Whistler, British Columbia, is a popular location for outdoor enthusiasts, with sports such as skiing, snowboarding, hiking, and mountain biking available. But did you know that Whistler is also a terrific camping destination? Whistler provides a range of camping alternatives to fit your camping style, whether you enjoy car camping, RV camping, overlanding, or backpacking. In this comprehensive guide to camping in Whistler, we’ll look at the many types of Whistler camping available, where to camp, what to carry, and trip planning recommendations.
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Car Camping in Whistler
Suppose you prefer the comforts of home while camping, car camping is a great option for you. Car camping in Whistler means you can bring all the gear you need, including tents, sleeping bags, cooking equipment, and food, without worrying about carrying it on your back. Whistler has several campsites that offer car camping, including Riverside Resort, Nairn Falls Provincial Park, and Cal-Cheak Recreation Site.
Riverside Resort is a popular camping spot, offering both RV and tent camping options. The site is situated on the banks of the Cheakamus River, providing a peaceful and serene setting. The campsite offers amenities such as hot showers, firewood, and a playground, making it an excellent option for families.
Nairn Falls Provincial Park
Nairn Falls Provincial Park is another great option for car camping in Whistler. The park is just 20 minutes from Whistler Village and offers 94 campsites, including several suitable for larger RVs. The park’s main attraction is Nairn Falls, a spectacular waterfall that can be accessed via a short hike from the campground.
Cal-Cheak Recreation Site
Cal-Cheak Recreation Site is a smaller and more rustic option for car camping in Whistler. The site is situated in a forested area near the Cheakamus River and offers 25 campsites, including several that are suitable for larger RVs. The site provides basic amenities such as pit toilets and fire rings but no showers or electricity.
RV Camping in Whistler
Suppose you like home conveniences while camping, RV camping in Whistler is an excellent choice. In the vicinity, two RV parks provide a variety of facilities to make your Whistler camping experience comfortable and enjoyable.
The Riverside Resort is located just south of Whistler and offers a variety of RV camping options. The park has 52 full-service RV sites, including electricity, water, sewer, and cable TV. Additionally, the park offers free Wi-Fi, laundry facilities, and hot showers. The resort also has a pool and hot tub, a playground, a picnic area, and a convenience store. The Riverside Resort is an excellent option for families seeking a comfortable and convenient camping experience.
Whistler RV Park & Campground
The Whistler RV Park & Campground is located just north of Whistler and is another excellent option for RV camping. The park has 102 full-service RV sites, including electricity, water, and sewer. The campground also offers free Wi-Fi, laundry facilities, and hot showers. The park has a playground, a picnic area, and a fire pit for guests to use. The Whistler RV Park & Campground is a great choice for those who want to be close to Whistler while still enjoying the peace of the great outdoors.
Overlanding in Whistler
Overlanding is a unique form of camping that combines off-road adventure with outdoor living. If you’re looking for an adrenaline-filled camping experience, then overlanding in Whistler is what you’re looking for. Overlanding is a type of camping where you drive a 4×4 vehicle off-road and camp in remote locations. You’ll need a sturdy car that can handle rough terrain and also need to be self-sufficient, as often, no facilities or services are available.
Whistler offers a range of Overlanding opportunities for those seeking adventure. The Callaghan Valley is a popular destination for overlanders, with its rugged backcountry and stunning views. Several campgrounds in the area, including Cal-Cheak and Riverside, offer primitive campsites that are perfect for overlanders. These campsites are not accessible by regular vehicles and require a 4×4 vehicle.
Another popular overlanding destination in Whistler is the Hurley Pass. This rough and rugged mountain pass offers some of the most challenging off-road driving in the area, and the campsites along the way provide stunning views of the surrounding wilderness. If you’re up for a challenge, the Hurley Pass is the perfect destination for an overlanding adventure.
Backpack Camping in Whistler
Backpack camping, also known as wilderness or backcountry camping, involves carrying your camping gear and supplies on your back and hiking to a remote location to set up camp. This type of camping is perfect for those who want to immerse themselves in nature and escape the crowds. Whistler has many beautiful backcountry camping areas to explore, including Garibaldi Provincial Park, Wedgemount Lake, and Cheakamus Lake.
Choosing a Backpack Camping Destination in Whistler
When choosing a backpack camping destination in Whistler, several factors must be considered:
- Consider the trial’s difficulty and the required level of experience. Some trails are more challenging than others and require more knowledge and preparation.
