How to camp for free in British Columbia

Home » British Columbia, Camping, Canada, Practicalities 2012+, Travel Advice, Tips and Reviews » How to camp for free in British Columbia

on Feb 24, 13 • by • with 1 Comment

How to camp for free in British Columbia

Pin It

I can’t wait for another summer in British Columbia. One of the reason is because I know we can explore the province and stay in some of the most beautiful spots in the world for FREE. It’s a great feeling knowing that can head out for a weekend and set up camp in a beautiful spot a few hours away from home, spend a few days canoeing, hiking and enjoying camp life, and then leave, only paying for gas to get there and back.

Of course, in theory, you can camp all around the world for free, but I’m talking about accessible (i.e. not on private land or only reachable by power boat or a three day hike), maintained and legal campsites. There are seemingly hundreds of ‘Rec Sites’ in BC, created and maintained by the Ministry of Forests, as well as the Provincial and National Park sites. It’s a great feeling knowing that can head out for a weekend and set up camp in a beautiful spot a few hours away from home, spend a few days canoeing, hiking and enjoying camp life, and then leave, only paying for gas to get there and back.

Island Insights: Sandy Island Marine Provincial ParkMarine Provincial Park campsite on Sandy Island, BC

Jean Robert and I are fairly old school when we travel; we love maps rather than GPS, and I much prefer to read a guidebook than research online. Besides, I haven’t found a lot of information concerning free camping online; it is always incomplete and/or seemingly out of date…..if anyone knows of any good links, please let me know!

For us, our bible is the Backroad Mapbook; as well as being a pretty detailed road map, it’s a great resource for free places to camp.

DSC00306

About half of the book does not contain maps at all, instead it’s full of detailed descriptions of Rec Sites, the area’s best fishing spots, natural attractions, provincial parks, trails, places to encounter wildlife….

Sayward Forest Backroads Mapbook

Sayward Forest Mapbook section – Rec sites in red and marine campsites in black (there’s one at the top of the photo). The logging roads (unsealed) roads are bolded black, while the canoe route is in white

DSC00313

The Mapbook is not just good for roads, but for getting an idea of what is out in the backcountry too; this section is the Paradise Meadows/Forbidden Plateau area of Strathcona Park (Mount Washington is top right)

DSC00315

Our first experience of a Rec site in Woss, on a wet July weekend. At a minimum, the Rec sites usually have one pit toilet and ‘marked’ camping sites (as in, not wild), often with firepits.

Island Insights: Woss Lake and Port McNeil

We’ve had some awesome weekends and unusual backroad adventures thanks to the Mapbook……and also a bad case of impatience for this summer!

DSC00319

I picked up this guide (Camp Free in B.C) from the library the other day, and so far, it seems like another really nice guide to have. I love the way each campground has an ‘accessibility difficulty’ level; I am always drawn to those places a little further away for a bit of solitude. This book relies on directions rather than maps, which explains it’s bulk (500+ pages!). For this reason I’m not sure if I’d purchase it to use on the road, so I think I may just test out my library copy for a while.

DSC00321

We are going to do some wild camping while in Canada as well, but for short road trips, the Rec Site/Provincial park approach seems to win out. There are lots of places where I can see it being viable (thank god for logging roads!) but I can’t see us doing it much until we set out on our big cross continent trip. Traveling long term in Canada on the cheap is going to be so easy accommodation-wise; with Rec Sites, wild camping AND the likes of Wal-Mart parking lots as in-town/emergency options (something we had issues with in Europe), there is so much potential for a fairly low-cost trip.

For now, all I have to do is wait for Spring to come….or maybe not??

We still intend to carry on with wild camping while in Canada, but for short road trips, the Rec Site/Provincial park approach seems to win out. There are lots of places where I can see it being viable (thank god for logging roads!) but I can’t see us doing it much until we set out on our big cross continent trip. Traveling long term in Canada on the cheap is going to be so easy accommodation-wise; with Rec Sites, wild camping AND the likes of Wal-Mart parking lots as in-town/emergency options (something we had issues with in Europe), there is so much potential for a low-cost trip.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Related Posts

One Response to: How to camp for free in British...

  1. Joe says:

    Great tips! I’m sure those rec sites will make up a big portion of my sleeping arrangements for my trip too :) I will have to invest in the backroad mapbook. I haven’t done too much research online for free campsites but I did bookmark this while researching something else: http://freecampsites.net/canada/ Might be worth a look. Joe

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

« Previous Next »

Scroll to top
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers