Securing a BC Parks camping reservation can feel like a bit of a lottery. Demand exceeds supply at popular campgrounds to such an extent that reservations for summer weekends disappear in minutes.
This post will explain how the BC Parks’ camping reservation system works and what important dates you need to know.
You’ll also find helpful tips and advice to provide you the best chance of securing a BC Parks camping reservation.
To cover every aspect, I’ve also included all the details you need about BC’s provincial park campgrounds and the contrasting national park reservation system.
Here’s what to expect:
- Camping reservations – tips and advice
- Useful camping terms
- BC Parks camping reservations
- National Park camping reservations
Published March 2021, updated April 2022. This post features one affiliate link. If you make a purchase via this link, I may receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you.
Camping reservations in BC – tips and advice
- The busiest reservation periods for vehicle accessible campgrounds are July and August, with weekends (especially holiday weekends) being reserved first
- Weekday reservations (Sunday night to Thursday night) are less popular but availability can still be low in the most popular parks
- If you want to secure a campsite for a specific time period, you must be prepared to try as soon as the reservation system launches or the dates become available
- I’d highly recommend getting familiar with the reservation system and creating an account prior to the launch date
- Keep a few different options in mind for dates and locations. The more flexible you are, the better!
- The reservation system requires campers to reserve a specific campsite. If you have a large RV or trailer, I’d suggest researching individual sites first to see which you will be able to reserve
- It is easier to book online than it is get through on the phone lines, though the reservation system websites can suffer with overload and may freeze or have server errors
- The online system holds reservations for 15 minutes. So if you find all the sites gone at 7.01am, wait 15-20 minutes and you’ll likely see some spots open up
What to do if you don’t manage to secure a camping reservation
Reservations do get cancelled all the time. It is definitely worth regularly checking the reservation system for cancellations.
You can check for cancellations in person, on the day. It would, however, be very wise to have a back up plan.
Also remember that not all provincial park and national park campgrounds in BC are reservable.
Some campgrounds exclusively use first come first serve systems. Others have have a mix of reservation and first come first serve sites.
Around 45% of all BC Parks’ frontcountry campsites are available on a first come first service system.
Check out the linked post below for more info and tips.
Some camping terms you should know
If you’re new to the world of park camping, welcome! Before continuing on, I thought it would be useful to share some key camping terms to help with your reservation process.
Frontcountry camping – Also known as ‘car camping.’ This means you can drive your vehicle right to your site. Frontcountry campgrounds typically have toilets (outhouses or flush toilet buildings), picnic tables, campfire pits and water taps at a minimum. There may also be playgrounds and showers.
Backcountry camping – Backcountry campgrounds are only accessible on foot, by boat or horse only. There is no vehicle access. Backcountry campgrounds are more rustic than frontcountry campgrounds, but usually have outhouses and clear tent spaces at a minimum.
Double site (BC Parks only) – This refers to an individual campsite that is located very close to another campsite. This enables two camping groups to camp very close to one another. Double sites must be reserved together.
Group sites – These are for large, organised groups wanting to camp together. Use of these sites are limited in 2021.
First come, first serve – Campsites are not reservable and are assigned on the basis of who arrived first
Walk-in camping – Frontcountry camping that is accessible by foot only, designed for campers who are tenting only.
Serviced campsites – Designed for RV and trailers, these campsites will have electrical, water or sewer hook-ups (or a combination of).
Unserved campsites – No hook-up services (as above), suitable for all campers not wanting or needing electrical, water or sewer facilities direct to their campsite
Pull-through campsites – Designed for campers using large RVs or long trailers to drive through and park with minimal maneuvering
BC Provincial Park camping in BC
BC Parks is the third largest park system in North America. There are over 644 provincial parks with 10,000 vehicle accessible campsites and 2000 walk-in/backcountry campsites.
If you’re already impressed by the scale, you’re going to be even more inspired by the beautiful locations in which these campsites are set!
