Whether you’re flying in from another destination, or you’re a Canadian looking to explore our vast country, Canada’s ten provinces and three territories offer a lot to see and do while you’re here.
From fine hotels to budget hostels you can build your trip, your way, according to your budget.
But if what you’re hoping for is a quintessentially Canadian experience, we’re here to tell you that it is entirely possible to camp your way across this fine land - even on a budget.
Read on to get everything you need to know about camping in Canada including:
The different types of camping in Canada
The best regions to camp in
The top sights and wildlife to see while camping in Canada
A curated list of resources to plan your camping trip
So grab your toque and let’s talk about all things camping in Canada - EH?
Types of camping in Canada
At its essence, camping means spending time outdoors in the summer and sleeping in some sort of tent or small structure on wheels (like a camper trailer or RV).
But you might be surprised to learn that there are actually different types of camping experiences.
From rough and rugged, to all the bells and whistles, here is your definitive guide to all things camp.
Also read: Ontario Camping for Beginners
We’ll start with summer camps because this is what we think of when we imagine a Canadian childhood.
Summer camps are the traditional kind of kid-camping we think of in the summer months between school sessions. Often these are day programs run for a week at a time and may be held at a local community centre in the city. They don’t involve tents or sleeping outdoors, and in fact, may be delivered entirely indoors. But summer camp also includes amazing overnight stays just for kids, like the off-grid, rustic camps found in Algonquin Park, or the everything-under-the-sun-to-do-plus-more camp, Muskoka Woods in Rosseau, ON.
Duration can run anywhere from one week to eight weeks depending on how long the kids will be away. Budget costs range from day-care friendly to thousands of dollars per week.
Summer camps are not an option if you’re an adult hoping to camp your way across Canada.
Highway camping (or sometimes it’s called ‘car camping’) is really common and an easy way for families to experience living outdoors for a while.
These campgrounds are usually very close to the highway so are easily accessible by car. Campers bring their own equipment like tents and sleeping bags to the site in their car, and park right at their campsite, so there is no need to lug heavy backpacks far distances.
The campsites are usually pretty close together, often in the forest, and campers share common amenities like beaches and the comfort station or outhouses. More exclusive private highway campgrounds may have additional amenities like pools, saunas, tennis courts or tuck shops.
If you own or can rent a vehicle, and own or can rent camping supplies like a tent, highway camping is a really great option. It also tends to be a safer option because there are more people and more services nearby.
More than 100 provincial parks in Ontario offer some level of highway camping, with more than 19000 sites available.
RVs, or recreational vehicles, are larger vehicles that are more like traveling mobile homes than tents. The vehicles often come equipped with self-contained electricity, water and sanitation services, small sleeping quarters, dining area and a kitchen which lets you live away from home without sacrificing comfort.
If you are camping with an RV, you want to make sure that the campground you’re visiting can support a vehicle with your dimensions. Also be sure to find out if electricity/water are available at the site you choose, and whether the site is pull-through.
Non-pull-through sites mean that you have to back in. Some campgrounds support longer summer leases for RVs, so if you find a spot you love, you can stay there for extended periods of time.
Like highway camping, RV camping also tends to be relatively safe. Camping in Ontario represents more than 450 campgrounds, many of which offer RV sites.
Ready-to-camp is as good as it sounds - your site is ready for you to settle into from the moment you arrive, without the hassle of setting up and taking down a tent.
Ready-to-camp, or turn-key camping, means that the campground has all the equipment, creature comforts and supplies you might need during your stay, plus a range of accommodation styles to suit your needs.
For example, at Four Corners, your reservation comes with a tent already set up, a comfy king size bed, two floor mattresses, a picnic table, propane barbecue, firepit and Muskoka chairs. It might also be in a tiny home, cabin, yurt or pod in some locations.
Often there are on-site rental programs that provide any items you didn’t want to pack or may have overlooked in your excitement to get out the door.
