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.
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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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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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One half of the Canadian/British couple behind Off Track Travel, Gemma is happiest when hiking on the trail or planning the next big travel adventure. JR and Gemma are currently based in the beautiful Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada