British Columbia’s South Okanagan region is a fantastic place to go camping.
Not only is the climate remarkably dry and warm, the scenery is gorgeous, featuring many glittering lakes, rugged rock formations, rolling vineyards, bronzed grassland and more.
This post features what I believe to be the best places to go camping in the South Okanagan, plus essential information about when to go and essential items to bring. Read on to discover your next favourite campground!
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Camping in the South Okanagan
As mentioned, this post is all about the best campgrounds in the South Okanagan. When creating this list, we specifically prioritised finding campgrounds that are tent friendly.
After all, a campground in the shape of a parking lot is not the camping experience we personally look for (we could just park at Walmart, where allowed, for that). And we know that there are plenty of other people who feel the same! So this post is for you.
And why only South Okanagan campgrounds, you ask?
There’s a simple answer – we live in Penticton and the South Okanagan region is our backyard!
We’ve explored this area pretty extensively, especially in the last year or so (the pandemic helped a little with that). You can be assured that we have personally visited all of these campgrounds, unless otherwise noted.
Published in April 2021. At this time, there is an advisory to avoid all non-essential travel to and within BC. This post includes affiliate links. If you make a purchase via one of these links, I may receive a percentage of the total sale.
The best time to go
The southern Okanagan Valley has an exceptionally dry and warm climate.
Camping is comfortably possible from April to late October at lake level. An early spring or warmer-than-average autumn can provide an even longer camping season.
- The main camping season in the south Okanagan is mid-May to early October. Most provincial park and private campgrounds will be open for the full length of this season
- Peak season is generally considered to be mid-June to early September. Private campgrounds usually charger higher fees during peak season
- Out of season, many private and provincial park campgrounds will be closed with a locked gate preventing entry
- Recreation sites (except those with a caretaker) are usually open all year round
July and August are the hottest and driest months, but are also the busiest. Finding camping is more difficult and private campgrounds are also more expensive. Some private campgrounds require campers to reserve for one week minimum. Campfires are more likely to be banned due to wildfire risk.
May, June and September are good months for camping in the southern Okanagan as the weather is usually still warm and campgrounds are less busy. Campfire bans are also less common during this time. Mosquitoes are more prevalent in spring.
Camping (even in tents) is possible in April and October, but be prepared for mixed weather conditions and cool, sometimes cold, evenings. Campgrounds near the valley bottom will have the most comfortable conditions. The higher in elevation you go, the colder it will be.
The coldest months in the southern Okanagan Valley are November to March. At higher elevations, snow will be a constant during these months.
At the valley bottom, snow is intermittent from late December to mid/late February, often falling for a few days and then melting within the week. Most campgrounds are closed at this time.
The southern Okanagan Valley is very popular vacation destination and campsites are in high demand. I would definitely recommend reserving a campsite before arrival during the summer months, unless you have very flexible plans.
The provincial park campgrounds usually book out for summer as soon as reservations are possible. In 2021, there is a two month booking window. In ‘regular years’, this booking window is three months. For more details, check out my BC Parks reservation guide.
Private campgrounds have their own reservation systems, with some offering booking capacity up to a year before arrival. Some private campgrounds require campers to book for a certain number of nights during peak periods. Check with the individual campground for their own reservation policies.
Hate making camping reservations? Read this next: How to Go Camping in BC Without a Reservation
Important things to know
- The southern Okanagan Valley has very hot (30c+) and dry weather during the summer months. Even outside of these months, the sun can feel very strong and it is easy to burn or overheat. Wear a hat and sunscreen, drink plenty of water and seek shade often
- The Okanagan is home to seven species of snake. And yes, one of them is the venomous Western rattlesnake. Remain aware of your surroundings, keep your dog on a leash, stay on trails and take extra care around rocks and logs. Remember – snakes are more timid than you’d think and don’t chase humans!
