1. Bring Some Friends
Many parks have group campsites. Separate or attached to the other campgrounds these are reservable for bigger groups (in provincial parks, a minimum of 15 people is required; the maximum number of people varies and can be reserved up to a year in advance). If you can get a big group together, these sites are often less busy and more affordable than booking individual sites. Alternatively, consider piggybacking a reservation: most campgrounds allow four or more adults per site.
2. Travel a Little Farther
The longer and harder a site is to reach, the less likely it will be busy. Four hours of travel from major urban centres seems to be the dividing line. Count on two from smaller cities like Kelowna and Prince George.
3. Camp on Weekdays
If you can, camp Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Campsites are far more plentiful mid-week, even in high demand areas.
4. Skip Work
At first come, first serve campgrounds the campsite is yours until you decide to leave (most have a maximum stay but it’s at least a week and up to two). If you can arrive mid-week, the site can be yours for the weekend.
5. Show Up Early
Call ahead to find out the checkout time at first come, first serve campgrounds, including all provincial recreation sites and many of the interior national park sites. If it’s 10:00 a.m., show up by 10:00 a.m. for your best chance at landing a site. Many private campgrounds also hold some sites back for day-of arrivals.
6. September is Still Summer
After the Labour Day weekend, camping traffic slows down. Sites are available even at the busiest sites, especially during the week. And September 7-9, many B.C. campgrounds celebrate Fall Camping Appreciation Weekend with special rates. campingrvbc.com
7. Don’t Despair
During the busiest period of the camping season, the Camping and RVing BC Coalition maintains a list of campgrounds with availability. Find a link at campingrvbc.com. Or just call individual campgrounds. National park staff says they can usually estimate campground availability a couple of days out. Find phone numbers on the park’s and campground’s websites.
8. Beat the Quotas
To camp at Berg Lake at the base of Mount Robson or canoe the Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit means reserving a spot in the fall. During the summer, reservations are full—so your only option is to go stand by. Call a couple of days ahead of time to see if anyone has cancelled or roll the dice and show up and claim a no-show’s space.
9. Go Small
Just about every private campground agrees: the sites most in demand are for the biggest rigs. If you have a smaller RV, tent trailer, van or tent there is often availability.
10. Find a Rec Site
Provincial parks, national parks and private campgrounds are the most well-known, but B.C. is home to hundreds of Forest Recreation Site campgrounds, located on Crown land and spread across the province often in spectacular locations. Most charge, but some are free; the cost of admission is the adventure getting there. Find a list or map of them at sitesandtrailsbc.ca.
11. Go Somewhere New
Recently the B.C. government began the first phase of investing in camping by building 350 new campsites across the province. The new options should relieve some pressure in provincial parks and recreation sites. Find a list at bcparks.ca.