The Best Campgrounds and Camping in British Columbia

It's no secret. British Columbia has some of the best provincial parks and campgrounds in Canada. Here's a list of our favorite campgrounds and camping in BC, and how to reserve your own spot in the great outdoors. #camping #explorebc #britishcolumbia

It’s no secret. British Columbia has some of the most well-designed, best-located provincial (state) campgrounds anywhere in North America. We’ve camped all over this great land, and south of the 49th too, and those of us living and camping in BC know how lucky we are to have this all at our doorstep.

The firewood may no longer be free, and you’ll have to reserve a spot in high summer to enjoy the great outdoors, but camping remains the cheapest and most fun family holiday you can have (without crashing at your parents’ cottage – but where’s the freedom in that?) We’ve sharing ALL the goods on where to find the best campgrounds in British Columbia, and tips on how to book them.

It's no secret. British Columbia has some of the best provincial parks and campgrounds in Canada. Here's a list of our favorite campgrounds and camping in BC, and how to reserve your own spot in the great outdoors. #camping #explorebc #britishcolumbia

Get your smore on, camping in British Columbia

The Best Campgrounds in British Columbia

If you’ve never camped before, start slowly. The full equipment investment isn’t going to be cheap, so think about borrowing, renting or incrementally buying the must-have items like tents, sleeping bags, and a camp stove. Not sure how to pitch a tent? You can take a Learn to Camp course, in partnership with MEC and Parks Canada, where you’ll learn everything there is to know about camping in the great outdoors.  Once you feel confident enough, give one or two nights a try at a local and well-established campground near your home. That way, if you and your family have an awful time, (doubtful, if you like the outdoors at all), you can drive home in the middle of the night. We’ve even got kid-friendly recipe tips to get you started on amazing camp cookery. Happy camping!

Camping in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland

Alice Lake – One hour from Vancouver along the Sea-to-Sky highway, just north of Squamish. Amenities: Situated on beautiful Alice Lake, fishing, canoeing, swimming, sandy beach, picnic tables, bike trails, showers, trail around the lake for walks, more challenging mountain hikes nearby, a kids playground, horseshoe pits, generous camp-sites. Very popular – book early!

Cultus Lake Provincial Park – Located one hour from Vancouver near Chilliwack in the Fraser Valley. Easily accessible from northern Washington. There are four campgrounds to choose from in this well-situated lakefront park. Amenities: Showers, flush toilets, swimming, boating, biking, hiking, and horseback riding trails. Due to its central location to the Lower Mainland, this is a very popular and very busy campground, all summer long.

Golden Ears Provincial Park – One and a half hours east of Vancouver in Maple Ridge. One of the largest campgrounds in BC. Three family-friendly campgrounds to choose from, of different sizes (we prefer Gold Creek and the smaller North Beach). Large Alouette Lake is great for swimming, fishing and boating. Kids playground (at Alouette Lake beach), biking & hiking trails (some very challenging), showers & flush toilets.

(EC) Manning Park Provincial Park – Three hours drive east from Vancouver. A vast, wilderness playground of outdoor activities in winter and summer. Five campgrounds to choose from, the largest being Lightning Lake, which also has full-service showers and flush toilets. The lake has a lovely sandy beach. Take a walk around the Lake, or go for a swim. You can rent canoes and rowboats. There are a wide variety of hiking and mountain trails with varying degrees of length and difficulty. Watch for plentiful animal life, including marmots, game birds, eagles, deer and even bears in summer.

Rolley Lake – Located in Mission, just over one hour’s drive from Vancouver, Rolley Lake is a scenic campground of 64 well-landscaped sites amidst second-growth pine trees. It can get a bit ‘party-ish’ on long summer weekends, so keep that in mind if you have young kids and value your sleep.

Joffre Lakes Provincial Park – You can only access the 26 backcountry campsites via a moderate 5.5 km hike, so efficient packing is of the essence. It’s worth it as the lakes and region are stunning. You must reserve a camping pad at Joffre Lakes, due to this park’s popularity. You’ll be turned away if you don’t have the necessary permit, so plan ahead.

