Sleeping bags, stuffies, and s’mores. Check! For our family vacations, not much beats heading outdoors to sleep under the stars. More than just an escape to nature, camping offers a wide range of outdoor activities, provides a digital detox, develops life skills, and is affordable — a perfect opportunity for families to escape from everyday stresses and spend quality time together.
This summer, pick a destination, plug it in a navigation app, and hit the road for a family adventure to remember.
Busy campgrounds mean reserve early
Despite the fact that we’re still wearing wool socks and building snowmen in the parks, now is the time to be thinking ahead and booking summer vacations. While planning in June for a July camping trip may have been possible pre-pandemic, camping has experienced a huge boom in popularity, and snagging a last-minute site is about as hard as getting a great family photo on the first try.
Busy and getting busier
COVID-19 proved a determining factor behind the influx of campers during the 2020 and 2021 season. A July 2021 report from Kampgrounds of America (KOA) revealed that as COVID-19 restrictions eased, Canadian campers were eager to escape the city and reconnect with nature in an easy and affordable way. According to the findings, an estimated 3.1 million households planned to go camping in 2021, and more than 500,000 planned to camp for the first time — a rate five times greater than the previous year.
“Among the many barriers to travel last year, it’s encouraging to see that campers are eager to get out and start camping again, and even plan to make up for missed camping trips after a very trying year,” said Toby O’Rourke, President and CEO of Kampgrounds of America (KOA) in 2021. “We know through our annual research that camping doesn’t just allow campers to escape the stress of everyday life, but contributes to emotional wellbeing through the ability to connect with nature, themselves and others.”
From rugged mountaintops to grassy valleys and coastal beaches, Canada’s camping spots exemplify diverse and beautiful landscapes. Whether you’re a first-time camper looking for an easy glamping experience, or a seasoned canoe-camper wanting to introduce the kids to the wonders of the wild, there’s a location waiting for you.
Canada’s national parks
Parks Canada protects a vast network of natural and cultural heritage places. It includes 47 national parks, 171 national historic sites, and five national marine conservation areas. Visitors can book full-service campsites, roofed accommodations, remote backcountry experiences, interpretive guided hikes, and more at 40 locations nationwide.
Reservations for visits between April 2022 and March 2023 open in January and February. It’s important to research early and note the reservation launch date for each location. Parks Canada has created a camping and reservation tips document to help users know the different terms, understand available services and amenities, and learn the basics of camping. The reservation page is pc.gc.ca/en/voyage-travel/reserve
Front country, back country… Are you finding yourself a bit #camping lost? By consulting our camping 101 guide, you can learn all the essentials as well as how to book with our #reservation service: https://t.co/u4clSHCgAS pic.twitter.com/z3zAwMJsAM
— Parks Canada (@ParksCanada) January 3, 2022
Quebec and Ontario provincial parks
KOA’s July 2021 report found that 44 per cent of campers were most looking forward to staying in provincial parks. These campsites across the country include tent-only areas, RV sites, primitive camping, and ready-to-camp sites outfitted with beds and small fridges.
In Quebec, people can book a spot at a provincial park through La Société des établissements de plein air du Québec (Sépaq), which has more than 7,000 campsites and 670 ready-to-camp units. In the past year, it has added more than 150 new sites, which can be found in the Camp-de-Touage-Les-Îles sector of the Pointe-Taillon national park, at Jacques-Cartier national park, and in the Syénite and Gabbro loops in the Franceville sector of the Mont-Mégantic national park.
If you think mid-winter is early to book for this coming summer, reservations for Sépaq’s sites have been open since November 13, 2021. Sépaq recommends visiting its website to plan and creating a customer account to facilitate transactions. Reservations can be made online or by phone (1-800-665-6527). For more information, visit sepaq.com.
Reserving a camping site at Ontario’s provincial parks can be so busy — with an increase of almost 100 per cent in reservations made between January 1 and February 5, 2021 over the same time in 2020 — that a webpage has been created with tips for making the experience less stressful.
