The Best Places to Camp Around Whistler, BC
We know what you’re about – you’re not just seeking the typical, Whistler adventure in a tourist-filled village. You’re about something a bit more rugged. Something a little tougher. A little rougher around the edges. Hey, we throw axes for a living, we understand the need to get out in the wild.
If you are scoffing at the idea of a vacation sleeping in a cozy cabin or can’t stand the thought of a polished resort at the base of a mountain, we’ve got just the suggestion for you – Whistler camping.
While you can’t necessarily camp right smack-dab-in-the-middle of Whistler (and why would you want to when there’s so much wilderness to explore?), there’s plenty of camping around Whistler, including free whistler camping spots, awesome campgrounds, something a little off the beaten path, primitive camping, car camping, and much, much more!
Quick and Dirty | The Best Places to Camp Around Whistler
- Sproatt Alpine Trail (free, backcountry)
- Callaghan Creek Forest Road (free, drive in, no services)
- Whistler Train Wreak (free, walk-in, renegade)
- Green River (free, boat-in, no services)
- Parkhurst Ghost Town (free, boat-in, spooky!)
- Nairn Falls Provincial Park (Pay-camping, several options and services)
- Callaghan Lake Provincial Park (Pay-camping, several options and services)
- Joffre Lakes Provincial Park (Pay-camping, backcountry)
- Riverside Campground (RV and car camping, full service)
- Cal-Check Recreation Site (Pay-camping, some services)
- Owl Creek Recreation Site (Pay-camping, some services)
- Alexander Falls Recreation Site (Free, no services)
An Explanation of All the Whistler Camping Options
Whether you want backcountry serenity, or RV glamping, Whistler has options for just about every kind of camper. But if you aren’t from these parts – you might not understand what each style comes with. Do provincial parks have showers? Do rec sites have toilets?
Here ya go, in order of fanciest to most-rustic, these are the options:
RV Parks Typically Include:
- Hot showers
- Full-Hookups for RVs
- Pull Through Sites
- Handicap accessible
- Extra-curricular Activities (disc golf, pools, etc)
- Reservations strongly suggested for Spring, Summer, Fall
Provincial Parks Typically Include:
- Hot showers
- Car Camping and RV Camping sites
- Handicap accessible
- Outdoor Activities (hiking, biking, SUP Rentals, etc)
- Reservations strongly suggested for Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Rec Site (Recreation Sites) Typically Include:
- Pit Toilets (Outhouses)
- Car Camping (site dependant)
- Walk in camping (site dependant)
- Make-Your-Own Activities (hiking, swimming in lakes)
- No hook ups, no running water
- Reservations suggested for Spring, Summer, Fall
What a ‘Free Site’ Means:
- No toilets! Bring a shovel!
- No showers!
- (Usually) Walk or hike in
- May get kicked out in the middle of the night *
The 3 Golden Rules to Camping in Canada
Before you get started on your Whistler camping adventure, please take note of three very important rules:
- We live in bear country. Do not camp near your food, or god-forbid with your food. Bears have even been known to seek out fancy smelling shampoos and lotions in unattended tents, so plan accordingly. If you are in a backcountry, rec site, or even in the suburbs of Whistler, be extremely bear aware.
- Leave no trace is the golden rule. We love our pristine natural habitat, just as much as the other guy, please do not ruin it for us! Pack out all the garbage you bring in, which means even managing your toilet paper properly when no toilets can be found.
- Forest fires are a huge deal in Canada. The past few years have been extremely traumatic, with thousands of hectares lost due to human mistakes. When there is a fire ban, take it very seriously! Don’t throw your cigarette butts around and don’t roast a marshmallow. One single spark can burn down a forest.
Thanks for listening to our short PSA, now on to the good stuff!
