The Top 10 FREE Camping Spots in Ontario

A new year is quickly approaching, which means Ontarians are gearing up to start planning their outdoor adventures and vacations for the year! We know that camping is included in many spring and summer plans, but with paid campsites heavily booked in advance, it is getting harder than ever to find that perfect campsite. 

Thankfully, there are plenty of out-of-the-way free camping spots all over the province. As an added bonus, many of the more secluded spots see few visitors and, resting on Crown land, these wilderness sites are free spots to camp if you can locate them. Below, we have put together a list of 10 free campsites to enjoy in the new year!

1. Island Lake and Barrens Conservation Reserve – Rainbow Country –
Cottage Country Ontario Backroad Mapbook Map 85/G5 

This non-operating park is a great place for some canoe/kayak access and unmaintained camping that is free of charge. There are a few tough portages so this should be considered a somewhat difficult area to explore, but this also means you are highly unlikely to run into any other campers here. Located between Parry Sound and Sundridge, this area feels much more remote than it is, and is easily accessed from the major cities of southern Ontario.

Map courtesy of BRMB Web Map

2. North Yorston Conservation Reserve – North Bay District –
Northeastern Ontario Backroad Mapbook Map 31/E7 

This expansive reserve is 13,323 hectares in size with plenty of backcountry camping opportunities scattered throughout it. This stunning area can be accessed from the west branch of Portelance Road where it leads into the Sturgeon River Provincial Park. Other ways into this area include canoe or floatplane. Popular activities here are backcountry hiking and canoeing, and backcountry campsites can be found on many of the trails, portage routes and along the edge of the lakes.

Map courtesy of Northeastern Ontario Backroad Mapbook

3. Lake Temagami – Ontario’s Near North –
Northeastern Ontario Backroad Mapbook Map 23/A2

Located just east of Highway 11, this world-renowned wilderness area is home to ancient cedar trees and a variety of animal species, making for some exciting free camping. Indigenous peoples have been canoeing, camping, hunting and fishing here for countless generations, and a fierce battle to protect Lake Temagami has been waged by environmentalists since the 1970s. After visiting, it will be easy to see why – Temagami’s beauty is unparalleled. Further to the east, off the Wilson Lake Road and near the shore of North Milne Lake, there is an old scout camp that also provides free camping. There are still some old structures, a boat ramp and fire rings here.

Temagami Region

4. McCrae Lake Conservation Reserve – Muskoka –
Cottage Country Ontario Backroad Mapbook Map 34/E2

This crown land area in the Muskoka District offers just about any type of outdoor recreation you can think of – hiking, free camping, canoeing, fishing, hunting, various winter activities and more. Conveniently located next to Highway 400, this reserve offers endless opportunities to get away from the crowds and find your own private outdoor paradise where turtles, beavers and rabbits will be your only neighbours. While there are hike-in campsites available, many of the more secluded and scenic sites are water-access only. There are two quick and relatively easy portages located on the lake.

McCrae Lake

5. Aubrey Falls Provincial Park – Algoma County –
Northeastern Ontario Backroad Mapbook Map 17/E3

These multi-tiered falls are some of the biggest in the Lake Huron watershed. Their isolated location, about 80 km (50 mi) north of Lake Huron, means that you will probably have this free, unmaintained camping spot all to yourself. The drive to the falls along Highway 129 is very scenic as well, winding through the rugged Canadian Shield Landscape, but be sure to fill up on gas before heading out as there are no amenities along this pleasant but isolated backroad.

Aubrey Falls

6. Torrance Barrens Dark Sky Preserve – Muskoka – 
Cottage Country Ontario Backroad Mapbook Map 35/E2

Designated as a Conservation Reserve in 1997, this reserve was quickly identified as one of the best places to view the night sky in Ontario. The hard granite surface of the barrens make this an ideal place to set up a telescope or a camera and, although it is far enough away from urban light sources to offer stunning views of distant galaxies, it is easily accessed via District Road 13 off Highway 11. There are no designated campsites in the Preserve but limited free camping is permitted.

Torrance Barrens Northern Lights

7. Echo River Hardwoods Conservation Reserve – Sault Ste. Marie District –
Northeastern Ontario Backroad Mapbook Map 16/E7 

Known for its vast scenery and landscape, this conservation reserve has opportunities for rock climbing, backcountry hiking, snowshoeing, paddling, nature photography, and backcountry camping. Access to this area can be difficult, but Mink Creek Road approaches from the south, and Onion Lake Road allows access to the northern part of the reserve. There are also several ATV and snowmobile trails that lead into the reserve. Backcountry campsites are located at various locations, and a tent can be pitched practically anywhere throughout the area. 

Map courtesy of Northeastern Ontario Backroad Mapbook

8. Phillip Edward Island – Rainbow Country – 
Northeastern Ontario Backroad Mapbook Map 4/D2-F2

While the entire 50 km (30 mi) paddle around Phillip Edward Island will take four to five days, exploring the stunning area around the island’s southwest shoreline makes for a perfect weekend getaway. Philip Edward Island is currently on Crown land, meaning you can camp on the island for free. Head out in a canoe or kayak and pick from one of the many campsites, then relax, swim, fish and enjoy the famous sunsets, or explore the surrounding smaller islands. But be warned, you may just not want to leave this Georgian Bay paradise. 

Phillip Edward Island

9. Noganosh Lake Provincial Park – Rainbow Country – 
Cottage Country Ontario Backroad Mapbook Map 85/D5

You can find free, unmaintained camping spots all over this non-operating park, and the deeper you explore, the more secluded you will be. Canoeing and kayaking are the main attractions here, but fishing is excellent as well. Moose and snapping turtles are a couple of species that wildlife viewers can look out for, and a beautiful swimming hole is never too far away. Ess Narrow Landing is a popular put-in for paddlers exploring the area.

Map courtesy of BRMB Web Map

10. Hammell Lake Conservation Reserve – Red Lake District –
Northwestern Ontario Backroad Mapbook Map 61/F3 

Accessed from a maze of roads and then a hike, ATV, or snowmobile to the lakeshore, this conservation reserve has plenty of breathtaking backcountry camping opportunities. The tough access means you will usually have your choice of backcountry camping near this stunning lake. Hammell Lake also provides great angling opportunities for lake trout, walleye and northern pike. Access to this area is from Mount Jamie Mine Road, and then a 3.5 km (2 mi) hike along a well-worn trail.

As many of these locations are out-of-the-way, be sure to pack emergency supplies and to let a trusted third party know where you are going and when you expect to be back. Of course, you don’t want to leave home without one of our Ontario Backroad Mapbooks, GPS Maps or our new BRMB Web Map & Smartphone App on hand as well!

Stay safe and have fun, and don’t forget to comment below if we’ve missed one of your favourite Ontario camping spots!