BC Parks frontcountry camping reservations
There are 100+ parks listed within the BC Parks’ camping reservation system.
If you don’t know where to start, I’d recommend using the map tool on the BC Parks website.
For inspiration, buy the relevant Backroad Mapbook for your intended destination region and having a good browse. All provincial campgrounds are listed with details of facilities, number of campsites and nearby attractions.
To check how many campsites within the campground are reservable, check the individual park pages on the BC Parks website – look under the ‘Dates of Operation’ tab. You can also check the reservable dates in this section.
When to reserve
BC Parks has launched a brand new camping reservation system for the 2022 season. The website went live on 21st March.
For the entirety of 2022, BC Parks is using a two month rolling window for reservations.
This two month window means that you can only book arrival dates within the next two months. It is a gradual release system.
- On the date of this update (11th April), it is only possible to book campsites for arrival dates up to and including 1`1th June
- Tomorrow, on 12th April, it will be possible to book 12th June as an arrival date
- On 13th April, it will be possible to book 13th June as an arrival date
This two month rolling window means that not all summer dates sell out at once. Anyone wanting to camp on a weekend in August will needs to wait until June to reserve.
Here are some more examples:
- 1st July will become available on 1st May
- 15th August will become available on 15th June
On top of this, each provincial park campground has specific reservation dates. Many campgrounds only allow reservations for dates between mid May and early September (sometimes early October).
To find out what the operating dates are at your preferred campgrounds, check the ‘dates of operation’ section at the top of the park’s webpage.
How to reserve
The new BC Parks’ reservation system website is similar to the previous iteration, with a couple of tweaks.
First of all, it has a different website address. So if you have any bookmarks for the old Discover Camping site, make sure you update them.
Since the reservation system is completely new, all users need to open a new account. It is a good idea to do this before making a reservation.
As with the previous website, the system will be refreshed with new dates (and cancellations) at 7am each day.
On June 10th 2022 at 7am, for example, it will be possible to book August 10th as an arrival date. Please note multi-day exception below.
To make a reservation on the BC Parks website, you’ll need:
- Preferred arrival and departure dates
- Preferred park and campground
- Equipment details (number of tents, van/camper, approx RV length)
If you have a preference for walk-in campsites, double sites or electricity, there is a filter for these options.
Frontcountry (vehicle accessible) camping reservations are made on the ‘campsite’ tab, which is actually selected upon arrival to the website.
Waiting room system
The biggest change to the reservation system is the use of a waiting room prior to the 7am refresh on high demand days.*
When the waiting room system is operational, all users arriving on the BC Parks’ Camping website from 6am (ish) onwards are automatically redirected to a waiting room.
The waiting room screen shows a time countdown to 7am. At the 7am reservation launch time, all users in the waiting room are randomly allocated a place in line. This process can take up to 60 seconds.
The screen will automatically refresh and your number will appear at the bottom of the screen with the estimated wait time.
Do not refresh your screen yourself – if you do, you will be allocated a place at the back of the line.
When you are at the front of the queue, the page will automatically refresh to the website’s main landing page. It’s your time to make a reservation!
This waiting room system helps prevent server overload.
*In 2022, it seems that the waiting room system was used only for the reservation system launch in March
Confused what ‘arrival date’ refers to? This is the day you physically arrive in the provincial park to start your reservation.
The majority of BC Parks’ campgrounds allow bookings up to 14 days (13 nights).
When a campsite becomes available to book via the the two month rolling reservation system, it is possible to book additional nights (to a maximum of 13 nights) right away.
So if you want to go camping at Gold Creek campground in Golden Ears Provincial Park from 10th to 18th August, you will be able to book the entire trip on 10th June as one booking.
There is no need to wait for each individual day to be released onto the system if you are staying in the same campsite at the same park.
The BC Parks’ reservation system uses a colour indicator system to show availability. Understanding this system is crucial to making successful reservations.
