Free camping near Vancouver, British Columbia
Obviously, I do not accept any responsibility for anybody’s actions. Please be responsible and cautious.
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):
Also, if you have not yet, see my Guide on Recommended [affordable] Camping Gear.