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Tips for Finding Incredible Free Camping Spots in Canada

This post was updated on April 25th, 2024

Free Camping Spots in Canada Are Abundant if You Know Where To Look

Are you planning your next RV adventure and looking for free camping spots in Canada? Look no further! While it takes a bit of research beforehand, finding incredible free camping spots across Canada can be easier than you think. In this blog post, we’ll provide useful tips and resources to help make the search much simpler. Let’s dive into discovering the best locations for an unforgettable RV trip!

What Is Free Camping or Wild Camping?

In the US, free camping is most commonly referred to as boondocking. In Canada, free camping is often called wild camping. Wild camping, dry camping, or freedom camping are all names for staying overnight in your RV for free.

Wild camping can range anywhere from staying overnight in a parking lot to a private lakeside camping spot. Free camping locations often have no facilities but can sometimes offer incredible views and solitude for RVers that are lucky enough to discover the location. Some free camping locations do have fire rings, picnic tables, or possibly an outhouse for campers to use.

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Free camping spots in Canada could look like this photo of snowy mountains and sun reflecting off of a lake.
Abraham Lake – Photo Credit: Ric Matkowski on unsplash.com

Canada has strictly enforced laws about where you can park your RV or camp overnight. In most places, you can’t just pull over and stay the night anywhere you want. RV overnight parking must be in a designated area that allows free camping.

Canada does offer plenty of locations where it is both legal and free to park your RV overnight or even stay for longer periods of time. Just make sure the place you decide to park allows it. No camper wants to get woken up in the middle of the night with a police officer knocking on your RV door!

When Is the Best Season for Free Camping in Canada?

Many of the best free camping locations throughout Canada are extremely popular among RVers. During the summer months, the top areas can be crowded, and hard to find a spot. If you are looking to camp during the summer, consider trying for more remote camping locations so you can snag a space.

The best time for wild or free camping in Canada is during the camping shoulder season. The spring shoulder season is May through June as campers pull their RVs out of storage and get ready to hit the road.

The spring season can still be a bit cool and also muddy from the spring thaw. There can also be a large number of biting insects. Crowds are low in the spring, and you can usually find a prime free campsite.

The fall shoulder camping season is also a great time to score prime free campsites. Closing down the camping season with an RV trip in September through mid-October can often mean solitude and a great camping spot. Be prepared for chilly nights and a possible early-season snowfall during your fall trip.

Many free campsites in Canada are closed during the winter season due to snow and ice. Sometimes signs will indicate the closure or a gate blocking off the camping area. Campsites that remain open may have closed facilities like dump stations.

Open camping areas in the winter could have deep mud or snowy roads that could cause you to get stuck. If you are interested in the warmest part of Canada to stay during the shoulder season or in the winter, check out free camping in British Columbia for your RV trip.

Best Resources To Find Free Canada Camping

Woman and girl roasting marshmallows in RV campsite while enjoying free camping in Canada.
Photo Credit: Scott and Van Russell at The Adventure Detour

So now that we know a little more about Canada’s wild camping, let’s dive into the best ways to find locations for free camping. There are websites, apps, and books that can help you find and navigate camping for free in Canada.

Best Apps

Campendium is a free app that is helpful for finding camping locations in both the US and Canada. Once in the app, zoom in on the area that you wish to find camping for. Then drag the price slider or set the price filter to “Free” to show only free campsites in your search.

WikiCamps Canada is an inexpensive app filled with user-generated camping information that includes campground locations, free camping sites, locations to get water, and sewer dumping spots. This app also works offline, which can be a huge benefit when staying in remote locations. The app currently costs $1.99.

The iOverlander app is another great free resource for finding camping locations, free camping, reviews, and other resources. This app is also mainly user-generated content and can be especially great for searching RV-related services such as repair facilities, dumping stations, water filling locations, and propane.

One of the most powerful tools available to RVers is RV LIFE Trip Wizard, an online trip planner that helps you map out your route and find campgrounds along the way. And when used in conjunction with the RV Life RV App, you Get RV Safe GPS routing right on your phone or tablet! Together, these features make a valuable resource for planning your RV route across Canada, finding places to stay, and other RV services while ensuring safe and stress-free navigation on your journey.

Helpful Books

I know what you are thinking when I mentioned buying a book to find free camping! But in the rural areas of Canada, this book suggestion is invaluable both to help navigate the roads and find free camping locations.

