Let’s go camping! As we look forward to warmer weather, this is the thought on many minds. In a world still rife with COVID, camping remains one of the ‘go to’ safest ways of taking a vacation. As a result, it’s more and more difficult to find great summer camping spots, particularly if you want to chill out in nature in one of Canada’s many provincial parks.
Planning ahead is therefore crucial to ensure you snag some of the best spots in the top parks in each province. To help with this we have information about each of Canada’s provinces along with tips for booking provincial park campgrounds.
Sandwiched between the Rocky Mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the West, and bordered by the USA in the south, British Columbia is Canada’s western-most province. Featuring ancient rainforests, lush valleys, rolling grassland, lakes, mountains and semi-arid desert, there is ample opportunity for locals and visitors to find their own piece of paradise in BC. 14% of the land in BC is protected through the establishment of provincial and national parks with many of the BC Parks offering camping.
Some of the BC Parks campgrounds are open year-round but the majority are seasonal. Park operating dates vary by park. Online reservations are available through the BC Parks Reservation portal. BC Parks Reservation Service will have a 4-month rolling booking window for front-country and backcountry reservations. On January 3, reservations will be available for arrivals up to May 3. On January 4, May 4 arrivals will be available – and so on. To make it fair for all campers, most parks have a maximum stay policy of 14 nights per park per calendar year.
Left: Clearwater Lake, Wells Grey Provincial Park, BC Right: Sheep River Provincial Park, Alberta
Alberta’s first provincial parks were established in 1932 and today offer a wide range of recreation and tourism experiences. The topography of the province encompasses mountains, prairies, forest and badlands resulting in diverse opportunities for outdoor adventure.
More than 100 of the Alberta Parks campgrounds are non-reservable, offering only first-come, first-served camping. The more popular ones will require reservations, particularly during long weekends and the summer school holiday break. Reservations for Alberta Campgrounds are available on a rolling 90-day basis. You can reserve a campground up to 90 days in advance of your arrival. The maximum number of nights bookable is 10 but there’s no maximum nights per park per year.
Despite its long cold winters, Saskatchewan is reputed to be the sunniest province in Canada. Blessed with hot summers, living skies, numerous lakes and sun-kissed fields for as far as the eye can see, Saskatchewan is made for camping. Online reservations for Saskatchewan Parks generally will open in February and most campgrounds begin operating from the May long weekend. Park entry fees are charged in addition to camping fees.
Campers have the option to choose their preferred camping spot in 24 provincial parks, many of which are close to fishing, golfing, swimming and other recreational activities.
Left: Cypress Hills Provincial Park, Saskatchewan Right: Spruce Woods Provincial Park, Manitoba
The most easterly of Canada’s prairie provinces, Manitoba is a land of lakes, forest, rivers and mountains stretching from northern Arctic tundra to southern rolling farmland. Its motto “Strong and Free” is an apt description for a land mass covering 650,000 square kilometres and home to only 1.3 million people.
From Burge Lake Provincial Park in the north to Stephenfield Provincial Park south-west of Winnipeg, camping is available in many Parks across Manitoba. Online reservations for Manitoba Provincial Parks campgrounds generally open on the first Monday in April.
Ontario’s one million square kilometre land mass makes it the second largest province in Canada. With all but one of the Great Lakes lapping its shoreline, Ontario is estimated to have 20% of the world’s freshwater stores.
Ontario Parks have an extensive park network with more than 100 of them offering camping. In fact, there are over 19,000 vehicle accessible campsites in these parks. While reservations are not always necessary at Ontario Parks, even during busy summer weekends, you should make them for the more popular parks like Killbear, Sandbanks and Pinery. You can book an Ontario Parks campsite online or through their call centre at 1-888-ONT-PARK. Reservations are available up to five months before your intended arrival date. Most parks are open from Memorial Day to Labour Day or Thanksgiving but a few are open year round.
Left: Sunset over Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario Right: Lake Wapizagonke, Mauricie National Park QC
Québec is the largest province in Canada, covering nearly one-sixth of Canada’s total land area. While the province is predominantly French speaking, visitors to main cities will find people able to speak English if necessary. Québecers enjoy the outdoors and camping and it’s advisable to book in advance for spots at the most popular campgrounds.
