Camping is very popular in Canada, especially in summers. There are various things to know and keep in mind when going camping in Canada. When planning an activity, one can think about camping in Canada as there are many camping destinations to choose from. One can go on a road trip and stop to enjoy some of the best camping destinations in Canada.
One can enjoy free camping in many places such as Crown lands, Recreation sites, and provincial parks too. For overnight parking, one can opt for rest stops, truck stops, and parking lots. You should also be ready with a plan of how to go about the camping trip and don’t forget to carry your camping essentials. Be prepared with all of this and you are good to go.
Before camping in Canada, one must know where to find free camping spots.
A free campsite can be Crown land, Recreation sites, Provincial parks or territorial parks, or municipal campgrounds. Most free camping areas are secluded and off the beaten path. Sometimes these free camping areas even don’t have basic amenities such as toilet paper so one has to be prepared always.
1. Crown land
Crown land refers to land owned by the Canadian monarch. Crown land is public land use zones that prove to be good spots for camping in Canada. Candian residents can camp for about 21days in a particular crown land while non-residents need permits. The use of crown land varies between provinces and territories.
To find a crown land, it’s better to use the official provincial or territorial map. One can also find free camping on crownland by buying the relevant Backroad Mapbook of a place one wants to visit. One can discover established camp spots marked on the map for ease.
2. Recreational sites
If you are looking for recreation sites for your camping, then British Columbia is the best place to find free camping in Canada. There are many free campsites in British Columbia with good camping facilities such as a picnic table, space for a tent, picnic table, an outhouse, and a fire pit. Some recreational sites are accessible by car and for others, you have to hike.
The rec site is located by water bodies such as lakes, rivers, and waterfalls and is accessible by logging roads. The recreation sites can range from small campsites to large campgrounds with already allocated sites. Most recreational sites are free to use for up to 14 days whereas some have nightly fees. To find free camping in British Columbia, one can use Regional Backroad Mapbook or use Trails and Sites website. The Backroad map is useful for logging road navigation as well as detailed descriptions of every Recreation site.
3. Provincial parks and territorial parks
There is a lot of scope for backcountry camping in Canada. Provincial parks and national parks campgrounds provide good camping opportunities. There are only some designated campgrounds in provincial parks and national parks which provide vehicle-accessible camping. These areas are not free and charge a nightly fee per camping group based on the territory or province.
One must also consider that provincial park campgrounds can be busy during the high season. Free camping opportunities are the best in backcountry areas but are secluded and far away from the main road. These areas are those which are accessible by foot or boat and one needs a tent and hiking/padding equipment with them. Popular ones have a nightly fee and a reservation system for camping. One can save money by visiting out of the main season.
4. Municipal campgrounds
Opportunities are very minimal but one might find some spots for free camping in Canada on municipal grounds. Facilities in these campgrounds include washrooms, waste disposal, a picnic shelter, and tap water.
For overnight parking and camping in Canada, one can go for the following options
These options are for brief night stays and can be used for convenience camping or to stay when one travels from one place to another. These camping options are for adapted cars, vans, and RVs, not tent users.
1. Rest stops
There are many rests stops along highways across the country. One can crash at night to take a rest. Rest stops are easily identified through signs, sometimes hundreds of kilometers in advance. Rest stops can be categorized according to facilities and sizes. Some are equipped with full-service gas stations with flush washrooms, restaurants, and visitor information, and others are with a trash bin or maybe an outhouse.
Rest stop signs indicate how long drivers can stay usually six to eight hours. Some don’t allow overnight parking as per the signs whereas some rest stops don’t have proper signs.
2. Truck stops
Shipping of consumer products and groceries takes place by the use of trucks in Canada. At night, traveling long distances becomes a task hence truck drivers need a convenient place to stop to take a rest. Truck stops, also known as travel centers or plazas, are bigger than rest stops. Facilities here include washrooms, a restaurant, at least one gas station and in some places, shower facilities are also provided.
3. Walmart and Supermarket Parking lots
Another well-known option for free camping in Canada is Walmart. When on long road trips, the parking lot of Walmart can be a convenient option. If not sure about nighttime parking there, do ask the customer service desk. Some Walmarts have signs indicating that overnight parking is prohibited as the parking lot is owned by a different company and Walmart just rents the space from them.
Like Walmart, Supermarkets like Superstore and Save On Food also have a parking lot that can be used. One thing to keep in mind is not to put up tents, tables, and chairs and no cooking in front of your vehicle when in the parking lot as it might cause inconvenience to others.
