British Columbia is a province filled with beautiful lakes made for camping, fishing, paddling, and swimming. Just in my local area, there are over 200 lakes so it would take a lifetime to explore all of the lakes in our province. There are many beautiful campgrounds and resorts on many of the lakes that I highly recommend, but for the sake of this post, I’m highlighting a few free campsites. Most are fairly small and rustic and based on first-come, first-served occupancy, so may already be filled on popular weekends unless you arrive super early.
This summer has been one of staying home and many people have opted for exploring local lakes and taken up camping again. I haven’t been camping in many years but the appeal of it has returned. There’s something to be said by sitting beside a campfire, roasting marshmallows, and just enjoying the quiet.
Whether you tent or prefer an RV, here are a few options for free camping and please remember these are seasonal and most are remotely found down rough forest services roads, so check online if the campgrounds are open before venturing out! The BC government Recreation and Trails website is a good place to start.
Alexander Mackenzie’s Landing on Williston Lake
Located near Mackenzie, BC, Alexander Mackenzie’s Landing, provided by BC Hydro, has 19 campsites where you can stay up to two weeks. You’ll find restrooms with pit toilets that are wheelchair accessible. There are also picnic tables, fire rings, grills, trash cans, event seating area, there is no electricity or running water, but there is free firewood. You’ll have access to a sandy beach, boat launch, and hiking trails.
Crescent Lake, near Kelowna
Crescent Lake, near Kelowna, has 10 campsites. There are restrooms, picnic tables and a boat launch. This lake provides a Rainbow fishery for trout up to 2 lbs. Spring and fall are the best times to fish this lake. Popular activities here are boating, fishing and swimming. Not only is it a wonderful spot to camp, but there is also a nice walking trail through the woods to access the other side of the lake. It is very quiet there, so you are able to camp in relative solitude.
Goat River Canyon near Creston
Whether you are into RV camping or tent camping, either will work at this camp spot. Located near the community of Kitchener, Goat River Canyon is accessible all year long. There are 15 campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is 15 feet. There are fire rings and a picnic table at each campsite. Fishing, biking, hiking, and swimming (if you want to brave the cold river).
Headwater Lakes, near Kelowna
This small free campground has around 7 campsites located about 30 minutes from Kelowna. It offers a boat ramp, picnic tables and restrooms and it is a good spot to fish.
Wild Horse River, near Fort Steele
Wild Horse River is a pet-friendly campground, located by the river with breathtaking views of the mountains. Just north of Fort Steele, this is a nice spot to camp and can accommodate up to 20 tents and RVs.
Wright Lake near Hudson’s Hope
Located near Hudson’s Hope, Wright Lake may just be the right place for some authentic adventure this summer. Here you can go fishing, canoeing, and hiking. The location is equipped with fire pits, picnic tables and restrooms. There are only two campsites at this location, though.
McClure Pit Forest Service Recreation Site, François Lake
McClure Pit Recreation Site is located 10 km west from the François Lake ferry terminal and has 7 camping spots right on the lake. This free campsite is great fort tenting as well as most RVs up to the 30-foot range. Activities include boating, fishing, paddling, and swimming. Watch for wildlife.
Twan Lake near Soda Creek
Twan Lake is a free public forest service campground. It is also an excellent spot for fishing and hunting. The campground also has an outhouse and 4 campsites with fire rings.
These are only a few of the many campsites in British Columbia. The BC government Recreation and Trails website is a good place to look for more well-maintained places to camp. BC also offers many fee-based campgrounds that are reasonably priced for summer adventures. Some offer rentals of boats, paddleboards, kayaks, canoes, and equipment for other water sports, and a few even have swimming pools and laundry facilities on site. Whatever your comfort level is for camping, there’s much to choose from.
Whichever option you choose, please remember to keep the campsites clean and when leaving simply bring with you all that you have brought in, including garbage (or dispose of it properly if a garbage can is available on site).