Demand for B.C. campsites swells as season approaches

Nearly 100,000 reservations for campsites in B.C. parks are already in the books, up 13 per cent from the same time last year.

Nearly 100,000 reservations in B.C. parks are already in the books, up 13 per cent from last year

Bookings for B.C. Parks campsites opened in early January. (Ministry of Environment)

If you're hoping to find a campsite without a reservation this season, you might want to pack some Tylenol.

The hunt for a last-minute camping spot for the upcoming Victoria Day weekend is sure to cause some headaches — nearly 100,000 reservations for campsites in B.C. parks have been booked since January, up 13 per cent from the same time last year.

Many people looking for a camping spot on a summer long weekend might be hard-pressed to find anything before Labour Day, according to Sam Waddington, a Chilliwack city councillor who sits on the local and regional park boards.

"It's an inventory issue — we just do not have enough campsites for people who want to go play," Waddington told host Angela Sterritt on B.C. Almanac.

"As a local resident of B.C. … I want to be able to [go camping] last minute," he added.

Last year, the B.C. government changed its reservations rule — campers can now reserve spots up to four months in advance. Reservations for the May long weekend opened in January, while reservations for the Labour Day long weekend opened at the start of May.

In an e-mailed statement, B.C. Parks said there are still sites available for the four long weekends. However, listings on B.C. Parks Discover Camping Reservation Service show limited availability in parks along the coast and in the southern Interior.

According to B.C. Parks, "while sites do tend to be available for a longer period now, we encourage people to continue planning ahead and book their spaces early to avoid disappointment."

Backcountry camping is legal in B.C. parks, but campers must register for permits. (Royal BC Museum)

No reservation? No problem

Campers looking to avoid reservations and crowds, however, can look to the backcountry to get their seasonal dose of the great outdoors.

"If you're someone who does not need the facilities or the outhouses or the showers or whatever it is in the standard park, you're actually allowed to backcountry camp in B.C. parks," said Waddington.

Backcountry permits are available online, but some restrictions apply. 

Camping on Crown land is also an option in B.C. for up to 14 days. The province maintains more than 1,200 campsites in recreational areas outside of parks for public use, many of which are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

With files from CBC's B.C. Almanac

CBC meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe and Chris Duffy, executive director for Emergency Management B.C., on flooding predictions and preparation. Sam Waddington, owner of Mt. Waddington Outdoors, on camping reservations and tips for successful camping this summer. 51:27