Want to vacation close to Vancouver this year? Why not go camping in an RV and explore the region’s best parks while having fun and keeping safe!
Because of COVID-19, 2021 isn’t a year for overseas travel, at least not for a while! Who wants to fly long distances on a plane crammed with strangers?
Who though still wants a vacation, and to spend the summer making positive memories with friends and family? What better way for Vancouverites to do that than right here in British Columbia! The Lower Mainland has dozens of great places to camp and this article is going to tell you about them!
CAMPING AND COVID-19
Between April 23rd and May 25th, 2021, people in British Columbia must avoid all non-essential travel. This includes travel within the province between different health authority regions. If you don’t live in BC, please visit after this period. If you are a resident of BC, stay close to home, at least until the COVID situation improves!
Also because of COVID-19, in 2021 residents of BC have priority when making reservations at provincial campgrounds. Non-residents of British Columbia can only make reservations after July 7th. To learn more about how the pandemic is affecting provincial campgrounds, see the bcparks.ca website.
Vancouver Staycation Campgrounds
The Lower Mainland is home to some of the province’s most beautiful parks, and some of the world’s most spectacular scenery. It’s also home to a number of amazing campgrounds. Dozens of world-class destinations are within just a few hours’ drive!
By going camping this summer you can spend your holidays outdoors, in nature, where it’s safe and the air is clean. By staying in an RV, you also have your own space. And by vacationing close to home, you’re supporting local businesses and the local economy.
More than ever, BC’s tourism industry is relying on people staycationing close to home! So do your part to help, and have a world-class holiday in nature while you’re at it!
This article contains information about the following topics:
Provincial, Private & Backcountry Camping | Alice Lake | Chilliwack Lake | Cultus Lake | Golden Ears | Kilby Park | Nairn Falls | Paradise Valley | Porteau Cove | Rolley Lake | Sasquatch Lake | Stawamus Chief | Camping Tips | Other Info
Click any of the above to jump to a specific subject, or continue reading to learn all about the Lower Mainland’s top camping destinations and opportunities.
Camping in the Lower Mainland
Vancouver and its surrounding areas are famous for their parks and nature. With the warm weather finally here, and non-essential travel once again permitted, now is a great time to explore some of the Lower Mainland’s best camping venues. Whether folk are tenting or RV’ing, there is a place for everyone!
Folk wanting to get out and enjoy the great outdoors can choose to camp at either provincial campgrounds or private campgrounds in BC. And while basing yourself at one place, you can explore close by or the greater surrounding region.
Provincial, Private and Backcountry Campsites
In BC there are both provincial campgrounds and private ones, as well as backcountry sites. There are also national parks, although none in the Lower Mainland itself.
Provincial campsites are sites that are owned by the Government of British Columbia. They are usually quite exceptional and can get very busy, especially during the summer months. Provincial park campsites are also usually quite affordable. Consequently, due to their popularity, it is recommended to reserve your spot several months in advance.
Most provincial campgrounds close to Vancouver have flush toilets and hot showers. Some though are more rustic, as are many in BC’s interior.
Private campgrounds are owned by individuals or companies. They generally have different rules from provincial sites, and rules may vary, so we recommend checking official websites for exact details. Most private campgrounds are great. Some though are exceptional and others are just okay.
BC’s wilderness also offers some excellent opportunities for both back and front-country camping. For folk wanting a bit more adventure, backcountry camping is a great option. BC Parks requires folk to have a backcountry camping permit as well as practice “leave no trace” camping.
Below is a list of some of our favourite locations for camping in and around the Lower Mainland.
Note: The only two provincial parks in the following list that have electrical hookups, to our knowledge, are Alice Lake and Porteau Cove. BC Parks do not offer water hookups. All the places we list, however, are suitable for both tenting and recreational vehicles (although just smaller RVs at Stawamus Chief). Paradise Valley Campground, the one private campground in our list, has both power and water hookups available.
Alice Lake (in the Sea to Sky Region)
Alice Lake Provincial Park can be found just north of Squamish which is about an hour’s drive north of Vancouver. The place has 96 vehicle-accessible campsites of varying sizes plus 12 walk-in sites that are close to the parking lot. Alice Lake also has RV electrical hookups and the campground is wheelchair-accessible.
