  8. While the initial roll out areas for WiFi coverage are nice, some consideration should be given to Zopkios on Hwy5 southbound. That nice mandatory brake check/rest area before the Smasher has somewhat LIMITED cellular coverage, so some decent WiFi and/or a micro-repeater here would benefit not only the general public but specifically commercial truckers.

    • Hello again Hardy,

      We shared your comment forward with the project manager and they confirmed that Zopkios is under consideration for free WIFI, however nothing has been confirmed at this point. Stay tuned!

      • Thanks, good to know. I would think that with the ongoing Telus “major corridor cellular upgrade” ongoing and this new rest area/WiFi upgrade, that some improvement will result, hopefully sooner rather than later.

      • And, FWIW, some “boots on the ground” experimentation of weak coverage would reveal good likely areas for timely upgrades. Not terribly hard to look at signal strength bars or try to make an outgoing call.

    • There is a 200-foot Telus cell tower right at the Zopkos brake check, it’s been operational since summer 2014. This tower supports Telus/Koodoo/Bell/Virgin (calls to 911 will go through for Rogers customers) The signal from that tower cuts out around Box Canyon. Telus has applied to build a tower near Portia which should cover the dead zone between Shylock and Box Canyon, but I haven’t seen any timeline for construction.

      • Thanks for the info, Rick. I’ve been thru there since that date, and perhaps it’s just been bad timing on my part to have weakish service. If I’m thru in daylight/good vis, I’ll spot around and investigate this some more! 😀

        • With Rogers (and Fido, and even Cityfone) now with Extended coverage, Rogers customers (on eligible plans (which is most of them, basically anything without a my5/my10 option), you’re able to roam now on all Telus(Bell) towers.
          Even Freedom (formally Wind) has an Away roaming agreement.

    • Hi again Dave,

      You are free to use any BC Rest Area to catch zzzz’s while you are travelling, but we try to discourage motorists from using rest areas for more than four hours at a time. Rest areas can be dark, secluded and remote which lead to safety concerns regarding those camping overnight. BC Parks have many campsites available to travellers day or night and we encourage you to camp overnight there. Hope this helps.

      • Rest areas across the province. In other words, will there be more spaces available for truckers driving through the province or just better facilities for existing spaces?

        • Hi Tyson,

          Thanks for the clarification. BC on The Move committed $9M to be spent on rest areas between 2015/16 and 2017/18 (inclusive). This money is used to both rehabilitate and build new rest areas.

          One example of new spaces being created is the new rest area along highway 97C (https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2016TRAN0269-001721). An example of improvements that have been made is the installation illumination at Fish Trap rest area along H5 just north of Kamloops.

          Hope that this helps! If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to let us know.

    • Hi Kim,

      Thanks for letting us know. We will share this forward for follow up. You can also let the maintenance contractor know directly here:

      Emil Anderson Maintenance Company

  9. What about those of us who are not involved in the trucking industry? Has the tourism sector been consulted? Especially for overseas visitors traveling by RVs, a more rustic, non-commercial experience is desired by many. This means more rest areas, on lower volume highways, with minimal services (pit toilets and picnic table), in scenic locations. BC has much to offer!

    For commuters in the Interior of BC, the most important factor is frequency of rest areas, especially in difficult travelling conditions (winter storm), just to give a peaceful rest from driving. A move to keeping rest areas that do not need winterizing open longer in the season is also beneficial.

    • Hello Gundula,

      Thanks for your comment and your kind words about our beautiful province. We have shared your comments forward with the Rest Area program manager.