Canada has some of the most beautiful wilderness in the world. Below are a handful of some favourites that make superb camping destinations.
Waterton Lakes National Park
Location: Southwest Alberta
Waterton Lakes National Park boast three designations:
- Unesco World Heritage Site, awarded because of its distinctive climate, mountain-prairie topography and wide variety of plants and wildlife, some not found elsewhere in North America.
- International Peace Park, on account of its unguarded border with Glacier National Park in the U.S.
- Biosphere Reserve, on account of it’s distinctive ecosystem. This distinctive mountain and lake park, shaped by glacial ice and floods, provides a range of activities for the outdoor lover. Some say the main highlight are the Waterton Lakes chain, over 100 kilometres of rivers and streams, wetlands, and about 80 lakes and ponds, one of which (Upper Waterton Lake) is the deepest lake in the Canadian Rockies. Others say that what is visually stunning is where the wilderness meets manmade structures, specifically the magical vista of the historic Prince of Wales Hotel rising up from the lake’s shore.
Stay at the Townsite Campground, which has a range of amenities, although campsites abound so you can take your pick. Wildlife like mule deer and bighorn sheep, grizzly bears, cougars, wolves, and coyotes call this park home. In the mountains, on the lake, in the valleys— the scenery is legendary. You’ll find photographers, birdwatchers and botanists flocking to the park as well as camping enthusiasts, hikers, wind surfers and fishermen. Numerous adventure companies offer fun activities such as horseback riding, water activities, or even hiking guides and shuttles. if you prefer a little less adventure, indulge in a picturesque picnic, a moonlit lake cruise, or some quiet contemplation by the beautiful Cameron Falls.
Grasslands National Park
Location: Southern Saskatchewan
Grasslands National Park is located in the World Wildlife Fund-defined ‘northern short grasslands ecoregion’, which spans much of southern Saskatchewan, southern Alberta, and the northern Great Plains states in the USA.
What’s fascinating about Grasslands National Park is that it’s one of the few places in Canada where the prairie resembles its original form. Among the wildlife you will spot here are ferrets, burrowing owls, black-tailed prairie dogs, and pronghorn antelope—which are the fastest land mammal in North America—as well as great herds of Plains bison. Don’t be surprised to find dinosaur fossils either, both land and sea dwellers, as this prairie was once an inland sea. There are over 50 species of wildflowers found here and many more types of prairie grasses. For the star gazer aficionado, in 2009 the park became a Dark Sky Preserve, encompassing 729 square kilometres (almost 300 square miles) ensuring that the park remains dark at night to preserve a natural environment for the numerous nocturnal wildlife.
The park’s only campground, the Frenchman River Valley Campground, is located close to trails that take you to the favourite hangout of the bison herds, but you also have the option to go backcountry camping—boondocking—in the Park.
Thousand Islands National Park
Location: Southern Ontario
Thousand Islands National Park was established in 1904, and consists of about 1800 islands—12 of which have campsites—ranging from about 50 square miles to the size of a camper.
The Park is popular with boaters and paddlers, and has no end of outdoor activities for the whole family, from having fun on the water all day long to racing in go-karts, having a ball at the mini-links, or visiting zoos and aquariums focused on the local marine and forest life. Most islands have docks, trails, shelters, and camping facilities, while some even boast the new Otentiks, which are a cross between a tent and a cabin.
In the spring, visitors can will enjoy the sweet aroma of maple sugar shacks while closer to fall, visitors have countless opportunities to indulge in freshly made local cider.
Summer in the park is the most popular season for scuba divers, kayakers, hikers and swimmers of all levels. Attractions include the historic Fort Henry, which was garrisoned until 1870, and the enchanting Boldt Castle, which was built by millionaire hotel magnate George C. Boldt as a tribute to his beloved wife Louise. During the scenic boat tours, as short as one hour or as long as five, visitors will see dozens of islands, fairytale castles, lighthouses, island mansions, a diverse range of sea and land wildlife, and hear true tales of pirates, bootleggers and the Gilded Age rich-and-famous who all spent time here.
The Ivy Lea campground is located in the heart of the majestic Thousand Islands and at the foot of the towering Thousand Islands Bridge, a jewel in the St. Lawrence Parks system. It offers 146 campsites and 4 Camper Cabins.
Fundy National Park
Location: New Brunswick
Fundy National Park enjoys the world’s highest tides, boasts magnificent forests, breathtakingly rugged coastlines, stunning waterfalls and, for those who like to do it in style, deluxe campgrounds. The biggest attraction are the tides as visitors come specifically to explore the ocean floor at low tide. There are 25 hiking trails throughout the park, and the Caribou Plains trail and boardwalk provide access to upland forest and bog habitats. Park amenities also include a golf course and a heated saltwater swimming pool.
A wide range of camping experiences are available, from backcountry to RV hookups. We have no hesitation recommending staying in one, or all, of the eight backcountry campsites, which is a more challenging way to explore Fundy National Park’s beauty but well worth it. The back country sites are located at Goose River, Marven Lake, Tracey Lake or Chambers Lake. However, for those who hate sleeping in a tent, you’ll be glad to know this is one of the few parks that offer yurt accommodations, a modernized version of the traditional nomadic dwelling with insulated walls and roof, and a propane stove. Some might even call it glamping!
Ruckle Provincial Park
Location: Salt Spring Island, British Columbia
Salt Spring Island is a must-see for nature lovers. It is nestled within the Southern Gulf Islands and protected by BC’s Coastal Mountains and Vancouver Island. It is roughly 27 km (17 miles) long and 14 km (9 miles) wide, and takes approximately 45 minutes to drive from top to bottom. Camping on Salt Spring Island is attractive because it is home to a laid back charm, thriving seaside villages, and a vibrant farm-to-table way of life.
Salt Spring Island in its entirety is practically a nature reserve. There are six dedicated reserves that are home to many endangered species, including the red-legged frog, the western painted turtle, the sharp-tailed snake (harmless and very small!). The Salt Spring Island Conservancy is an active organization that manages the nature reserves, and the Island also boasts a Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre that rescues and rehabilitates all wildlife – anything from baby squirrels to owls to seals! Visitors will also find deer everywhere on the island, which may be why you rarely see tulips in gardens as they are a favorite snack. But don’t stay on land; boating and watersports allow visitors to see a close-up profusion of anemones, sponges, nudibranchs, octopus, sea stars and giant barnacles. On shore, birdwatchers can spot cormorants, grebes, guillemots, eagles, grouse and quail, among others,
Ruckle Provincial Park on Salt Spring Island encompasses 486 hectares of land in the southeast of Salt Spring Island and is situated along seven kilometers of shoreline. The park has eight vehicle access campsites (with no plug-ins) and 78 walk-in sites, three group campsites as well as picnic tables. There are about 10,000 permanent residents on Salt Spring Island, but this number doubles with the influx of visitors in the summer.
What are your favourite camping sites in Canada? Leave your comments below or join the discussion on our Facebook page!