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9 Awesome FREE Campsites in British Columbia, Canada

Did you know that there are hundreds of completely free road accessible Recreational Sites all around British Columbia, Canada?

I’ve stayed at dozens and dozens of free campsites in British Columbia over the last few years, saving hundreds of dollars.

Here are just a few of my favourite free road accessible campsites in British Columbia, discovered with the excellent Backroad Mapbook series. The majority of these featured campsites are easily accessible from local towns, with the largest part of the journey spent on paved highways. 

There are affiliate links in this post – if you purchase a qualifying item via these links, I may receive a very small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you. 

Backcountry necessities

Pye Lake, Vancouver Island

With a total of four different Recreational Sites to choose from on this lovely little lake, you can’t go wrong here. The Pye Beach site remains our top choice, with nicely divided forested sites and a great stretch of sand to watch the sunset from.

Depending on which free camping site you head to, the drive from Campbell River (Vancouver Island) will take around 90 minutes. The last third of the journey is on reasonably well maintained gravel logging roads. 

Location: Access via Rock Bay Road between Campbell River and Sayward

One of the spots at Pye Lake Beach campsite, a completely free place to camp in British Columbia
One of the spots at Pye Lake Beach campsite
Orange sunset over lake with a silhouette of the mountains at Pye Lake

Klaklakama Lake, Vancouver Island

Open lakefront pitches with a hint of mountain views make these Rec Sites a winner. For truly epic experience, bring a canoe and paddle to the middle of the lake.

An incredible panorama of peaks and Mount Cain Alpine Park can be seen from here. The drive to Klaklakama Lake takes around 90 minutes from Campbell River, Vancouver Island. 

Location: Access via Nimpkish Road between Woss and Sayward

Van with picnic table at Klaklakama Lake Recreational Site, Vancouver Island
Klaklakama Lake Recreational Site, Vancouver Island
Klaklakama lake with mountain range behind, Vancouver Island

Dinner Rock, Sunshine Coast

The sites may be reasonably close together but when you’re this close to the ocean, who cares? We spotted whales and sea otters and watched the sun set behind Vancouver Island every night.

Anywhere else, you’d pay hundreds of dollars a night for these views. Dinner Rock Rec Site is an easy 25 minute paved drive north of Powell River. 

Location: Direct access from Highway 101 between Powell River and Lund

View from Dinner Rock Recreational Site, Sunshine Coast
Definitely one of the best free campsite views in British Columbia (accessible by road)!
Lund Harbour, British Columbia
The tiny village of Lund is just five minutes drive from Dinner Rock

Lois Lake, Sunshine Coast

Reasonably easy access and lots of space make this a handy stop on the Sunshine Coast. There are some nice hike-in campsites for those wanting more privacy. Paddlers should be wary of stumps and deadheads in the lake. Lois Lake is the starting point for the Powell Forest Canoe Circuit.

The free campsite at the south end of Lois Lake is reached by a 25 minute drive south of Powell River. The last section of the route (4-5km) is fairly well maintained gravel road. 

Location: Access via Canoe Main from Highway 101 between Saltery Bay and Powell River

Cooking at Lois Lake Rec Site, a great free campsite choice in British Columbia
Cooking at Lois Lake Rec Site
osprey lois lake powell forest

Waitabit Creek, Columbia-Shuswap

Riverside camping sites with mountain views, just a few minutes drive from the highway between Golden and Glacier National Park? Yes, it’s true!

It’s not the most well maintained Rec Site we’ve been to (and there are a few long-stay van and RV dwellers here) but Waitabit is very convenient and very scenic.

We loved cooking by the glacial river with the mountains as a background. Waitabit Creek Rec Site is about 30 minutes drive north of Golden, with the last (short) section on gravel roads. 

Location: Access via Bush River Forest Road on Highway 1 between Golden and Glacier National Park

White van parked by picnic table and fire pit at Waitabit Creek, BC
River and mountain views from van at Waitabit Creek campground BC

Echo Lake, Columbia-Shuswap

High in the mountains south of Revelstoke, compact Echo Lake is picture perfect. A hiking trail circumnavigates this little lake. Note that the entrance can be snowed in until quite late in the season due to the elevation though hike-in camping may still be possible.

We found Echo Lake to be a very peaceful place, especially as there was no-one else there when we visited. Echo Lake is about a 30 minute drive south of Revelstoke, with half the route being on gravel. 

Location: Access via Akokolex Forest Service Road, south of Revelstoke

Echo Lake Recreational Site near Revelstoke - view of picnic table in front of lake
Echo Lake Recreational Site near Revelstoke, a wonderfully peaceful free campsite
revelstoke mt begbie views rockies
The town of Revelstoke is only 30 minutes drive from Echo Lake

Swalwell Lake (Beaver Lake), Okanagan Valley

Free camping in the Okanagan is a bit harder to find than other areas. The secret is that there is plenty in the higher elevations. So grab a sweater for the cooler evenings and head up into the hills to discover the wealth of free campsites!

Beaver (Swalwell) Lake has good fishing, sheltered sites (although not too private) and roaming cows. No joke – don’t be too surprised to wake up and find one rooting around in your campfire embers! This lake is a 45 minute, mostly uphill and gravel, drive from downtown Kelowna. 