4. Visitor Information Centre
Another convenient place to make a stop is the visitor information center. Here, you will find washrooms and free maps. Relatively better centers provide free water fill-ups and information about free campsites.
Resources to check for free camping in Canada
There are many ways through which you can find free camping in Canada. Some of them are:
- Backroad map books- These are best for navigation as well as prove to be a good guide for camping. They are also helpful in finding hiking trails.
- The Milepost– If in northern British Columbia and Yukon Territory, one can check The Milepost for camping suggestions, highway mile details, and other essential details for camping.
- Provincial/Territorial Park websites- To find free campsites in provincial parks and territorial parks, one should check out the related websites for a better understanding of rules and regulations.
Main pointers to remember for free camping in Canada
- Be respectful to other campers, the environment, residents, and wildlife.
- Do not stay at ‘no camping’ or ‘no overnight vehicle areas.
- Follow leave no trace principles and leave the campsite as it was when you arrived.
- When out for free camping in Canada, be prepared to not find running water and other facilities like official campgrounds.
- Plan and know which campsites you are going to and places where you are going to stop to avoid confusion and unnecessary stress. To know others’ experiences check out campground reviews of the sites you are visiting.
- Taking a scenic route instead of the highway will help you find a wild camping spot.
- For fishing purposes, always buy a relevant license.
- Pay special attention to hazards on the road when driving in the early morning or at night.
- Do not camp on private property unless you have permission.
- Camping stove – One cannot always depend on campfires for cooking food. Sometimes wet firewood can be a hindrance hence carry a camping stove.
- Mosquito Repellant – Be careful of mosquitoes during springtime, hence some kind of repellant is a must.
- Lighting -Always carry a headlamp or lantern.
- Lightweight Tarp– When camping in the mountains, a lightweight tarp is essential for shelter or shade, especially for rains.
Best camping destinations in Canada
The most beautiful camping spots in Canada include camping spots in many provincial or territorial parks, national parks, and many more. The campsites in these parks offer basic amenities such as washrooms, space for a tent, and picnic tables but not in all cases. Some camping spots are off the beaten track and hence very secluded making access by road very rough.
1. Pacific Rim National Park, B.C.
When in Pacific Rim National park, Green Point is must visit campground for camping in Canada. A total of 113 sites are drive-in with 18 walk spots that have to be on the list for your camping trip. You can walk or run to explore the beach. One can also opt for swimming and surfing. Grey whales can be spotted in Amphitrite Lighthouse in the town of Ucluelet, about 20 minutes south of the campground.
2. Jasper National Park, Alberta
Jasper National Park is the largest park in the Canadian Rockies with lakes, forests, and rivers. Famous for its scenic beauty high mountain peaks and enriching wildlife, the park is a must-visit for outdoor lovers. Columbia Icefield Campground is the highest point for car camping in Canada. This tent-only spot provides amazing access to hiking trails as well as enjoying the glacier. Nigel Pass, Saskatchewan Glacier, and Parker Ridge are excellent for hikes. Mountaineers can enjoy the Athabasca and Andromeda for a good climb.
3. Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland
To enjoy the mesmerizing scenery and the wildlife of this place one has to cross from Nova Scotia to reach Newfoundland. Famous for its large freshwater ponds, and tablelands area, the Trout River Campground has it all. It is one of the few places where the earth’s mantle can be seen. The Overfalls trail is a must-visit with a view of a beautiful waterfall at the end. Greens Gardens Trail and Lookout Trail are also good trails that one can enjoy.
Trout River Pond is one of the best places for paddling. Gros Morne RV Campground located in Gros Morne National Park has various facilities such as 75 RV sites and full services, tent sites, and motel accommodations, and the campground is within walking distance of the town. Truck maintenance services are available along with access to truck accessories for emergency scenarios.
4. Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan
Grassland is best for hiking and riding. There is a car-accessible location in Frenchman River Valley which is a must-visit and is close to established trials. This camping area is fully developed and can prove to be a good camping spot. One can visit the northeast corner of the West Block to spot a pronghorn antelope and bison, if lucky. The Eagle Butte Trail, a new trail leads to a beautiful viewpoint at the end. Broken hills trail can be enjoyed by mountain bikers to view the scenic view of the park.
Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Alberta- Peter Lougheed provincial park comes next in the best places for camping in Canada. Canyon Campground is located in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains. Facilities include camping and fishing as well as hiking trails, mountain biking, horseback riding, and cross-country skiing.
