Backpacking and Camping in British Columbia

A hiker crosses a log and boulder-strewn stream in front of Laughing Falls in Yoho National Park.

Laughing Falls on the Iceline Trail in Yoho National Park. Photo © Juliane Schultz, licensed Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike.

Color map of British Columbia

British Columbia

Budget travelers are enjoying more and more options in British Columbia, ranging from a renovated downtown Vancouver hotel to a converted rail car at Squilax, all for around $20-30 per person per night. All backpacker lodges have shared living and dining facilities, most have wireless Internet access, and some have extras such as bike rentals. Those seeking to stay in the outdoors will find plenty of options in both national and provincial parks.

Hostelling International

You don’t have to be a member to stay in an affiliated hostel of Hostelling International (HI), but membership pays for itself after only a few nights of discounted lodging. Aside from lower rates, benefits of membership vary from country to country but often include discounted air, rail, and bus travel; discounts on car rental; and discounts on some attractions and commercial activities.

For Canadians, the membership charge is $35 annually or $175 for a lifetime membership. For more information, contact HI–Canada (613/237-7884).

Joining the HI affiliate of your home country entitles you to reciprocal rights in Canada, as well as around the world. In the United States, the contact address is Hostelling International USA (301/495-1240); annual membership is adult US$28 and senior US$18, or become a lifetime member for US$250.

Other contact addresses include YHA England and Wales (0800/0191-1700), YHA Australia (02/9261-1111), and YHA New Zealand (03/379-9970). Otherwise, click through the links on the HI website to your country of choice.

Camping in British Columbia

Almost every town in British Columbia and the Yukon has at least one campground, often with showers and water, electricity, and sewer hookups. Prices range $15–30 in smaller towns, up to $50 in the cities and more popular tourist destinations such as Tofino and the Okanagan Valley. If you’re planning a summer trip to Vancouver, Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast, Whistler, or the Okanagan Valley, try to book in advance. At other times and places, advance reservations aren’t usually necessary.

National parks provide some of the nicest campgrounds. All have picnic tables, fire grates, toilets, and fresh drinking water, although only some provide showers. Prices range $14-28 depending on facilities and services. They are all open through summer, with some parks having one area designated for winter camping. A percentage of sites can be reserved through the Parks Canada Campground Reservation Service (877/737-3783). Backcountry camping in a national park costs $8 per person per night.

Nearly 14,000 campsites lie scattered through 11,000 campsites in 300 provincial parks. Rates range $16-38 a night depending on facilities, most of which are basic (only a very few provincial park campgrounds have hookups). Reserve a spot at most popular provincial parks through BC Parks’ Discover Camping (519/826-6850 or 800/689-9025) reservation system. Reservations are taken between March 15 and September 15 for dates up to three months in advance. The reservation fee is $6 per night, to a maximum of $19 per stay, and is in addition to applicable camping fees.

Camping in the province’s over 1,400 Forest Service Campgrounds costs $8-10 per site per night, which is collected on-site. Commercial and provincial park campgrounds are listed in Tourism BC’s invaluable Accommodations guide, available at all information centers or by calling 250/387-1642 or 800/435-5622.


Excerpted from the Tenth Edition of Moon British Columbia.

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