RV travel and destinations

Beginner's Guide to RV Camping at Provincial Parks

Posted on November 25, 2022
Beginner's Guide to RV Camping at Provincial Parks

Provincial and territorial park campgrounds are some of the most beautiful places to go RV camping in Canada, and surprisingly, they are often less expensive than privately owned campgrounds.

If you're new to camping in a provincial or territorial park, you'll want to know some of the important features and rules for staying in these campgrounds.

In this article, you'll learn the difference between provincial and territorial parks and find everything you need to know, from campground hours and RV size restrictions to pass requirements and booking information.

What's a provincial or territorial park?

Provincial and territorial parks are public land areas managed by a province or territory that preserve and promote the historical, natural, and recreational areas across Canada.

Provincial and territorial parks differ from national parks because they are managed by the province or territory, not the federal government.

An important note about territorial parks

Territories don't have as many developed campgrounds within their parks as the provincial parks. Territory parks are located in remote regions of Canada, often away from villages, towns, cities, or maintained roads.

Only 3% of Canada's population lives in Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut. The territories have an arctic and subarctic climate, which means the winters are long and cold, and the summers are short and cool.

The terrain, roads, and climate make camping in Canada's territories unique. The content in the article applies to both provincial and territorial parks, but keep in mind that you are less likely to find territorial park campgrounds with many of the amenities outlined below.

Why you'll like camping at a provincial park

Not every provincial park has a campground, but the parks that do are usually some of the best places to camp because the parks maintain the landscape's integrity and keep you close to recreational areas.

Provincial parks have some of the best recreational opportunities for people who like to spend time outside. Some parks may have wildlife viewing and scenic walking trails. Others may have hunting opportunities, lakes, fishing piers, boat rentals, hidden geocaches, pools, beaches, picnic areas, golf courses, and more.

When you stay at a provincial park campground, you'll have the best of nature and fun activities in one location.

What you need to know about camping at a provincial park

Ready to book a site at a provincial park? Here are some things you might want to know before reserving a spot.

Operating hours

Every province operates its parks differently. Some parks stay open year-round, while others close their gates nightly or seasonally. Provincial parks with campgrounds may remain open for recreation but close, winterize, or restrict camping during certain times of the year. Operating dates of provincial park campgrounds are typically between May and October, weather permitting.

Before booking your campsite, verify if the park has the following:

  • Special permits are needed.
  • Seasonal operations or facility closures.
  • Gate closures or arrival and departure restrictions.

Parking permits

Some provincial parks require a parking permit or entry fee. These fees apply to both day-use and overnight guests and may not be included in the cost of overnight camping. Before you head to the campground, visit the park's website to learn more about parking permits.

Size restrictions

Provincial parks protect the natural features of an area, and because of that, the interior roads may be narrow, and the terrain might not accommodate every size RV.

It's important to reserve a site with enough room for the length of your RV and any slide outs or awnings you want to open during your stay.

Pro tip. View a campsite's details to find the max size trailer or motorhome permitted.

Campsite types

Pull through
Pull-through campsites have an entrance and exit on either side of the parking space, making it easy to park and set up your RV.

Back in
A back-in campsite has only one entrance and exit point, which makes it necessary for you to back into your site to park to set up your RV.

Pro tip. Are you an RV newbie or uncomfortable backing into a spot? Have an RV rental delivered and set up for you, or book a pull-through campsite.

Site features and hookups

Provincial parks often have campground loops with specialized features that set them apart from the other camping areas. Depending on the loop you choose, you can have everything from full hookups with dedicated quiet hours to campgrounds with no hookups and pet and noise restrictions.

Unserviced
Unserviced campsites don't have electricity, water, or sewer connections.

Pro tip. Some campgrounds allow you to use a generator but only during certain hours. If your site doesn't have electricity, and you want to use an onboard or portable generator, ensure you've read the park's generator rules before making your reservation.

Power service
Power-serviced sites have 15, 30, or 50-amp electrical connections but no water or sewer.

2-way service
Electric and water campsites, sometimes called 2-way sites, have 15, 30, or 50-amp electrical connections and a dedicated water connection but no sewer.