- Consider the location and accessibility of the trailhead. Some courses require a long drive or hike, while others are more easily accessible.
- Consider the amenities and facilities at the campsite, including water sources, fire pits, and washrooms.
Whistler has many beautiful backcountry camping destinations to choose from. Here are some popular options:
Garibaldi Provincial Park
This park has over 90 kilometers of hiking trails and 50 backcountry campsites. The park is home to stunning glaciers, alpine lakes, and rugged peaks. Some popular hikes include the Garibaldi Lake trail and the Panorama Ridge trail.
This stunning alpine lake is located just outside of Whistler and is a popular destination for Whistler backpack camping. The hike to the lake is challenging but rewarding, with spectacular views of the surrounding mountains.
This serene lake is just a short drive from Whistler and is a popular destination for car and backpack camping. There are several backcountry campsites around the lake and a campground at the trailhead.
Free Camping In Whistler
If you’re looking for an affordable way to experience the beauty of Whistler, free camping may be the perfect option for you. Whistler is home to several spots where you can camp for free, including some with stunning views and excellent amenities. However, it’s important to note that free camping in Whistler comes with some rules and regulations that you’ll need to follow to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.
Free Camping Sites In Whistler
One of the most popular free camping spots in Whistler is the Cal-Cheak Recreation Site. This beautiful campsite is located just 20 minutes north of Whistler and offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains. The campsite is equipped with fire pits, picnic tables, and outhouses, making it a great spot to set up camp for a few nights. However, it’s important to note that there is a 14-day camping limit at this site, and you’ll need to pack out all of your garbage when you leave.
Loggers Lake Site
Another great free camping spot in Whistler is the Loggers Lake Recreation Site. This site is located just 15 minutes south of Whistler and is situated next to a beautiful lake that’s perfect for swimming, fishing, and paddling. The campsite is equipped with fire pits, picnic tables, and outhouses, and there is no camping limit. However, it’s important to note that there are no garbage facilities at this site, so you’ll need to pack out all of your garbage when you leave.
Camping Equipment and Essentials
To ensure you don’t forget anything, here’s a checklist for your camping trip to Whistler:
- Sleeping bag
- Sleeping pad or air mattress
- Camp stove or cooking equipment
- Food and water supplies
- Clothing and footwear
- Navigation tools
- Lighting (headlamp/flashlight)
- First aid kit
- Multi-tool or knife
- Fire-starting equipment
- Personal items and documents
- Entertainment and extras
- Trash bags for waste disposal
Before heading to Whistler, be sure to check the specific requirements of your chosen campground and adjust your packing list accordingly. Properly planning and packing can make your camping experience in Whistler more comfortable and enjoyable.
Best Times to Camp in Whistler
It’s different to camp in Whistler at different times of the year because each season brings its own benefits and things to think about. These are the different times of the year to camp in Whistler, along with some holidays and special events that might affect when you choose to camp:
Spring (April to June):
Highlights of the Season: As the snow melts in Whistler in the spring, the fields become lush and green, and bright wildflowers bloom. The weather is milder, which makes it a great time to go camping and watch wildlife.
Things to think about when camping: Some sites at higher elevations may still have snow in the early spring, making them hard to get to. Get ready for cooler nights and know that it might rain.
Special Events: The World Ski and Snowboard Festival in April is a big event that brings a lot of people to Whistler. Even though it’s not directly linked to camping, it can change the number of campsites that are available, so book early.
Summer (June to August):
Highlights of the Season: Whistler’s busiest camping season is in the summer. Most sites are open and the weather is warm and sunny most of the time. Now is the best time to do things outside, like hikes, biking, and water sports.
Camping Considerations: Campgrounds can fill up quickly during the summer, so advance reservations are highly recommended. There may be a lot of mosquitoes and other bugs, so bring bug spray.
Special Events/Festivals: The Crankworx Mountain Bike Festival in August is a major event for mountain biking enthusiasts. During the summer, Whistler also has a number of music events and concerts held outside, which can add to the fun.
Fall (September to November):
Highlights of the Season: Camping in Whistler in the fall is beautiful, when the leaves turn bright shades of red and orange. The weather is still nice for doing things outside, and there are not as many people around.
When you go camping, you should expect it to be cooler, especially at night. As animals get ready for winter, fall is a great time to see wildlife.
Special Events/Festivals: The Whistler Village Beer Festival in September is a popular event for beer enthusiasts. There might also be arts and culture events going on in the area.
