Backpacking Canadian Rockies Vancouver Area Vancouver Island

2021 BC Backpacking Reservation Dates You Need to Know

In the rainy and snowy winter, I can’t help but reminisce about warm and sunny summer backpacking trips. And the more I think about backpacking, the more I want to go backpacking. Which leads me to start flipping through guidebooks, spread maps across the dining room table and spend far too much time googling trails. What do backpackers like me do in the offseason? Plan next year’s trips! The most spectacular trips are often ones that are in popular or fragile places, so they often have reservation systems in place. And nothing sucks more than finding out a trip you want to do is booked up!

So I’ve put together a complete list of the 2021 BC backpacking reservation dates you need to know. Put these dates in your calendar! (Or if you’re like me, agonize over which trip to pick since they all sound amazing!) I’ve got reservation dates for you for 8 different trips in British Columbia including Vancouver Island, the Vancouver Area, the BC Interior and the Canadian Rockies. Plus I’ve also got details on how to reserve and my top tips for getting those hard-to-get reservations.

 

Hey there: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you if you make a purchase. Thanks for supporting my website! -Taryn

 

Quick Calendar

Trail/Park When to Reserve Where to Reserve
Bowron Lake Circuit January 2021 – exact date TBA Online or Phone
Berg Lake January 2021 – exact date TBA Online or Phone
West Coast Trail April 7, 2021
Online or Phone
Rockwall Trail April 16, 2021 Online or Phone
Lake O’Hara Campground: April 27, 2021 Bus: Feb 1-28, 2021
Online
Garibaldi Provincial Park TBA: Likely 2 weeks OR 4 months before your trip Online or Phone
Joffre Lakes Provincial Park TBA: Likely 4 months before your trip Online or Phone
Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park 4 months before your trip Online or Phone

 

West Coast Trail Reservations for 2021

West Coast Trail camping: the view from a tent at Thrasher Cove Campground

Morning at Thrasher Cove Campground on the West Coast Trail. Photo credit: Laura Zajac

What: This 75km (46.5 mi) trail is full of beaches, coastal rainforest, ladders, and boardwalks. Since it’s a West Coast rite of passage it is on many bucket lists and is probably the most popular multi-day hike in Canada. Want more info? I wrote a whole series of posts about the West Coast Trail. Start with my West Coast Trail Guide, then check out my section-by-section overview, itineraries, campground guide, packing list, transportation, and coastal hiking tips posts.

When to Reserve: Starting April 7, 2021, at 8 am PST. 

Where to Reserve: Online or by phone. More info on the Pacific Rim National Park website.

How Much Do Reservations Cost: Reservations cost $24.50. There is a $130.31 fee to hike the trail, plus two mandatory $20 ferry crossings and a National Parks entry fee.

Do You Have to Reserve? Yes. There are no walk-up or stand-by permits available.

Tips and Tricks for Getting a Reservation: You need an account on the Park’s website so create one ahead of time so you don’t get slowed down on reservation day. Be ready with your preferred start dates, start location and a few alternates.  For better odds, avoid July and August which are the busiest. If you don’t get a reservation, keep checking back for cancellations.

 

Garibaldi Provincial Park Reservations for 2021

Black Tusk in Garibaldi Provincial Park. Find out how to reserve campsites in this park: BC Backpacking Reservation dates you need to know

Black Tusk in Garibaldi Provincial Park

 

What: South West BC’s premiere alpine backpacking destination with several trailheads and campgrounds to choose from. Reservations are required for all the campgrounds as well as the Elfin Lakes Shelter. For more info on trails and destinations, check out the BC parks website or my book, Backpacking in Southwestern British Columbia.

When to Reserve: Historically, you could reserve up to 4 months before your trip. However in 2020 that changed to 2 weeks before your trip. Reservation information for 2021 is not available yet, but I’ll update this post as soon as it is.

Where to Reserve: Online via Discover Camping or via phone at 1 800 689-902 or 1 519 826-6850.

How Much Do Reservations Cost: Reservations cost $6/night per tent pad, up to a max reservation fee of $18. You will also have to pay a per person backcountry fee of $10 for campsites and $15 for the Elfin Lakes Shelter. If you book via phone there is an extra $5 surcharge.

Do You Need to Reserve? Yes. There are no stand-by or walk-up permits available.