- Green means that the site available for all selected dates
- Red indicates that the site is unavailable for all selected dates
- Purple shows partial availability – the site is available for some of the selected dates (not applicable for one night searches)
- Black indicates that the site is closed – this could be due to damage
If a campsite is highlighted orange, however, this can mean a number of different things:
- The site may operate on a first come, first serve only and hence no reservations are allowed
- Alternatively, that site may only work on a first come, first serve basis for that selected period
- Your selected equipment (tent, RV etc.) may not fit on that particular site
- Your selected preferences (electricity, walk-in, double site) may not match that site
In the case of the latter two examples, click on the specific campsite and then carefully look at the details on the right hand side of the screen. The allowed equipment and type of campsite will be listed there.
See the below screenshot for an example. This is Miracle Beach campground on Vancouver Island. There are a number of orange campsites on this screen that cannot be booked. The breakdown looks like this:
- Campsites 1-10 are always first come, first serve
- Campsites 11-25 are first come, first serve during the selected period (early June)
- Campsites 40, 92 and 93 are walk-in only and will not fit the selected equipment (RV)
Reservation and camping fees
In 2022, BC Parks’ reservation fees are $6/night per campsite, per night, to a maximum of $18.
The reservation fee for one night of camping is therefore $6. A two night stay is $12. A four night stay would be the same as a three night stay – $18.
Reservations can also be made by phone. These incur a $5 call centre surcharge per booking.
Camping fees vary between campgrounds, starting at $14/night per camping party*. Fees are listed on individual park pages. Campsites with electrical hook ups are more expensive than standard, unserviced campsites.
*8 people total, with up to 4 people being 16 years or older.
Please head to the BC Parks’ website for the more details on fees for charging and cancelling reservations.
- If you don’t already have one, create a new account prior to the date you plan to make a booking
- Pick your preferred parks, campgrounds and campsites in advance
- Practice making a reservation so you know exactly what to do on the day
- Have alternative dates to hand in case your preferred dates are already booked up
- Plan to navigate to the BC Parks reservation website before 7am
- If the waiting room system is being used, keep in mind that place allocation is completely random
- Use a laptop or desktop computer if you can – the system is better formatted for this type of device
- Be sure to select your preferred park before clicking ‘search.’ If you leave it blank, the website will display a map of British Columbia and it will take longer to locate your preferred park and campground
Note – It may be possible to use multiple devices for the best chance of a low waiting room number. I haven’t personally tested this on the BC Parks system yet but this is 100% true for the Parks Canada Reservation Service which uses the same waiting room system.
BC Parks’ backcountry camping reservations
The majority of BC Parks’ backcountry campgrounds are allocated on a first-come, first serve system, with no reservation system in place.
There are however, a handful of parks in which backcountry camping reservations are mandatory:
- Mount Robson Provincial Park (Berg Lake Trail)
- Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park (Magog and Og Lake)
- Garibaldi Provincial Park (ten campgrounds)
- Joffre Lakes Provincial Park (Upper Joffre Lake campground)
- Bowron Lakes Provincial Park (Bowron Lakes Canoe Circuit)
These provincial parks also use BC Parks’ camping website for reservations.
In 2022, Assiniboine, Garibaldi and Joffre Lakes will have a two month rolling booking window, similar to the frontcountry camping system.
Reservations for Bowron Lakes and the Berg Lake Trail are usually available on a specific launch date, on which it is possible to reserve any date during the entire operating season.
- Pre-2020, the launch date was always in October of the preceding year
- In 2021, it was 1st March for both Bowron Lakes and Berg Lake
- In 2022, Bowron Lakes reservations will open on 6th April at 7am PT
In March 2022, BC Parks announced that the Berg Lake Trail would not re-open until at least 2023.
I’ve written a whole post detailing the process for reserving these BC Parks backcountry campgrounds so I’d recommend checking that out via the link below.