- Poison ivy is a relatively common sight in the Okanagan. The oil found in the plant can cause a red, itchy rash when touched or brushed up against. Learn to identify the leaves so you can avoid them
- Ticks love the grasslands of the Okanagan, especially in spring. Keep out of grassy areas as much as possible and avoid sitting on logs. Always examine for ticks after exploring or sending time outdoors
The best campgrounds in the South Okanagan
And finally, here it is, the list of the best South Okanagan campgrounds!
I have divided the campgrounds into four groups and marked them on the following map:
- Provincial park campgrounds – vehicle accessible (purple)
- Provincial park campgrounds – backcountry (brown)
- Private campgrounds (orange)
- Recreation Sites (blue)
Here’s a map with all of the campgrounds marked:
But wait, you missed my favourite campground?!
Sorry! With such a huge choice in places to go camping in the south Okanagan, it’s inevitable that I may not include some of your own top choices.
The list below features my personal favourites but I’m always interested in hearing about other amazing south Okanagan camping sites!
As a side note, we are still researching private campgrounds. Due to the current travel advisory, we are staying close to home. This post will likely be updated in the coming months with more options.
Provincial park campgrounds – vehicle accessible
In 2021, reservations for provincial park campsites can be made up to two months in advance (based on the arrival date).
- BC’s provincial park campgrounds always feature well spaced, clean and maintained campsites with a fair level of privacy
- Each campsite has a picnic table and fire ring as standard
- Most campgrounds have firewood to sell – the fee varies between parks
- None of the provincial park campgrounds mentioned here have on-site hookups for RVs
- Reservations can be made online through Discover Camping or the BC Parks call centre 1 800 689 9025 ($5 surcharge)
Okanagan Lake Provincial Park – North Campground
Okanagan Lake Provincial Park is situated between Okanagan Lake and Highway 97, about five minutes drive north of Summerland.
It’s a fabulous location to be sure, being accessible right from the highway and next to the water. The rugged peaks of Okanagan Mountain Park provide a dramatic backdrop across the lake.
The North Campground consists of six terraces of camping sites, with each one being a bit lower and closer to the lake. This combined with the fact that all of the sites face the water means that this campground has an excellent level of privacy. Most of the sites have a decent level of shade too.
The only downside to both Okanagan Lake Provincial Park campgrounds is the noise from the highway. With the North Campground, the lower you go, the quieter it gets. The lower two terraces are the best for this reason.
The North Campground at Okanagan Lake Provincial Park has 80 vehicle accessible campsites, all of which are reservable. Campsites are $35/night per group in 2021. The campground has (free) hot showers, flush toilets and potable water. There is cell phone service.
Okanagan Lake Provincial Park – South Campground
The South Campground in Okanagan Lake Provincial Park is located just 1km further along Highway 97 from the North Campground.
For the most part, the South Campground is better suited for campers with RVs. The sites are all situated at lake level and are located much closer together. There are a few variations in style, however, with some being more appropriate for long trailers and others more ideal for vans or smaller Class B motorhomes.
Many of the campsites back onto two large lawn areas, providing plenty of space for children to play. There is also a large playground next to the shower building (which is bigger than the equivalent in the North Campground).
A highlight for tent campers has to be the eight walk-in (tent only) campsites set apart from the main campground. Seven of these are arranged in a line. Though they may not have a lot of privacy between them, the campsites are sheltered from the wind but still only a 30 seconds walk from the beach.
The South Campground at Okanagan Lake Provincial Park has 96 campsites, with 94 available for reservation. Campsites are $35/night per group in 2021. The campground has (free) hot showers, flush toilets, outhouses and potable water. There is cell phone service. A number of campsites are available in the winter for $13/night.
sx̌ʷəx̌ʷnitkʷ (Okanagan Falls) Provincial Park
The sx̌ʷəx̌ʷnitkʷ Provincial Park campground is a real winner when it comes to location and access.
To start, it’s situated just a few minutes drive from Highway 97 on a paved road. Using the KVR Trail that runs between the campground and the beautiful Okanagan River, you can walk (15 minutes) or bike (5 minutes) to the beaches and shops of Okanagan Falls.
