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  • Zac Andrus

Camping in Canada | Packing List and Travel Tips

Updated: Sep 21, 2022

Looking for info on camping in Canada and what to bring on your trip? In this post, we cover Canada’s camping rules, our top camping site recommendations in BC and Alberta, what to consider when packing, and the essential recommended items that you should bring to make your experience all it can be. From the mountainous Canadian Rockies to Vancouver Island’s coastal camping, you will find all you need right here!

Camping in Canada Packing List

If you are planning to camp in the Canadian Rockies, download our free Rockies Packing List. It will help you stay prepared for the varying weather conditions!

Camping in Canada

For this article, we only focus on camping in Western Canada. This includes National, Provincial, and local parks in both Alberta and BC. We chose to focus on these two provinces as that is where the majority of our camping in Canada has been so far and these areas also contain the most beautiful mountainous and coastal regions to camp. When planning your camping trip(s) in Canada, It’s important that you are up to speed with the camping rules in this beautiful country.


Canada Camping Rules

In Canada, there are a few rules to ensure a safe and respectable camping experience for all. We've broken down the top rules here as an overview, but make sure to visit the National and Provincial Park websites listed below to brush up on any additional rules specific to your campground before you go.

  • You must get a Discovery Pass to enter (and eventually camp) the National Parks. This can be purchased online in advance of your trip or you can buy it at the park station on your drive-in. The pass is good for one year and gives you access to 80 parks in Canada locations.

  • You need a camping permit for both backcountry and front country designated camping zones. These permits generally need to be booked months in advance for peak season in both BC and Alberta. However, there are many first-come-first-serve campgrounds as well, which are listed under the National and Provincial park sections below. If you booked your campsite online prior to arriving, make sure you have your booking number available. For first-come-first-serve campgrounds, make sure you bring cash and add it to the envelope at the campground check-in prior to setting up your tent.

  • You must keep food in a food cache provided on the campsite or plastic bag in a tree far away from your tent at all times that you are not eating (to avoid the bears).

  • Alcohol and cannabis have varying rules at all campgrounds. So check in with either the park ranger on-site or board notices at the entrance prior to camping at your desired location. Parks Canada, BC Parks, and Alberta Parks all say that cannabis consumption is allowed in registered campsites, but different provinces and municipalities have different restrictions. So make sure to check the official park regulations you will be visiting before you leave.

  • Quiet hours are generally from 11pm to 7 am. During those hours, music, campfires, cannabis, and alcohol are prohibited. However, this can vary between campgrounds. 

  • The majority of campgrounds allow pets, but usually, require them to be on a leash when in the campsite.

  • A fishing permit is required for all provincial and national parks if you want to catch fish.

  • 1 person at the campsite must be 16 years or older.

  • Man-made wildfires are a huge issue each summer in western Canada. No fires are allowed at all when there is a fire ban in effect. Check here for BC fire bans currently. Check here for fire bans in Alberta currently.

  • Usually, you are allowed14 days to camp per campground for provincial and national parks per year.

  • Firearms and fireworks are not permitted in most Provincial or National parks in Canada.

Click here for full Canada National park rules

Click here for full BC Provincial Park rules

Click here for full Alberta Provincial Park rules


How to book camping in Canada’s National and Provincial Parks

Booking camping can be a complicated process in Canada. There is not one single website or system where you can book everything from. Here, we've broken down our top 3 favorite campgrounds for Banff, Jasper, Yoho, BC Provincial parks, Alberta Provincial parks, and Vancouver Island along with clickable links to each one so you can book your site directly from there. The campsites usually cost between $15-$30 depending on if you are front country camping, doing backcountry, or taking the first-come-first-serve options.

National Parks reservations usually open in January each year.

For Provincial parks in Alberta and BC, you can generally make a reservation 4 months in advance for your desired campgrounds if they are not first-come, first-serve.

Camping in Jasper National Park (Canadian Rockies)

Our top 3 campsites in the area are:

  • Waipiti: Not too far from Jasper itself, this is a classy campsite near the river with hot showers and electricity!

  • Pocahontas: A fair drive from Jasper, this is a good campground if you want to be close to the Mietta Hot Springs. It’s near the edge of the entire Canadian Rockies:

  • Snaring: This is a first-come, first-serve option within 15 minutes of the town of Jasper and a great option if you’re in a pinch. It's also called an 'overflow' campsite as you can get a last-minute spot when all other campsites are sold out. We liked this option as you don't have to commit to reserving a spot. The campsite is basic but clean. Just watch out for the mosquitos!