This is rough and rugged camping at its finest.
Backcountry campers pack backpacks with all the supplies they’ll need for the duration of the trip - including gear, food, emergency supplies etc - and then they hike or canoe to a far off place, away from civilization.
The attraction is that you get to see parts of the wilderness nearly untouched by human hands, hear the sounds of the forest unbothered by white noise or airplanes overhead, and be alone with your group and your thoughts for a while.
But don’t let the bucolic images of wildlife and pristine wilderness fool you. Backcountry camping is serious camping and requires some serious skill and planning for a safe and enjoyable experience.
If you want to try this kind of experience but fear you don’t have the skill yet, or want to learn the skills, try booking a guided backcountry trip for the best of both worlds. Algonquin Provincial Park offers backcountry camping.
Crown Land Camping
Hardcore campers looking to save a buck will often try Crown Land Camping.
Land that is owned by the government on behalf of the Crown is available for free camping use under certain terms and conditions set out by the federal and provincial governments.
For example, in Ontario, residents are allowed to camp free on Crown Land for up to 21 days at a time in one location. Non-residents are allowed the same privilege, but require a permit unless they own property in Canada or have been here longer than seven months in the preceding year.
More information about Crown Land camping rules in Ontario is available here. Ontario maintains a map of crown land locations that are available for camping at this site here.
Remember that Crown Land camping IS wilderness camping, so all the same safety rules related to backcountry camping apply.
Provincial Parks Camping
Every province maintains its own network of provincial or territorial parkland for the use and enjoyment of the people of that province.
In Ontario, the organization is called Ontario Parks. Many provincial parks are in environmentally interesting or sensitive locations, and provide some really interesting camping experiences.
You’ll often find interpretive programming, hiking trails and public beaches available, as well as a variety of highway camping and backcountry camping options at really affordable rates. Rates are sometimes further discounted if you meet certain criteria, such as living with a disability, or veteran status.
Parks Canada Camping
The federal government maintains several historically significant parks in each province and territory as well.
Parks can range from historically significant properties like the birthplace of William Lyon MacKenzie King, former prime minister of Canada, in Kitchener, Ontario, to the home of Anne of Green Gables in PEI.
These properties are for day visits and do not permit camping. Other parks, like Torngat Mountains in Newfoundland, or Banff or Jasper National Parks in Alberta do have camping options.
For a full list of federal camping options, see the Parks Canada Website.
If you’re looking to camp your way across Canada, don’t miss our list of 12 one-of-a-kind things to do in Canada.
What type of camping should I choose?
International visitors who are planning to backpack across all or part of the country usually travel lightly and most will bring all or some of their gear with them.
The minimum gear you want to bring is a tent and sleeping bag, although you can add to this list as your space/budget permits.
If this reflects your style of travel, highway camping is really affordable and accessible assuming you can find transportation.
For those who need a little more luxury and have the budget to spend on it, consider renting an RV for your traveling adventure.
If you’re here on a short-haul visit and just want to try camping once because it’s a bucket list item, you are not alone - Look into one of the many ready-to-camp options available throughout the country, including our site - Four Corners Algonquin.
Best regions to go camping in Canada
Below are five of the most popular regions in Canada and what each has to offer when it comes to camping and exploring the great outdoors.
Western Canada - Situated in the rocky mountains, Alberta and BC offer some of the most spectacularly rugged scenery and most physically engaging topography available in Canada.
The Prairies - Known as ‘big sky’ country, camping in the Prairies offers some really unique landscape experiences, including desert climates and historically significant dinosaur finds.
Ontario and Quebec - Camping in Ontario and Quebec will expose you to the rugged terrain of the Canadian Shield and boreal forests.
Atlantic Canada - On the east coast of North America, camping in Atlantic Canada offers the best of both rugged terrain, and scenic coastal landscapes.
