Campers: is it a problem to have too much of a good thing? Canada’s great outdoors are exactly that—great. When searching for the perfect campsite in our country, it can seem a little like looking for the prettiest snowflake in a blizzard.
We’re here to help. We’re searched the land, from the West Coast, to the Maritimes, to the Northern Territories, to uncover 10 idyllic campsites. From the drive-in, to the backcountry, to the boat access, here are 10 Amazing Places to Sleep Under the Stars In Canada (and the gear you need to make the most of your trip!):
1. Green Point Campground
Pacific Rim National Park, BC
Reservations: Click here
As one of the most popular national park campsites in British Columbia, ensure you reserve one of the 94 drive-in or 20 walk-in sites at Green Point Campground, near Long Beach, well in advance. It’s worth it. The beaches and rainforests of Pacific Rim National Park are the stuff of legend: surf, hike, kayak and savour stunning sunsets. Roughing it is not required—hot showers, potable water and electricity is all on-hand, and nearby Tofino offers services and amenities.
Essential Gear: West Coast sunsets are renowned for cultivating that lovin’ feeling. Pack the Therm-a-Rest Ventana Duo, a cozy two-person sleeping bag, for a romantic outdoorsy escape.
2. Cheakamus Lake/Singing Creek
Garibaldi Provincial Park, BC
Website: Garibaldi Provincial Park
The Cheakamus Lake trailhead is located about eight kilometres south of Whistler Village; this is the start of a three- or seven-kilometre walk along an undulating forest path to backcountry campsites (distance depends on available sites), all with views of emerald Cheakamus Lake, surrounding 2,000-metre-plus glaciated peaks and dense old-growth evergreens. Other hiking trails lead further into this expansive alpine park, including a hardy two-day trod to Garibaldi Lake. And, once back at the car, you’re a short drive to a post-camp burger and beer at Whistler Village.
Essential Gear: The Therm-a-Rest Basecamp AF is the ideal mattress for quick-access hike-in sites. It packs down small and weighs only about one-kilogram, so it’s easy to carry over relatively short distances—but offers big comfort.
3. Goat Lake Backcountry Campsite
Waterton Lakes National Park, AB
Website: Waterton Lakes National Park
Pack light and get ready for a real Rocky Mountain experience. The trail to Goat Lake is about seven kilometres each way, with 500 metres of gain. Most do it as a day-hike, but why not stay the night? It starts in the lush forest and soon treats to outstanding open vistas (including Goat Falls) en route to the namesake lake. As you might expect, this is also a good spot to look for mountain goats. There’s little more than a tent pad in terms of service, but if mountain solitude under a sky full of stars is what you crave, Goat Lake delivers.
Essential Gear: Goat Lake is a convenient water source, but ensure you filter anything you drink or cook with. We’re fans of gravity filters—look for models that offer fast-flow and light-weight.
4. Red Deer River (Stettler to Drumheller)
Alberta’s Red Deer River, from Stettler to Drumheller, offers an accessible four-day canoe trip that meanders through thousands of years of human history and millions of years of geology. View the site where explorer Anthony Henday first crossed the Red Deer River in 1754; uncover Cree history at Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park; gaze over the ancient badlands. In late July through September, water levels are low, random camping is allowed on all shorelines and the Southern Alberta climate is pleasantly warm and arid.
Essential Gear: Always wear a PFD while canoeing through moving water. Try on various models before you buy—noting for possible rub- or pinch-points, and ensuring it allows for unencumbered paddling.
5. Valley of 1,000 Devils
Grasslands National Park, SK
Website: Grasslands National Park
Grasslands National Park is criminally under-visited in the first place, but even fewer head to the arid East Block, home to the geologically and paleontological fascinating Valley of 1,000 Devils. Here, you can gaze into 65 million of years of history—including a visible portion of the K-T Boundary, which formed with the extinction of the dinosaurs. Tent at either the car-access Visitor Centre Campground, or pack in everything (including water) and spend a night among the hoodoos, in total silence and serenity save the prairie breeze and occasional owl.
Essential Gear: Water containers. The only thing limiting your time while backcountry camping in the Valley of 1,000 Devils is H2O—there is none. You’ll need to find creative ways to pack in the four-litres of water, per person, per day, you’ll require. (Fill up at the Visitor Centre.)
