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Complete Guide to BC Parks Camping Reservations

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.

Sunset view of grassy campground next to ocean with picnic table and set up tent
15% of the campsites in Ruckle Provincial Park are reservable

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:

Published March 2021, updated November 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 necessities

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
Side view of JR cooking on picnic table at Pyramid Campground at Wells Gray Provincial Park, standing next to parked white van, surrounded by trees
Pyramid Campground, Wells Gray Provincial Park

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.

Read next: How to go Camping in BC Without a Reservation

Looing into provincial park campground with picnic table set on cement square in gravel circle, surrounded by trees
One of the campsites at Gordon Bay Provincial Park

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

View of a provincial park campsite with picnic table on gravel circle surrounded by trees
One of the many frontcountry campsites in Wells Gray Provincial Park

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.

JR sits behind fire pit attending to fire at campsite, with picnic table on left and white van in background, with doors open to reveal converted campervan
We love cooking on the fire when camping

When to reserve

For the entirety of 2023, BC Parks will be using a four month rolling window for campground reservations.

This four month window means that you can only book arrival dates within the four two months. It is a gradual release system.

The reservation launch date is 3rd January at 7am PT. At this time, it will be possible to reserve campsites for arrival dates of 3rd May or earlier.

This four 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.

Specific examples:

  • 12th July will become available on 12th May
  • 15th August will become available on 15th June

For the entirety of 2023, BC Parks is using a two month rolling window for reservations.

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.

Screenshot of dates of operation of Miracle Beach campground
Example of operating season dates at Miracle Beach campground

How to reserve

BC Parks has launched a brand new camping reservation system for the 2022 season. This will be used for the foreseeable future.

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 at 7am each day.

On June 10th 2023 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.

Screenshot of BC Parks reservation website
The ‘campsite’ tab is automatically selected upon arrival to the BC Parks reservation 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. In 2023, I would predict it being used on reservation launch day (3rd January)

Multi-day reservations

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 four 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.

Understanding availability

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)
Screenshot of BC Parks' reservation system for Miracle Beach
Reservation screen for Miracle Beach campground

Reservation and camping fees

In 2023, 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.

Reservation tips

  • 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 (over a mobile device) – 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

Looking into a provincial park campground in Juan de Fuca Provincial Park, with picnic table on cement square on gravel campsite circle surrounded by trees
One of the campsites at China Beach campground in Juan de Fuca Provincial Park

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:

These provincial parks also use BC Parks’ camping website for reservations.

In 2023, Assiniboine, Garibaldi and Joffre Lakes are likely to have a four month rolling booking window. A four month rolling booking window has already been confirmed for frontcountry campgrounds.

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 and 2022, the launch dates were in spring
  • For the 2023 season, Bowron Lakes reservations will open 1st December at 7am PT

In November 2022, BC Parks confirmed that the Berg Lake Trail will not fully reopen until at least 2024.

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.

Read Next: How to Reserve Backcountry Camping in BC: Essential Details and Dates

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.

Administrated by Parks Canada, these National Parks charge daily admission fees. The campgrounds within them operate with a completely different reservation system to BC Parks’ camping reservations.

Set up tent on dirt tent pad, with view of huge Takkakkaw Falls in th background
Takkakkaw Falls campground in Yoho National Park(walk-in only)

National Park frontcountry camping reservations

There are 12 vehicle accessible campgrounds in British Columbia’s National Parks and National Park Reserve:

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 – TBC confirmed for 2023 season. Reservations opened 20th January 2022 at 8am PST for the 2022 season
  • Mount Revelstoke National Park – TBC confirmed for 2023 season Reservations opened 19th January 2022 at 8am PST for the 2022 season
  • Glacier National Park – TBC confirmed for 2023 season. Reservations opened 19th January at 8am 2022 PST for the 2022 season
  • Yoho National Park – TBC confirmed for 2023 season. Reservations opened 24th January 2022 at 8am MST for the 2022 season
  • Kootenay National Park – TBC confirmed for 2023 season. Reservations opened 24th January 2022 at 8am MST for the 2022 season
  • Gulf Islands National Park Reserve – TBC confirmed for 2023 season. Reservations opened 18th January 2022 at 8am PST for the 2022 season

Please note the different time zones.

View of white van parked at top of hill, above campsite at Snowforest campground, surrounded by trees
Camping at Snowforest Campground in Mount Revelstoke National Park

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.

Screenshot of Parks Canada Reservation Service website, with 'you are now in line' title
Parks Canada uses a waiting room system on reservation launch days

Reservation and camping fees

Reservations cost $11.50 online and $13.50 by phone. This is a non-refundable fee.

Camping fees vary between campgrounds, as previously listed here. The fee is charged per camping group (usually up to 6 people). All campers must also have a National Park pass.

National park campgrounds charge an additional $8.80 permit fee for campfires (where and when allowed).

Looking through the trees to a campsite with picnic bench and fire pit at Green Point campground in Pacific Rim National Park
Green Point campground in Pacific Rim National Park

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:

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.

View from hiking trail looking back down to multiple lakes surrounded by snow capped mountains
Lake O’Hara is one of BC’s premier backpacking destinations

Looking for some camping trip inspiration?

25+ of the Best Campgrounds on Vancouver Island, BC

What To Do in Wells Gray Provincial Park, British Columbia

Car Camping 101: A Beginner’s Guide

How to Go Camping in BC Without a Reservation

Beyond the Beaten Path Vancouver Island Road Trips

How to Camp for Free in British Columbia

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Dorrie

Friday 19th of August 2022

Great Article - really useful to prepare for 2023. I want to stay at Greenpoint this year, in September. GP is 100% reservable - what is the best way to be alert for cancellations? Watch the reservation system like a hawk? Show up each morning? Thanks!

Gemma

Tuesday 30th of August 2022

Hi Dorrie,

Cancellations show up almost immediately when they happen (not at a specific time of day), so regularly checking is the way to go. Alternatively, you can set up an availability scan via CampNab (for example). This option comes with a fee.

Khaison

Monday 11th of April 2022

Thank you for your website. I'm planning a first time RV trip on the Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island. This information is very useful. Thanks again.

Gemma

Tuesday 12th of April 2022

Thanks for the support Khaison! Hope you have a wonderful trip.

Audrey

Sunday 10th of October 2021

can we drive to a first come first service camp ground a pay for a site we are not going to use for a few days prior to arrival?

Gemma

Wednesday 13th of October 2021

Hi Audrey,

BC Parks' occupancy rules state that campsite permit holders 'must immediately occupy the campsite with their camping unit.' Personally, I think it is bad form to pay for a campsite and then not use it. This is not allowed at Recreation Sites run by the Ministry of Forests.

Kay Wood

Monday 12th of July 2021

Thank you for putting this all together. It's very nice to have so much information on one page.

Serens

Tuesday 1st of June 2021

Thank you so much for this - I have never booked camping before and am a total “newb” to all of this. Have heard through the grape vine that the system can be challenging, particularly with so many people now booking during Covid! Really appreciate the thoughtful breakdown, I feel much more prepared to get in there and give it a go now!

Gemma

Tuesday 1st of June 2021

Thank you so much Serena! I'm so glad you found this helpful and took the time to tell me. I appreciate it.