The top 25 campsites in Canada
Park yourself at one of these prime destinations for the perfect summer escape
1. Pacific Rim
National Park, B.C.
Green Point Campground
The main draw: Long Beach is the ultimate Pacific experience—22 kilometres of sand with a horizon that disappears into the ocean. Green Point marks the lone campground along its length. The campsites here sit on a ledge above the beach, close enough to the ocean that the sound of surf lulls campers to sleep. A short path descends to the sand. Most of the 113 sites are drive-in but there are 18 walk-in spots that are somewhat secluded.
Things to do: Start by exploring the beach. Walk or run in either direction and scan the flotsam for beach booty. Of course, you can also go for a swim, but be aware that the water is about 10°C. If you’re into surfing, there are almost always waves at Long Beach, but if you’re looking for more serious action, or lessons, you can head 20 minutes north to the town of Tofino. Grey whales spend the summer in the waters just offshore, and one of the best places to see them is at the Amphitrite Lighthouse in the town of Uclulelet, about 20 minutes south of the campground.
Nugget: You can turn a one-way stroll along the beach into a loop by catching the Tofino Bus (tofinobus.com) back to the campground.
More info: Parks Canada
2. Alice Lake Provincial Park, B.C.
The main draw: What this small park lacks in size it makes up for in location, sitting just north of Squamish—“Canada’s Outdoor Recreation Capital.” Campground paths link into the area’s world-class mountain-biking network. Nearby hiking is steep but spectacular with mountain-to-ocean views. And of course there’s the rock climbing that put Squamish on the map. When you get tired—and you will—hop in Alice Lake for a refreshing dip and then relax on the sandy beach.
Things to do: A good warm-up to Squamish mountain biking is Wonderland, a three-kilometre roller-coaster ride starting just outside the campground. Link it with Brackendale trails and Cheshire Cat and White Rabbit for an intermediate loop. Forgo hiking in the park itself for better trails a short drive away: the hike to the three summits of the Stawamus Chief, the trek to the alpine meadows on the way to Elfin Shelter, and the stiff but rewarding climb to Garibaldi Lake in Garibaldi Provincial Park. Get a feel for the local granite at the one-pitch-rich Smoke Bluffs climbing area before getting high on a Squamish multi-pitch classic, such as Snake or Diedre.
Nugget: Don’t miss Squamish’s Howe Sound Brewing (howesound.com), where you can sample seven local ales with a woodfire pizza.
More info: BC Parks
Lake of the Woods Campground
The main draw: It takes a day of hiking to get to this campground at the centre of Cathedral Provincial Park, in the Cascade Mountains west of B.C.’s Okanagan, but the park’s interior is worth it: a subalpine plateau of fish-filled lakes, unique geology, alpine meadows and, most importantly, plenty of hikeable summits and ridges. Day hikes project like spokes on a wheel from the campground, which sits on a turquoise lake across from impressive granite walls.
Things to do: The best hike is the Cathedral Rim Trail, a highline loop along a series of ridges topping out at over 2,500 metres. The route passes some of the park’s best-known geologic formations, including Smokey the Bear, the Devil’s Woodpile and Stone City. The Lake-view Mountain Trail leads to the park’s high point and provides extensive views—on a clear day you can see Mount Rainier’s bulk, 300 kilometres away. Four of the park’s lakes were stocked with trout in the 1930s. Cast for trophy rainbows in Ladyslipper and cutthroats in Lake of the Woods.
Nugget: If you don’t feel like hiking in, you can arrange to hitch a ride to the centre of the park on a shuttle operated by Cathedral Lake Lodge (cathedrallakes.ca).
More info: BC Parks
4. Mount Robson
Provincial Park, B.C.
Berg Lake Campground
The main draw: When you first see 3,954-metre Mount Robson from the highway about 25 kilometres away, it’s obvious that the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies is also one of the most spectacular, with its immense bulk rising nearly 3,000 metres above you. And there’s no better place to admire its grandeur than at the Berg Lake Campground, which sits at the northern base of the peak, about a day’s hike from the highway. As its name suggests, the campground is located beside a small lake that actually contains mini icebergs that have broken off from a glacier on the mountain above.
Things to do: The Berg Lake area has several world-class hikes. If you need a recovery day after the 20-kilometre trek in, hike the Mumm Basin route for an eye-popping overview of Robson’s glaciated flanks for relatively little effort. The Snowbird Pass hike is an ambitious 22-kilometre round trip that runs along moraines, through alpine meadows and past the stunning Robson Glacier. The pass itself peers down on the vast Reef Icefield, which looks as if it was transported from Antarctica.
Nugget: Save time on the hike in and out by taking a mountain bike, which is allowed on the first seven kilometres of the Berg Lake Trail.
More info: BC Parks