Though not averse to a night or two at a hotel, camping is what we do best.
So our road trips are usually spent camping. Not tent-based camping like we do in Australia but camper-vanning since lugging a tent and mats halfway around the world is a bit too painful for my liking.
And there’s just so much to love about having a (smallish) campervan, being on the road and finding amazing little spots to camp at for a day or two.
We usually stick to national parks, state forests, provincial parks, recreation sites or similar, and generally don’t care about having a powered site. Occasionally we’ll pull into a commercial campground, holiday park or RV park for a hot shower and laundry. And every now and then we freedom camp but getting a campsite for free isn’t usually our motivation, more likely we’re simply running out of time to find a proper spot and pull over somewhere dead tired.
On our two road trips around Western Canada, we stayed in some pretty fabulous campgrounds and some not-so-fabulous ones. I’ve narrowed the list down to just over a handful so here are our 7 favourite camping spots in Western Canada.
7 Beautiful Camping Spots in Western Canada
Except for a couple of spots, we only had one night at each of these campgrounds. We travelled in late August and September so our experience is based on enjoying these places mostly outside high season.
What gets a campsite into our list of top sites are:
- peace and quiet
- stunning surroundings (whether that’s by a lake, facing mountains or along a river)
- ‘leave no trace’ principles observed.
Clean amenities don’t really feature in our quest for great camping spots in Canada because I’ve never met a toilet in Canada that was unclean to the point of where I felt even a little put off. Even in recreation sites, the toilets are generally of a ‘clean enough’ standard that I’m not grossed out (and trust me, I get grossed out!).
Prices mentioned are in Canadian dollars.
It’s hard to rank each of these campsites so I didn’t even try. I’ve just organised them from north to south.
1. Tombstone Mountain Campground | Tombstone Provincial Park, Yukon
Majestic, craggy mountain peaks in an isolated location with the tundra just within reach. That’s really all you need to know about Tombstone.
We arrived in drizzly, grey weather and woke up to a spectacular snowy – and freezing – landscape.
In early September, the campground wasn’t deserted by any means but luckily for us, we had no trouble getting a site even arriving late afternoon. During summer, I’d expect you’d need to arrive early to score a site.
There’s a couple of short hiking trails close by but to really experience Tombstone’s majesty, you’ll need to go for a drive or day hike. Sadly, we only had time for a couple of short hikes and a quick drive but the vastness and beauty of this place is undeniable from the moment you wake up.
A truly stunning spot that I hope we’ll return to one day.
- Location: Tombstone Territorial Park, along the Dempster Highway (~110km from Dawson City)
- Facilities: 48 sites; compost toilets, picnic tables
- Price: $12 (2016); first come first served
- Open: mid-May to early September
- More information: Tombstone Mountain Campground
2. Congdon Creek Campground | Kluane Lake, Yukon
We didn’t really plan any of the camping stops on our 2016 Canada road trip, and this includes our short stay at Congdon Creek. Staying the night here was more of a necessity than a plan since we had booked a scenic flight over Kluane for the next morning and didn’t want to be too far from Silver City.
Whilst the campground may not be the most inspiring in itself, the location is hard to beat. Spectacular mountain ranges on one side, mesmerising Kluane Lake on the other, and the campground sandwiched in between.
In early September, about half the campground was already closed off but there were still enough sites for us to find a suitable spot. Judging by the setup of several RVs, this is a spot where people love to hang out for a few days or more.
Bears frequent the area and tent-based camping is only allowed within the fenced off area. We went for a walk along the lake shore but alas, saw no bears.
- Location: Just off the Alaska Highway (~87km from Haines Junction)
- Facilities: 61 sites; compost toilets, picnic tables
- Price: $12 (2016); first come first served
- Open: mid-May to late September
- More information: Congdon Creek Campground
3. Boya Lake | Tā Ch’ilā Provincial Park, BC
Located in northern British Columbia just off the Stewart-Cassier Highway, our campsite at Boya Lake was quite perfect, even if the weather wasn’t.
By early September, there was almost no one else in the campground with all the summer campers having left for the season.
Our site was small but it was right on the lake, and so ridiculously quiet and peaceful, I just loved it.
If you had kayaks, this would be just such a perfect little spot for a few days of relaxing. You could even hire kayaks or canoes for half / full day, and whilst I can’t recall the exact price, I remember thinking it was quite reasonably priced.
- Location: Just off the Stewart-Cassier Highway (Highway #37)
- Facilities: 44 sites; compost toilets, picnic tables
- Price: $20 (2016); 10 reservable sites (May-Aug); remaining sites: first come first served
- Open: mid-May to late September (serviced); after September, accessible until first snowfall (unserviced)
- More information: Tā Ch’ilā Provincial Park
4. Bere Point Campground | Malcolm Island, BC
Malcolm Island – Sointula – turned out to be one of the highlights of our last Canada trip.
By late September, it was nothing but a sleepy island steeped in Finnish history with adorable colourful houses, a community garden that sold ridiculously oversized (but yummy) vegetables, a few short hiking trails and a campground that was almost deserted.
And if you’re lucky, you could see Orcas beaching in the shore on the northwestern part of the island. (We weren’t. Though the husband did hear them breathe out on the ocean one night.)