Northern Canada - Camping in the territories presents amazing opportunities for hardcore campers and athletes looking to maximize their experience and build skill as they cross ancient rivers, mountains and tundra.
Top sights to see while camping in Canada
Below are five of the top sights to see while camping in Canada:
Summit the fjords at, Gros Morne National Park, NFLD, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Take a glass bottom boat ride or explore the Georgian Bay Biosphere, Tobermory O
Find fossils along self-guided tours of the Badlands in Grasslands National Park, SK
Experience stunning scenery and ice displays all year round at Columbia Ice Fields, Banff/Lake Louise AB
Canoe the Barron Canyon and swim in the grotto at the High Falls Algonquin Park, ON
See Canadian wildlife while camping
Canada is a vast country with diverse ecosystems, and its wildlife is no exception.
Here's a brief overview of the kind of wildlife you might encounter in different regions of Canada:
Far North: The far north of Canada is known for its Arctic tundra, polar bears, and other cold-adapted species. You may also see caribou, Arctic foxes, muskoxen, and various species of seals.
Western Provinces: The western provinces of Canada are home to a variety of wildlife, including black bears, grizzly bears, cougars, wolves, coyotes, and lynx. You may also see deer, moose, elk, and bison. The coastal regions are known for their whale populations, including humpback whales, orcas, and grey whales.
Prairies: The prairies of Canada are known for their wide-open spaces and grasslands, where you can spot herds of bison, pronghorn antelope, and prairie dogs. You may also see coyotes, wolves, and badgers.
Central Canada: Central Canada, including the provinces of Ontario and Quebec, is home to a variety of wildlife. You may see black bears, moose, elk, and white-tailed deer. The region is also known for its birdwatching opportunities, including species such as bald eagles, ospreys, loons, and herons.
Maritimes: The Maritimes region of Canada, including Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, is known for its coastal wildlife. You may see humpback whales, seals, and seabirds such as puffins, gulls, and terns. The region is also home to moose, deer, and black bears. In the Gulf of St. Lawrence, you may also spot the endangered North Atlantic right whale.
Canadian activities while camping
Camping is a fantastic way to explore the great outdoors and experience all that nature has to offer in Canada.
Whether you're a seasoned outdoor enthusiast or a first-time camper, enjoying hiking, fishing, or canoeing, there's something for everyone to enjoy. While we think of camping typically in the warmer seasons, with skill and preparation, camping in Canada can be a year round activity. Just remember to bring your toque in the spring, fall and winter!
Canada’s abundance of hiking trails let you explore the natural surroundings by taking a hike on nearby trails. Hiking is a great way to get some exercise, breathe in the fresh air, and immerse yourself in nature.
Picking a campground nearby rivers and lakes can also increase both the adventure and fun factor - look for outfitters and rentals in nearby communities. If you have a chance, why not try your hand at fishing while you’re at it? Cooking up your catch for dinner over a fire and enjoy it under the stars.
Campfire culture is a staple of the Canadian camping experience. Roasting marshmallows and telling stories around the fire creates memories that will last a lifetime and will warm you inside and out. Or, for breakfast try your hand at making campfire pancakes with this season’s maple syrup.
Canada's dark night skies are perfect for stargazing. Away from the city lights, the stars can be truly breathtaking and as a bonus you don’t really need any special equipment or preparation to view them - just you and a blanket and a clear dark sky.
Hobbies like photography, birdwatching, and meditation can also be enjoyed while camping. If you plan your trip according to festival season, you’ll find plenty of music, arts, comedy, and cultural events from coast to coast to coast.
No matter what your interests, camping in Canada has something for everyone. So don't forget your toque if camping in the winter, and get ready to experience the great outdoors in all its glory.
O Canada: Plan your Camping trip in Canada today
Below is a list of the top resources we recommend if you’re planning your camping trip in Canada.
We’d love to host you here at Four Corners Algonquin - so make sure you check out our availability and book your site early so that you aren’t disappointed.