The Backroad Mapbooks are a must-have for RVers looking to really dive into the free rural camping opportunities that Canada has to offer. There is a book published for each Canadian Province, and each contains detailed recreation maps for camping, hiking, and ATVs. These books will help you to locate free Crown Land camping spots (read on to learn more about this) and find your way down logging roads.

Websites

Check out each Canadian Province to find their individual land use map to aid your search for finding free legal Canada camping locations. In British Columbia, visit the Recreation Sites And Trails BC website to find this information. This website and interactive map make it simple to find free camping locations. Some of the other provinces have a bit more digging around required to find the information.

Another great website to find free camping is freecampsites.net. This free user-generated website lists free camping locations with reviews to help you find that hidden gem that will work for your RV trip.

Places in Canada Where You Can Stay in Your RV for Free

Free camping spots in Canada could mean RV camping in the woods on a lake.
Photo Credit: Gantas Vaičiulėnas on Pexels.com

From legal overnight parking lots for RVs to incredible wilderness RV camping, you can find it all for free in Canada if you know where to look. Always check signage to make sure there aren’t any restrictions to staying overnight.

Rest Areas

Most rest areas in Canada allow you to stay overnight in your RV. It can be noisy with trucks coming and going all night, but there is a bathroom on-site, and it can be an overnight parking option.

Truck stops are another overnight parking lot area you can rest and stay. Sometimes truck stops can be full at night. If you can find a spot, it can be very noisy with trucks running all night. Truck stops sometimes have additional facilities that can be helpful for an overnight RV visit, such as laundry, showers, gas, and food options.

Some visitor information centers also offer free overnight RV parking. These facilities, where tourists stop for brochures, can also be a great place to stay. Always ask first before staying the night at one of these locations.

Business Parking Lots

Some private businesses allow RVers to overnight in their parking lots. This can vary widely, so always look for signs and consider asking the business manager for permission to avoid any issues with staying there. Typical businesses that allow RVs to stay are Walmart stores, some restaurants, casinos, and grocery stores like Save On Food or Real Canadian Superstores.

There is some etiquette to staying for free in your RV in a parking lot. Only stay one night, as this type of parking is only considered overnight parking. Don’t set up things outside. This isn’t the place to set up tents, grills, chairs, or to create a full campsite. Also, always park in the very back of the parking lot so customers can still easily access the store.

Crown Land

Crown Land is Canadian Monarch government-owned land that is allowed for public recreational use. This land would be similar to BLM land in the US, which is available for free camping. Almost 90 percent of land in Canada is Crown Land, but most of it is not accessible by vehicles, which makes it not usable land for RV campers.

Crown Land is free for Canadian citizens to use for camping for up to 21 days at each location per calendar year. Non-Canadian citizens will need to purchase a permit to stay on Crown Land. The permit cost varies per province, and the cost can be found on each province’s website.

To find Crown Land that you can use for RV camping, check the province’s website where you wish to stay. Most provinces have a map of the territory that shows Crown Land. An example of this is Ontario’s Crown Land Use Policy Atlas. You can also pick up the Backroads Mapbook for the province to help you find Crown Land and useful navigation tips.

Most Canadian National Parks, Provincial Parks, and Territorial Parks that have vehicle-accessible camping have fees for the campsites. Some have free tent camping that you can hike to, but not free RV camping.

Municipal Facility Parking Areas

Many municipal buildings in Canada allow RVs to park overnight in their parking lots. It is also best to check for signs and to ask for permission to make sure it is okay to park for free overnight. Examples of Canadian municipal buildings are skating rinks, swimming pools, and community center buildings.

Are Free Camping Sites in Canada Going Away?

Some incredible free camping locations in Canada have closed in recent years. The land has been abused by campers who have left trash and caused other damage to the area. This is a sad fact that is also happening to some public lands in the US.

It is up to every camper to minimize the impact on the environment and to clean up places you stay. Leave it better than you found it is still a good rule of thumb for campers today and will help keep free camping sites open for others to enjoy both now and in the future!

With a bit of planning and research, you can find some incredible free camping spots in Canada. By following the tips in this blog post, you will be able to find places to camp that are off the beaten path and will provide you with an unforgettable experience. Or even just free overnight RV parking to save money on your trip. So what are you waiting for? Start planning your next RV trip to Canada today!

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