The campground itself is fairly open with well sized sites. There is a scattering of trees for shade, as well as some shrubs and lawn areas.
sx̌ʷəx̌ʷnitkʷ means ‘little falls,’ once a significant fishing site for the Okanagan Nation. Listen to a pronunciation on the BC Parks page here. The Okanagan River is still a popular fishing area, though it is catch and release only in park boundaries.
Sitting just below a west facing rockface, this campground loses light earlier than others in the area. This provides exceptionally cool evenings in the summer, something welcomed by many campers!
The campground in sx̌ʷəx̌ʷnitkʷ Provincial Park has 25 vehicle accessible campsites, all of which are reservable. Campsites are $25/night per group in in 2021. There are flush toilets, outhouses and potable water. There is cell phone signal.
Vaseux Lake Provincial Park
Vaseux Lake may just be the prettiest little roadside lake in the Southern Okanagan. Set into a narrow valley with a backdrop of rugged hills, the lake is bordered by Highway 97 to the east and the KVR Trail to the west. Just beyond the southern end is the dramatic McIntyre Bluff.
Vaseux Lake Provincial Park campground sits on the highway side of the lake. Most of the 12 decently sized sites are right on the lake. They have a moderate level of privacy.
A complete power boat free zone, this campground is ideal for paddling and wading/swimming (it’s quite shallow). Large mouth bass fishing is also very popular.
Vaseux Lake is home to a wide array of rare animals and plants, with a migratory bird sanctuary situated at the northern end. There’s a boardwalk here as well as a wildlife viewing tower.
The only downside of this provincial park campground is lack of solitude. It really is right on the highway and, as such, receives traffic noise all day and some of the night too. Definitely keep this in mind, especially if you’re tenting and/or plan to spend a lot of time around the campground during the day.
The campground in Vaseux Lake Provincial Park has 12 vehicle accessible campsites, available on a first come, first serve basis only (no reservations). Campsites are $18/night per group in 2021. There are outhouses, a water pump (boil advisory) and cell phone service. Walk-in winter camping is possible, though the facilities are closed.
Inkaneep Provincial Park
Inkaneep must be one of the smallest provincial parks in British Columbia, with the most compact, yet surprisingly private, campgrounds anywhere! It’s also something of a hidden gem, being located just off Highway 97 in a residential area.
There are only nine campsites here, all situated on a short paved driving loop. The handful of campsites facing west have a great level of privacy, being surrounded by thick rose bushes. Those on the eastern side are more open but still have nicely defined sites.
This provincial park campground is best suited for tent camping and smaller RVs (vans, Class B at a push) as some of the sites have limited parking space.
There’s not a lot to do at the campground itself, besides a short trail that leads to the Okanagan River. The real beauty of staying here is the convenient location, especially if you’re planning to visit local wineries.
The campground in Inkaneep Provincial Park has 9 vehicle accessible campsites, available on a first come, first serve basis only (no reservations). Campsites are $18/night per group in 2021. There are outhouses, a water pump (boil advisory) and cell phone service.
sẁiẁs Provincial Park (Haynes Point)
sẁiẁs Provincial Park occupies a beautiful natural spit of land on Osoyoos Lake. The traditional Okanagan place name for the area means ‘where it is shallow or narrow in the middle of the lake’ and is pronounced similar to “s-wee-yous.”
sẁiẁs, also referred to as ‘Haynes Point’ until 2015, is one of the most popular provincial park campgrounds in British Columbia. Campsite reservations are much in demand during the summer months as well as weekends during the shoulder season (end of May, June, September).
The campsites are arranged on a driving loop at the very end of the spit, with the majority of spots being directly on the lake. The ‘inner’ sites do have the benefit of more privacy, however. There are scattered trees (mostly Ponderosa pine and cottonwood) offering shade.
Due to the popularity of the campground, the maximum stay here is 7 days rather than the regular 14.
The campground in sẁiẁs Provincial Park has 41 vehicle accessible campsites, all of which are reservable. Campsites are $32/night per group in 2021. There are flush toilets and potable water. There is cell phone service.
