For intrepid outdoor adventurers, backcountry hiking and camping is one of the most budget-savvy and satisfying ways to experience the pristine wilderness. But campsites can be difficult to book, especially in the summer months, and some backcountry treks have already opened their reservations for the 2022 season. Whether you have grand plans to conquer the West Coast Trail or want to set off on your first backcountry trip to Joffre Lakes this summer, here’s what you need to know about booking your trip.
West Coast Trail
West Coast Trail Tsusiat Falls Campsite Chris Babcock
This 75-kilometre-long coastal hike on Vancouver Island’s Pacific Rim National Park is a highly anticipated bucket list challenge for avid hikers, and one of BC’s most treasured multi-day outdoor adventures. Following in the footsteps of the Nuu-chah-nulth people, the path, which often requires hikers to trudge through deep mud and climb ladders, meanders past sandy beaches, tumbling waterfalls and through old-growth forests. Along the trail are 13 official campgrounds that are equipped with toilets and bear caches, and operate on a first-come, first-served basis.
Reservations: Reservations for the operating season of May 1 to September 30 began on January 21, 2022 and are required to access the trail. Hikers are encouraged to book as soon as possible.
Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit
Backed by the rugged peaks of the Cariboo Mountains, this 116-kilometre circuit in Bowron Lake Provincial Park in northern British Columbia encompasses six major lakes, as well as a collection of streams and connecting portages. For a more laid-back experience, canoers and kayakers can opt to do an out-and-back trip on the west side of the circuit, which typically requires two to four days compared to the six to ten for the full circuit. Paddlers on the Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit are required to use the 54 designated campsites, with 10 of those reserved for groups of seven or more individuals. Each campsite is equipped with tent pads, bear caches and an outhouse, while some have an additional cooking shelter. All campsites operate on a first-come, first-served basis.
Reservations: Because the Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit only permits a set number of paddlers to start on the circuit each day, paddlers are strongly encouraged to make an advanced reservation, especially in July and August. Reservations will open in early April for the entire operating season of May 13, 2022 to Sept. 30, 2022, though the exact date is TBA.
A high alpine lake backed by a collection of hanging valleys and snow-capped mountain tops, Lake O'Hara is one of Yoho National Park's most sought-after attractions. To protect its delicate environment, access to the site is managed by Parks Canada, and visitors can see the lake in one of four ways, including camping. Backcountry campers can stay up to three nights at one of the 30 sites at Lake O’Hara, and have the option of taking the shuttle to the lake or hiking the 11-kilometre access road in. Campers can expect facilities such as cooking shelters, a fire pit, outhouses, and food and garbage storage.
Reservations: Reservations for the operating season of June 17 to October 2, 2022, began on February 3, 2022, and hikers are encouraged to book as soon as possible.
Garibaldi Provincial Park
The 90 kilometre-plus of forested hiking trails, towering mountain peaks and turquoise glacial lakes make Garibaldi Provincial Park a popular destination for outdoor pursuits. The park's nine year-round backcountry campgrounds allow visitors to revel in the pristine alpine environment anytime. Campers are welcome to make reservations for Cheakamus Lake, Singing Creek, Helm Creek, Taylor Meadows, Elfin Lakes, Rampart Ponds, Russet Lake an Wedgemount Lake. The Garibaldi Lake campground offers 50 tent sites and is a nine-kilometre hike from the parking lot.
Reservations: Reservations are required year-round and can be made up to two months in advance of your arrival date.
Joffre Lakes Provincial Park
Joffre's string of striking turquoise lakes is situated about an hour north of Whistler, and while it’s possible to hike to all three lakes year-round, the possibility of avalanche means the campgrounds are only open in the summer months. Located at the south end of Upper Joffre Lake, the campsite is 5.5 kilometres from the parking lot with a 400-metre elevation gain. Its 26 gravel tent pads invite campers to sleep adjacent to the lake beneath the hanging Matier Glacier.
Reservations: Reservations are required and can be made up to two months in advance of your arrival date.
Banff National Park
A plethora of backcountry campsites are available at the Bryant Creek, Egypt Lake, Lake Minnewanka and Cascade and Sawback areas of Banff National Park, and advance reservations in July and August are highly recommended. In Banff’s more popular backcountry areas, hikers can expect maintained hiking trails and designated campsites with outhouses, tent pads and picnic tables. Random camping is permitted in designated areas, and a backcountry permit is mandatory for anyone planning an overnight trip into the backcountry of Banff National Park.
Jasper National Park
As the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies, Jasper National Park spans 10,878 square kilometres and is home to scenic mountains, diverse wildlife and over 1000 kilometres of rugged trails. Campsites are categorized into wildlands, semi-primitive and primitive and can be found in areas like Athabasca Pass, Jacques Lake and Fryatt Valley. But by far, the most popular backcountry routes are Skyline Trail, Tonquin Valley and Maligne Lake. Backcountry users are encouraged to pre-plan their route, as you’re only allowed to sleep at designated campsites.
Reservations: Reservations opened on Wednesday, February 2, 2022. Hikers are encouraged to book as soon as possible for the summer months.