Facilities at Alice Lake include day-use picnic areas, showers, pit and flush toilets, a sani-station and a playground. We’ve been here several times and love it! It’s highly recommended!
To learn more, see our article about Alice Lake.
CAMPING & RV TRIVIA
Did you know that you can rent motorhomes, truck campers and van conversions? That’s right, you don’t have to necessarily own one, or know someone you can borrow one from. There are a number of places you can rent them. Fraserway RV, for example, is Canada’s largest sales and rental RV company. We’ve been camping in one of their vehicles and loved it!
Fraserway RV has been operating for over 50 years. They are family-owned and have locations across Canada. In the Lower Mainland Fraserway RV operates a rental division in Delta and Abbotsford. They also have a massive dealership in Abbotsford just off Highway #1 at Mt. Lehman. Check out fraserway.com to learn more about the company and their offers.
Chilliwack Lake (in the Fraser Valley)
The campground at Chilliwack Lake Provincial Park features 146 sites plus options for backcountry camping at Lindeman, Greendrop, Flora and Radium Lakes. Facilities at Chilliwack Lake itself include a small boat launch, sandy beach, pit toilets and a sani-station. In the front-country, campfires are permitted in designated fire rings.
We haven’t camped here ourselves, but have checked out the area and found it beautiful! The lake is apparently colder than Cultus Lake, which is about 45 minutes away, and its facilities slightly more basic.
The park has pit toilets, including wheelchair-accessible ones, but no flush toilets. There is, however, a sani-station for RVs in the summer. There are also no showers, hot or cold, but there are taps with drinking water.
Chilliwack Lake Park has a nice sandy beach with a boat launch, but no formal picnic area with picnic tables for day use. The park has 146 campsites which, as of the summer of 2020, cost about $22 per night.
For more details see the BC Parks website.
Cultus Lake (in the Fraser Valley)
There are four campgrounds in the park for folk to reserve sites at: Clear Creek with about 84 sites, Delta Grove with 58 sites, Entrance Bay with 52 and Maple Bay with 106, plus other options for group camping. Maple Bay also has 25 cabins for rent.
All sites in this provincial park are vehicle-accessible, while some (but not all) are also wheelchair-accessible. Campfires are permitted in campground areas only.
Facilities in the park include picnic areas, both pit and flush toilets, hot showers and a sani-station. There are also two boat launches, and plenty of opportunities for water sports. The campgrounds are also close to Cultus Lake Waterslides and the Cultus Lake Adventure Park, which make it a great destination for families.
We’ve camped at this park a number of times and have loved both our campsites and the area. All four of the provincial campgrounds are exceptional. Some are right by the water, and others are on the other side of the main road, but still not far from the lake. A couple of the campgrounds are on a bit of a hill (and so not wheelchair-friendly), and the others are on more level ground.
To learn more, see our article about Cultus Lake.
Golden Ears (near Maple Ridge)
Golden Ears is the closest provincial park with camping facilities to Vancouver. Located just north of Maple Ridge, Golden Ears Park has three separate vehicle-accessible campgrounds. Gold Creek has 148 sites, Alouette Lake has 206 and the North Beach campground has 55 sites (not including backcountry camping).
Within the park there are opportunities for water sports, with a large paved boat launch located at Alouette Lake. Facilities at the campsites include day-use picnic areas, showers (at Alouette and Gold Creek), pit and flush toilets, and a sani-station. Campfires are permitted in the designated metal rings.
Kilby Park (in the Fraser Valley)
Kilby Park is a provincial park that’s located about a 20-minute drive from Harrison Hot Springs. The campground there has about three dozen campsites and it’s managed by the Kilby Historic Site which is an interesting tourist attraction and former farm just down the road.
The park is small, at only around 7.5 acres in size, but it’s very pretty. Located right on the Harrison River, it has a large sandy beach and a boat launch. The campground has pit toilets and potable water (except in the winter), but no showers. It’s also open year-round.
To learn more see our article about Kilby Provincial Park.
Nairn Falls (Pemberton/Whistler)
Nairn Falls is a small but beautiful campground in Pemberton. The provincial park features 94 vehicle-accessible sites. It is also equipped with a small picnic area and pit toilets. Campfires are allowed in designated fire rings.
We’ve stayed at Nairn Falls twice and thoroughly enjoyed it both times. The campground is excellent and the location makes a great base for exploring the Whistler region as well as nearby attractions like Joffre Lakes (which is a stunning provincial park about 33 km to the east).
To learn more about the campground see our article about Nairn Falls Provincial Park.
Paradise Valley (in the Sea to Sky Region)
Paradise Valley is a privately-owned family-friendly campground located just outside Squamish at 3520 Paradise Valley Road. The place has a policy against amplified music so it is perfect for relaxing and enjoying the great outdoors (unless you happen to be someone who likes playing loud music while camping).
At Paradise Valley there are both RV and tenting sites. The RV sites have hookups for power, drinking water and septic. The place also has bathrooms and coin-operated showers.
See our article about Paradise Valley for more details.
CAMPING, RVs AND VISITING FAMILY
Haven’t seen friends or relatives who live out of town for a while? Why not meet them halfway at a park and spend a few days together in the outdoors?
Or, do the grandparents or other relatives have a big enough driveway or lawn that you can park your RV on? If you want to visit, but still want to maintain physical distancing, why not visit loved ones and take your own accommodations with you?
Porteau Cove (in the Sea to Sky Region)
Porteau Cove is a popular campground located about 25 km north of West Vancouver’s Horseshoe Bay and 21 km south of Squamish. It’s about a 10-minute drive south of Britannia Beach (where the Britannia Mine Museum is located). The park is very popular for diving and features 2 paved boat launches.
The campground at Porteau Cove has cabins/huts for rent as well as places for RV electrical hookup. Facilities here include picnic areas, a sani-station, pit and flush toilets, showers, and bathrooms with electricity. There are 44 vehicle-accessible sites plus 16 walk-in sites.
Porteau Cove is arguably one of the Lower Mainland’s most beautiful campgrounds given that it’s beside the ocean and some of its campsites are right by the water. The views of Howe Sound are stunning. The beach though is rocky. If it was sandy, the place would be almost perfect!
On the downside, the park is right by the highway and, when we stayed there years ago, a train rolled by in the middle of the night. Except for the trains, the campground isn’t much noisier than most. If you stay in an RV, however, it will be quieter than a tent.
For more details about his place see our article about Porteau Cove Provincial Park.
Rolley Lake (near Mission)
Facilities at this campground include pit and flush toilets, a sani-station, showers and picnic areas. Campfires are permitted in designated metal rings. Rolley Lake also features a nice sandy beach. Non-motorized water sports permitted on the lake.
To learn more about this provincial park see our article about Rolley Lake.
CAMPING AND COVID-19
Health experts say that being outdoors is generally far safer than spending time indoors in public spaces. Spending time outside, especially in nature, is also important for one’s health and mental well-being.
Most campgrounds in BC provide campers with lots of opportunity for physical distancing. We went camping the other day, in a tent, and it was wonderful! And if you go in an RV, it’s even better as you don’t even have to use the public washrooms if you don’t want to! And what a great bonus that is, especially in the middle of the night!
Camping, especially in an RV, is the perfect way to travel and enjoy your vacations in today’s COVID-19 world. And where better to go camping than in British Columbia which, as of the early summer of 2020, is recognized as one of the best places on the continent with respect to managing the coronavirus pandemic!
Sasquatch Park (near Harrison Hot Springs)
Sasquatch Provincial Park is located just minutes from Harrison Hot Springs. The park features 3 campgrounds: Hicks Lake with 72 reservable sites, Lakeside Campground with 42 campsites and Bench Campground with 64. There is also one group site at Hicks Lake.
The park features several boat launches, with paved launches at Hicks Lake and Green Point and a gravel one at Deer Lake. Water sports on Harrison Lake are unrestricted while no motors are permitted on Trout Lake. Small motors up to 10hp are allowed on Hicks Lake and only electric ones are permitted on Deer Lake.
Campfires are permitted in designated fire rings in the campsites. Facilities at the campgrounds include picnic areas, pit and flush toilets, and a sani-station. Only 2 vehicles are permitted per site.
To learn more see our article about Sasquatch Provincial Park.
Stawamus Chief (in the Sea to Sky Region)
Located in Squamish, about 45 minutes north of West Vancouver, Stawamus Chief is a provincial park that’s famous for its hiking and rock-climbing opportunities. Not so well-known, the park also features 52 vehicle-accessible campsites, plus another 57 walk-in sites.
The campground has pit toilets and a picnic area, so no flush toilets or hot showers. The venue does though provide easy access to both the Squamish Chief and Shannon Falls hikes.
Campsites at this park are only available on a first-come, first-served basis. Unlike most other Lower Mainland provincial parks, you can’t reserve sites here in advance. Also, the sites are small and not suitable for large RVs. Regular-sized truck-style campers though are generally okay.
Whereas most other provincial parks charge by the site, at Stawamus Chief they charge by the person. As of the summer of 2020, the cost was $10 per person over the age of 6. This means that it is less expensive than most other places if there are only one or two people in your party. If there are four or more, then it is more expensive. Payment is by cash.
For more information see our article about Stawamus Chief Provincial Park.
Camping Tips and Tricks
Below are some tips and tricks to help you make the most out of your camping experience.
Tips About Reservations
- Having a reservation is the only way to know you will get a spot for sure. It’s always recommended to make a reservation in advance so you aren’t disappointed.
- Private campgrounds generally don’t book up as fast as provincial campgrounds (unless they are exceptionally good ones). As a result, if you want to stay at a provincial site, book as early as you can. And if you find them all full, consider staying at a private one as they may still have space.
- If staying in an RV, especially a really big one, make sure you book a campsite that will be big enough and that you can fit into.
Tips About Campfires
- Check the fire restrictions before you leave. Often during the summer months campsites and areas restrict (or even ban) campfires.
- If there is a fire ban, consider taking a portable “artificial” propane campfire with you. When real fires aren’t permitted, artificial gas-powered ones are usually still allowed (although not always). If permitted, and it’s a good quality gas fire, having one of these can help make evenings extra special.
What to Look For
- Within campgrounds there are good sites and not so good ones. Most are good, but some will be located closer to the road (and so noisier). Others might be closer to the river, lake or ocean (and so prettier). The earlier you book, the better your choice of sites.
- Some people like sites that are close to the washrooms and tap water, because of the convenience. Other campers try to be far away to avoid the noise of people and, sometimes with pit toilets, the smell. What’s a perfect site for some people will be different for others.
- Some campgrounds, especially privately-owned ones, have strict rules, including ones about when you can make noise, when you can’t, and whether you are allowed to play music. Depending on whether you like to make noise or prefer peace and quiet, rules like these can be either terrible or wonderful. Choose your campground accordingly.
Other Things to Consider
- Tarps are an essential piece of camping equipment if you are staying in a tent. The weather can change fast so it’s best to be prepared. Not only can they keep you dry, they help keep dust and other dirt off your gear.
- If backcountry camping, or planning to do some serious exploring from wherever you decide to stay, always be prepared! If heading out into the wilderness, even if along marked trails, make sure someone knows where you’re going and take good footwear, some food, water, a First Aid kit and extra clothes. Be safe!
- In addition to dealerships in Abbotsford and Delta, Fraserway RV has locations where you can rent campers in Whitehorse, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto and Halifax. Consequently, if you don’t want to drive right across the country, you can fly to another destination, pick up your rental RV, and then start exploring a totally different part of Canada. One-way rentals are also available for some destinations.
Other articles that may be of interest include the following:
- 12 Reasons to go Camping in a Recreational Vehicle
- Vancouver Parks and Nature
- Outdoor Recreation
- Vancouver Summer Activities
- Lower Mainland Festivals & Events
- Metro Vancouver’s Top 100 Places
- The A to Z’s of Vancouver