Camping for free in Vancouver isn’t as easy as pitching your tent wherever you feel like it. You have to work for these free camping sites! Most of the free options are limited to backcountry or wilderness camping. So, you’re going to have to poop in the woods.
If that’s no problem (and let’s face it, pooping in the woods is sometimes better than going in an over-used outhouse), then check out some of the free camping options in and around Vancouver. Be prepared and don’t get lost/die!
Mount Seymour Camping
Pack-out what you pack-in is the motto for free wilderness camping in Vancouver. You’ll be able to pitch a tent anywhere North of Brockton Point up Mount Seymour. Specific sites are not designated but you should select a tent in an open space to avoid causing any environmental damage. Open fires are not permitted in the backcountry, lest you start a raging forest fire. The best camping spots are nearby Elsay Lake, which is a difficult hike that starts from the main parking lot. (more info)
Cypress Mountain Camping
Wilderness, backcountry or walk-in camping is allowed at higher elevations beyond the Alpine and Nordic ski areas and along the Howe Sound Crest Trail, but no facilities are provided. There are three preferred sites along the Howe Sound Crest trail:
- Magnesia Meadows (14.5 km from Cypress Mountain Resort );
- Brunswick Lake (19 km from Cypress Mountain Resort);
- Deeks Lake (22 km from Cypress Mountain Resort).
Tent pads or sites are not provided and campfires are not permitted. Backcountry winter camping (1 km beyond Alpine and Nordic ski areas) is allowed. No facilities are provided. (more info)
Indian Arm Camping
For this option of free camping in Vancouver, you’re going to need to splurge a bit on a sea kayak or canoe. Either you can rent one in Deep Cove (around $100 for overnight), or if you have a way to carry them on a car, you can rent them from MEC for a much more decent price (around $45 per day).
One of the best places to go is Granite Falls, which has an awesome waterfall that you can swim in and a nice beach. Camping is only allowed on the South of the waterfall. This place is pretty popular with day-trippers, but can clear out in the middle of the week or later at night. It takes around 3-6 hours to kayak there. Here’s a great map of other camping locations around Indian Arm.
Random Mountain Camping
Pitch a tent wherever you want after the crowds have left the top of your favourite hiking location. Whether its Crown Mountain, the Chief, Coliseum Mountain, or whatever your heart desires, the act of pitching a tent on a familiar mountain to check out the sunset or sunrise is something special. Hang around until the crowd has dispersed, pop up a small tent, and the place will likely be yours for the night. If you’re feeling extra brave, don’t even bring a tent. Just sleep out under the stars and try to ignore the bugs. #RogueCamping
BC Crown Land Camping
When you’re on crown land (area belonging to the monarch) this is considered public and you are able to camp wherever you want. There is no official list of all the crown land in Vancouver, but if there is no “Private” or “No Trespassing” signs where you are, there is a good chance you are on crown land. Make sure you are not in a National Park, and you should be fine to camp wherever you see fit. This kind of camping comes with responsibility. Always practice no-trace camping and respect others around you (including wildlife). 94% of BC is Crown Land, check out this map highlighting areas of private vs. public land.
Other great resources:
- Guide to free camping on crown land in Vancouver
- Guide to free camping on the Gulf Islands
- Directory of camping sites
** REMINDER: This information is a privilege. Practice no-trace camping. Always be prepared. Don’t mess things up for everybody. Don’t leave garbage where you camp. Don’t burn down the forest. Be safe, not a statistic!