Tips and Tricks for Getting a Reservation: Make your reservation as early as possible. For better chances avoid long weekends or pick a mid-week trip. If you can’t get a reservation for the Garibaldi Lake campground, consider booking Taylor Meadows or Helm Creek and then hiking over to Garibaldi Lake for the day.

 

Joffre Lakes Provincial Park Reservations for 2021

Joffre Lakes near Whistler, BC

The view from second Joffre Lake

What: This super-popular lake near Whistler has a backcountry campground next to the third lake. It’s a short 5.5km hike from the trailhead, so it’s one of the easier backpacking destinations close to Vancouver. The beauty of the lakes has rapidly increased visitation to the area, so a reservation system was implemented in 2019. For more info on the trail, check out the BC parks website or my book, Backpacking in Southwestern British Columbia.

When to Reserve: Historically, you could reserve up to 4 months before your trip. However in 2020, Joffre Lakes Provincial Park was closed due to COVID-19 and so far there is no information available on the status of the park for 2021. I’ll update this post as soon as info becomes available.

Where to Reserve: Online via Discover Camping or via phone at 1 800 689-902 or 1 519 826-6850.

How Much Do Reservations Cost: Reservations cost $6/night per tent pad, up to a max reservation fee of $18. You will also have to pay a per person backcountry fee of $5/person/night. If you book by phone there is an additional $5 surcharge.

Do You Need to Reserve? Yes. There are no stand-by or walk-up permits available.

Tips and Tricks for Getting a Reservation: Make your reservation as early as possible. For better chances avoid long weekends or pick a mid-week trip. 

 

Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit Reservations for 2021

Canoeing on the Bowron Lakes. Find out how to reserve campsites on this trip: BC Backpacking Reservation dates you need to know

“Bowron Lakes” by ktpayn Used under Creative Commons CC BY 2.0

 

What: The Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit connects numerous lakes and rivers through portages to make a roughly square-shaped 116km (72 mi) route. It takes about 6 to 10 days to complete. (Yes I know this is a canoe trip, not a backpacking route, but it’s a similar wilderness experience and the only paddling trip in BC that requires reservations, so it made the list.) To see what it’s like, check out Gemma and JR’s Bowron Lakes trip report on their blog Off Track Travel. More info on the BC Parks website.

When to Reserve: In previous years reservations opened on Oct 1 the year before your trip. But due to COVID-19, 2021 reservations will not be available until January. The exact date hasn’t been announced yet, but I will update this post when it is.

Where to Reserve: Online via Discover Camping  or via phone at 1 800 689-902 or 1 519 826-6850.

How Much Do Reservations Cost: The reservation fee is $18.00 per vessel (plus tax) and there is also a $60 per person canoe circuit user fee. If you book via phone there is an extra $5 surcharge.

Do You Have to Reserve? Yes. There are no walk-up or stand-by permits available.

Tips and Tricks For Getting a Reservation: Book online as it is faster and you won’t have to wait on hold. Reserve as early as possible since this route is popular with international travellers. Know how many canoes and people will be in your party before you make your reservation as only a set number of canoes and people may depart per day. July and August are the busiest and if you opt for June or September you’ll have much better chances. Check out Kenzie’s June trip where they didn’t see anyone else for days! If you don’t get a reservation, keep checking back for cancellations.

 

Berg Lake Reservations for 2021

The Ultimate Guide to Hiking the Berg Lake Trail in Mount Robson Provincial Park in the Canadian Rockies

What: The Berg Lake Trail is a 23km backcountry trail into a gorgeous glacier lake in Mount Robson Provincial Park on the BC side of the Rocky Mountains. It’s called Berg Lake since the glacier calves icebergs right into the lake. For more info check out my super detailed guide to hiking the Berg Lake Trail and the BC Parks website.

When to Reserve: In previous years reservations opened on Oct 1 the year before your trip. But due to COVID-19, 2021 reservations will not be available until January. The exact date hasn’t been announced yet, but I will update this post when it is.

Where to Reserve: Online via Discover Camping or via phone at 1 800 689-902 or 1 519 826-6850.

How Much Do Reservations Cost: Reservations cost $6/night per tent pad, up to a max reservation fee of $18. You will also have to pay a per person backcountry fee of $10/person/night. If you book via phone there is an extra $5 surcharge.

Do You Have to Reserve? Yes. There are no walk-up or stand-by permits available.

