5 Boondocking Locations and Free Campsites in Canada (2023)

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 basis.

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

5 Boondocking Locations and Free Campsites in Canada (1)
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.

(Video) Secret Free Camping Spots in Alberta Canada


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.

Nearby Activities: 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.

(Video) The Art of Boondocking in Canada Ontario RV

Nearby Activities: 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.

Nearby Activities: 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

(Video) How to Find Free Camping on Crown Land in Ontario


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.

Nearby Activities: 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.

(Video) 20 Best Free Camping Spots in USA

Nearby Activities: 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

5 Boondocking Locations and Free Campsites in Canada (2)
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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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

5 Boondocking Locations and Free Campsites in Canada (3)
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 today!

(Video) How to Find Free Campsites!

FAQs

Where can you Boondock in Canada? ›

Simply put, the best place for free camping in Canada is British Columbia. This province is home to a network of mostly free Recreational Sites with rustic camping facilities. These 'Rec Sites' are located by water features (lakes, rivers, waterfalls etc) and are usually accessed via unpaved logging roads.

Does Canada allow Boondocking? ›

Wild camping, also known as boondocking, and standing free with a motorhome are partly allowed in Canada. In cities, provincial and national parks, it is strictly prohibited. However, on public land, it is permitted with a few restrictions. Wild camping is always allowed in Canada if it is not prohibited.

Where are the best Boondocking sites? ›

8 Best Boondocking Destinations in the United States
  • Roads Around Canyonlands National Park – Near Moab, Utah. ...
  • Buffalo Gap National Grassland – Near Wall, South Dakota. ...
  • Cook's Chasm – Near Yachats, Oregon. ...
  • Blankenship Bridge – Near Columbia Falls, Montana. ...
  • BLM Land South of Joshua Tree National Park – California.

Where can I park my RV for free in Canada? ›

Free RV camping can be found at:

Recreation Sites. Rest areas and Truck Stops. Parking lots at shopping malls or supermarkets (unless otherwise posted)

Can you Boondock at Walmart in Canada? ›

Does Walmart have overnight parking? Walmart stores in Canada also allow overnight parking in most circumstances. Similar to stores in the U.S., some allow overnight parking and some do not. It's best to call the store or ask in person.

Does Walmart Canada allow RV parking overnight? ›

Note that it is prohibited to spend the night in a shopping centre parking lot in Canada. The exception to this rule is Walmart, which permits RV parking on its store lots where possible.

Can I sleep in my car in Canada? ›

Is it Illegal to Sleep in your Car in Canada? There is no federal law that prohibits sleeping in your car. Yet in some provinces, territories, and municipalities, getting some shut-eye in your car is illegal depending where you are parked.

How do you survive a Canadian winter in an RV? ›

Here are some ways that you can modify and improve your RV to make it easier to bear Canadian winters.
  1. Add More Insulation. While your RV likely came with some form of insulation, it may not be sufficient for the coldest nights. ...
  2. Add Extra Sources of Heat. ...
  3. Reduce Condensation. ...
  4. Protect Your Water System.

Do I need 4x4 for Boondocking? ›

Deciding whether you need four-wheel drive for boondocking depends on how far away from other people you want to camp. To get into the more remote areas, you will definitely need a four-wheel drive vehicle. But if you don't mind boondocking closer to the highway, you'll never need four-wheel drive.

Where can I shower while Boondocking? ›

Campgrounds. Campgrounds operated by a government agency (county, state, BLM, USFS, ACOE, etc.) all operate developed campgrounds, and many of these have shower facilities. Look for campgrounds that do not have manned entry gates, so that you can drive in freely and use their shower facilities.

Does Cabela's allow Boondocking? ›

Cabela's RV Parking Etiquette

The ethos behind boondocking, whether in nature or in a Cabela's RV parking lot, is to “leave no trace”. Campers should always leave campsites just as they found them – which means the proper disposal of waste. Here are some guidelines to follow when overnight parking at Cabela's.

How long can you last Boondocking? ›

You know where to go and what to do, but how long can you boondock in an RV? Some national forests and BLM areas allow boondockers to stay up to 14 days. Others will place a limit to typically under a week. Designated campsites and parking lots will likely have stricter guidelines about how long you can stay.

Are there free campgrounds in Canada? ›

Free camping in Canada is known as boondocking, dry camping or wild camping, and can be found all over Canada. Don't let high fees and crowded campgrounds keep you from going on a backcountry camping adventure; free camping in Canada is totally possible and it will boost your budget.

Can you Boondock on Crown land in Canada? ›

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.

Can you sleep in an RV while driving Canada? ›

It's illegal to sleep, walk around or even be inside an RV like a travel trailer, fifth wheel or any kind of pull-behind campers while it's moving. However, you can sit inside a Class A, B, and C motorhome that has seat belts, and you can legally use some of the facilities inside while driving.

Can I sleep in my truck at Walmart? ›

Generally, yes, you can sleep in your car at Walmart. Walmart does not have a corporate-wide policy of allowing people to sleep in their car in their parking lots. It's up to each store manager to decide. Most Walmart store managers tend to not issue a policy on the matter, preferring not to do anything about it.

How many batteries do I need to Boondock? ›

Perhaps 50% of full time RV boondockers have two 12 volt batteries or two 6 volt batteries to power their DC accessories and appliances. This usually provides between 200 to 240 amp hours of power, which is plenty run just about anything within a 24 hour period with the exception of air conditioning units.

Can you lay away clothes at Walmart? ›

To initiate a Layaway, simply bring the item to the stores designated Layaway counter. There's no opening fee required for a Layaway. All you need to do is make a small down-payment of $10, or 10%, whichever is greater. Individual items must cost $10 or more.

Can you sleep in an RV anywhere? ›

It is totally legal to sleep in your RV on a neighborhood street in many cities and towns across the US. The key to doing it successfully and legally is to do your research, be respectful, and never stay if it doesn't feel right!

Is Boondocking safe? ›

Rest Assured Boondocking IS Safe!

Boondocking actually increases your safety by isolating you from places where crimes take place. Even things like fighting and vandalism are more common in a heavily traveled RV park because criminals don't like the risks associated with RVs in the middle of nowhere.

Can you sleep in your car in a Walmart parking lot? ›

It is illegal to sleep in a Walmart parking lot without permission. There is no national law against sleeping in your car. That said, there are laws against trespassing. Therefore, sleeping in your car in a parking lot where you are trespassing is illegal.

Can I drive after 8 hours sleep in Canada? ›

A driver can drive for 13 consecutive hours following 8 consecutive hours off-duty. Can the driver also drive for 13 consecutive hours following 8 hours off-duty taken in 2 sleeper berth periods that have been separated by driving? No.

Can you sleep in Canadian Tire parking lot? ›

Some Walmart and Canadian Tire locations offer free overnight parking for one night. It's not ideal, but it's a last-minute option that saves money while on your way to the final destination.

Will I freeze if I sleep in my car? ›

Yes, you can freeze sleeping in a car. Your vehicle is made of metal and glass. These will do practically nothing to keep your body heat inside on a cold night. Remember, hypothermia can occur between 30 and 50°F with prolonged exposure, especially if you get wet.

How cold is too cold for RV living? ›

Temperatures between -19ºF and -25ºF (-28 Celsius to -31 Celsius) are just a bit too cold for RV living.

How cold is too cold for motorhome? ›

There's nothing wrong with camping in the winter with your RV, but some temperatures are just extremely too cold. When the temperature outside reaches the teens or below 0°, you should consider storing your recreational vehicle in an enclosed environment.

Can I leave TV on RV in winter? ›

An LCD TV should not be stored in temperatures below minus 20 degrees F. LCD displays use liquid crystal fluid in the display. Like all other fluids, the liquid crystal fluid can freeze in cold conditions.