Point Campground is popular among locals as you can enjoy this place without crowds. It is placed on the west shore of Upper Kananaskis Lake giving a beautiful 360-degree view. One can reach it by hiking 3 kilometers. South Kananaskis Pass can be enjoyed for its flower-filled meadows and lovely mountain views. If you want to walk more you can head to Fossil Falls.
5. Queen Elizabeth Territorial Park, Northwest Territories
Main Campground is a small campground located outskirts of Fort Smith, just north of the Alberta border. A must-visit for canoeists and kayakers as well as those who want to visit national parks- is Wood Buffalo National Park. One can hike along the 30-kilometer riverside trail or head to Wood Buffalo to enjoy salt flats or salt river trails.
6. Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta
Townsite Campground though being middle of the village enters the list of campgrounds in Canada. Among the trails, Carthew-Alderson Trail is the best. One can take a bus to reach the trailhead at Cameron Lake which goes eight kilometers to Carthew Ridge where you can enjoy the view. You can also return by Crypt Lake Trail. One can also check out the Prince of Wales Hotel for its view overlooking Waterton Lakes which cannot be missed.
7. Fundy National Park, New Brunswick
The park has a lot to offer such as the Acadian forest, rolling hills, waterfalls, and over 100 kilometers of hiking trails part of being famous for its high tides. One can enjoy the villages, foggy mornings, lobster, and whales just offshore. Point Wolfe Campground is located at the end and can be reached by crossing the bridge.
There are several trails from Point Wolfe such as you can travel east to Matthews Head, Coastal Trail, Coppermine Trail as well as a trail along Foster Brook can also be chosen to explore. If with a boat you can explore the waters out into the Bay of Fundy.
8. Kluane National Park, Yukon
Kathleen lake campground is next on the list of campgrounds for Canada camping. When here, one can enjoy good trails, paddling, fishing, and wildlife viewing. Dall sheep, moose, wolves, and, yup, grizzlies can also be spotted here. King’s Throne Summit hike gives beautiful views of snow-capped mountains. Auriol Trail is also a good hike. Mountain hikers would love beautiful roads to Marsh or Alsek lakes. You can also enjoy canoeing in Kathleen Lake.
9. Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario
Next on the list for camping in Canada is Algonquin provincial park where one can enjoy both Drive To Camping and Backcountry Camping. This park is one and half times the size of Prince Edward Island. Roughly three hours north of Toronto, campers can find various hiking routes. One can enjoy forests, rivers, and numerous lakes, including the large Lake of Two Rivers as well as trails such as Whiskey Rapids Trail and Barron Canyon Trail visiting this provincial park is a must.
10. Forillon National Park, Quebec
Forillon National park is where one can enjoy the sea, along cliffs, and in the forest making it to the list of camping destinations in Canada. One can enjoy the beach as well as do sports activities like snorkeling here. Cap-Bon-Ami Campground will be the best place for camping when in this National park.
One can enjoy activities such as hiking, kayaking, mountain biking, whale watching, guided walks saltwater fishing, or even scuba diving, and many more. Les Graves Trail is best for oceanside hikes and Mont Saint-Alban is known for its amazing views. You can also enjoy Kayaking at Grande-Grave Harbour. You can also end the day by relaxing at one of the four beaches in the park.
11. Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Nova Scotia
Corney Brook Campground is next on the list of best-camping destinations in Canada. Skyline trails can be visited for an ultimate view—possibly including whales. Another trail named L’Acadien Trail can also be a must-visit for its beautiful views. If you want to go for a run or mountain biking, visit the Trous de Saumons Trail.
Other provincial parks to be on your list for a camping trip can be Thomas Raddall Provincial Park, Manitoba hills provincial park, Banff national park, and Parc National du Fjord-du-Saguenay. The Baie-Sainte-Marguerite campground is where you can enjoy the St. Lawrence River and beluga whales.
This was all one needs to know to go camping in Canada. From knowing where you can do free camping to overnight parking for rest, everything discussed above is essential for anyone planning to camp in Canada. One should always be prepared with a proper plan so that no confusion happens at the last moment. There are many camping essentials to be carried so that one is well prepared for any situation. To camp in Canada, there are many national parks and provincial parks to choose from as Canada has abundant of them. Overall be prepared and enjoy your next camping destination in Canada.
Want to know more about camping destinations? Check out the 8 Best Campgrounds on Vancouver Island
Planning to visit Port Burwell Provincial Park? Check out Everything To do At Port Burwell Provincial Park