5 Free Camping Sites in Whistler
If you’re a budget camper who’s looking for adventure but doesn’t feel the need to shell out the big bucks for a campsite; we are in Canada, so it’s totally feasible! Here are some of the best free-camp sites around Whistler, according to our unofficial rating system. Heads up, not all these spots are officially-condoned, even if frequently camped at, so camp at your own risk!
1. Sproatt Alpine Trail
Along the Sproatt Mountain, known locally just as Sproatt, you’ll find some of the best camping in British Columbia. This high-altitude, beautiful spot is right across from Whistler Mountain and Blackcomb and can be seen walking through Whistler village.
A steep giant mount, it’s filled with beautiful alpine paradise – lakes, and tarns at every turn. Fields and fields of flowers, beautiful forests of krummholz, and hostile looking fields dot this mount, and there are plenty of alpine lakes that you can 4×4 to camp next to. Easier hikes and spots are available to you as well.
2. Callaghan Creek Forest Road
This option assumes you have a mode of transportation, which is often the case with campers in Whistler. Head south along Highway 99 and turn on to the Callaghan Valley Rd, which eventually branches off on to Callaghan Creek Forest Service Rd. All along the forest service roads around Whistler, you’ll soon find quiet gravel pull outs perfect to park.
So long as your come bear aware, Whistler’s natural landscape is totally safe to park for a day or two. Pitch a tent, in the cooler seasons have a nice fire, and become a true Canadian by sleeping for free under the stars.
3. Whistler Train Wreck
Who would have ever thought that one of Whistler’s greatest places to hike would be among the wreckage of seven train cars? Scattered next to the Cheakamus River, you’ll find one of the best spots to hike and camp. Park your car, hike about 3km along the winding river, and you’ll eventually find the Whistler Train Wreck and of course, some amazing views of the river.
Simply set up a tent and make your home, you won’t be sorry for finding this free spot. There are many hidden spots around the area which are a bit more off the beaten path than this popular hike, but camping there would be one for the books!
While you’re down in Function Junction, check out many of the other highlights in our neighbourhood!
4. Green River
If you look hard enough, you’ll find one of the best camping spots in British Columbia right off the highway turnoff to Wedgemount Lake. Though it appears just to be a scenic picnic area, this Green River makes a great spot to camp, and a great access point to hike Wedgemount Lake. Want something a bit more hidden and serene, check the opposite shore for better spots. it could just be one of the best car camping sites around Whistler!
5. Parkhurst Ghost Town
This spot isn’t nearly as spooky as it sounds – in fact, the only scary thing about it is how hauntingly beautiful it is. Located on the far side of Green Lake, this camping spot is water access only. There are about a dozen spots are available to you, all with breathtaking views of mountains and right on the shores of the lake.
One of the only negatives of this spot is the train that goes by around 2 am and 6 am. On the positive side? It’s free; there’s access to beautiful forest hikes, a gorgeous lake, and a spectacular view of Rainbow Mountain. A good review of the hike, the ghost town, and directions can be found here.
3 of BC’s Best Provincial Campgrounds, in Whistler
Provincial campgrounds require a little less wilderness survival than the free-camping spots we listed above. With the improved facilities, there are also higher costs. For a relatively small fee, you can enjoy many perks such as running water, showers, toilets, and park attendants to keep you safe.
Its highly recommended to reserve whistler camping sites months in advance, as the Provincial campgrounds tend to book up in the prime months. They are also only open three months of the year and have a few more park rules (such as quiet times and public drinking) to obey.
1. Nairn Falls Provincial Park
- Season: May-September for vehicle camping, walk ins all year round.
- Number of sites: 94
- Price: Vehicle Accessible Camping Fee: $22.00 per party/night
Travel 20 minutes north of Whistler with your sights set on Nairn Falls Provincial Park. You’ll find yourself awestruck by over 170 acres of pristine forest, dazzling rivers, and stunning mountainsides. Nairn Falls is an extremely popular spot – on summer weekends, it’s nearly impossible to find the site not filled to capacity. With a little careful planning, it makes the perfect base camp to explore Whistler and its surrounding areas. If you’re looking to camp, vehicle accessible sites are $22 plus tax per party.
