Camping season is coming. Connect with nature at some of Western Canada’s best campsites. Reserve your spot early.
It’s time to escape to the great outdoors – be it tent camping, RV camping or glamping (luxury camping). Relax around the campfire, spend quality time with family and friends, enjoy the spring of life at some of the best campsites in B.C. and Alberta.
B.C. is a camper’s paradise. It’s home to the third largest parks system in North America after Parks Canada and the United States’ National Park Service. Here are a few favourites.
Pachena Bay, near Bamfield
This secluded gem is nestled along the Pacific Rim of Vancouver Island. You sleep among ancient cedars and wake up to the sounds of crushing waves. Driftwood logs on the soft-sandy beach make perfect benches for spectacular ocean viewing, wildlife watching (such as grey whales and birds) and stargazing.
Bioluminescent algae light up the water like fireflies on a warm summer night
At low tide, the tidal pools expose a wealth of marine life. The campground’s pristine 1.2 kilometre shoreline faces the open Pacific Ocean framed by a picturesque rainforest backdrop.
A boardwalk hiking trail transverses the unspoiled rainforests from Pachena Bay to the trail head of the West Coast Trail. Huu-ay-aht First Nation owns and manages the campground. Getting there on the bumpy logging road is an adventure, but the awe-inspiring ambience is worth the effort.
E.C. Manning Provincial Park
The scenic Cascade Mountains envelop this all-season wilderness. It’s within a three-hour drive from downtown Vancouver or the Okanagan. The park has four drive-in campgrounds, plenty of walking and hiking trails for all fitness level.
The trails criss-cross mountain ridges, rainforests, valleys, lakes and alpine meadows blanketed with colourful wildflowers. The diversity of flora and fauna in the park makes for an interesting and pleasant stroll or hike. Other activities include horseback riding, canoeing, biking, bird and wildlife watching.
Kettle River Provincial Park
About a 45-minute drive from Osoyoos, the Kettle River Recreation Area makes a great campsite for water activities from swimming, tubing, kayaking to canoeing.
Remnants of gold and silver mines that once brought fortune seekers to this serene refuge are evident on the river’s eastern bank. Biking and hiking trails transverse the historic Kettle Valley Railway, an abandoned Canadian Pacific Rail track that once linked the Pacific coast with southern Alberta.
Quick getaways nearer to Vancouver include provincial parks like Porteau Cove, Garibaldi, Alice Lake, Golden Ears, Cultus Lake and Indian Arm.
Related: Vancouver: Waterfront Daycations
Jasper National Park, Alberta
There is nothing like camping in the Albertan Rockies. Jasper is the largest of the seven Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. The park is known for its stunning turquoise lakes, glaciers, icefields, pristine wilderness and wildlife.
Best campgrounds are: Columbia Icefield, Honeymoon Lake, Jonas Creek, Wabasso, Wapiti and Whistlers. A scenic way to get there is by VIA Rail, who often offers attractive discount fares.
Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park, Alberta
This badlands park will wow you with its beautiful sandstone cliffs, hoodoos, petroglyphs and pictographs and prairie grasslands. It’s named after the Blackfoot indigenous people.
The campground is located along the Milk River where you can swim or relax on its sandy bank, have fun birding, canoeing, kayaking and hiking on the 2.2 kilometre Hoodoo Trail. It’s about three and a half hours drive south of Calgary.
Camping Gear Tips, Free Program
Camping is fun, but not when it rains. “It’s the number one concern for B.C. campers,” says Jim Stevens of Eureka Tents Canada. To stay dry inside and also when entering and exiting the tent, Stevens recommends that tents have full coverage fly sheets and vestibules like their Canadian designed tents.
They are also easy for one person to set up, he adds. “Preserve your tent by keeping away from direct sunlight, and use guy lines to prevent damage from wind storm.”
Want to learn the basics of outdoor survival? Parks Canada offers free Learn to Camp program. Call 1-844-365-2646 for more information.
Camping on a Budget and Free Campsites
Minimize expenses by preparing meals in advance. Use laundry lint as fire starter, old shower curtains as tarp. Borrow or rent camping gear for short camping trips, or purchase used equipment. Bring your own firewood.
Forget your electronic devices. Bring a board game, a pack of cards or a good book for entertainment instead. Camp for free, although there may be little or no amenities. For free campsites, visit freecampsites.net.
You can camp on Crown land for free in B.C. provided the land is not licensed to someone. B.C. government website cited that,
“Any person may camp on Crown land for up to 14 consecutive calendar days. For the purposes of calculating 14 consecutive days, a period of consecutive days is cumulative unless the person and their vehicle and equipment, as the case may be, are not present on the site for a period of at least 72 consecutive hours.“
Camping etiquette: follow the “Leave No Trace principles” to minimize environmental impact, and preserve the campground for other campers.
Check on latest park conditions before you leave, and be prepared for all types of weather and hazards. Reservation can be made at the following websites.
Parks Canada: pc.gc.ca, BC Parks: bcparks.ca, Alberta Parks:albertaparks.ca