Provincial park campgrounds – backcountry
Though the southern Okanagan is a relatively large area, there is only one provincial park with backcounty camping opportunities – Okanagan Mountain Provincial Park.
This rugged and mountainous park sits opposite Peachland and between Kelowna and Naramata, on the eastern shore of Okanagan Lake.
There are nine backcountry campgrounds within Okanagan Mountain Provincial Park, most of which are primarily accessible by water. These lakeside campgrounds are:
- Van Hyce Beach
- Goode’s Creek (also accessible by hiking trail)
- Commando Bay (also accessible by hiking trail)
- Buchan Bay (also accessible by hiking trail)
- Reluctant Dragon Cove
- Halfway Bay
- Halfway Point
The other two backcountry campgrounds are accessible by hiking trail only:
- Divide Lake
- Baker Lake
We have visited all of these campgrounds with the exception of Baker Lake, Halfway Bay and Halfway Point.
Buchan Bay and Commando Bay are definitely our favourites, based on campground comfort, views and accessibility.
To find out more about these backcountry campgrounds, head on over to my Okanagan Mountain Provincial Park guide.
We’re pretty picky when it comes to private campgrounds. To make the cut, they have to be both tent friendly and nature focused.
Being privately owned, private campgrounds operate a fair bit differently than national park or provincial park campgrounds. For one thing, reservation systems vary widely (check each campground individually).
Many private campgrounds are built and operated primarily for RV users, who are more likely to want served campsites with hookups offering power, water and sewer services.
Campsites are these campgrounds are often designed to fit long trailers (Fifth Wheels) and Class A motorhomes (the ones that look like buses) and are situated close together.
Private campgrounds typically offer more amenities such as flush toilets, showers, wi-fi and swimming pools with a higher price tag to reflect this.
*Please note that some private campgrounds listed here have made the decision to temporarily close their washroom or shower facilities, to lessen their Covid risk. Some campgrounds are only open to RV users for the 2021 season.
Todd’s RV and Camping
I may be pushing the boundaries of the Southern Okanagan with this campground but I think you’ll understand why!
Todd’s RV and Camping is located just across the road from Okanagan Lake in Peachland. The campground has been owned and operated by the Todd Family since 1956 (!) and is the last of its kind on the shores of Okanagan Lake.
It goes without saying that the location is fantastic. Highway access is so close, the beach is practically bordering the campground and downtown Peachland is an easy 30 minute (2km) stroll away.
There are a number of dedicated tent sites, which are clustered together in the most southern section of the campground. These tent sites will, however, remain closed in 2021 since Todd’s is currently only open to self contained RVs.
Please note that this campground was recently put up for sale for $8.9 million. If and when it is sold, it may not remain a campground.
Chute Lake Lodge
If you’re looking for remoteness with a side of modern comforts, head to Chute Lake Lodge. Situated right on the KVR Trail in the hills above Naramata, this historic lodge has two small camping areas alongside yurts, glamping tents, cabins and rooms. There’s an on-site restaurant too.
There are 3 tent-only and 4 RV campsites, all in forested areas with easy access to the KVR and namesake Chute Lake. The lodge rents eBikes, kayaks, rowboats, paddleboards and even fishing gear.
There is no power or water directly at the campsites, but campers have access to a washroom facility. The tent sites can be booked together to create a large, private camping area for a group.
Chute Lake Lodge is a scenic 45 minute drive from Penticton, with the final 8km being unpaved. It’s usually in pretty good shape, though a little dusty.
The Lost Moose
The Lost Moose campground is what camping dreams are made of! This Southern Okanagan campground is privately owned but has provincial park vibes, with carefully divided, well spaced campsites set into a beautiful Ponderosa pine forest.
Better still, the sites have even been designed with tents in mind (hooray!) With only 15 spots, this campground is also not likely to feel busy even when completely full. There are free, hot showers as well as flush toilets and potable water.
Located on a 63 acre property just 20 minutes drive up the hill (the paved Carmi/Beaverdell Road) from Penticton, Lost Moose is a family owned and operated campground. The temperate drop is around 5c, which is particularly ideal for the hot summer months.