6. Cedar Spring Campground
Georgian Bay Islands National Park, ON
Reservations: Click here
Drive a couple hours’ north from Toronto and board the Daytripper passenger ferry to Beausoleil Island in Georgian Bay Islands National Park. You’ll feel as though you’ve left the world behind. It’s easy to find an idyllic spot at fully-serviced Cedar Spring Campground, located near the ferry terminal and situated as the perfect base to hike the lush woodland of the south island and swim in Georgian Bay’s clear waters. To the north, glacier-scraped granite and twisted juniper trees await—as do a variety of backcountry campsites, if you favour greater serenity.
Essential Gear: With all the activities nearby—stand-up paddleboarding, mountain biking, hiking, swimming—you’ll want a spot to take a load off in the evening. Therm-a-Rest’s comfortable Quadra Chair is lightweight, stable and packs small.
7. MacDonald & Gordon Island oTENTiks
1,000 Islands National Park, ON
Reserve: Click here
Set in the transitional zone between the Canadian Shield and the Adirondack Mountains, 1,000 Islands National Park stewards some 110 islands and islets within the flowing waters of the St. Lawrence River. Make the most of your time here by booking one of the five island oTENTiks. Set on MacDonald and Gordon Island, these fully equipped, unique shelters are like a mix between a cabin and a tent. Just bring your bedding, clothes, food and personal gear and let Parks Canada take care of the rest—it’s great for families. Access to either island is by water taxi, powerboat or kayak/canoe.
Essential Gear: Bring your bird-watching field guide. The park is rife with diverse avian-life—from plentiful northern and southern species, to lively aquatic and woodland birds, it’s a feathered frenzy in the 1,000 Islands.
8. Campsite 42
Kejimkujik National Park, NS
Website: Kejimkujik National Park
When a campsite is simply designated by a number, you know it’s going to be off-grid. Yes, in a park where 80 per cent of the 404 square-kilometres is considered “backcountry,” Campsite 42 stands alone as the most secluded of the bunch (52 total). Load up three to four days’ worth of supplies and follow the Liberty Lake Trail, a 64-kilometre trek (total), to uncover this site, about halfway along the route. Pitch your tent and revel under a sky milky with stars—this rugged wildland is also Dark Sky Preserve.
Essential Gear: Download the SkyView Free app onto your smartphone—it’s the easiest way to identify the innumerable celestial bodies that dot the sky about “Keji.”
9. Robert Service Campground
Reservations: Click here
Set alongside the Yukon River, within walking distance to downtown Whitehorse, the privately owned Robert Service Campground is not just an ideal base-camp for exploring local wilds—it’s also just about the most welcoming spot in the North. Expect to make new friends easily. If you’re feeling lonely, just head to “The Living Room,” a popular social area. (Heck, they even televise the Stanley Cup Playoffs.) So, while it’s not the best for serenity, it is a comfy basecamp to return to after sweating through the challenging hikes, canoe routes and mountain bike trails the Wilderness City is famous for.
Essential Gear: Yes, you’re going in summer—but this is The North. Anything less than a three-season bag may leave you shivering. Try the Therm-a-Rest Saros, a versatile synthetic-stuffed bag that can handle negative temperatures with ease.
10. Prelude Lake Territorial Park Campground
Ingraham Trail, NWT
Reservations: Click here
The Ingraham Trail, an all-season road stretching 70 kilometres east from Yellowknife, is home to dozens of lakes, plus picnic spots, campgrounds, canoe routes and hiking trails. Set up camp at Prelude Lake Territorial Park, home of the most developed campground on the route. Swim, canoe, hike and fish onsite—and then branch out to explore numerous local treks accessed from the highway. The 2.5-kilometre-long Ranney Hill-Martin Lake Trail culminates with a short climb to the summit of a pink-granite dome, and Reid Lake Trail, near the terminus of Ingraham Trail, offers glacial-scarred rocks and a picturesque lake. Beyond this, the road ends—and, in winter, the famous Ice Road begins.
Essential Gear: Even during summer, the north can get chilly. We love the Therm-a-Rest Honcho Poncho—a comfy insulated poncho that also doubles as an extra blanket or a camp pillow.
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