Location: Access via Beaver Lake Road, east of Winfield

9 Awesome FREE Campsites in British Columbia - Swallwell Lake
Free camping at James Lake, BC
James Lake is an alternative free camping option to Beaver Lake, located 45 minutes to the east of Kelowna

Flatbed Creek, North BC

A small, open Rec site at the side of a fairly wide creek. In late August we were the sole campers here for almost a week.

This free campsite is conveniently located for exploration of Tumbler Ridge’s many waterfalls, dinosaur footprints and fishing opportunities. Flatbed Creek Recreational Site is an easy 25 minute drive south of Tumbler Ridge. 

Location: Direct access from Heritage Highway 52 south of Tumbler Ridge

Van next to picnic table at Flatbed Creek Recreational Site, Tumbler Ridge
Flatbed Creek Recreational Site, Tumbler Ridge – one of the best free campsites we found in Northern British Columbia
Flatbed Creek falls Tumbler Ridge
Flatbed Creek Falls, Tumbler Ridge

Jigsaw Lake, North BC

The approach is a little rough but the payoff is worth it, trust us. If you like secret mountain views and excellent fishing, this is a paradise. The lake offers some lovely, relaxing paddling with a couple of islands as features. The site itself has the potential to become a little buggy so be sure to bring plenty of mosquito repellent!

This free camping site is located about an hour south of Meziadin Junction in Northern British Columbia. The last 10 kilometres of the trip are on gravel roads, some of which were not maintained very well. 

Location: Access via Brown Bear Forest Service Road, from Highway 37 between Kitwanga and the Stewart/Hyder junction 

Jigsaw Lake Recreational Site, Northern British Columbia
Jigsaw Lake is definitely one of the most picturesque free camping sites we have stayed at in BC
Jigsaw Lake view with canoe

Finding Free Campsites in British Columbia

Looking for more free campsites in British Columbia? No problem. Check out my guide to finding free camping in British Columbia.

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Awesome free campsites in BC
Looking for amazing mountain views and a quiet place to park a van or put up a tent? You need to head to British Columbia's completely free Recreational Sites. Click here to check out nine of our favourite free camping spots all over British Columbia, Canada!
Free campsite in BC

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Saturday 16th of March 2024

Wow you really have given us some ideas for our RV trip in July 2024 which is so helpful

We’re visiting VC Island towards the end of June then going on a ‘Round’road trip including visiting Banff, Whistler and Okanagan and stopping off on the way.

We’ve previously done RV trips in New Zealand and Australian and really enjoyed the opportunity to ‘stop and stay’ where and when we were enjoying different towns and areas, basically wherever the roads took us.

However this trip is so different and we’re having to plan ahead following advice from our travel operator and our family in BC advice as they say accommodation gets booked up very quickly.

Quite honestly this is spoiling our holiday as it’s got to be booked so far in advance and it’s taken the spontaneous element away from our ‘relaxed’ Road trip!

Is it worth taking a chance and not booking ahead or could we find ourselves without a campsite and no where to stay?

Would appreciate your advice Donna


Sunday 17th of March 2024

Hi Donna,

Honestly, it really depends on a few things - your setup (what type of vehicle you have), how much flexibility you have, the time of year, your expectations and your planned destination.

Having lived in New Zealand for a year, I can tell you that the camping opportunities in southern British Columbia are quite different than in NZ. Camping is very, very popular and with the larger local population in mind, the vast majority of easily accessible campgrounds in the areas you mentioned are busy on summer weekends and hence a reservation is required. It is still possible to find first come, first serve campgrounds but you need flexibility, a decent vehicle (more details on that below) and the desire to go beyond the beaten path.

Setup - it sounds like you will have a rental vehicle? The campsites mentioned in this post are located on unpaved roads - most rental companies do not allow their vehicles to be driven on those unfortunately. I don't know what type of RV you have, but I'd say that it is easier to find places to camp with a smaller RV (22 feet or less).

Flexibility - If you're visiting in a short timeframe (two weeks) and have a fairly good idea of where you want to be every few nights, I would always recommend reservations. If you have more flexibility, then yes, it is possible, but you'd need to plan to arrive early in places and potentially drive further to get beyond the beaten path.

Time of year - June is much less busy than July and August, so first come, first serve camping is more possible depending on the location. On weekends though, I'd still reserve.

Your expectations. I mention this as I don't know what your preferred type of camping is. My partner and I previously lived in a van and explored Canada for 2+ years. We sometimes slept at rest areas and Walmart parking lots. Not glamorous, but sometimes we were hiking and exploring all day and didn't want to have to find a proper campground to stay at. This was also our backup if we couldn't find somewhere 'easy' to stay (or our intended campground was already full). You can read our full guide to finding free camping in BC, which includes resources to find such 'emergency' campspots.

Destination - There is huge disparity relating to campground availability depending on location. I would not, for example, go to Tofino on Vancouver Island without a campground reservation. It's a remote but very popular destination and there are only a finite amount of campspots, with no free/wild camping opportunities nearby. On the other side of things, the Banff area has a surprising amount of first come, first serve campgrounds. One example is Protection Mountain on the Bow Valley Parkway. The Icefields Parkway between Banff and Jasper has half a dozen first come, first serve campgrounds. For those, I would still plan to turn up around 12-3pm and secure a spot.