As well as the campsites, Lost Moose has a ‘Hideaway Hut’ in the campground, a wooden glamping unit with skylights for stargazing. The owners are planning to build more unique structures in the future.
When it comes to location and convenience, Banbury Green has a perfect balance. The campground is situated on the shores of Skaha Lake in Kaleden, a small community about 4km south of Penticton.
The majority of the campsites are right next to the water, in well spaced named ‘clusters’ (North Bay, East Camp, South Camp etc.) The vies are gorgeous and feature the beaches of Penticton to the north, Skaha Bluffs to the northeast and then the distinctive Peach Cliff to the southeast.
The Kettle Valley Railway (KVR) Trail passes through the middle of the campground, offering excellent opportunities for hiking and biking.
Operated by the Dewar family for over 30 years (who have owned the land since the 1940s!), Banbury Green has many repeat visitors who enjoy the peaceful, family friendly vibe here. The campground is particularly popular with climbers, especially during the shoulder season months.
Highway 97 is close enough (1km) to be very convenient, but far enough away that the noise is non-existent. This is definitely seems like a rarity for lakeside campgrounds in the Okanagan!
Banbury Green is open for tenting from 21st May for the 2021 camping season. Self contained RVs from the Okanagan region are welcomed before this time (hookups available).
Grist Mill Campground
Grist Mill and Gardens is a heritage site in Keremeos. The namesake flour mill was built in 1877 and is still operating today. It is surrounded by beautiful gardens, filled with vibrant flowers, fruit, herbs and grains.
There’s a tea room as well, specialising in homemade soups, salads, sandwiches and baked goods. Ingredients are found in the garden or elsewhere locally.
Grist Mill makes this list of best campgrounds in the southern Okanagan because they also have a family orientated 13 site campground. All but two of the sites are situated on Keremeos Creek.
OK, full disclosure, I haven’t visited this campground personally yet but it got my attention due to the small size and unique location.
British Columbia has an incredible network of Recreation Sites offering low cost (and usually FREE!) rustic camping opportunities.
Recreation Sites operate a little differently than their provincial park counterparts, however. Recreation Sites are:
- Usually accessed via gravel industrial roads
- Operate on a first come, first serve system
- Vary widely concerning size and level of privacy offered
- Have minimal facilities, with picnic tables (that often get moved around), fire rings and outhouses (pit toilets) only. No potable water or garbage bins
- Often free or low cost (less than $20, cash only)
The following Recreation Sites are the ones located closest to main roads in the southern Okanagan area. At the time of writing, all of these Recreation Site offer free camping opportunities.
The easiest way to find Recreation Sites in the southern Okanagan is by using a Backroad Mapbook. Every Rec Site is marked on the map, with a corresponding short description. We plan all of our trips with Backroad Mapbooks first and then use them to navigate during the journey too.
Crump Recreation Site
Only 30 minutes up the road from Summerland, Crump Recreation Site is large, open site at the top of a hill. Surrounded by grassland, it can be a bit exposed on windy days.
The multi-use Kettle Valley Railway (KVR) Trail runs adjacent to this Rec Site as well as a number of other routes. This is a popular ATV and dirt bike area.
This campground is accessed via the Summerland-Princeton Road, which starts off paved and then turns to dirt. Depending on the time of year, it can be a bit washboard-y.
Further along the Summerland-Princeton Road is the Trout Creek Crossing Recreation Site. Best for smaller rigs and tents, this intimate site is sandwiched between the road and the creek itself. The creek does help to drown out the noise of passing vehicles.
Okanagan Falls Ohv Recreation Site
Conveniently located very close to Okanagan Falls, only 2km of the approach road to this Recreation Site is unpaved. The last part of the road is, however, pretty rough, with some large rocks, potholes and one tight corner.
Once at the campground, there are around 20 large campsites in the forest. Being so close town town, there is usually cell phone service here.
