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Camping in Whistler | From Car to Backcountry

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Whistler camping is the quintessential Canadian experience. It’s where everyone wants to spend their summer camping holiday. But, want to know a secret? Camping near Whistler requires a bit of planning, especially during the peak summer season. 

Whether you are looking for an RV spot, a car camping space, or heading into the backcountry, we highly recommend planning ahead. 

As you make your Whistler camping adventure plans, you’ll need to know exactly what to expect. As expert local adventure guides, we have put together an extensive guide to camping near Whistler. Where to camp, what to bring, and more.

Camping in Whistler: What to Expect 2021

a family standing around a fire

Everyone is getting out to explore BC, with Whistler as a top destination.

Whistler has several campgrounds that book up months in advance for the busy summer season. Some have walk-in sites that are first-come-first-served but fill quickly on weekends and holidays.

Now, in a post-COVID world where everyone is travelling once again, camping is a top activity. Camping in Whistler is the ultimate summer activity for people in and around BC for the summer of 2021. 

What does this mean for you? Book a campsite before you get here. You can also expect crowds, where once you may have had peace and quiet.

The good news? Most of the campsites in Whistler are perfectly suited to handle crowds without it feeling crowded. That means spaced out sites, forests and shady spots, and attendants that keep the parks clean.

Other expectations for camping in BC? You also have to be aware of fire bans, wildlife, and other restrictions. Check with the campsite operator on the latest updates to keep yourself and the environment safe.

What’s the Best Season to Camp in Whistler?

Whistler’s summer season begins in June and runs until the first weekend in September (Labour Day Long Weekend). This is the busiest time to go camping as kids are on their summer holiday, and the temperatures are hitting 25 C.

Want to skip the crowded and booked solid campsites? Try travelling during the shoulder season (mid-April to mid-May; September-October) or midweek in the summer months.

What about winter camping? Between November and April, it is still possible to camp, but in a much-reduced capacity. Some sites are open year-round if you are a true-adventure-ready camper.

Are you headed into the backcountry in the winter? Come prepared for harsh winter conditions and snow should you brave the winter months. 

Are you looking for RV winter camping? Some campgrounds stay open year-round for those travelling in an RV (Whistler RV Park & Riverside Campground) and offer serviced and winterized sites.

Is it Illegal to Camp in BC and Whistler?

If you are Canadian and reading this, you’ll already know it is legal to camp in BC and Whistler, provided it’s in the designated areas. 

British Columbia is a province chock full of fantastic camping experiences, including National Parks, Provincial Parks, Recreational Sites, and private campgrounds. All of these natural spaces have designated tent sites and/or full to semi-serviced campsites for all kinds of campers.

But, where can you camp for free in Canada? You can’t just pitch a tent or park your rig anywhere.

Well, we highly recommend a Backroads Map book (available at Escape Route in the Village), a handy free camping app (iOverlander is a good option), and the “Camp for Free in BC” book.

These resources can point you in the right direction on legal and safe spots to camp for free in Canada.

Headed to Whistler? What to Bring Camping

Read first, before packing for a Whistler Camping Trip!

  • Clothing

Whether you’re staying in an RV or a tent, the most important thing to bring on your trip is layers. 

In Whistler, temperatures during the day may be warm. However, the cool mountain air can dip the mercury at night and make you wish you brought a warmer jacket or sleeping bag. 

A waterproof jacket and sturdy shoes are also must-haves when visiting Whistler so you can adventure in all conditions.

  • Camping Gear

Many companies in Vancouver rent RVs, camper vans, or rent camping gear such as tents, backpacks, and sleeping bags. You can also find Escape Route in the Village, an excellent option for the latest backcountry gear and clothing.

Along the Sea to Sky Highway in Squamish, there is a Walmart and Canadian Tire if you need to stock up on camping necessities should you have forgotten anything.

  • Food

Whistler has all you need and more for food. There are several grocery stores where you can get everything you need for BBQs, snacking, roasting marshmallows, and adult’s-only refreshments.

If all else fails, Whistler has many fabulous bars and restaurants if you decide to treat yourself. 

  • Where to buy firewood?

Many gas stations in Whistler sell bundles of firewood, but you can also stop by Forged Axe throwing for the cheapest wood in the area! They chop up used axe throwing targets into perfect bundles. 

Do’s and Don’ts of Camping in Whistler

Bear wandering through the forest

Learn all about bears before heading into the woods

Do Get a Reservation

There are many fantastic camping opportunities in and around Whistler, and because it’s so fantastic, you’ll likely require a reservation to camp there. 

Even in the backcountry! Reservations allow for crowd management and put money back towards maintaining the backcountry sites. They also make sure you don’t end up 14 hours into your hike, only to find no space available for you to pitch a tent.

Get a hiking guide if you want access to the best places in and around Whistler.

