Canada offers plenty of space for camping and RVing with lakes, forests, and natural wonders abound.
Though Canada is the world’s second-largest country, a staggering 80 percent of its land is uninhabited, which means there’s plenty of space for camping, glamping, and RVing. With pristine lakes, lush forests, and natural wonders just begging to be a part of your next camping trip, here are some of the best places in Canada to sleep under the stars.
Composed of tiny islands and peninsulas, the four Atlantic provinces form a crescent-shaped bay on Canada’s eastern coast: the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Prince Edward Island National Park faces the gulf, and with its scenic coastal landscape, charming lighthouses, and sand dunes, it’s easy to see why it inspired Lucy Maud Montgomery’s famous novel, Anne of Green Gables. Meanwhile, Gros Morne National Park, a world heritage site on the west coast of Newfoundland, is an ecological kaleidoscope of misty fjords for kayaking, sea caves, and the highest waterfall in eastern North America. New Brunswick’s Fundy National Park is all about high tides, and Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Highlands National Park covers major landscapes—think steep cliffs, rocky coastline hiking trails, and tundra-like plateaus, plus wildlife like moose, puffins, whales, and bald eagles.
The southern parts of Central Canada, bordering four of the five Great Lakes, are a camper’s dream, with green countryside, forests, and thousands of lakes and rivers. Check out the quiet coves and charming fishing villages, or find a camping spot along the rugged cliffs of Forillon National Park, set on the outer tip of Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula. In Bruce Peninsula National Park in Ontario, just four hours north of Toronto, look out for limestone cliffs, dozens of orchid species, and a variety of wildlife—everything from white-tailed deer and otters to porcupines and even black bears. Plus, at the northern tip of Bruce Peninsula, you’ll find underwater adventure at Fathom Five National Marine Park. Dive down to explore more than 20 shipwrecks, or view them through crystal-clear water from a glass-bottomed boat. And don’t miss the astounding flowerpot rock formations caused by tidal pool erosion.
Here in the south you’ll find wide-open plains, but head north in the Prairie Provinces and you’ll see some of the most ecologically diverse landscapes in the country. With its subarctic forest, tundra, and part of North America’s largest expanse of peat bog, Manitoba’s Wapusk National Park is a prime location to see polar bears with one of the largest known maternity denning areas for the great white bears. Grasslands, forests, and lakes all come together in Riding Mountain National Park, where you can watch bison munch on grass or, if you time your trip right, view the Northern Lights. Saskatchewan’s Grasslands National Park is yet another place to spot a herd of bison grazing on the endless plain. And, of course, the Alberta province shelters quite a few gorgeous parks among the world’s premier destinations. The Crypt Lake Trail in Waterton Lakes National Park is on many hiker wishlists due to its spectacular waterfall and wildflower views. See an epic sunrise over the mirror-like water of the iconic Moraine Lake in Banff National Park, one of the most photographed locations in the entire country. You can also explore the ancient Athabasca Glacier in the Columbia Icefields while visiting the southern end of Jasper National Park.
This is one of the most mountainous areas in Canada—the Pacific Coast Mountains start around Vancouver and the Canadian Rocky Mountains lie to the east—and British Columbia provincial parks and campsites are a main draw. There’s tons to do in Pacific Rim National Park: take a surf lesson at Long Beach, go canoeing through the maze of rugged Broken Group Islands, or hike the 47-mile West Coast Trail through the rainforest for backcountry camping. Road trip to Yoho National Park in the Rocky Mountains for towering waterfalls, or hike Mount Revelstoke National Park’s trails for views of wildflower meadows, 800-year-old red cedar trees, and impressive wetlands. If you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of mountain caribou, pine marten, or golden eagles.
Most of the terrain in Northern Canada is rocky and barren with sparse vegetation. Hike through the Arctic at Auyuittuq National Park in the Nunavut territory for scenic fjords, rushing rivers, and huge glaciers, plus the chance to cross paths with lemmings or polar bears. If visiting the Northwest Territories’ Nahanni National Park, prepare yourself for camping sites near the epic Virginia Falls, known for being double the size of Niagara. You may encounter a bit more life by traveling west to the Yukon province, where Kluane National Park is a prime location to watch the grizzlies, caribou, and eagles who live among the backcountry peaks and sprawling valleys.
Yes, Canada has free camping options, often referred to as "Crown land" or "public land" camping. Approximately 89% of Canada's land is owned by the government and is open for public use, including free camping. These campsites are typically primitive and dispersed, with no facilities or amenities. It's essential to come prepared and practice Leave No Trace principles to preserve the natural environment.
In Manitoba, around Winnipeg, you can find free camping on provincial Crown land. However, you should check the specific regulations and restrictions for the area you plan to visit, as some areas may require permits or have other limitations. You can find more information about Crown land camping in Manitoba on the Manitoba government website.
Boondocking, or camping without facilities and hookups, is legal in Canada but only in certain areas. Crown land, which makes up about 41% of Canada's landmass, is available for boondocking, but this varies by province. In some provinces, like Ontario and British Columbia, you can camp for free on Crown land for up to 21 days. However, in other provinces, like Québec and New Brunswick, camping on Crown land is more restricted.
It is essential to research and follow local regulations and guidelines for boondocking in the specific area you are interested in. Stay within designated camping areas, and always practice Leave No Trace principles to minimize your impact on the environment. You can also find private boondocking spots on Hipcamp.
No, it is not legal to camp anywhere in Canada. Camping is regulated and allowed in designated areas such as national parks, provincial parks, regional parks, and private campgrounds. However, there are some areas where you can practice wild or dispersed camping, which is camping away from developed campgrounds and facilities.
In Canada, wild camping is generally allowed on Crown land (public land managed by the government) and in some national and provincial parks with specific backcountry camping permits. Rules and regulations for wild camping vary by province and territory, so it is essential to check local regulations before setting up camp.
For camping in Québec, you can find designated campgrounds and information on wild camping regulations on the Sépaq website (Société des établissements de plein air du Québec) for provincial parks and the Parks Canada website for national parks.
In Canada, wild camping, also known as dispersed or primitive camping, is generally allowed on Crown land, which is public land managed by the government. However, the rules and regulations for wild camping vary depending on the province or territory, and it's important to check the specific regulations for the area you plan to visit. In some cases, you may need to obtain a permit or pay a fee to camp on Crown land. Additionally, wild camping is not allowed in national parks and provincial parks unless it's in designated backcountry campsites or areas. Always practice Leave No Trace principles and follow local guidelines when wild camping in Canada.