Winter (December to March):
Seasonal Highlights: Camping in Whistler in the winter is a one-of-a-kind experience, with scenery covered in snow and access to winter sports like skiing and snowshoeing. Camping is more peaceful and quiet at this time.
Camping Considerations: Many campgrounds are closed during winter, but a few may remain open with limited services. Make sure you have the right camping gear for cold weather.
Festivals and special events: Whistler is famous for its winter sports events, such as ski and snowboard competitions. Even though these don’t have anything to do with camping, they may affect how you enjoy the area, so plan ahead.
When picking the best time to camp in Whistler, it’s important to think about the things you like to do outside, the weather, and the availability of campgrounds. Also, keeping an eye on festivals and special events can help you time your trip so that you can attend events you want to or avoid if you’d rather have a quieter camping experience.
Campfire Regulations and Guidelines in Whistler:
Check Local Regulations: Before starting a campfire, check with the campground authorities or local park officials to ensure campfires are permitted. There may be fire bans in some places, especially when it’s dry or when wildfires are likely to happen.
Use Designated Fire Rings or Pits: Most campgrounds in Whistler provide designated fire rings or pits for campfires. Don’t make new fire pits; instead, use these marked areas.
Size of the Fire: Keep your campfire to a manageable size. Not only is a small fire easy to put out, it is also better for the environment.
Clear the Area: To make a fire-safe zone, remove any leaves, twigs, or other burning items from the area around the fire pit. Always keep a bucket of water, a hose, or a fire extinguisher close by so you can quickly put out a fire if something goes wrong.
Start the Fire Safely: Use the right tools to start a fire, like matches or a lighter. Don’t use products that can catch fire, like gasoline.
Use Firewood from Local Sources: If you want to gather firewood, only use dead and downed trees in your local area. Bringing firewood from other areas can bring pests and diseases with it.
Leave No Trace and Responsible Camping: Any camping guide needs to stress the importance of Leave No Trace and responsible camping, but it’s particularly important in places like Whistler that are sensitive to the environment.
What You Need to Know Before Camping in Whistler
Before heading out on your Whistler camping trip, you should know a few things to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.
Bear Safety: Whistler is home to a large population of black bears, so it’s important to take proper precautions to avoid attracting bears to your campsite. This includes storing food in bear-proof containers, cleaning up all food scraps, and never approaching a bear.
Fire Safety: In the summer, Whistler can be at risk of wildfires, so it’s important to take proper precautions when building fires. This includes using designated fire pits, never leaving them unattended, and ensuring the fire is completely extinguished before leaving the campsite.
Weather: Whistler’s weather can be unpredictable, so it’s important to be prepared for all conditions. This includes packing warm clothing, rain gear, and sun protection.
Summary – Whistler Camping
Whistler is a paradise for camping enthusiasts, offering various options, from Whistler car camping to backpacking. With over 30 campgrounds and camping areas, there’s something for everyone in Whistler. Whistler has everything, whether you’re a seasoned backpacker or a family looking for a weekend getaway.
Can I camp in Whistler year-round?
Most campgrounds in Whistler are open from May to October, but some are open year-round.
Do I need a permit to camp in Whistler?
Permits are required for backcountry camping in Whistler, but not for car camping or RV camping in established campgrounds.
Are pets allowed in Whistler campgrounds?
Pets are allowed in some Whistler campgrounds, but not all. It’s important to check the campground’s rules and regulations before bringing your pet.
Are campfires allowed in Whistler campgrounds?
Campfires are allowed in designated fire pits in most Whistler campgrounds, but it’s important to check local fire regulations before starting a fire.
Is there drinking water available at Whistler campgrounds?
Most Whistler campgrounds have drinking water available, but it’s always a good idea to bring your own water or a water filter just in case.
Are there showers available at Whistler campgrounds?
Many Whistler campgrounds have showers available, but not all. It’s important to check the campground’s amenities before booking your site.
Are there any free camping sites with amenities in Whistler?
Yes, some free camping sites in Whistler, such as the Cal-Cheak Recreation Site and the Loggers Lake Recreation Site, have amenities such as fire pits, picnic tables, and outhouses.
How long can I camp for free in Whistler?
The camping limit may vary depending on the site, but generally, the maximum duration of camping is 14 days.
Can I camp for free in Whistler all year round?
Free camping sites in Whistler are typically open from spring until fall. However, it’s best to check with the specific site before planning your trip to ensure it’s open and accessible.