Where to Camp for Free in BC

By | November 2, 2022

There are many incredible places to explore across British Columbia. If you’re on a road trip, you might be looking for a place to rest your eyes or your wallet. If you’re interested in saving a bit of money on your next camping trip, here are some tips on where and how to camp for free in BC. 

Apply for a Discount with BC Parks 

There are three groups who are eligible for discounts or fee exemptions with BC Parks: 

  1. Children enrolled in the At Home Program. 
  2. Adults receiving the Persons with Disabilities benefit from either the BC Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction or Indigenous Services Canada. 
  3. Seniors 65 years old or older who are BC residents. 

The first two groups are eligible to a single campsite.  You can view the full instructions on how to apply here. 

Seniors are eligible for a discount from the day after Labour Day until June 14. BC residents over the age of 65 can apply the discount when they reserve online. They will either pay the winter camping fee or half-price of the summer camping fee, whichever is less. 

If you don’t qualify for any of these discounts, BC Parks is still affordable. Campsites range from $12 to $35 per night. The more expensive the site, the more facilities the campground has. Choose the more rustic campsites for lower fees. 

Camping for Free at BC Recreational Sites 

Recreational sites are free campgrounds, often with limited facilities. Most campsites have a fire pit and picnic table, but there is no electricity or potable water. There is also usually a pit toilet. These campgrounds vary from a single campsite to 20-30 designated campsites and are almost all first-come, first-served.  

Note: Many of the recreational sites are accessed via logging or mining roads. These are gravel and often very rough.  

You can find a map of recreation sites in BC here. 

Municipalities Offer Free or Low-Cost Camping 

You may be able to stop overnight in a municipality. Most places have time limits of how long you can park an RV on the street (usually 24 to 48 hours). Some businesses with large parking lots may allow overnight parking – you should pay attention to any signs prohibiting overnight parking and seek permission if it’s private property. 

Some municipalities have campgrounds that offer free or low-cost camping: 

  • 100 Mile House Municipal Campground – first-come, first-served campground for $15 per night. Open seasonally.  
  • Cougar Creek Campground – 60 campsites on the shores of Tlupana Inlet. Great fishing and has a boat launch, fish cleaning facilities, dock, garbage pickup and pit toilets. It is $12 per night ($6 per night for seniors).  
  • District of Mackenzie Municipal Park & Campground – 40 campsites with a free sani-dump, wifi, shower and washroom facilities, and firewood. Tourists may stay up to 2 nights free. Register at the Public Works office on your arrival. Otherwise, an unserviced site is $17.85 per night. 
  •  Gold River Municipal Campground – located 5 kilometers from Gold River, this campground has 20 unserviced sites and an overflow camping area. There are pit toilets, a boat launch and each site has a picnic table and fire pit. It’s open year-round and camping fees are $12 per night. 
  • Morfee Lake Campground – 16 non-serviced treed sites. There are pit toilets and potable water. You may stay up to 2 nights for free. Register at the Public Works office. Otherwise, an unserviced site is $10.50 per night. 
  • Muchalaht Lake Campground – 40 sites located on a lake. There are picnic tables, pit toilets, a boat launch, dock and beach. It’s a good lake for fishing, swimming and water sports. It costs $12 per night May through September.  
  • White Swan Park – Located in the village of Fraser Lake, this campground is free with a 2 night stay maximum.  

Not all municipal campgrounds are free or even cheap – many desirable destinations charge more than BC Parks for a campsite!

Staying for Free in BC’s Rest Areas 

While you can’t “camp” in BC’s rest areas, you are able to stop for a few hours and get some rest. Overnight parking is allowed, but you won’t be able to set up camp – unhooking your trailer, putting slides out or otherwise establishing a campsite outside of your RV won’t be tolerated. However, you’re allowed to park and rest for up to 8 hours.  

There are over 200 rest areas in the province. Most are equipped with garbage cans, picnic tables and toilets (facilities vary from pit toilets to flush toilets). Not all are open year-round or accessible for larger vehicles. This map indicates the location of provincially operated rest-stops; the red icons on the map are not suitable for large rigs. 

There are also visitor information centres, truck stops and community or business-operated rest stops. Some may allow for overnight parking or at least allow you to rest for a few hours before continuing.  

Note: Never use brake check or pullout areas as a place to stop – these are for commercial vehicles. 

No matter where you end up staying, we hope you enjoy your camping trip in BC!