National Park camping in BC
Although this post is primarily focused on BC Parks’ camping reservations, I wanted to include a brief overview of how camping works in national parks too.
British Columbia has five National Parks:
- Pacific Rim National Park located on the West Coast of Vancouver Island
- Mount Revelstoke National Park located adjacent to Revelstoke
- Glacier National Park located between Revelstoke and Golden
- Yoho National Park located between Golden and the Alberta border
- Kootenay National Park located between Radium and the Alberta border
In addition to this, there is the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve and two National Historic Sites – Fort Langley and Fort Rodd Hill.
National Park frontcountry camping reservations
There are 12 vehicle accessible campgrounds in British Columbia’s National Parks and National Park Reserve:
- Green Point Campground, Pacific Rim (114 sites, 100% reservable, $28-33)
- Snowforest Campground, Mount Revelstoke (62 sites, most reservable, $28-33)
- Illecillewaet in Glacier (60 sites, first come first serve, $22)
- Loop Brook in Glacier (20 sites, 100% reservable, $22)
- Kicking Horse in Yoho (88 sites, 100% reservable, $28)
- Monarch in Yoho (44 sites, first come first serve, $18)
- Hoodoo Creek in Yoho (30 sites, first come first serve, $16.05)
- Redstreak in Kootenay (232 sites, 100% reservable, $28-39)
- Marble Canyon in Kootenay (61 sites, 100% reservable, $22)
- McLeod Meadows in Kootenay (80 sites, 100% reservable, $22)
- SMONEĆTEN (McDonald) in the Gulf Islands (49 sites, 96% reservable, $18)
- Prior Centennial Campground in the Gulf Islands (17 sites, 100% reservable, $18)
There are oTENTik ‘ready to camp’ facilities at Fort Rodd Hill and Fort Langley.
Yoho National Park also has a walk-in campground at Takkakkaw Falls. It is a very short and flat 400m from the parking lot and features 35 first come first serve campsites ($18), some with incredible views of the waterfall itself.
When to reserve
Parks Canada usually launches their frontcountry camping reservation system in January each year. The specific date varies between parks – you can check here.
On the launch date, it is possible to reserve dates for the rest of the calendar year.
- Pacific Rim National Park – 20th January 2022 at 8am PST
- Mount Revelstoke National Park – 19th January at 8am PST
- Glacier National Park – 19th January at 8am PST
- Yoho National Park – 24th January at 8am MST
- Kootenay National Park – 24th January 2022 at 8am MST
- Gulf Islands National Park Reserve – 18th January 2022 at 8am PST
Please note the different time zones.
How to reserve
National park campgrounds can be reserved via Parks Canada’s reservation system, online or by phone 1-877-737-3783 (8am to 6pm local park time).
On launch day, log in to the reservation system prior to the opening time. Users are held in an online waiting room (in order of arrival) to prevent server overload. This is the same system used by BC Parks – details here.
Reservation and camping fees
Reservations cost $11.50 online and $13.50 by phone. This is a non-refundable fee.
National park campgrounds charge an additional $8.80 permit fee for campfires (where and when allowed).
National park backcountry reservations
British Columbia’s five national parks have extensive opportunities for backcountry camping.
The majority of the national park backcountry campgrounds use a reservation system, with just a handful operating on a first-come, first serve basis.
The reservation system for backcountry camping uses the same system as the one for frontcountry camping – on the launch date, the entire operating season is available to book. at that time.
The most in demand backcountry areas within BC’s national parks are:
- Lake O’Hara in Yoho NP
- The Rockwall Trail in Kootenay NP
- The West Coast Trail in Pacific Rim NP
- Broken Island Group in Pacific Rim NP
As soon as the reservation system opens, availability disappears for these backcountry areas very quickly.
For all the details on how to reserve backcountry campgrounds in BC’s national parks, please read this dedicated post.
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