Cover image credits: Daniel Bruce Lacy / Shutterstock.com
With summer in full swing, more and more British Columbians are heading out to camp and enjoy a night or two under the stars. But while BC is full of beautiful campsites, these range widely in the experience they offer. There are a lot of camping areas that get quite busy during the summer months, and many charge a fee for overnight use.
While there is nothing wrong with spending a few dollars in order to enjoy a night in the outdoors, putting in the extra effort to find an out-of-the-way camping area can often be more rewarding. And as a bonus, many of the harder-to-reach sites are free to use. To give you a few ideas of where to find sites like these, here are our Top 15 Free Camping Sites in BC, hand-picked by the BRMB team.
#1 – Apple Point Rec Site
Looking over Brewster Lake (Vancouver Island), the Apple Point Rec Site is a beautiful spot to enjoy this historic location. With only 5 free campsites, it’s certain to be a private getaway with access to a boat launch -those camped there can explore impressive canoe routes. Heading north on Highway 19, from Campbell River, you hang a left on the gravel road of Menzies Mainline, and right to the entrance. The site also features ample room for large trailers.
#2 – Amor Lake Rec Site
Amor Lake is a popular free site for anglers and drive-in campers who are eager enough to endure the rough terrain travelling south along Blackwater Lake Road. There is a rugged boat launch to access the lake which boasts tons of small sandy beaches to explore, enjoy and relax on.
#3 – Augier Lake Rec Site
Sitting on the North tip of Augier Lake, these 9 free campsites make the perfect spot to spend the weekend on an incredibly beautiful beach. The available boat launch allows for fishing and boating, but be prepared as the easy access from Burns Lake in Northern BC makes this a very popular destination.
#4 – Batnuni Lake East Rec Site
Located on an open grassy area and featuring 5 designated free campsites, the Batnuni Lake East Rec Site is a great spot to escape for a quick fishing or canoeing adventure. Take the Blackwater road to about the 155 km mark and turn east of the Batnuni road, there you’ll head up another 70 km to reach the peaceful campsites.
#5 – Begbie Falls Rec Site
Located right at the mouth of Begbie Creek, sits a picturesque set of falls, and ample free campsites. There are also tons of activities to take part in to make the most out of your weekend in this beautiful area including biking, boating, fishing, hiking and horseback riding.
#6 – Big O.K. Lake (Island Lake) Rec Site
The adventure to get to Big OK Lake Rec site will certainly be one for the books.
With high elevation and a cartop boat launch, it is a popular site for fly fishers. The seven available rustic campsites make for a perfect evening of free camping in the backcountry. However, it is a bit of a challenge to get there, as the route via Highland Valley Copper Mine is no longer open, the now recommended access is via Laura Lakes Road and four-wheel drive is recommended.
#7 – Bootjack Lake Rec Site
With beautiful surrounding trees and an incredible lake, the Bootjack Lake Free Rec Sites tends to be quite busy in the summer months. Complete with 9 free campsites, there’s lots of opportunity for campers but get there early because only two campsites are on the lakeside. Just southwest of the town of Likely, carefully cruise the mine access road to reach the free campsites at the rec site at Bootjack Lake.
#8 – Bonanza Lake Rec Sites
Covering a vast amount of area, southeast of Port McNeill, there are two free campsites available, on the north and south ends. The South offers a much better boat launch and hosts 12 sites, while the north features 3 spots and is generally much quieter. The strong winds in the area are a dream for any windsurfing enthusiasts, but it can make a canoeing or kayak trip difficult. The lake is stocked with rainbow trout and is a great place for anyone to enjoy the weekend.
#9 – Davis Lake Provincial Park
Just 19km north of Mission, you’ll find the perfect getaway at Davis Lake Provincial Park. While the site is typically used as a day-use area, you can stay the night at plenty of walk-in camping spots along the lakeside. The park is open year-round, but there is a gate that blocks drive-in access. The distance down to the lake is only about a 1km trek on foot and is well worth the stay for free camping at Davis Lake.
#10 – Gray Lake Rec Site
Along the Sayward Forest Canoe Route, Gray Lake Rec site is newly renovated and offers 7 semi-open sites to spend the night. The campsites all offer perfect access to the lake for swimming, fishing, canoeing, and nearby there are great hiking routes and even the remains of an old railway trestle to explore.
#11 – Elbow Lake Rec Site
Set along with multiple levels of the shore of Elbow Lake, you’ll find 7 free campsites and despite being no boat launch, you can still set your boat to sail from the shore. The impressive views over the Cariboo Mountains and nicely shaded campsites offer a picturesque weekend escape.
#12 – Strathcona Dam Rec Site
The 11 available campsites rest in the shadow of the Strathcona Dam, located along Lower Campbell Lake Reservoir. This perfect location provides great access to a small beach with picnic tables by the lake. It is also known that the surrounding lakes in this area, are well known by many fishermen to be a great place to catch trout.
#13 – Wapta Falls Rec Site
While there are 1-5 campsites available, the two you’ll want to get there for are the ones that look over the impressive Wapta Falls. RV camping is also an option if you have a short RV, but the only access to the site is by a gravel road past the Beaverfoot Lodge. The experience is more than worth the trek to get there though, and you can spend the next day hiking the easily accessed trails to falls, and evenings by the campfire.
#14 – Woods Lake North Rec Site
After following along a gravel road for approximately 18 km, you’ll reach the 17 RV friendly campsites at Woods Lake North Rec Site. For canoeists, boaters and fishermen, there is a boat launch and the great backcountry roads make it an ideal destination for ATVers and off-roading enthusiasts.
#15 – Jigsaw Lake Rec Site
This rustic rec site is accessed via the Brown Bear Forest Service Road, which is drivable by most two-wheel-drive vehicles. There are four campsites here along with a boat launch, allowing for some fine canoeing, boating and fishing on the scenic tree-lined lake.
You can find a comprehensive list of the res sites at sitesandtrailsbc.ca. You will also find many of them in our Mapbooks and GPS Maps, along with all of the parks listed above. Stay safe and have fun, and don’t forget to let us know if we’ve missed your favourite free BC campsite!
*Note that while most rec sites in BC are free of charge – some rec sites may have park hosts that take care of the area and may require that you pay a small fee to camp there. In case this happens, be sure to bring $10 to $15/night just in case.
Here at Backroad Mapbooks, we are also very excited to announce the new release of BRMBmaps.com. Loaded with tens of thousands of Adventure Points of Interest (POI’s), hundreds of thousands of kilometres of trails, paddling routes, and ATV/Snowmobile trails in addition to rec sites and fishing locations, BRMBmaps.com is your one-stop Outdoor Adventure trip planning tool!