2. Callaghan Lake Provincial Park
- Season: Snow Free Months (June-October)
- Number of sites: Limited (6)
- Price: Free, but this is a very informal camping. No services are offered.
If you’re looking for the ultimate getaway that takes you from the worries of the modern world, it’s hard to get any more remote than the Callaghan Lake Provincial Park. In fact, you have to have a serious 4×4 even to access it. There are limited facilities, but you’ll still get the luxury of a pit toilet and campfire ring. It is not-accessible during the snowier months, as the road becomes un-passable.
The campsite has six rough sites, each with views of Callaghan lake, as well as the surrounding mountains. This untouched wilderness is the perfect spot if you’re hoping to see tarns, waterfalls, upland plateaus, hanging valleys, mountains, and more. The campsite is free but non-reservable.
3. Joffre Lakes Provincial Park
- Season: Year Round, but Upper Campsite is high avalanche risk in Winter.
- Number of sites: 26 backcountry campsites
- Price: Reservations required ($6 fee), per person camping fee $5.
A little farther North then Nairn Falls Provincial Park lies one of the most picturesque provincial parks in the province. In fact, Joffre Lakes is so Instagram worthy, it’s developed a bit of an overcrowded reputation. But never-the-less, it still deserves the hour drive to seek out its glacier-fed lake, wild mountain flowers, and up close wildlife experiences.
Keep in mind that there is a bit of a hike to get to the 3rd lake, which is where all 26 wilderness campsites are located. They have pit toilets, but you require a permit to camp there. Plan well in advance, and wear good hiking shoes. A good hike review and site information can be found here.
The Best RV Campsite Around Whistler
Deciding to go for a bit more of an RV glamping style? We think that’s a great idea, too. One of the best spots is the Riverside Campground, located within walking distance of Whistler Village. Open year-round; this deluxe Whistler campground offers you a delicious café, cozy cabins and yurt options, whistler amenities, and shuttle service. With the amenities, comes a higher price. Peak season camping for a full-service site means $65 a night. But even at that rate, its comparative to a hostel during low season! Camping is of much greater value if you ask us!
3 Recreation Sites Around Whistler, BC
1. Cal-Cheak Recreation
Nestled where the turquoise rivers converge, Cal-Cheak is a scenic campsite right between the Callaghan and Cheakamus Rivers. This spot is highly accessible from HWY 99 (only 20 miles south of Whistler Village) and offers campers a huge, quiet, shaded area in a typical West Coast forest.
Often, this campsite is empty. It has both trail and highway access and features Brandywine Falls just 3km south. Sites are huge, it’s generally less crowded than a Provincial campground, and cost you about $13 per night.
2. Owl Creek Recreation
If you’re looking for a sweet little recreation spot to spend the night, then check out Owl Creek Recreation Area. Only open during the summer months, this beautiful site offers great spots for RVs, car camping, and tents. Typically, it’s not very busy, and you’ll have access to outhouses, bear-proof food catches, an apple orchard, and plenty of spots for fishing. The best part? It will only cost you $13 per night.
3. Alexander Falls Recreation Site
Head south from Whistler village down the Sea to Sky Highway for roughly 20 minutes. Turn right on to Callaghan Rd, and continue until you reach Alexander Falls Recreation Site. This user maintained (ie. rustic) site is located beside one of the best kept secret’s around Whistler – Alexander Falls. The waterfall is one of BC’s best, at 141 feet tall and 40 feet wide.
Whistler is the Wilderness Destination for all Types of Campers
Whether you prefer full-service hook-ups and hot tubs, or are only looking for free camping in Whistler, the Coastal Mountain range surrounding this town has a little something for everyone. Drive-in, walk-in, or boat-in to Whistler, and experience some of the most pristine and breathtaking camping Canada has to offer.