Free camping near Vancouver, British Columbia

Free Camping on Crown land Vancouver
Obviously, I do not accept any responsibility for anybody’s actions. Please be responsible and cautious.

>>> Check out my guide on recommended camping gear <<<

After having spent quite a few dollars on various fees, I decided to explore the possibility of being able to camp for free. Turns out, that in respect to Forest and Range Practices Act, you are allowed to camp anywhere on the Crown Land in Canada (i.e. non-private, urban or a National Park land). Of course, there are plenty of restrictions and regulations, which you will need to study yourself, but, generally, as long as you leave no trace, do not build any permanent structures, do not mess with vegetation and animals and leave in 14 days, there should be no reason to worry.

I should stress that the following information is only useful for tent campers and for those who are willing to forgo amenities.

94% of the land in BC is provincial Crown Land. 2% of it is covered by fresh water; Federal Crown Land make up a further 1% of the province (including First Nations reserves, defense lands and federal harbours), and 5% is privately owned.

There is a strong demand for most free campsites. Although, the further you go away from a city centre the better your chances are for success. Always have a backup plan. Purchase a good map or print a map from the Internet that will show where your campsite is located. If your first choice is filled, just travel on to the next one.

You have 3 options:

1. User-maintained campgrounds.

Camping is free because users upkeep the site. The Ministry of Forests will ensure campers’ safety by removing hazardous object, cut trees, etc. These sites do depend heavily on the work of those who use the site, so their condition may vary from site to site.

2. Managed Without Fees (Forest Recreation Sites with no fees).

These sites, like the private campground sites are managed through partnership agreements. No fees are charged for the services provided because either the volunteers provide the maintenance, or there are no services available.

3. “Random” Crown Land location.

This option involves going into the wild (and ensuring you are not in the National Park), and setting a temporary camp there.

What to be aware of.

  • If there are other people nearby, keep the noise levels down after 11 pm.
  • Before you light a campfire check for campfire bans at BC Wildfire (the fine for disobedience is around $350, and if the wildfire is caused (either intentionally or not), the liability may be up to $1,000,000. (More info here).
  • You need a license for hunting/fishing (how to get a fishing license in British Columbia).

A good directory to look for camping spots (paid and non-paid; search options are modifiable):

TracksAndTrails.ca

Also, if you have not yet, see my Guide on Recommended [affordable] Camping Gear.

#camping on Crown Land#Simple Vancouver#simplevancouver#Vancouver

Comments

  1. Ben Colliers - August 2, 2013 @ 5:40 PM

    I had no idea that you can camp, like, almost anywhere in the wild. To my understanding, it was illegal to set up tents anywhere else than the designated campsites.

    You live, you learn.

  2. Blake - May 28, 2014 @ 8:57 PM

    This is great information; I would also add that one doesn’t even require a 4wd vehicle to access many amazing free sites. Check out the Elaho/Squamish/Ashlu Valleys and the forest service roads alongside Harrison Lake – often very few people around, and within two hours of Vancouver.

    • Simple Vancouver - May 29, 2014 @ 7:20 AM

      Right on! I’ve looked at a lot of decommissioned FSR’s (just from Google Maps for now). A coworker told me they’re always camping along Squamish River, up Squamish Valley Road. I really want to at least try and make it to the top of that road this Summer.

      • Blake - May 30, 2014 @ 9:29 AM

        It’s a great ride; takes a whole day from Vancouver (if you stop often to take in the scenery). But I would instead recommend going up Elaho FSR (off Squamish FSR) to the end – also, one of the biggest Douglas Fir trees is back there (‘Elaho Giant’). If I have a lighter bike this fall, I could show you.

        • Simple Vancouver - May 30, 2014 @ 10:27 AM

          Is that the one? http://overlandjeep.ca/blog/2013/6/3/seeking-the-elaho-giant
          Looks interesting. I’m down for that!

          • Blake - May 30, 2014 @ 11:48 AM

            That’s the one ! I was back on the next valley over the day he filmed this. I’ll see if I can get my hands on a new ride)

        • Katrina - June 26, 2014 @ 12:02 PM

          How far a straight drive from Vancovuer is it? Do you need an off-road vehicle to get to the camping area? I have a small SUV (hyundai) so not sure if do-able?

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