Do Follow Fire Bans and Restrictions

Forest fires a very real concern in and around Whistler. Due to dry conditions, fires may be banned as early as May. Do your part to keep this beautiful landscape safe by checking Fire Bans and Restrictions before you go camping.

 If fires are allowed, be sure always to have a large bucket of water handy and only burn in designated rings. 

Don’t Feed Wildlife (Be Bear Smart!)

Both black and grizzly bears live in and around Whistler, which means even RV campers need to be smart about wildlife. When you want to see bears in their natural habitat, book a Bear Watching Tour. Otherwise, try to avoid contact.

How to avoid bears? First, do not feed the bears, and always store your food according to best-backcountry food storage practices or in designated bear-proof containers.

Don’t Leave a Trace

Because Whistler is one of the best places to camp in Canada, it means the “leave no trace” mantra is fundamental here. 

Bring all your garbage back with you, do not break down trees for firewood, and ensure you use toilet facilities (don’t just go in the woods!)

Best Backcountry Camping Around Whistler

While some backcountry sites do not require a reservation, here are some options for backcountry camping in and around Whistler that you can reserve. They are fabulous (and all end up at lakes).

Cheakamus Lake and Singing Creek 

Notice: Due to several incidents with a food-conditioned bear, the Cheakamus Lake and Helm Creek Trails, and the Cheakamus Lake, Singing Creek, and Helm Creek campsites are closed until further notice. Check the park website for updates.

Located within Garibaldi Provincial Parkglacier-fed Cheakamus Lake lies at elevation 915 metres, surrounded by mountains that tower to 1,600 metres above its thickly forested shoreline. 

The parking lot fills up quickly with day hikers, so arrive early to hike three to seven kilometres to the Cheakamus Lake campground and Singing Creek campground.

It is an easy hike in an old-growth forest that takes you to the five-kilometre long lake that has a total of seventeen lakeside camping spots between the two campsites on the lake. 

There are pit toilets and food hanging facilities available, and fires, dogs, and motorized vehicles are not permitted. Black bears frequent the area – use caution when travelling through the area and never feed or approach them.

  • How to Book: Discover Camping website
  • Price: $10 per adult; $5 per child + $6 per reservation fee
  • Open: Year-round

Garibaldi Lake

Garibaldi Lake is a turquoise-coloured alpine lake in British Columbia, Canada, located 37 km north of Squamish and 19 km south of Whistler.

Garibaldi Lake is a turquoise-coloured alpine lake in British Columbia, Canada, located 37 km north of Squamish and 19 km south of Whistler.

Garibaldi Lake is a turquoise-coloured alpine lake in British Columbia, Canada, located 37 km north of Squamish and 19 km south of Whistler. It is also located in Garibaldi Provincial Park.

Garibaldi Lake is a stunning alpine lake that is turquoise-blue and attracts visitors from around the world. The hike to Garibaldi Lake is quite strenuous and follows several gravel switchbacks before reaching the lake. 

The trail is nine kilometres long and has an elevation gain of 920 metres, and once at the lake, there are fifty reservable sites, pit toilets, four day-use shelters, and a park ranger who manages the campground.

  • How to Book: Discover Camping website
  • Price: $10 per adult; $5 per child + $6 per reservation fee
  • Open: Year Round

Taylor Meadows is another campground nearby that is not lakeside. It has forty reservable sites, pit toilets, two day-use shelters and closer to Black Tusk and Panorama Ridge. 

Both Taylor Meadows and Garibaldi Lake campgrounds do not permit fires, dogs, or motorized vehicles.

  • How to Book: Discover Camping website
  • Price: $10 per adult; $5 per child + $6 per reservation fee
  • Open year-round

Callaghan Lake

Located 8.5km up a rough potholed logging road, Callaghan Lake in Callaghan Provincial Park offers informal vehicle-accessible campsites on a first-come-first-served basis. 

This road is usually deep with snow until mid-June, and cars without clearance may struggle to get to the lake. The current camping area is an informal, confined area at the end of the road, close to the lake.

This camping area can accommodate four to six tents or high clearance camper trucks. Camping is available only in snow-free months (mid-June to the end of October), and there is no fee to camp. There is a pit toilet but no garbage or water facilities to pack out what you pack in and come prepared.

  • How to Book: first-come-first-served (no reservations)
  • Price: Free
  • Open: Mid-June to the end of October

Are you just looking for a hike? Here are a few adventurous suggestions.

Car Camping Near Whistler

Need something a bit more accessible for camping in Whistler with your family? Whistler camping also has car camping options. Once again, these are incredibly popular, and we’d highly recommend grabbing reservations ahead of time (where possible)

Whether you’re looking to hook up to a fully serviced campsite or something a bit rustic, Whistler has a few options for you. 

Alice Lake Provincial Park Camping

Located just north of Squamish, Alice Lake Provincial Park is a great campsite located near Whistler. It is about 30 minutes south of Whistler Village and is a popular option for families. It has both serviced and unserviced spots, the majority of which are vehicle access. 