Click here for all campsite options in Jasper.

Best campgrounds in Jasper National Park
Athabasca River near Wapiti Campground

Camping in Banff National Park (Canadian Rockies)

Our top 3 campsites in the area are:

  • Tunnel Mountain: This has the best facilities of all camping in the Canadian Rockies in our opinion. Warm showers, firewood included, and only a short 2-minute drive into the town of Banff.

  • Two Jack Main: Only 12km from Banff, this is a great site to saddle up away from the hustle and bustle of Banff itself.

  • Lake Louise: A great camping spot that is highly sought-after, being so close to the famous Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. Book in advance!

For all campsite options in Banff, click here.

Best campsites in the Rockies
Moraine Lake, near Lake Louise campground

Camping in Yoho National Park (Canadian Rockies)

Our top 3 campsites in the area are:

  • Kicking Horse: Located near the beautiful Iceline Trail in Yoho, Kicking Horse is the top campsite in the area

  • Lake O'Hara: This is the most beautiful area in all of the Canadian Rockies in our opinion. Stay here for at least 2 nights if you can. But you MUST book on the first day they open for reservations in January. Spots sell out within minutes! Learn more about the awe-inspiring Lake O'Hara.

  • Monarch and Takakkaw Falls: Both located near the main hiking trails in Yoho, Monarch is reservable with 35 sites and Takakkaw is first-come, first-serve

For all campsite options in Yoho, click here.

Camping in Alberta Provincial Parks (Canadian Rockies)

Our top 3 campsites in the province are:

  • Dinosaur Campground: A great early season campground that showcases the badlands in the “hoodoos” of Alberta.

  • Bow Valley Campground: The Bow Valley is situated very close to Canmore and is an awesome alternative just outside of the Canadian Rockies with stunning views and lakes.

  • Lillian Lake: This is one of the best backcountry campgrounds we’ve been to in Canada. Most spots include a wooden platform so you stay dry and you will have an awesome view of the sparkling green lake up close!

Find here all campsite options in Alberta Provincial Parks.

Lillian Lake campground hike to Galatea Lake
Galatea Lake (above Lillian Lake campground)

Camping in BC Provincial Parks

Our top 3 campsites in the province are:

  • Garibaldi Lake: There are 50 walk-in sites available here on the edge of one of the most beautiful glacial-fed lakes we’ve seen in Canada. This campsite is not located in the Canadian Rockies! Garibaldi Lake is a 1-hour drive north from Vancouver.

  • Berg Lake: There are 7 different campsites available along the Berg Lake Trail in Mount Robson Provincial Park (Canadian Rockies). We recommend staying at the Kinney Lake campground for two nights and then hiking up to Berg Lake as a day trip in between from there. Learn more about the Berg Lake Trail and the campsites here!

  • Joffre Lakes: There are few places in the world where you can camp directly under a glacier. This unique campground has become very popular for a weekend trip from Vancouver, so book early!

For here all campsite options in BC Provincial Parks.

Berg Lake Trail BC
Berg Lake (4-hour hike up from Kinney Lake campground)

Camping on Vancouver Island

Our top 3 campsites on the island are:

  • Sombrio Beach: This has the coolest vibe of any campground in Canada. You can camp on the sand and in the summer there are large groups of young people hanging out and enjoying life. There is even surfing here! This is not a reservable campsite and generally, there is always room somewhere on the beach. 

  • Rathtrevor Beach: Another beach-front campground, this is a very popular summer camping destination due to the mountain views of Vancouver across the water and endless sandy beach walks

  • Goldstream Provincial Park: This campsite is located near some of the best local hikes on Vancouver Island near Victoria. They are also near the Goldstream River and can be a great experience during the annual Salmon Run

Check here for our full Vancouver Island adventure travel guide.

Sombrio Beach camping
Sombrio Beach campfire in summer

Free Camping in Canada

While the rules are hazy for free camping in Canada, the general rule is: don’t camp there if you are unsure if it’s allowed. The park rangers and police do monitor the main roads, back roads, and other illegal camping spots and they do give out tickets. However, there are some common camping spots you can camp for free at if needed in a pinch:

  • Grocery Stores

  • Walmart

  • Costco

  • Truck stops

  • Camping on