What is the 2 2 2 rule for RV? ›

The RVing 2/2/2 rule is a safe and effective way to plan your travel. It means drive no more than 200 miles a day, stop every 2 hours, and stay 2 nights in each place. Some RVers also put an appendix on the rule encouraging drivers to arrive at an overnight destination by 2:00 p.m.

What is the 3 3 3 RV rule? ›

By adhering to this simple rule of thumb, you can make traveling easier for your whole family. What is this? First, limit your travel to no more than 300 miles in one day. Second, arrive no later than 3 p.m. Finally, stay at your destination for at least three days.

Can you run AC while Boondocking? ›

Yes. With enough solar power and lithium batteries, you could run an air conditioner for a while. While possible, this is still not a practical solution. The solar and battery system you would need to do this would be much larger than your average off-grid boondocking setup.

Can you dump GREY water while Boondocking? ›

To simplify without getting into the specific rules for each of the federal lands and each BLM subdivision, it's legal to dump RV gray water on the ground when dispersed camping on BLM lands as long as you're in the “Public Lands” subdivision.

Can you go to a hotel just to shower? ›

It's no secret that hotels have showers in each room, but you'll need to book one to use it. You may find some hotels that offer day rates, which are considerably cheaper than staying overnight. However, this will be one of the more expensive options because you're getting much more than just a shower.

How do you wash clothes when Boondocking? ›

Use Two 5-Gallon Buckets

It's very common to do laundry while boondocking this way. You fill one bucket with about 2 gallons of water along with your favorite laundry detergent. Then you fill the second bucket with about 2 gallons of clean water. You will also need a toilet bowl plunger.

Does Lowes Boondocking? ›

Yes. At many Lowe's locations around the United States, you are allowed to park your RV overnight in order to get some sleep before continuing on the road. This is not always going to be the case though, so don't assume that any and every Lowe's will host you for the night.

Can you sleep in your RV in a Walmart parking lot? ›

Consequently, we do permit RV parking on our store parking lots as we are able. Permission to park is extended by individual store managers, based on availability of parking space and local laws. Please contact management in each store to ensure accommodations before parking your RV.

Can you boondock at Bass Pro Shop? ›

Most Wal-Marts, Cabelas, and Bass Pro Shops allow overnight RV parking, but not all of them! Make sure you know if your desired location is RV friendly or not.

How many gallons of water does the Boondocking use? ›

Try to keep at least one gallon of fresh, clean drinking water for each person, each day, while boondocking. Keep in mind that you can offset this recommendation by bringing other beverages like soda, juice, or even fresh fruit.

What do you do while Boondocking? ›

You can boondock in many different ways, like staying overnight in a business parking lot or camping on public lands. Most of the time when campers talk about boondocking, they're referring to camping in national forests or on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land.

Is Boondocking legal in Ontario? ›

Ontario Crown land

Canadian citizens and people who have lived in Canada for at least seven months of the preceding 12-months may camp for free up to 21 days, on any one site in a calendar year. This ensures camping spots are available to others and serves to reduce environmental impact.

Where can I park my RV for free in Ontario? ›

If you're car camping, a vanlifer, or an RVer, then rest stops and truck stops usually allow you to go boondocking or stay the night for free. The same goes for Walmart parking lots, some big supermarkets like Real Canadian Superstore, and visitor information centers, which sometimes offer overnight parking.

How long can you camp in a national park Canada? ›

Maximum stay – 14 nights. Camping is only permitted in a designated campground and site.

Can you Boondock in Land Between the Lakes? ›

Basic and Dispersed Permits:

You may camp almost anywhere in Land Between the Lakes. A Basic Camping Permit is required for each person 18 and over when camping in Basic Camping Facilities. A Dispersed Camping Permit is required when camping in non-designated areas of the recreation area.

