As summer approaches, outdoor adventurers start setting up their camping plans for the year. Every region has areas worth visiting, whatever season you’re packing the backpack. Here are some of Western Canada’s top campsites:
Juan de Fuca Provincial Park, BC
China Beach Camground
Website: China Beach Campground
The Juan de Fuca Marine Trail runs 47 km along the coastline of Vancouver Island from China Beach to Botanical Beach; a moderately difficult trek with stunning views and beach access along the way. Park at the campsite and backpack along the trail, stopping at other campsites along the way, or do shorter, out-and-back excursions nearer the campground.
Multiple day trails lead to the beach, letting you explore the region from both a coastal and forested perspective. Even better – if the weather is cooperative you can pitch your tent on the sand and wake up to the roaring surf every morning. Canoeing/kayaking is an option for those capable of handling open-ocean conditions.
The campground is open May to September with wilderness camping permitted year-round. Campfires are permitted in designated areas only, water is available in season, pit toilets, vehicle accessible camping areas and some accessible accommodations can also be found.
Garibaldi Provincial Park, BC
Garibaldi Lake Campground
Website: Garibaldi Lake Campground
A brilliant, turquoise lake, soaring, snow-capped mountains and field of blooming wildflowers await you after your nine-kilometre hike from the parking area. The 18-km trail takes you through dense forest to the lake and on up to an alpine meadow. From here you have the option to continue on to more difficult trails or head back to the lake.
The scenery is spectacular and wildlife is abundant. Photographers and nature-observers will find plenty to do along the trails or a short distance from the campsite. Access is year-round and there are pit toilets. Practice “leave no trace,” pack your trash out and boil or treat all water from lakes and streams.
Indian Arm Provincial Park, BC
Granite Falls Campground
Website: Granite Falls Campground
The only access to the area is on the water, either by canoe, kayak or other watercraft. The site is right next to a 50-metre-tall waterfall, and the remoteness discourages many casual campers leaving you lots of space to yourself.
The best time to go is July through September — some years, pink salmon are running in huge numbers and can be seen jumping along the shoreline. Seals, bears and eagles are also attracted by the salmon and can be seen more often during the run. Explore the waterfalls and lagoons by boat, free-dive or do some fishing. Hikes are steep and difficult, but with rewarding views at the top. Swimming, windsurfing and waterskiing are allowed in designated areas. The grounds are open year-round and have pit toilets but no water or other facilities. Some day moorage is available for boats or they can be beached on the shore.
Dinosaur Provincial Park, AB
Dinosaur Provincial Park Campgrounds (pictured)
Website: Dinosaur Provincial Park Campgrounds
Bleak and fantastical, Southern Alberta's badlands feel like dinosaurs still roam the hills with you. The area is strangely beautiful despite the lack of lush greenery or scenic mountains. This is a UNESCO site with educational activities for kids and a small museum.
Spring is the best time to visit after the snow has melted and before the mosquitoes show up in droves. Dinosaur fossils are everywhere and guided hikes take you through some of the better known digs. Paddle the Red Deer River to see even more parts of the park.
The campground is open all year and the sites range from no services to cushy comfort camping. All facilities are available and there are play areas for children.
Banff National Park, AB
Two Jack Lakeside Campground
Website: Two Jack Lakeside Campground
Lake, forest and mountain views can be seen from the same site, often without even turning your head. The walk-in tent sites have their own section away from the RV park, and more of them are closer to the lake. The campground is very popular and doesn’t take reservations. If planning to visit on the weekend, arrive before 11:00 am to get in line for a space.
Two Jack Lake is excellent for paddling canoes and kayaks around the shoreline. The water is generally too cold for swimming, but scuba diving is excellent for those with experience in high-altitude diving. The park has more than 1,600 km of hiking trails, some that are also suitable for mountain biking or horseback riding.
The campgrounds are open late May to early October and have running water, flush toilets and showers. One-third of the 64 sites are walk-in, tent only.
Good Spirit Lake Provincial Park, SK
Good Spirit Lake Provincial Park Campground
Website: Good Spirit Lake Provincial Park Campground
The area is beautiful, set on the shores of a sandy lake, near numerous other amenities. The road to the site is well off the highway which means fewer crowds and more open spaces.
This is a very developed area with many group activities such as golf and horseback riding. The lake is shallow quite a ways out for wading and there is a launch nearby for boating. There is a hiking trail through the sand dunes and cycling trails nearby.
The site is open mid May through the end of August and this is a full service facility.
Lac La Ronge Provincial Park, SK
Hidden Bay Campground
Website: Hidden Bay Campground
Near the end of highway 905 on Wollaston Lake is a rustic site in a peaceful setting. There are campsites all along the highway and most are an excellent place to pitch a tent and explore the area for a day before moving up the road to the next area.
Paddling and fishing are the most common summer activities, but there are trails to other nearby lakes and rivers. During the winter the area is perfect for cross-country skiing. The entire region is open to explore on foot or skis and the campsites so numerous that the entire area is worth considering as a great place to camp.
Most sites are open year-round although those that do have amenities have no services during the winter.
Grindstone Provincial Park, MB
Gull Harbour, Hecla Island
Website: Gull Harbour, Hecla Island
A series of islands are strewn across the top of Lake Winnipeg creating a boaters wonderland of hidden inlets and beaches to explore.
Visit the turn-of-the-century fishing village to get the full flavour of the region and check out a few of the interpretive events that are offered. There are nearby hiking and biking trails all around Gull Harbour in addition to swimming, paddling and walking the beach. In the winter, many of the trails are perfect for snowshoeing and cross-country ski adventures.
The campground is open year-round and the nearby village can provide food, additional clothing or any other amenity.
Paint Lake Provincial Park, MB
Paint Lake Campground
Website: Paint Lake Campground
Dozens of small islands with a rocky base and determined stands of trees make up the bulk of the park. This is an amazing place to explore, paddling between islands and hiking around each one that you visit.
You could spend weeks here wandering around the area and still not see it all. Hiking, boating and fishing are the main events in the summer, with snowshoeing and skiing taking over for winter visitors.
Sites have water, power and some disability access. There are washrooms and showers available all year. The marina and a grocery store are nearby and staffed year-round.
Spruce Woods Provincial Park, MB
Website: Kiche-Manitou Campground
Shifting dunes and cactus — is this still Canada? If you’re at Spirit Sands it is, and there’s more to see. Dense green spruce trees around a spring-fed pond just a short hike from grasslands and those curious dessert-like dunes make up this park, one of the more unique places in Canada.
This is a large, busy place, but terrain is worth the crowds. Spirit Sands dunes are home to skink, hognose snakes and Manitoba’s only lizard. The Devil’s Punchbowl is a curious pond fed by an underground stream and surrounded by dry land and trees. Once you’ve visited the unique regions, grab your bike and head out on one of the many trails in the area. Bring skis and snowshoes for winter adventuring.
The area has so many amenities that it’s almost like a resort. The campground is open year-round and services are always available.
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