If you’re planning an adventure across Canada on a budget, or maybe you just want to avoid the crowds at campsites, then you have landed in the right place my friend. The ultimate free camping secret coming your way!
Guys…this is the best discovery we made whilst travelling through Canada and saved us literally hundreds of dollars.
I’m so stoked to share it with you because it is just that good.
At an average of $30 a night, campsites can add up, especially when you’d rather be spending your budget on gas, food and all that jazz. I mean, Canada is humungous, why do I need to pay to park up/camp on a tiny piece of it with a bunch of other people like sardines in a can? I don’t want to cross any boundaries or destroy any habitats or land – but I want to get out into the real Canada and be at one with nature! This is exactly how I was thinking when planning our trip.
The good news is, there’s totally another way – and its 100% free and legal! YEAH BABY!
Drum roll, please….
REC SITES (aka recreational sites)
You’re welcome. 🤝
Okay, let me tell you about it 😆 Discovering rec sites literally changed everything. I can’t believe more people don’t know about them! Eron is Canadian, grew up in Canada, cycled across the whole bloody country and still only found out about them this year!
Basically, all across Canada, there are free campsites in the form of rec sites. These sites are usually beside a beautiful lake or a river surrounded by forest and mountains, they are completely free to camp at and have toilets and campfire pits for your use.
FOR FREE. FREEEEEEEE!!!!!
Ok, I’d say they’re a tad more rustic in the sense that the toilet is normally a drop toilet and there are no other facilities such as showers, electric hookups or water taps etc, but I can hand on my heart say that the Rec sites we stayed at are some of the most beautiful places I have ever been. I’d even go as far as saying that the experience of staying in some of them beat my experience of seeing famous places such as Moraine Lake. Now that’s saying something.
Tell me more about this miracle…
▵ Rustic camping experience in jaw-dropping-beautiful locations
▵ Often next to a lake to bathe in or a mountain river (maybe even fresh enough to drink)
▵ Will need a car to access them. Usually a little (to a fair way) down a bumpy road. But you can easily get there with an RV, van, even a car that can take a bit of dust and bumps.
▵ They range in size, some only enough space for 1, some we reckon could fit 15
▵ Usually with a drop toilet/outhouse and a picnic table
▵ Completely bloody FREE!!!!!
That sounds freakin’ amazing, how do I find these magical Rec sites?!
I’m glad you asked Geoffrey. I’m glad you asked.
The easiest method we found was through an app called Maps.Me (Not sponsored, this app is just our #LIFE when we are travelling and has saved our butts so much) This app allows you to download the country/area/state or wherever you are, and then use it offline the same way you could use a map when online.
The Maps.me app has a feature that allows you to search for something, in this case, ‘rec sites’, and then select the option that says ‘show on map’. Voila! There you have a bunch of dots all over the map showing you all the rec sites available and how to get there. And there are a lot of rec sites.
(↑ more appear as you zoom in!)
Another way to find them is through the Recreational Sites & Trails BC website, but this isn’t so convenient when you don’t have any phone signal.
In addition, a lot of visitor centres will have a map with all the rec sites on them, although again, not as convenient and not as easy to locate as on Maps.Me. Plus the app has more on there than the local maps do!
‘Good to knows’
Unfortunately, if you’re in a Provincial or National Park, you normally have to pay for campsites. When we road tripped from Banff to Jasper along the Icefields Parkway this was the case – however – if you can sleep in your vehicle and don’t have to rely on a tent set-up (and you know where to look), you can easily find a sneaky free spot to stay for the night that is completely out of sight – but you didn’t hear that from me! 😏
(Think woodland pullouts on the highway and quiet back end residential streets in towns 😉 shhh!) Message me for more deets I gotchu.
Back to Rec sites…
Honestly, though, I think the Rec sites we stayed at completely beat our experience of the well known touristic stops. They provided the camping experience of my dreams! With no one there but us, the most beautiful untouched nature, fresh mountain rivers and lakes to bathe in and brush our teeth at – what more could you want. *sigh*
REMEMBER TO LEAVE NO TRACE AND BRING ALL YOUR TRASH WITH YOU – but you knew that didn’t ya!
If you have any more questions about this don’t hesitate to leave a comment, send me an email or DM either myself or Eron on insta. I hope this has helped you to save some pennies and have a rad, authentic and wild adventure!