Every summer camping season, outdoor enthusiasts from within the country and around the world plan to spend quality time discovering the lakes, forests, mountains and coastlines of Canada. There’s no better way to discover Canada than by visiting and staying in its magnificent National Parks. From coast to coast, we’re highlighting tips on how and where to enjoy camping in National Parks in Canada.
Tips for camping in National Parks in Canada
Get a Discovery Pass for Canadian National Parks
Canada’s National Parks are very popular, as you might imagine. Reservations are required for most of them as they tend to book up quickly. In order to set up your wild camping tent or RV in a Canadian National Park, you’ll need to get a Parks Canada Discovery Pass. The pass can be shipped to your address for free, or you can pick one up at a park entrance.
The Discovery Pass covers unlimited entry to National Parks, Historic Sites and Marine Conservation areas operated by Parks Canada. The Discovery Pass is valid for 12 months from the date of purchase. Extras that may carry a separate fee, such as camping, tours or parking, are not included in the Pass.
How to make reservations at Canada’s National Parks
Parks Canada’s reservation service uses a staggered reservation dates for campgrounds. This means you may need to try for the front of the queue on more than one day if you’re hoping to snag sites at more than one National Park campground this summer. You can only have up to five campsites at a time in your shopping cart before being forced to check out.
Parks Canada has created a step-by-step guide to help you make a new account (it even includes screenshots). Reservations open mid-January 2024.
Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland
This incredible UNESCO World Heritage Site is a geological wonderland of ancient, uninhabited mountains and fjords. Gros Morne National Park protects thousands of kilometers of unique landscape on Newfoundland’s west coast. The Park has more than 225 drive-in and 8 walk-in campsites in five campgrounds. If you’re into backcountry camping, you’ll just need a Parks Canada permit before setting up camp.
You can choose from dozens of hikes along wild trails and camp by the sea along sandy beaches at the end of the day. If your kids are older and adventurous types, climb Gros Morne. It’s an intense hike that will take you a full day, just make sure you have proper footwar and water for the journey. Create vacation memories and treat your family to a boat tour of the glacially-carved Western Brook Pond Fjord, with views of waterfalls, wildlife and the steep-sided, billion year-old fjord cliffs.
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Wapizagonke Lake, La Mauricie National Park, Quebec
If your family is more seasoned, the canoe-camping options at La Mauricie National Park in the Laurentian Mountains of Quebec may appeal. This park and its campgrounds showcase the rolling hills, lakes, and unique topography of the Canadian Shield and Great Lakes region.
In addition to drive-in campsites, La Mauricie offers reservable canoe-camping for 150 canoe campsites scattered among a dozen lakes in the park. You can bring your own canoe or rent one from Parks Canada. Remember, you will have to pack all of your supplies, gear and food into the canoe and out again. There may be a portage or two as well, but it’s the ultimate camping challenge for adventure-seeking families.
Thousand Islands National Park, Ontario
Looking to really get away from it all? Chart your course to the campgrounds at Thousand Islands National Park. These campsites are only accessible by boat. These scenic islands in the St. Lawrence are carved out of rugged granite and decorated with twisty pines. They make up the iconic, beautiful landscape of eastern Ontario.
If you don’t have your own boat, no problem. Rent a kayak or canoe from a local outfitter and paddle your way to your waterfront campsite. You can also arrange for a boat shuttle/water taxi to get you there in less than ten minutes. The unique ecosystem of this park is a protected part of the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve. Please enjoy your recreation in a sustainable manner that is sensitive to the rich, biodiverse environment.
Banff National Park, Alberta
Getting up close to nature and wildlife will be easy at one of the 13 campgrounds in Banff National Park. You may observe elk walking past your tent as you sip early-morning coffee. Or a black bear may cross your path during a day hike in Canada’s first national park.
As far as camping in National Parks in Canada is concerned, Banff is at the top. How you choose a campsite is up to you, whether you wish to be near hundreds of other campers at Tunnel Mountain Village I, up Icefields Parkway at Mosquito Creek, or testing out one of the 10 oTENTik ‘tent cabins’ at Two Jack Lakeside.
The oTENTik is exclusive to quite a few Parks Canada campgrounds, and they’re all about helping you feel comfortable in the great outdoors.
The oTENTik features an A-frame cabin/tent hybrid, mounted on a raised wooden floor. There are beds for up to 6 people, lighting, electricity, hot showers, indoor heat, an outdoor firepit and BBQ. Camping in Banff opens up unparalleled outdoor recreation opportunities. in the 6,640 km2 of valleys, mountains, glaciers, forests, meadows and rivers. Don’t forget to enjoy a dip in the hot springs as a special, unforgettable treat. Tip: Go at dinner time to avoid congestion and long lines.
Pacific Rim National Park, British Columbia
Looking to camp in British Columbia? Perched on the edge of the Pacific in Tofino, camping at Green Point in Pacific Rim National Park will give you a new understanding of the wild, west coast. The campground has been upgraded, and the wait has been worth it in order to access the beauty and amazing Tofino hiking trails in this rainforested park on the edge of the Pacific.
The campground fronts onto the wide expanse of spectacular Long Beach, and is close to many beautiful Tofino hikes. There’s nothing between you and Japan except for the wild pounding surf of the Pacific Ocean. Click here if you’re looking for more British Columbia camping tips.
Camping tips for new campers
If you’re new to camping and the camping experience, great news! Parks Canada and Mountain Equipment Co-op have partnered to offer Equipped Camping at Green Point campground at Long Beach.
There are five of these reservable, equipped camping walk-in sites. They are fully kitted out and set up with tents, sleeping bags and pads, cooking equipment and a fire pit. This is the perfect way to ease into camping for new campers. This is especially true if you’re not sure whether your family will love it. It also saves you the trouble of buying (and hauling) all of the necessary equipment yourself.
However you choose to explore the outdoors, have fun, be respectful to nature, and be sure to pack out what you pack in.
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Photo Credits: Parks Canada, C. Laroye
Do you have plans for camping in Canada? Share your tips and favorite national park stories.
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