Despite Vancouver’s wild and outdoorsy reputation, there’s no camping allowed within the city limits. Camping is a great way to see British Columbia but if you’re looking for a cheap alternative to downtown hotels
you will be disappointed. Even on the North Shore, which has two provincial parks, camping is limited to wilderness spots at high elevations.
Camping is an extremely popular pastime for Vancouverites and during June, July, August and the long holiday weekends from May to September, campsites within an hour’s drive of Vancouver are booked solid.
BC Parks runs the campsites within the provincial parks. The most basic offer a patch to pitch your tent and a compost toilet. The best and more expensive campgrounds have flush toilets, warm showers, covered picnic tables, playgrounds and boat launches.
Most are open from April through to September with some limited facilities available at some parks during the winter.
To guarantee your spot, you can book online up to three months in advance through the Discover Camping website
. Campsites cost between $10-$30 per party/car and there is a booking fee of $6.30 per night up to a maximum of three nights. Electrical hook-ups cost an extra $8.*
Campsites close to Vancouver
If you really want to camp while visiting downtown Vancouver be prepared for an adventure. You’ll have to provide your own transport, carry your own water and dig your own toilet.
Cypress Provincial Park in West Vancouver and Mount Seymour Provincial Park in North Vancouver allow wilderness camping beyond the boundaries of the ski areas
Boat-accessible campsites on Indian Arm can be reached from the waterfront at Deep Cove in North Vancouver.
Basic camping spots are available at north Twin Island which is a 45-minute paddle from the Deep Cove
and Granite Falls which is a 4 to 6 hour paddle.
Porteau Cove Provincial Park
Porteau Cove, situated 38km north of Vancouver just off the Sea-to-Sky Highway (Highway 99), is the closest serviced campground to downtown Vancouver. An artificial reef and several sunken vessels make Porteau Cove a very popular spot for diving.
The pitches look out onto Howe Sound but the highway and a train track are very close by so don’t expect a tranquil setting.
Alice Lake Provincial Park
Alice Lake lies around 75km north of Vancouver not far from the Sea-to-Sky Highway. Whistler
is a 35-minute drive north and Squamish is just a 10-minute drive south.
Alice Lake is very, very popular with families and the main activities are hiking and swimming in the very cold lakes.
Golden Ears Provincial Park
Golden Ears near the farming communities of Maple Ridge has some of the most extensive camping facilities in the province.
There are three campgrounds, a lake large enough for motorized boats and plenty of biking and hiking trails.
Other camping options
Other BC Parks within reach of Metro Vancouver include Porpoise Bay on the Sunshine Coast which requires a 45-minute ferry crossing from Horseshoe Bay and Cultus Lake, 100km east of Vancouver near Chilliwack.
The Capilano RV Park tucked in on the north side of Lions Gate Bridge, is the closest RV facility to downtown Vancouver. Squamish and the Fraser Valley also provide a good selection of private RV parks and campgrounds.
BC’s Ministry of Forests has hundreds of campsites in BC although there are none within easy reach of Vancouver. The facilities are usually very basic and visitors are expected to pack-in and pack-out but the fees are much lower than the BC Parks campgrounds.
Around 60% of sites run by BC Parks can be booked in advance so some sites are always available on a first come, first served basis. When the weather is good, competition for the spaces can be fierce so arrive at 7 a.m., when the gates open.
* Source: BC Parks