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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 national park campgrounds and the contrasting national park reservation system.

Published 6th March 2021. 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
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

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. Check out the linked post below for more info and tips.

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

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 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 buying 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.

Please note that BC residents have priority access to BC Parks camping reservations until 8th July 2021. A BC resident is defined as someone who lives in BC. Non-residents can still use BC Parks and camp on a first come, first serve basis (if restrictions permit) but can’t reserve campsites before 8th July.

When to reserve

BC Parks’ Discover Camping system officially launched on 8th March at 7am PT. This did not, however, mean that all campgrounds will be booked out for the entire summer in minutes.

This is because Discover Camping, for the majority of parks, will operate with a two month rolling window in 2021*. When the reservation system opened on March 8th, it was only possible to reserve arrival dates up to 8th May.

So anyone wanting to camp on a weekend in July had to wait until May to reserve. if you’re wanting to camp on a weekend in July, these dates won’t be available to reserve until May.

Here’s a specific example. If you would like to go camping on 27th-28th August, it will not be possible to reserve this particular weekend until 7am, 27th June at 7am.

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.

So at reservation launch, some of the most popular campgrounds were not even available to book yet.

In conclusion – do not panic. Yes, there will still be exceptional demand for summer weekends (particularly holiday weekends) but this gradual release offers a better chance overall to secure a reservation.

*In regular years, there is a four month booking window.

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

How to reserve

BC Parks’ camping reservations are made via the Discover Camping reservation system, online or by phone 1-800-689-9025 (open 7am to 7pm PT).

Each day at 7am, a new date will be released to book. On June 10th at 7am, for example, August 10th will become available (*please note multi-day exception below).

If securing specific dates is important to you, I would suggest being ready at 6.50am and logging into the website around 6.55am. Don’t log in too early as it does time out after a while and you’ll have to log back in anyway.

  • BC Parks has produced an excellent step-by-step reservation guide with screenshots – click here to view the PDF
  • Reservable dates for all BC Parks’ campgrounds are listed here
  • Please note that to make a reservation over a holiday weekend, you must book a minimum of three nights
  • It’s preferable to use a desktop computer rather than a tablet or mobile device. If you really want to use the latter, practice first!
Screenshot of Discover Camping reservation system
Here’s a screenshot from BC Parks’ Discover Camping reservation system on desktop

Above is a screenshot from Discover Camping on desktop.

  • The red boxes signify that a campsite is fully booked
  • A green box (not shown here) shows that a campsite is available
  • Green boxes with black lines indicate that the site is not yet available for booking

Multi-day reservations

Confused why some of the sites in the screenshot above are already booked and others aren’t even open yet for reservations? It’s all about your intended arrival date.

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 the next 13 nights right away.

In the example screenshot above (taken on 21st May), most of the sites are already reserved as part of multi-night bookings starting prior to 22nd July.

Reservation and camping fees

BC Parks’ charges $6/night to reserve a campsite, per night, to a maximum of $18. So if you book a one night stay the fee is $6. A two night stay is $12. A four night stay would be the same as a three night stay – $18.

Phone bookings have an additional $5 call centre surcharge.

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, unserved sites.

*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.

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 the Discover Camping system for reservations.

Assiniboine, Garibaldi and Joffre Lakes have a two month rolling booking window, similar to the frontcountry camping system.

Bowron Lakes and the Berg Lake Trail, however, have a specific launch date (1st March in 2021) and it is possible to reserve dates for the entire operating season.

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 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.

In 2021, however, all launch dates have been delayed to April:

  • Pacific Rim National Park – 7th April, 8am PDT
  • Mount Revelstoke National Park – 6th April, 8am PDT
  • Glacier National Park – 6th April, 8am PDT
  • Yoho National Park – 13th April, 8am MDT
  • Kootenay National Park – 13th April, 8am MDT
  • Gulf Islands National Park Reserve – 6th April, 8am PDT

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.

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).

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.

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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