3-way service
Full hookup sites, sometimes called 3-way sites, have electricity, water, and sewer connections at the campsite.

Barrier-free and accessible
Barrier-free and accessible campsites often are paved, level, and larger than standard-size campsites to accommodate wheelchairs. These campsites may also be near comfort stations with larger ACA-compliant washrooms and showers.

Dog and radio-free campgrounds
Dog and radio-free campgrounds promote a quiet environment and don't permit dogs, generators, radios, or anything else that might disrupt a peaceful camping experience.

Pet restrictions
Buildings, beaches, and preservation areas in provincial parks typically don't permit pets, but the pet policy may allow well-behaved dogs or cats in the campground.

Pro tip. Discover everything you need to know about camping with pets in The Pros and Cons of RVing with Pets.

Max occupancy
The maximum number of people the park may permit in each campsite. On average, provincial park campgrounds allow six people in each site, but the rules will vary.

Campground amenities

Here are some basic amenities you might find at a provincial park campground. If your campsite doesn't have the hookups you need, you might want to consider the proximity of the public facilities, such as the washrooms and water taps, and choose a site near what's most important to you.

Washrooms and showers
Campgrounds sometimes will have flushing toilets, running water, and showers in the campground washrooms. Bring quarters or cash for the change or token machine if you want to shower in the campground comfort station, as many parks have coin-operated showers.

Outhouses
Most outhouses are open year-round because they don't need winterization.

Water taps
Campgrounds may have drinking water taps in the campground for campers to fill water bottles and water jugs. However, these taps differ from a freshwater filling station, and most campgrounds won't allow RVers to attach a hose or fill their tanks with this water.

Pro tip. Got questions about your RV’s black water tank? Check out 9 Things You Need to Know About Your RV’s Black Water Tank.

Sewage disposal or pump-out stations
Many provincial park campgrounds have on-site sewage disposal available for registered campers. Some campground sani dumps are just a drain in the ground, while others have potable and non-potable water taps to clean your sewer hoses and fill your freshwater holding tanks.

Trash
Campgrounds may have dumpsters, recycle bins, or trash cans for campers to dispose of their trash, but if they don't, you'll have to recreate responsibly and pack your trash out yourself.

Firewood
Contact the park directly to find out if there is a firewood policy or fire ban. Visit the interactive map at Don't Move Firewood to learn the province's recommendations for using firewood responsibly.

RV camping reservations

Want to know the best time to visit a provincial park, when to book your site, or more about check-in and check-out times in the campground? Visit the province or territorial park website below for detailed information about each campground.

Note: RV camping is a popular pastime, and because of that, some park systems have moved away from first-come, first-served (sometimes called walk-up) camping to reservation-only camping during peak camping season. Making a reservation is easier than ever, too, since most provinces have an online reservation system to manage their reservations. Reservation windows vary by province, but most make their campsites available as soon as the parks open their offices for the season.

Provincial and territorial parks websites and online reservations

Most provinces have online reservations available during the camping season.

If you plan to visit a park in Québec, please note that Québec's provincial parks are called national parks even though the province's government agency, Sépaq, manages them.

Before you plan a camping trip in any of the territories, research the conditions near the parks and verify that an RV can access the park safely. The parks in the Yukon and Nunavut are primitive and wild and not always accessible by vehicle.

Province or territory website Reservations link
Alberta Reserve Alberta
British Columbia BC Parks Reservations
Manitoba Manitoba Parks Reservations
New Brunswick New Brunswick Parks
Newfoundland and Labrador ParksNL Reservations
Northwest Territories Northwest Territories Parks Reservations
Nova Scotia Nova Scotia Provincial Parks Reservations
Nunavut No designated RV campgrounds
Ontario Ontario Parks Reservations
Prince Edward Island Prince Edward Island Parks Reservations
Québec Sépaq Online Reservations
Saskatchewan Saskatchewan Parks Reservations
Yukon First come, first served

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Meagan Butler
Meagan Butler

Meagan is a glitter-loving, trailer-towing RV content writer. When she's not camping in her Airstream, she's spoiling her dogs, taking landscape photography, and supporting the RV community.

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