The park itself is ideal during the hottest summer days because it contains several lakes. The most-swimmable is right near the campground and great for swimming. All sites are shaded and provide a cool frustrated reprieve from days spent in the sun.

  • How to Book: Discover Camping website
  • Price: Drive-in: $35 per night. Walk-in: $23 per night. Second vehicle fees are in effect.
  • Open: March 15 to October, but only reservable from April 1 to October 30.

Nairn Falls Provincial Park Camping 

Head North 20 minutes along highway 99 from Whistler, and you’ll find yourself at Nairn Falls Provincial Park. A picturesque place to stop for a mid-road trip hike, or why not spend the weekend?

The entire park is situated around the epic Nairn Falls, a thunderous waterfall that flows into an epic canyon. The campground is family-friendly, with 92 reservable vehicle access sites and other first-come first-served front country sites.

As a provincial park, this campground has garbage bins, toilets, and an attendant.

  • How to Book: Discover Camping website
  • Price: Drive-in: $22 per night. Second vehicle fees are in effect.
  • Open: May 14 to Sept 30 

Cal-Cheak Rec Site 

Cal-Cheak is a first-come-first-served campsite and no reservation system exists. There are over fifty-five campsites to choose from in three separate areas between Callaghan Creek and Cheakamus River. 

Many of the 55 sites are large enough for RV’s, but there are no power or sewage services on site. There are pit toilets, fire rings, and it is heavily treed, providing shade from the hot summer sun. 

Black bears frequent the area, so be aware of food and garbage and pack them into your car when you are not at the site.

  • How to book: Non reservable
  • Price: $15 per site
  • Open: April 1 – October 31

RV and Campervan Camping Around Whistler

Whistler RV Park

RV trailers parked at Whistler RV Park

Big views from Whistler RV Park.

**COVID Protocols and restrictions are in place, with limits on the number of people per site. They have a strict no partying and no large group rule.**

Located 18 km south of Whistler Village is the Whistler RV Park – the largest campground in Whistler with 146 sites. 

They offer fully serviced sites, water, sani-dumps, and bathrooms with free hot showers. All are perfect for big rigs, with back-in and pull-through options. Serviced sites and now tent sites are reservable. Tent sites fit vans, trusts and smaller trailers.

Enjoy amazing views of Black Tusk and Whistler Mountain from this site that is also close to other recreational opportunities such as Brandywine Falls. 

  • How to Book: via CampSpot
  • Price: Peak season rates in effect. Unserviced tent site: from $45 per night. Fully Serviced RV site: $50 per night. Prices include 2 adults and 2 children. Additional adults on RV sites are $10 per night. Tent sites allow only 3 adults per site. Pets at all sites are an additional $5 per night.
  • Open: RV sites are open year-round. Tent sites open May 1 to September 30th

Riverside Campground

Riverside Campground is located 3.6 km north of Whistler Village and offers a variety of accommodation options, including walk-in tent sites, serviced RV sites, log cabins and yurts. 

This family-friendly campground is right next to Fitzsimmons Creek, has a playground, and is incredibly close to hiking, biking, golf courses, and amenities. 

Spots for the summer book up fast, so reserve far in advance. The on-site restaurant, Riverside Cafe, is fantastic if you don’t feel like cooking breakfast in the morning.

  • How to Book: Riverside Resort Whistler
  • Price: Peak season rates in effect. Log Cabins starting at $119 per night. Yurts starting at $89 per night. Tent site starting at $46.35 per night. Full service starting at $74.68 per night. 
  • Open: 

Is There Free Camping Near Whistler?

Depending on what services you need and your camping setup, there are definitely free camping sites near Whistler. But this comes with a few caveats. 

As Whistler becomes an increasingly popular destination for campers, these off-road and backcountry free campsites get crowded. It’s getting harder and harder for even experienced Whistler campers to find that perfect free campsite for the night.

Free camping around Whistler doesn’t come with any services, including garbage or pit toilets. This means, as a camper, you’ll need to pack out everything you bring in. You’ll also need to know the rules of the “bathroom” in the woods (hint: you need a shovel). 

Free camping in Whistler works for a night or two, but not for more than a few nights. Download helpful apps like iOverlander, get a Backcountry Road Map book, to find suitable free places to camp in and around Whistler.

Camping in Whistler: An Epic Weekend Getaway

Camping in BC, especially Whistler, takes some pre-planning and can involve some changes of plans but is absolutely epic if it all falls into place. Enjoy amazing views and experiences at a fraction of the cost of a hotel room, and enjoy sleeping under the stars next to a crackling campfire.

Always do your research beforehand, and reserve campsites or have a solid backup plan, check the fire report to see if you can have campfires or not (if not, propane fire pits are typically allowed), and as always – leave no trace and pack out what you pack in.

 

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