Camping on the Sunshine Coast

Porpoise Bay – In less than 45 minutes, the Langdale Ferry takes you from the Lower Mainland to the Sunshine Coast. Just north of Sechelt is this very popular and good-sized campground. Amenities: a clean air policy is in effect, so there are three communal campfires (meet your site neighbours!), showers and flush toilets, a kids playground in the day-use area, sandy beaches, tidal zones and an isthmus for exploring.

Saltery Bay – Accessible via two ferries from Vancouver to the Sunshine Coast, 25 km south of Powell River. At this small campground, you get a real taste of the rainforest, and are roughing it close to nature. No showers, pit toilets only, lots of wildlife, tidal pools and a rocky beach to explore, with a mermaid beneath the waters! Very popular with day-use scuba-divers, who dive to find the bronze mermaid and admire the abundant sea-life.

It's no secret. British Columbia has some of the best provincial parks and campgrounds in Canada. Here's a list of our favorite campgrounds and camping in BC, and how to reserve your own spot in the great outdoors. #camping #explorebc #britishcolumbia

Camping on Vancouver Island

Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park – In two words: Camping Utopia. A huge sandy beach, a rocky beach, a large intertidal zone, (crab races!), gorgeous sunsets, large & private camp-sites, showers & flush toilets, nature rangers & interpretive programs in summer, a kids playground, biking & running trails, kite-flying, bird-watching, and close to Parksville & related town amenities like playgrounds, grocery, liquor and ice-cream stores.

Miracle Beach Provincial Park – Up-island, between Courtney and Campbell River. Family-friendly large campground on spacious & sandy Miracle Beach. Flush toilets, but only one hot shower facility. Activity options include; walking and biking trails, a kids adventure playground, calm ocean swimming, and an amphitheater and interpretive centre.

Strathcona Provincial Park – The oldest provincial park in British Columbia is on the edge of some rugged, gorgeous wilderness. There are car-accessible sites in the large campground, as well as hike-in backcountry sites at Croteau Lake. If you want to go off-grid and hike for days, or just chill in amazing nature, head here.

Looking for more? Check out these camping options on Vancouver Island courtesy of our friends at Travel2Next.

It's no secret. British Columbia has some of the best provincial campgrounds in Canada. Here's a list of our favorite campgrounds and camping BC. (via thetravellingmom.ca)

Camping under the stars in beautiful British Columbia

Camping in the Okanagan

sẁiẁs (Haynes Point) Provincial Park – There have been some changes to this popular campground, but the great news is that it is still possible to reserve your own piece of waterfront heaven in warm Lake Osoyoos. Haynes Point is now known as sẁiẁs park. It is managed by the Osoyoos Indian Band as the area is now an archaeological site. It’s hot and dry in Canada’s only desert climate, but when you’re camping at Haynes Point, cooling off means taking two steps from your tent into the lake. All manner of lake-sports here; swimming, fishing, boating, and water-skiing. There isn’t a built playground, but the kids won’t miss it one bit. Pit toilets and no showers, but swimming every day in the warm lake can count as bathing. Due to its popularity, you can only stay here seven days in a calendar year – it’s that great.

Shuswap Lake Provincial Park – A large family-friendly campground along the shores of beautiful Shuswap Lake, east of Kamloops. Amenities: showers, flush toilets, a kids adventure playground & large grassy area for soccer or ball games, swimming, fishing, boating, canoeing, biking & walking trails, an amphitheater with great nature programs by Park Rangers. Located close to cottage country, and amenities such as a convenience store, mini-golf centre, and an ice cream parlour.

Wells Gray Provincial Park – Located in the North Thompson Okanagan region, Wells Gray Provincial Park has something for everyone and every outdoor interest. There are many campgrounds within this park, and one of the most family (and fishing) friendly is Mahood Lake. There are lush alpine meadows, waterfalls, mineral springs and glaciers. There’s excellent birding and wildlife viewing opportunities. You’ll find hiking for every ability, ranging from short hikes on level trails to multi-day backcountry tramps where you’ll need a map and compass. You can boat, canoe and kayak, as well as book horseback riding, canoeing, river-rafting, fishing and hiking trips with local outfitters.

