A Helpful Guide to Camping in Canada this Summer by Province

As Canadians anxiously await summer and the camping season, they are faced with the reality that things will be different than past years and not necessarily the same as the summer of 2020.

Worrisome COVID-19 numbers and delays in vaccine rollouts across the country have resulted in ongoing lockdowns in some regions, various provincial border closures and patrolling, delays in campground openings, and temporary bans on crown land camping. The US-Canada border also remains closed.

Arrowhead Provincial Park
Arrowhead Provincial Park | Huntsville, ONPhoto by: GabrielOnTheMove

About Camping in Canada This Summer

All is not doom and gloom, however. Interest in camping and RVing in Canada is dramatically up, as are campsite bookings. Ontario Parks, which oversees the province’s public campgrounds, released information that there was a 135% increase in reservations in the first three months of 2021 compared to the same time last year. Adds Shane Devenish, president of the Canadian Camping and RV Council, “According to a KOA poll, 76% of Canadians viewed camping as the safest choice to recreate and vacation throughout the COVID pandemic, and campgrounds demonstrated rather emphatically that they are able to operate safely and in a manner that campers can enjoy.”

Continuing on from last year’s season, as the Parks Canada website states, “access to visitor facilities and services may be limited.” This could affect swimming pool and laundry/shower openings, watercraft rentals, and access to hiking paths. Longer than normal wait times at campsite call centers and even websites glitches are to be expected.

This summer, campers, and RVers are advised to explore their own province or territory and not travel too far. There are heightened travel restrictions in place in British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, and Yukon. To learn more, visit Canada’s travel restrictions information center.

Note that due to the ongoing pandemic, the public is encouraged to continue monitoring government websites for the latest provincial public health measures as well as camping associations’ websites and social media in case of campground reservation changes.

Parks Canada

Parks Canada operates an online reservation system for 38 national parks, national historic sites, and national marine conservation areas in Canada and has a webpage dedicated to visiting and camping during the pandemic. While reservations are not restricted by a visitor’s origin, the agency is asking visitors to follow travel restrictions or self-isolation requirements. Visitors are also asked to “arrive prepared to be self-sufficient with a clean trip kit and extra hygiene supplies.”

Atlantic Provinces

Status: Open for camping

At this time, camping is open for residents who wish to recreate in their own province. In most cases, reservations are required. Last summer, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick formed what was named the ‘Atlantic Bubble’ to allow for non-essential travel between the provinces during the COVID-19 pandemic. There are plans to re-form the ‘Atlantic Bubble’ for the summer of 2021, but the planned opening date of May 3 has been postponed indefinitely.

The Association of Atlantic RV Parks and Campgrounds has relevant camping news on its website for camping in the ‘Atlantic Bubble.’ Other useful websites are Parks New Brunswick; Tourism PEI; Newfoundland and Labrador’s Campground and Parks page; and Nova Scotia Provincial Parks, which says: “Campsite bookings are open to Nova Scotia residents and anyone from a jurisdiction (province or territory) that is not required by a Public Health Order to self-isolate upon arrival to the Nova Scotia.”

Sogerive Halte RV Park
Sogerive Halte RV Park | Longueuil, QC – Photo by: Al W

Quebec

Status: Open for camping, with restrictions by alert level

Provincial parks are called National Parks in the province of Quebec and are officially recognized protected areas. All 43 designated nature areas and sites in Quebec follow a set of regulations based on the “alert level” within the region. For a list of regulations, visit Sépaq: Preventative Measures Against COVID-19.

Ontario

Status: Open for camping, reservations strongly recommended

As of Friday, June 11, Ontario campgrounds are allowed to host overnight campers. Due to an anticipated surge of campers this summer, reservations are strongly recommended, especially at popular parks like Killbear Provincial Park and Sandbanks Provincial Park.

Ontario Parks offers free day-use visits Monday to Thursday from May 1 to September 2 with some limits on day-use occupancy. Reservations for free day-use passes are available up to five days in advance to guarantee access to many provincial parks in Ontario. Visit Ontario Parks for ongoing updates.

Wasagaming Riding Mountain National Park
Riding Mountain National Park | Wasagaming, MBPhoto by: Margot Bai

Manitoba

Status: Open for camping

Manitoba parks are open for camping, though the province recommends that Manitobans limit travel to essential purposes only.

Camping Manitoba Parks, which oversees the province’s provincial parks and campgrounds, states on its COVID-19 information page to “practice physical distancing and keep two meters away from anyone not in your household.” It also advises you to bring your own hand sanitizer and toilet paper and to avoid busy trails.

Saskatchewan

Status: Open for camping

The province of Saskatchewan is open for camping, and the online reservation system for campsites within the province went live on April 12, 2021.

Tourism Saskatchewan’s announcements page has general reservation Q&As, as well as links to COVID-19 information and “everything you need to know about the 2021 camping season.”

Silverhorn Creek Campground Banff National Park
Silverhorn Creek Campground | Banff National ParkPhoto by: KenneysSeeAmerica

Alberta

Status: Open for camping

Alberta Parks encourages visitors to read its COVID-19 guidelines before visiting its parks for the latest travel advisories and trail reports. Group camping areas remain closed until outdoor social gathering restrictions are eased.

The Government of Alberta has a webpage dedicated to camping in the Rocky Mountain province, including information on backcountry and public land camping.

Alice Lake Provincial Park
Alice Lake Provincial Park | Squamish, BCPhoto by: Road it up

British Columbia

Status: Open for camping

The provincial government just announced restrictions on the non-essential travel of British Columbians outside their health regions, and entry from Alberta will be allowed for essential purposes only.

Provincial residents have been given priority access to BC Parks’ camping reservations and need to confirm their residency before booking. Starting July 8, pending travel restrictions, non-residents will be permitted to make reservations for any remaining dates in the season.

Private sector campgrounds and RV parks are accepting summer reservations from out-of-province Canadian residents; however, travel will depend on the province’s public health order. For the time being, residents should only camp in their health region.

Hay Lake Campground
Hay Lake Campground | Fort Liard, NTPhoto by: PauHanaTravels

Nunavut, Northwest Territories, and Yukon

Status: Open for camping

National parks in Nunavut all have specially designed camping sites which campers are advised to use. Follow government guidelines for the latest information and visit Nunavut Parks and Special Places to learn more about Canada’s largest territory.

Visit Northwest Territories Parks to view all current park advisories. Northwest Territories Parks and Campgrounds will open May 14 with appropriate COVID-19 protocols in place. A list of opening and closing dates for each part is available here.

There are over 50 road-accessible campgrounds and day-use recreation sites in Yukon. Reservations are not available, and campsites are operated on a first-come, first-served basis. Camping permits are required.

The key to camping in Canada this 2021 season will boil down to patience. Patience with online bookings, telephone wait times, and dealing with ongoing COVID-19 guidelines and possible cancellations. Demand is high, and many campers are feeling cabin fever after months of lockdown restrictions.

But take a deep breath and remember your why. Why you are choosing to get outdoors and why you love camping and RVing. Yes, it will be closer to home, and perhaps those out-of-province plans will have to wait, but let’s have faith.

Adds the Canadian Camping and RV Council’s Devenish, “We’re optimistic that once more Canadians are vaccinated, we will soon see our provincial borders open that will allow campers the ability to travel freely and enjoy our beautiful campground destinations coast to coast.”