The Great White North, the Land of Maple Syrup, a place where the grizzly bear still reigns supreme — Canada has always had an air of mystery. It’s a place where a person can really get lost in the wilderness if they so choose.
While this fantasy doesn’t exactly jibe with the highly-developed and urbanized areas where most Canadians live (85% of them live within 100 miles of the U.S. border), it is still a country where an intrepid boondocker can choose to leave civilization behind.
Is Boondocking Legal in Canada?
In the United States, there is a plethora of boondocking opportunities
, so it only makes sense that the wide-open spaces of Canada would offer even more. National parks, provincial parks, and cities generally don’t allow it. So, parking overnight on city streets in Canada is a no-no, and many areas outlaw parking in big box store parking lots.
However, much like in the U.S., there’s quite a bit of federally-owned land (referred to as Crown land in Canada) that is largely undeveloped and open to boondocking. These areas are almost always your best option, unless there’s a no-camping sign. These undeveloped sites are not reservable and can be accessed on a first-come, first-serve
As a general rule, the farther you get from the cities (and U.S. border) the more Crown land is available for camping. So get off the main highways, go exploring, and be prepared for self-sufficiency, as you will definitely find some great sites for boondocking in Canada.
Your Guide to the Best Boondocking in Canada
Finding your way is the hardest thing about boondocking in Canada — sometimes you can drive down a rural road for hours without seeing anyone else or any sign for the campsite you’re heading toward. Finding a good boondocking spot by the side of the road is unlikely. You’ll want to know your site beforehand and what you’re going to need while you’re there.
Boondocking Locations in Canada
Here’s our picks for some of the best locations in Canada for boondocking enthusiasts. Peruse this list and see which site piques your interest!
Stella Lake Recreation Site - British Columbia
One of the best things about boondocking in British Columbia is the recreation sites. There are hundreds of these free camping areas spread across the mainland and Vancouver Island, and they’re run by the Ministry of Forests. These should be your go-to campsites when boondocking in Canada. Stella Lake Recreation Area sits on the northeastern end of Vancouver Island and has toilet facilities, picnic tables, and boat launches. It’s about three and a half hours from Victoria and over five from Vancouver, so you won’t be dealing with crowds while boondocking here.
A few sandy beaches dot the lake’s coastline, making it a good spot for swimming, fishing, or kayaking. There are some trails around the lake, but if you’re up for some serious hiking, there’s the 770-kilometer Vancouver Island Trail, that stretches from Victoria to Cape Scott.
More Information: Stella Lake Recreation Area
Athabasca Ranch PLUZ - Alberta
Public Land Use Zones (PLUZs) are some of the most popular places for boondocking in Canada. They’re lacking in amenities, and you’ll need a provincial public lands pass to camp here, but it’s good for all of the other PLUZ’s in Alberta.
Athabasca Ranch sits just outside the very popular Jasper National Park, whose campsites are often booked out months in advance. It offers a picnic shelter and pit toilets, but not much else for amenities.
Jasper National Park offers every outdoor activity you can imagine, from kayaking to wildlife watching to rock climbing. Visit in the shoulder season to avoid crowds and limit your impact on the park.
More Information: Athabasca Ranch PLUZ
Aubrey Falls Provincial Park - Ontario
Ontario is Canada’s most urbanized province and is home to 40 percent of Canada’s population. Nearly the whole population lives in the Toronto metro on the shores of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. Ontario is a massive province though, and Aubrey Falls Provincial Park is a full seven-hour drive from Canada’s largest city.
This remote park is designated as non-operating
, which means there are absolutely no facilities here: no hookups, no water, and no one to pick up the trash. However, there is a bathroom and a picnic area. You can camp along any of the side roads in the park as long as you’re not blocking any pathways.
This park is a photographer’s dream, with splendid waterfalls cascading over exposed sections of Canadian Shield bedrock. Aubrey Lake is perfect for canoeing, with tons of little inlets to explore and fish for trout.
More Information: Aubrey Falls Provincial Park
La Mauricie National Park - Québec
Boondocking inside a national park is almost never free in Canada, but La Mauricie has some excellent sites just outside its borders for those willing to go off-the-grid. The parking lot is less than a kilometer from the Saint Mathieu entrance to the park.
There are no electrical hookups or even drinking water available, but there are porta-potties and trash cans. There’s also a small museum dedicated to Quebec’s indigenous people that’s within walking distance of the lot.
La Mauricie has over 150 lakes to swim and paddle in, along with dozens of hiking trails that range from a ten-minute stroll to an all-day adventure. As with most of Canada’s national parks, the area is developed enough that you don’t need to be a hardcore outdoor enthusiast to enjoy them, with beautiful picnic areas, playgrounds, and nature exhibits to keep the whole family entertained.
More Information: La Mauricie National Park
Bay of Fundy - Nova Scotia
Known for having some of the highest tidal variations in the world (a kilometer or more of seabed becomes exposed at low tide), the Bay of Fundy is one of the most spectacularly beautiful spots to camp while boondocking in Canada.
Raven Head Wilderness is one of the best places to view the spectacular tides, and since it has no amenities to speak of, it doesn't get too crowded. For more amenities, try the paid campground at Valleyview, which has full hookup and no hookup sites available.
Most of the bay’s visitors come to hike and enjoy long walks on the beach. The wilderness is largely undeveloped and has few trails, so coastal walks are your best bet. Additionally, paddling the Bay of Fundy is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for experienced sea kayakers and the beach at Polly’s Flat has an access road that will take you to within 800 feet of the water.
More Information: Raven Head Wilderness Area
Now that you are familiar with the best boondocking in Canada, let’s move on to tips for your next adventure.
5 Tips on RV Boondocking in Canada
Boondocking in Canada isn’t all that different from doing it in the states or anywhere else. The distances are longer and the roads a little bumpier, but these basic boondocking tips should keep you on the right track.
- Be ready for rough roads. The good sites for boondocking in Canada are rarely located next to the highway. Consider the length and ground clearance of your vehicle before venturing into the backcountry.
- Have a contingency plan. Map out backup boondocking sites in case you can’t reach your first choice. Carry plenty of fuel and water — you’re far from civilization. You probably won’t have a bathroom at your campsite, so empty your blackwater tank beforehand. Basically, be prepared for things to not go according to your original plan.
- Be aware of animals. Outside the cities, Canada is truly a wild place with rattlesnakes, bears, cougars, moose, and more roaming freely. Keep your food and other scented items locked inside your RV when you’re not using them and always be on the lookout for animals on the trail.
- Respect the stay limits. Canadian citizens can camp on Crown lands (federal public land) for 21 days at a time, while non-citizens need to purchase a permit. Provincial and municipal lands may have different limits on how long you can stay.
- Clean up after yourself. Due to its vast wildernesses and low population density, Canada is largely pristine. As an ethical boondocker, you want to keep it that way; be prepared to pack everything out - food scraps, human waste, trash.
RV Rental for Canada
Does the idea of being hours from civilization appeal to you? Are you ready to eschew the comforts of paved highways in favor of dusty trails? The backroads of Canada are a great place to explore the wilderness and unplug for a short time. Boondocking in Canada is an amazing experience you won’t want to miss out on!
Are you ready to step out of your comfort zone to go explore the Great White North? Contact Cruise America
and pick up an RV rental