Provincial Parks in Québec are known as National Parks and are managed by SEPAQ, the agency of the Government of Québec managing parks and wildlife. Québec National Parks offer more than 4,700 sites at 34 parks across the province. Park access fees apply in addition to camping fees and reservations are now open for the 2023 season. For great bike trails, exciting water sports, hiking and amazing scenery, Québec campsites are ideal.
New Brunswick is home to some of the world’s highest tides and this attracts visitors from around the world to view this spectacular phenomenon. It’s known for its huge, untouched wilderness and has the warmest saltwater beaches north of Virginia. Camping is available in 2023 at nine of New Brunswick’s ten provincial parks. Online reservations for Parks New Brunswick begin on 1 February and there’s no maximum stay restriction.
Left: Carleton Provincial Park, New Brunswick Right: Corn fields near Sally's Beach Provincial Park PEI
Prince Edward Island
Red, sandy beaches, lighthouses and fertile farmland greet you as you arrive on Prince Edward Island, either via the Confederation Bridge or the Wood Island Ferry. Colloquially known as “Islanders”, around 155,000 residents call PEI home. Its expansive coastline is indented with small inlets, bays and coves where you can easily spend a summer afternoon undisturbed by crowds. Finding a campsite within an easy drive of the coast is easy. While PEI has a large number of private campgrounds, along with a few National Park Campgrounds, the government owned network of provincial parks is popular. Eight of PEI’s 21 Provincial Parks offer RV camping and are ideal for swimming, picnics and other outdoor experiences. Reservations for Prince Edward Island Provincial Parks Camping for 2023 vary by campground. Please visit each campground website for more information.
While the name, Nova Scotia, is Latin for New Scotland, it was Gaelic speaking immigrants from both Ireland and Scotland who had the most influence in shaping Nova Scotia’s identity. Consisting of two islands connected by a short causeway over the Strait of Canso, Nova Scotia is long and narrow with a rugged coastline.
The majority of Nova Scotia’s provincial campgrounds are located close to water providing ample opportunities for fishing, hiking, beachcombing and other outdoor activities. Online reservations for Nova Scotia Provincial Parks generally begin in April with campgrounds opening in late May/early June. If 2022 is any indicator, competition for sites will be fierce, particularly if you’re planning to visit Rissers Beach.
Crystal Crescent Beach Provincial Park, Nova Scotia Right: Arches Provincial Park, Newfoundland
Known for its unique houses and big personalities, Newfoundland considers itself one of the most beautiful provinces in Canada. It’s home to the oldest city in North America - St John’s – where the houses were all painted in all different colours so that ships could see them through the fog. Vikings were once here, way up North in L’anse Aux Meadows, and visitors come from around the world to visit the L’Anse Aux Meadows National Historic Site.
Thirteen Parks Newfoundland Campgrounds are dotted around the province, sporting names like Blow Me Down and Dildo Run. Online Reservations for Newfoundland provincial park camping usually launch in the third week of April each year with bookings also being taken by phone. A vehicle entry fee is payable in addition to camping fees. The most popular are the serviced campsites at Dildo Run, Frenchman’s Cove, J.T. Cheeseman, La Manche, Lockston Path and Notre Dame, so early booking is recommended for these campgrounds.
Yukon and Northwest Territories
If you’re looking for Canada’s frontier, you’ll find it in Yukon and the Northwest Territories. With mountains dominating a vast rugged wilderness, these territories are home to the indigenous Inuit and Inuvialuit people. They are small on population and big on WOW.
Camping at all Yukon Government Campgrounds is on a first-come, first-served basis and space is almost always available. In Yukon’s sister territory online reservations can be made for all 16 NWT Parks campgrounds beginning in the spring.
Left: Tombstone Territorial Park, Yukon Right: Lakefront Camping, Waterton Lakes National Park
So, we've covered the provincial park campgrounds but many of our Guests who rent an RV to experience their own piece of Canada ask us about National Park Campgrounds. These campgrounds are operated by Parks Canada and are located in some of the most spectacular parts of each province. Visitors entering National Parks must have either a day pass or purchase an annual Discovery Pass. Campground reservations launch on the Parks Canada website in April for arrivals between April 2023 and March 2024.