Keep in mind that this Recreation Site is immediately adjacent to the Okanagan Falls Ohv trail network so expect to see and hear some dirt bikes and ATVs in the area.
Further along this road is Allendale Lake Recreation Site. I haven’t visited yet personally but it looks fairly spacious (6 sites), with scattered forest and a boat launch.
Madden Lake Recreation Site
Madden Lake Recreational Site is a small but pretty wooded campground northwest of Oliver. The Sites and Trails website claims it to have 9 campsites, but at least on our visit, 2 or 3 of those are more like additional parking spots.
There are two prime campsites right on the lakeshore, with the others nestled in the trees behind. The campsites are relatively open, with little privacy besides the natural tree dividers.
A creek runs along the edge of the campground but I’d definitely filter water from this and the lake since there is plenty of cattle in the area. There’s a wooden wharf on the lake.
There are many ATV trails in the area, so be careful not to get confused on the approach! The last 2km of the drive is pretty windy and bumpy in areas, with some large rocks. Clearance recommended.
Ripley Lake Recreation Site
Not far from Madden Lake is another Recreation Site called Ripley Lake. The lake is larger than Madden and offers better views.
There are two different camping areas on this lake. The first one features open, lakeshore sites with good views. Unfortunately, it’s also pretty desolate (we’re not sure whether it was user damage or flooding), with lots of dirt in place of grass. There’s a wooden wharf here.
The other camping area is another 800m along the lakeshore. It was busy when we visited but it also looks to be open concept. It receives evening sun for the lot longer than the first camping area.
Like Madden Lake, the final 2.3km approach to Ripley Lake is pretty rough. It’s less twisty than the one to Madden, however.
Burnell Lake Recreation Site
Burnell Lake is a popular destination for trout fishing near Oliver. The rough road almost completely encircles the whole lake, offering multiple launching areas for boats.
The lake itself is very pretty, with a gently curving shoreline. The campground is a bit scattered, with lots of unofficial sites and parking areas.
Burnell Lake sees a lot of people visiting just for the day, particularly with off road vehicles. This isn’t the Recreation Site to head to if you’re looking for complete peace and tranquility.
As the crow flies, Burnell Lake is located just south of Madden Lake (above) but is accessed via Willowbrook Road instead. The approach is drier and dustier than the one to Madden and Ripley Lake. High clearance still recommended, however, as it is still windy and bumpy.
Helpful camping tips
- When camping in the south Okanagan (or anywhere else!), it is SO important to leave no trace. This means using established campsites, bringing home everything you brought with you, only using designated rings for campfires and leaving natural things (such as rocks and plants) where they are
- Be sure to keep BARE campsite at all times to avoid attracting wildlife (including bears). ALL food and food related items should be in your vehicle or storage lockers/caches when not in use. This includes items used in food preparation such as coolers, stoves, garbage etc.
- Check for any campfire restrictions before heading out. The BC Wildfire Service website has the latest updates. Never leave a campfire unattended, keep campfires small (0.5m x 0.5m) and always extinguish the fire properly after use
- When leaving population centres and main roads, be sure to tell a friend or family member where you’re going and when you plan to come back. Cell service can be intermittent or limited
What to bring when camping in the Okanagan
Lightweight tarp – As mentioned above, the south Okanagan is HOT in summer! Bring a lightweight tarp to create some shade at your campsite. Trust me, you’ll be grateful for it!
Camping stove – Campfire bans are common occurrence in the Okanagan – never solely rely on campfires for cooking food. Bring a camping stove as a backup
Water purification – If potable (drinking) water is not available at the campground, be sure to treat any natural sources of water before using. For large amounts of water, we use a Katadyn Base Camp Pro Filter. For smaller amounts, we like the BeFree filter and Aquatabs
Mosquito repellent – We’re lucky not to see a ton of mosquitoes here in the Okanagan but they can be bad in certain areas, especially in spring. Repellent is a must but consider an appliance such as the ThermaCell if you’re camping for a long time or are particularly sensitive
Planning a trip to the Okanagan Valley? You may find these other posts helpful:
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