Bere Point Campground is in a Regional Park, and apparently gets very busy during the summer. The best sites are directly on the beach and offer fabulous views of the Queen Charlotte Strait.
The other sites are nestled into the trees and would still make a relaxing spot, albeit without the fantastic and peaceful views.
We ended up staying for free as we could neither find an attendant nor a registration box.
- Location: 25 min by ferry from Port McNeill, North Vancouver Island
- Facilities: 30 sites; compost toilets, picnic tables, no potable water
- Price: $20 (2018); bookings recommended during summer season/long weekends; first come first served
- Open: year-round
- More information: Bere Point Campground
5. Wya Point Resort | Ucluelet, Vancouver Island, BC
Staying around Tofino and Ucluelet on Vancouver Island’s West Coast is pricey.
Unless you score a site in the Pacific Rim National Park campground, you’re looking at nightly stays of $45 and up. But on the flip side, the West Coast is wild and beautiful, and Wya Point Resort offers direct access to the beach.
We stayed at Wya Point in 2016 and loved it. We had a beautiful site surrounded by trees but with ocean views. The campground has flush toilets and hot showers so it felt like a bit of luxury to us.
And then last year, we thought we’d go back to Wya Point for our two days on the West Coast, only to discover that the business had changed hands and instead of charging $32 per night, we were now looking at $75 for an unpowered site!
And yes sadly, we stayed elsewhere with no view but at a much lower cost. It’s a beautiful spot with a ridiculous price tag.
- Location: Along the Tofino Ucluelet Highway (~7km from Ucluelet / ~33km from Tofino)
- Facilities: 12 vehicle-accessible sites (+ some 20 walk-in sites); flush toilets, hot showers, picnic tables
- Price: $32 (2016)
- Open: year-round ?
- More information: Wya Point Resort
6. Ruckle Provincial Park | Salt Spring Island, BC
We didn’t plan to go to Salt Spring Island on our last trip. We were actually trying to get to Galiano Island for a couple of days but ferry schedules were working against us so we ended up on Salty.
And I have no regrets because Ruckle Provincial Park, right at the southern tip of Salt Spring Island, was a superb spot for watching ferries go by while the sun was setting in pastel colours.
The vehicle-accessible sites are nothing to shout about but the campsites… oh wow. I have never seen a campground in such a perfect location in Australia. You literally camp right on the water’s edge. Stunning.
The only downside might be that it’s a fair walk from the carpark to the campsites but there seemed to be plenty of wheelbarrows around for people to ferry their stuff back and forth.
I can see how this place would be extremely busy over the holidays or long weekends. Even in late September, the campground looked 60-70% full without being squishy.
There’s also a couple of walking trails along the shoreline and through the woods.
- Location: Southern end of Salt Spring Island
- Facilities: 8 vehicle-accessible sites and 78 (!) walk-in sites; compost toilets, some picnic tables
- Price: $20 (2018); 14 reservable sites; remaining sites: first come first served
- Open: year-round (unserviced 1 Nov to mid-March)
- More information: Ruckle Provincial Park
7. Davis Creek Provincial Park | Kootenay Lake, BC
Our trip to the Kootenay region last summer was not really as nice as it was supposed to be. Raging wildfires meant valleys full of smoke, haze and horrid air to breathe.
By the time we got the Kootenay Lake, some of it had dissipated and at least you could breathe, even if we couldn’t really enjoy the spectacular mountains and views all that much.
That said, our site at the Davis Creek campground was one of our favourite spots on the last trip. Right on the lake, peaceful surroundings (yay to camping outside the main season!) and well-maintained.
If the weather had played along, we would have had a hard time leaving this spot.
- Location: Along Highway #37 on the shores of Kootenay Lakes (~30km from Kaslo)
- Facilities: 32 sites; compost toilets, picnic tables
- Price: $20 (2018); 10 reservable sites; remaining sites: first come first served
- Open: mid-May to late September (serviced); year-round (unserviced and subject to snow conditions)
- More information: Kootenay Lake Provincial Park
BONUS SPOT: Bull Canyon Provincial Park | Chilcotin region, BC
I’m including the campground at Bull Canyon here because it looked like such an amazing spot for a few days of relaxing right by the Chilcotin River.
We pulled in for a quick stop and seriously debated staying the night but with a tight itinerary, we just couldn’t make it work and continued on towards Nimpo Lake for the night.
The turquoise glacial water of the river just mesmerised me… And even better, there was no one else around so we would have had this spot all to ourselves. Oh well, another time.
There’s also a short hiking trail along the river that takes you past some small caves to explore.
- Location: Along Highway #20 (~120km from Williams Lake)
- Facilities: 20 sites; compost toilets, picnic tables
- Price: $20 (2018); first come first served
- Open: mid-May to mid-September
- More information: Bull Canyon Provincial Park
So that’s it, our favourite campgrounds in BC and the Yukon so far.
Over two trips, we’ve spent some 10 weeks in Canada and so have obviously stayed in a whole lot more campgrounds than just those seven but most of them were either more on the ‘functional’ side of things (e.g. Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park) or of the ‘please, let’s not return to this spot ever’ kind (e.g. Juniper Beach Provincial Park – only recommended for train aficionados!).
That said, let me know in the comments below if we’ve missed some particularly amazing spots!