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Repost @jonaseicker • • • • • 📍Views of Straight Lake while hiking around Murtle Lake. There was fresh snow on the Mountains!! Fall hiking with snow capped mountains at its finest! Does the arrival of snow make you excited or are you hoping for the return of summer? Curated by @hollylouwerse #StraightLake #MurtleLake #WellsGray .. . . . . #naturelovers #liveauthentic #livefolk #mountainlove #artofvisuals #instamountain #nature_perfection #landscape_captures #unlimitedplanet #ourplanetdaily #planetdiscovery #ig_mountains #mountainlife #mountainaddict #welivetoexplore #mountaingram #fantastic_earth #helloBC #igersmountain #explorecanada #canadianrockies #theglobewanderer #explorebc #beautifulbc #sharebc #brmblife #norththompsonbc @backcountrymag @dailyviewbc @explorecanada

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Camping in the Kootenay Rockies

Kootenay Lake Provincial Park – The deep and vast Kootenay Lake has several campgrounds dotted along its shores. We camped at Lockhart Beach on our road trip many summers back, and loved its isolation and easy access to the beautiful lake. No reservations allowed here, so plan to arrive here early to secure a campsite, it’s worth it.

Moyie Lake Provincial Park – A family friendly campground of 111 campsites located 20 kilometres south of Cranbrook off Highway 3/95. You can easily spend a holiday week exploring the 1,300 metres of developed sandy beach, backed by a large grassy area. There’s swimming, wind surfing, sailing, boating, wildlife and bird viewing and a variety of fishing experiences. Kids will love the adventure playground, and parents will appreciate the hot showers.

Camping in Northern British Columbia

Lakelse Lake Provincial Park – Wildlife watching opportunities abound at resettable Furlong Bay Campground in Lakelse Lake Provincial Park. There are 156 sites (50 of them with electrical hookups), at this campground that features sandy beaches and a roped-off swimming area in the lake. Take a walk on the nature trail loops, where you’ll see some of the 100 bird species and old-growth cedar, hemlock, and Sitka spruce trees. Adventurous visitors can try water skiing, windsurfing, fishing, canoeing, and sailing on the lake.

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How to Reserve a Campsite in BC Provincial Parks

Reservations in the summer high season have become pretty much mandatory. While I occasionally mourn the days of free-wheeling spontaneous camping trips, I do like the certainty of having a spot when and where I choose to camp.  DiscoverCamping.ca is the BC Parks reservation portal. You can reserve campsites at those campgrounds with reservable sites (which is not all campgrounds), four months to the date of your arrival. Circle dates on your calendar four months from your desired camping dates, especially for those peak season long weekends in summer.

Do your research. Spend time online checking out maps and locations of campgrounds and sites ahead of time, to ensure you know where and when you want to camp. Many campgrounds may have first-come, first-serve sites, but they are few in number and you’re taking your chances by rolling up expecting a spot on a busy weekend. It’s just too risky, IMHO.

For British Columbia’s seven National Parks, like Pacific Rim in Tofino and Glacier and Yoho in the Rocky Mountains, you need to access Parks Canada’s reservation site, which opens in early winter of each year. Again, planning early is very important if you want certain high season weekends. Our BC National Parks are stunning and camping spots are limited, so they get snapped up very quickly.

In addition to camping pads, Parks Canada sites offer yurts, cabins and other unique types of accommodations. In Metro Vancouver, an easy option is staying in a Gold Rush-themed oTENTik tent at Fort Langley National Historic Site. All you have to bring is your food and sleeping bags. It’s a good way to ease into the camping lifestyle.

Reservations for some backcountry recreational sites have also become mandatory. Recreation sites are very popular as many are off the beaten path, and hike-in only, like the uber-popular Joffre Lakes. Know before you go, because you will be turned away if you can’t show that you have a confirmed reservation. Talk about disappointing.

It pays to reserve your British Columbia camping holiday in advance during the busy summer months. Be sure to review any recent reservation changes by BC Parks at Discover Camping, or call at 1-800-689-9025.

Love to camp? You may enjoy these articles.

How to Pitch a Tent in Banff

Tasty and Family Friendly Camping Recipes for the Great Outdoors

How to Plan the Best Summer Houseboat Holiday

Photo credit: C. Laroye, Lancer Fan

Have you camped in beautiful British Columbia? What are some of your favorite places to get back to nature? Share your comment below.