How long can you squat on crown land in Canada? ›

10 years for private land. 60 years for crown land.

How long can you stay on crown land in Canada? ›

Any person may camp on Crown land for up to 14 consecutive calendar days. For the purposes of calculating 14 consecutive days, a period of consecutive days is cumulative unless the person and their vehicle and equipment, as the case may be, are not present on the site for a period of at least 72 consecutive hours.

Can you use bathroom while driving RV? ›

The good news is that you can use the RV bathroom while the vehicle is in motion. Because the electrical systems are in action while the car is on the road, you can use the bathroom and flush with the water pump as normal.

Can you run the TV while driving RV? ›

Most RVs come equipped with a crank up TV antenna that cannot be used going down the road. You need to ask the RV rental agency which type of antenna the RV you are renting has and also ask them to show you how to properly use it.

Can you Boondock in BC? ›

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.

Can you Boondock in Banff National Park? ›

Is it illegal to park overnight in Banff National Park? Yes. We wrote an entire blog post about the rules of boondocking, free camping, and dry camping in the Canadian Rockies. The short answer is: Parks Canada only allows RVs and tents in designated campgrounds.

Where in Ontario can I camp for free? ›

The Top 10 FREE Camping Spots in Ontario
  • Island Lake and Barrens Conservation Reserve – Rainbow Country – ...
  • North Yorston Conservation Reserve – North Bay District – ...
  • Lake Temagami – Ontario's Near North – ...
  • McCrae Lake Conservation Reserve – Muskoka – ...
  • Aubrey Falls Provincial Park – Algoma County –
16 Nov 2021

How much water do you need to boondock? ›

Try to keep at least one gallon of fresh, clean drinking water for each person, each day, while boondocking. Keep in mind that you can offset this recommendation by bringing other beverages like soda, juice, or even fresh fruit.

How much does a boondock cost? ›

Values
Suggested List PriceAverage Retail
Base Price$16,724$13,600
Options (Add)
Total Price$16,724$13,600
2 more rows

What is the difference between Boondocking and dispersed camping? ›

Since boondocking involves camping in an area without any utilities, it is always free. However, dispersed camping can involve staying in national forest campgrounds with limited faculties and low costs.

What is the 28 day camping rule? ›

At present, farmers and landowners can operate a campsite on their land for 28 days every year without applying for planning permission.

Can you boondock full time? ›

The cheapest way you can live full time boondocking is to find BLM land where you can remain camped for up to a month. This lowers your fuel cost in having to move camp. However, most BLM field offices and state offices will limit you to 14 days.

Where can I camp for free in British Columbia? ›

No-Fee Camping Across BC
  • #1 – Apple Point Rec Site. ...
  • #2 – Amor Lake Rec Site. ...
  • #3 – Augier Lake Rec Site. ...
  • #4 – Batnuni Lake East Rec Site. ...
  • #5 – Begbie Falls Rec Site. ...
  • #6 – Big O.K. ...
  • #7 – Bootjack Lake Rec Site. ...
  • #8 – Bonanza Lake Rec Sites.
29 Jul 2020

Can I sleep in my car in Banff National Park? ›

You can do so in a campground; no tent needed. Just keep in mind that Banff NP requires you to keep a bare campsite, so any food, water, BBQs, etc must be secured in the car even if you are sleeping in it too. This is to prevent attracting bears.

How much does a campsite in Banff cost? ›

One Night
*Two Jack Main Equipped Campsites$74.75
*Lake Louise - Electrical$34.50
*Lake Louise - Overflow$11.50
*Johnston Canyon - Unserviced with washroom building having toilets and showers$29.25
*Castle Mountain - Unserviced with washroom building having toilets only$23.00
11 more rows

Can you sleep in your car in Jasper? ›

Camping is allowed in designated campgrounds only. Camping - including sleeping in a vehicle - in roadside pullouts, trailheads, and day-use areas is not allowed. See the locations of campgrounds in Jasper National Park here.

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