Camping in Vancouver & the Lower Mainland
We’re used to being close to nature here in Vancouver. Sandy beaches. Forests. The Fraser River and its many creeks and tributaries. Plenty of parks. And of course those North Shore mountains provide a beautiful backdrop to the city, whether you’re enjoying them from afar or heading up to ski or hike. For many, it’s one of the benefits of living here: we’re close enough to nature to enjoy at least a little bit of it, every day. But camping in Vancouver? Yes.
But many people don’t realize just how close we are to camp-worthy wilderness. Between Whistler and Hope – or under two hours in either direction from downtown Vancouver – there’s a host of provincial campgrounds that make ideal destinations for local families. Forget the ketchup or need more ice? You’re close enough to the city to top up your supplies easily (and it’ll take less gas than going further afield, too.)
New to camping? Now’s a great time to explore the provincial campground system and its reservation program. It’s in the process of being overhauled and re-opens to the public in mid-March. Check out updates on their website as they re-open the system with improved reservation guidelines: https://camping.bcparks.ca/.
Here’s a few of our local favourites, all in close range of the Lower Mainland. Check out the details and be ready to book when the time comes:
Great Spots for Camping in Vancouver & the Lower Mainland
Rolley Lake Provincial Park
It’s hard to believe that Rolley Lake isn’t in the middle of nowhere – but it’s actually less than an hour from the Port Mann Bridge to this beautiful day use park and campground. The sandy beach is picturesque, clean, and great for little ones. The water is shallow at the shore, and older kids and adults can float or paddle in kayaks and canoes further out where the lake gets deeper. There’s also an easy trail that loops around the park through the surrounding forest and partly along a raised boardwalk over the lake. Like most provincial campgrounds, this one has old-fashioned outhouses – but there’s a central modern bathroom with flush toilets and showers if you’re not too keen on giving up your modern plumbing. A small playground is a gathering place for tots of all ages.
Details: Rolley Lake Provincial Park
Sasquatch Provincial Park
If you don’t mind driving a little bit further for camping in Vancouver, head out to Harrison Hot Springs and check out Sasquatch Provincial Park, which is at the end of a dirt road about a half hour beyond the well known resort town. With three full campgrounds, trails, and some of the most beautiful lake and mountain views in the region, this campsite feels a million miles from home – but is close enough to get to in a quick morning drive. Deer Lake is a great spot to teach little ones how to fish, and there’s canoe rentals during peak season for anyone keen to get out on the water. If you prefer swimming, Bench Lake – one of the three campground areas inside the park – has plenty. Bonus: you can make a pitstop in Harrison on the way back for an ice cream cone and a walk along this historic waterfront.
Details: Sasquatch Provincial Park
Alice Lake Provincial Park
Just a quick 15-minute drive from Squamish, which is itself a hop, skip, and a jump from downtown Vancouver, Alice Lake is an ideal family campground. In fact, it’s practically a kid’s dream – there’s a large central playground, trails for biking, and two sandy beach areas. And there’s a grocery store, gas station, hardware store (and a Starbucks) only a few minutes drive up the highway, just in case you forgot anything (or burn your coffee on the campfire.) Alice Lake also has a large group campsite which can be booked a year in advance. Consider organizing a group of families and share the fun.
Details: Alice Lake Provincial Park Website
Golden Ears Provincial Park
This park includes several separate campground areas and is one of the Lower Mainland’s most popular sites for camping in Vancouver, in large part because of its proximity to the city. Situated just north of Maple Ridge in the Fraser Valley, it’s an easy drive for city families, and a simple solution if you have only a few days to camp. It’s one of the province’s largest campgrounds. Prior to covid, it was serviced by the new Park Bus system, a transportation service from downtown Vancouver to some BC parks. See www.parkbus.ca for more information on the upcoming reinstated 2022 schedule.
Details: Golden Ears Provincial Park
Porteau Cove Provincial Park
Just a half hour outside West Vancouver is beautiful Porteau Cove. Known for its magnificent view of Howe Sound, waterfront campsites, and nearby diving opportunities, this park is a popular destination for families in the Vancouver region. On the Sea-to-Sky corridor, this site makes a great home base for local day trips, to nearby lakes, historic sites like the Britannia Mine Museum or to nearby Squamish for hiking and more. And you don’t even need to wait till summer – it offers opportunities for camping in Vancouver (albeit with limited services during some periods) all year round.
If these close-to-home sites still seem too wild, don’t forget there’s a handful of privately owned and operated campgrounds throughout the region, some within city limits. For the campsites above, and many more throughout the province, check out www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks.