Have you ever spent countless hours trying to book a campsite in a popular park, dealt with crowded campgrounds or tried to organize a last-minute backcountry trip to places like Algonquin or Killarney Provincial Park? Maybe you should consider camping on Crown land instead. It’s one of the best wilderness assets we have in Ontario, Canada, representing 87 per cent of the entire province.

Beyond the fact that less outdoors enthusiasts take advantage of Crown land, it’s also free of charge—as long as you’re a Canadian citizen or have lived in Canada for at least seven out of the last 12 months.

photoKevin Callan

You can also pitch camp in the same spot for up to 21 days in a calendar year (unless there is a post stating otherwise). After that, you must move on to another site a minimum of 100 meters away. This eliminates squatters’ rights, allows others to make use of the site and helps reduce environmental impacts.

Signs may be posted by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to limit certain kinds of travel or activity (including camping), as well as close forest access roads for reasons of public safety or environmental protection. Before you start a campfire, check if it’s permitted in your area and if there is a fire ban.

You’ll need a permit if you are a non-resident of Canada. The cost $10 per person per night. The price went up drastically a few years back. It used to be a mere $3.

Permits can be purchased online, at a Service Ontario centre or authorized license issuer.

Most Conservation Reserves or unmanaged provisional parks are considered “Crown land” as well. Just make sure there are no restrictions posted on signs or you’ll get a hefty fine.

photoKevin Callan

The only downfall of Crown land camping is locating it. The Ontario government has a website showing Ontario's Crown Land Policy Atlas. Explore also has a list of 50 Free Places to Camp in Ontario.

To me, locating a place to travel and camp on Crown land in Ontario is like finding your own secret trout stream. It takes a lot of work, planning and patience—but once you find it, the rewards are incredible.

Check out my Whisky Fireside Chat with Pine Martyn about Crown land camping below.