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21 Comments

  • K. Mueller says:

    Chilliwack lake is great too. Quiet and peaceful. The sites closest to the lake are good for tents. The sites closest to the entrance are large and flat and good for RVS. Lake is good for boating but no swimming because the water is super cold due to glacial melting.

  • Amkami says:

    Thank you for the flushing toilet and shower info! Very useful 🙂

  • Rhonda says:

    I’m on a BC camping trip now and have really enjoyed Fintry Provincial Park on Lake Okanagon between Vernon and Kelowna. Beautiful swimming, free hot showers and large sites. It is a heritage location with an interesting story and histories buildings and a waterfall. Blanket Creek Park is beautiful as well. It is south of Revelstoke about 20 minutes and a handy location when coming west from the Rocky Mountains parks. Situated on the Columbia River, it has a sandy beach, and a warmer swimming pond great for kids.

    • Claudia says:

      Thanks so much for your comment and recommendation, Rhonda! I’m delighted to learn of a great new campsite in our fair province. Happy travels!

      • Alain plouffe says:

        I’m looking for a full hook up campsite in bc with warm water and sandy beach family friendly that isn’t getting smoked out leaving Thursday morning. Any suggestions?

        • Claudia says:

          Head for Vancouver Island. Try Miracle Beach Provincial Park, or some of the private RV campgrounds along the east coast of the Island. Also, check out BC Parks official site, which has the latest wildfire updates and news of park closures. Stay safe and happy camping! http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/

  • Haynes Point sounds fantastic! I suppose they all do though. I love your photos, makes me want to go camping right now.

  • Nisha says:

    Hello,

    I live near vancouver. Are there any camping sites with water view. I wanted to camp as close to water as possible! Thank you

    • Claudia says:

      Hi Nisha – Yes! Quite a few on the water. Porteau Cove is just north of Vancouver on Highway 99, with camping on Howe Sound. The local provincial park campgrounds of Alice Lake (Squamish), Rolley Lake (Mission) and Golden Ears (Maple Ridge) are all near or on beautiful lakes. These are within 1.5 hours of downtown Vancouver. Happy Camping!

  • Maria says:

    I almost don’t want to get the word out about Jimsmith Lake Provincial Park 4 km from Cranbrook. It is small and quiet and adjacent to a lake good for swimming and non-motorized boating. Renters are on gravel and no flush toilet nor showers. Dog friendly on boat launch section of small beach.

    • Claudia says:

      I hear you!! We loved that fabulous park and campground as well. It was just magical. Happy camping!

  • AJ Peacocke says:

    Hi Claudia

    My wife and I recently purchased a motorhome and will be taking our two kids (4 and 2) camping for the first time. I was wondering about a campground you would recommend for the little ones first trip!. We are thinking shuswap lake provincial park but are open to sites anywhere near a lake.
    Thanks in advance

    • Claudia says:

      That’s very exciting, congrats on the motorhome purchase! There are so many great sites for young kids to choose from in BC. We loved Shuswap Lake with our littles. The lake is calm and warm in summer, there are lots of serviced sites to choose from, as well as a playground, easy biking riding, and summer Junior Ranger programs and amphitheater shows. Plus, lots of other families about with their young ones, so no shortage of playmates. We’ve also enjoyed Alice Lake close to Vancouver, Kootenay Lake, and the beach campgrounds on Vancouver Island, Rathtrevor and Miracle Beach. Cultus Lake is good for families, though it can get busy with older kids and teens. All of them cater to motorhomes as well as tent campers, so you’ll find serviced lots with plug-ins. Happy camping!

  • John Dale says:

    Fintry Provincial Campgroud on Okanogan Lake is very nice. Trails and historical elements…and wildlife in the area.

  • Margie says:

    Still trying to convince my husband to camp, but these campgrounds in British Columbia look great!

  • Astrid says:

    In all the years I lived in Seattle, we often drove up to visit Vancouver, but we never once thought of camping there! We’ll have to try some of the Vancouver and Vancouver Island campsites when my family and I come back to the Pacific Northwest.

  • Harmony, Momma To Go says:

    I’ve never been to this part of Canada – or camping! It looks like a beautiful way to explore this region! I would like to get out to the Pac NW or this part of Canada – I live in NY and have been to Montreal and Niagara only!

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