Reservations are accepted up to five months in advance of your arrival date, meaning you can make a reservation on February 1 for an arrival date of July 1. Visit ontarioparks.com and Ontario Parks social media channels for the most up-to-date information.
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If you’re heading out East, it’s also advisable to plan early. The Maritimes are surging in popularity with both Canadian and American vacationers. Nova Scotia’s provincial parks welcomed a record number of campers to provincial campgrounds during the 2021 season. “Nova Scotians and others value provincial parks and the many ways they enable us to enjoy the social, mental and physical health benefits of being in nature,” said Natural Resources and Renewables Minister Tory Rushton. Reservations for Nova Scotia Provincial Parks open in April 2022.
Prince Edward Island
P.E.I.’s network of provincial parks has eight camping parks and 13 day-use parks with spectacular red sand beaches and wind-swept dunes, nature trails, and tons of outdoor recreation programs. Reservations for summer 2022 will begin mid April, 2022.
New Brunswick’s provincial parks include 10 parks covering 20,000 hectares. Activities include hiking, watersports, swimming, aerial adventures, and children’s entertainment. Reservations can be made beginning on February 1, 2022. Visit their website to learn more about the parks, the various sleeping accommodations, and to get set for reserving.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Provincial parks feature stunning views, inviting beaches on 29,000 kilometres of coastline, hiking trails, and special events throughout the summer months. The ParksNL campsite reservation service usually launches each year in the third week of April and details about each park can be found on their website.
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Central and Western Canada
Always popular with those seeking adventure and gorgeous scenery, Alberta’s provincial parks — covering more than 27,678 square kilometres — have become even more sought after as people head to the outdoors during the pandemic. Download the Campers Guide to Alberta Parks to find tons of information about the various parks. New in 2022, reservations for individual campsites are available year-round and can be made up to 90 days in advance of the scheduled arrival date. Reserve.AlbertaParks.ca shows the “currently booking to” date and reservations can be made online or by calling 1-877-537-2757.
It’s no secret that British Columbia is a beautiful province, and its provincial parks, nature and wildlife are swoon-worthy. BC Parks anticipates a spring opening for all reservations — whether full-service, back-country or something in between — and will update its website and social media accounts once more information and opening dates are available. In the meantime, visit bcparks.ca to see all of the camping opportunities.
Manitoba’s provincial parks have all sorts of overnight accommodations including Adventure Huts, rustic hideaways, and full-service campgrounds with every amenity. The opening dates for 2022 campground reservations differ depending on which park you choose. In all parks, reservations for cabins and yurts start on April 4, 2022, while campgrounds range from April 6 to April 13. In response to public feedback, a new reservation system is being implemented for 2023, while short-term changes to the system to improve users’ experiences when booking campsites are being made for this spring.
If you head out to Saskatchewan, note that its reservations for the 2022 camping season begins April 18 for seasonal campsites and April 19-26 for nightly, Camp-Easy, and group campsites. “This time of year is always exciting, as many residents across the province begin to plan their summer holidays,” said Saskatchewan Parks, Culture and Sport Minister Laura Ross. “After a record-breaking year in 2021, with more than one million visits to provincial parks, we are looking forward to kicking off another great camping season.” For more information visit, saskparks.com
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Private and regional campgrounds
Don’t overlook privately-owned campgrounds like KOAs, eco-tourism sites, or regional campgrounds. These can offer new experiences and outdoor escapes close to home. Many have unique sleeping arrangements like private islands, treehouses, or deluxe cabins with everything you may need for an easy stay.
KOA campgrounds are popular with families and provide amenities and services that fit the needs of a variety of camping types — from newbies to those more seasoned. You can find 33 KOA campgrounds throughout Canada. These include properties near national parks and metro areas making them easily accessible for long or short-distance trips. At some KOA properties, you can find splash pads, swimming pools, kids’ activities, playgrounds, and even mini golf. Fun!
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Read up on Quebec campgrounds
If you’re not able to find a reservation at the location of your choice — whether that’s a national, provincial, or private park — keep checking for cancellations and websites sometimes don’t reflect real-time data. Try calling directly and follow social media pages for last-minute openings.