Did the universe send us a symbolic gift of encouragement? We were certain of it when, years ago, we received an Alberta license plate bearing the letters CFA. We recognized it as an acronym: Camp Free Always.
Camping free has long been our creed. We wrote a book about it: Camp Free in B.C. But sometimes camping free-of-charge isn’t feasible, as on our recent drive through British Columbia. It was late. We considered pushing deeper into the night. We knew of a free campground ahead in the foothills. But another long drive the next day was necessary for us to catch the boat on Lake Chelan, in Washington, where we intended to backpack. (We’ll describe that magnificent trail in our next post.) We didn’t want to be exhausted when we began hiking. So we caved to convenience and pulled into Okanagan Lake Provincial Park.
We’re ashamed to admit we spent $30 to pitch our tent there. The campground was meticulously maintained. The endlessly hot shower was soothing. But $30? Too much. Especially given the campground location: immediately below the highway. We couldn’t listen to the water lapping at the lakeshore. We had to wear earplugs to drown out the vehicle noise so we could get the sleep we’d invested in.
The experience reminded us that Camp Free in B.C. is an important, valuable resource. Yes, some provincial-park campgrounds (smaller ones in less desirable locations, with limited facilities and no showers) charge only about $22 per campsite per night. But many campgrounds in B.C. remain free of charge or truly cheap: just $12 per site, per night. And because these are mostly beyond paved roads, they feel wilder than provincial parks and are often much quieter. You want to find them? Pick up a copy of Camp Free in B.C.
Camp Free gives you detailed descriptions of, and complete driving directions to, 350 free-of-charge campgrounds (plus 80 low-fee ones) throughout southern and central British Columbia, including Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast, the Okanagan, the Shuswap Highlands, the Rocky Mountain Trench, the Cariboo Mountains, and the Chilcotin Plateau.
You’ll find Camp Free for sale at all Indigo-Chapters bookstores, and in the book sections at Mountain Equipment Co-op stores. You can also purchase Camp Free directly off our website. Or from Amazon.com.
To jumpstart your free-camping adventures this summer, here are some of our favourite, free-of-charge, B.C. campgrounds. We rate each of these “destination,” meaning they’re worthy of a multi-day stay, not just a utilitarian, overnight stop.
Toquart Bay, page 53, SE of Tofino, on Vancouver Island
Nimpkish Lake, page 72, S of Port McNeil, N end of Vancouver Island (ideal for kite-boarding & windsurfing)
Cal-Cheak, page 122, at the confluence of Callaghan Creek and Cheakamus River, SW of Whistler
Lillooet Lake and Duffey Lake, page 130, in the Coast Mountains, NE of Pemberton
Seton Dam, page 135, W of Lillooet, in the Coast Mountains
Ashnola River, page 168, near Keremeos, close to Cathedral Provicial Park
Harmon Lake, page 183, near Merritt
Wragge Beach, page 272, near New Denver, in the West Kootenay
Little Slocan Lake, page 280, NW of Nelson, near Valhalla Provincial Park, in the West Kootenay
Glacier Creek and Howser Glayco, page 292, N of Kaslo, in the West Kootenay
Mitten Lake, page 306, between Golden and Radium Hot Springs
Quesnel Lake, Crooked Lake (and 30 other free campgrounds in the vicinity), page 433, in the East Cariboo, W of Wells Gray Park
Owen Lake, page 474, SE of Smithers
Beaver River, page 495, NW of Robson Provincial Park