Tips and Tricks For Getting a Reservation. Reserve as early as possible since this route is popular with international travellers. There are 7 campgrounds on the trail and you need to book your whole itinerary in advance, so be sure to have a few options for first choice, second choice, etc. Since this trail books up so far in advance, there are often cancellations as people change their minds. Keep checking back to see if spots open up.

 

Rockwall Trail Reservations for 2021

Descending the Rockwall Trail to Floe Lake

Descending from Numa Pass to Floe Lake on the Rockwall Trail

What: The premier backpacking destination in Kootenay National Park is the Rockwall Trail.  It’s a 55km multi-day high alpine backpacking route through the Rocky Mountains. It passes by alpine lakes, incredible wildflower meadwos and the famous rockwall with cliffs up to 900m tall. For more information, read my Rockwall Trail Guide.

When to Reserve: Starting April 16, 2021 at 8 am MST.

Where to Reserve: Online via the Parks Canada Reservations Service or by phone at 1-877-737-3783.

How Much Do Reservations Cost: Reservations cost $11.70. You’ll also need to purchase a wilderness pass for $9.80.

Do You Have to Reserve? Yes. There are no walk-up or stand-by permits available.

Tips and Tricks For Getting a Reservation: You have reserve each of your campsites on the trail so have a few different itinerary options prepared before you book.  For better odds, avoid July and August which are the busiest. If you don’t get a reservation, keep checking back for cancellations.

 

Lake O’Hara Reservations for 2021

View of Lake O'Hara and Mary Lake from the All Soul's Alpine Route in Yoho National Park

The view of Lake O’Hara and Mary Lake from the All Soul’s Alpine route.

What: The Lake O’Hara area has a small 30-site backcountry campground that accesses over a dozen day hikes. It is a truly spectacular spot set among alpine lakes and hanging valleys in the Rocky Mountains inside Yoho National Park. You can base yourself at the campground and head out on a different and spectacular hike each day. And the best part? You can take a shuttle bus on a private road right to your campsite! If you can’t get a camping reservation, you can also just take the shuttle bus up for the day. For more info and some drool-worthy photos, check out my Lake O’Hara Camping and Hiking Guide.

When to Reserve Camping: Starting April 27, 2021 at 8am MST.

When to Reserve Day-Use Shuttle Bus: Enter the online lottery between February 1 and February 28, 2021. In March, look for an email from Parks Canada to see if “won” a spot, then pay the reservation and bus fees to confirm. You can enter the lottery as many times as you like, but it costs $10 for each entry.

Where to Reserve: Reserve camping or enter the day-use shuttle bus lottery on the Parks Canada Reservation site

How Much Do Reservations Cost:  Camping Reservations cost $11.70. You’ll also need to pay for $9.80/person/night for camping and $14.70 for the shuttle bus. It costs $10 to enter the day-use shuttle bus lottery. If you’re successful, you’ll need to pay a reservation fee of $4.50 per ticket for 1 or 2 people, or $11.50 for 3 or more people. You’ll also need to pay $14.70 for the bus.

Do You Need to Reserve? Yes. There are no stand-by or walk-up permits available.

Tips and Tricks For Getting a Reservation: You need an account on the Park’s website so create one ahead of time so you don’t get slowed down on reservation day. Be ready with your preferred dates and a few alternates. For better odds, avoid August which is the busiest. For day hiking, you can put up to 6 different bus days and times on your application. Use them all! And maybe consider putting in more than one lottery application. 

 

Mount Assiniboine Reservations for 2021

Magog Lake in Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park. Find out how to reserve campsites on this trail: BC Backpacking Reservation dates you need to know

Magog Lake Sunrise” by Jeff P on Flickr. Used under CC BY 2.0.)

What: If you’ve seen stunning photos of a photogenic peak in the Canadian Rockies, there’s a good chance it was Mount Assiniboine. Nestled at the base of the mountain is a cluster of small lakes, plus tons of hiking trails to gorgeous views. The core area of the park at Lake Magog has a popular BC Parks backcountry campground as well as a private lodge and some basic huts. There are several different trails to hike in to the core area, or you can charter a helicopter. There is lots more info on camping and hiking on the BC Parks website. Note: The info below applies only to the BC Parks campground.

When to Reserve: Up to 4 months before your trip. 

Where to Reserve: Online via Discover Camping or via phone at 1 800 689-902 or 1 519 826-6850.

How Much Do Reservations Cost: Reservations cost $6/night per tent pad, up to a max reservation fee of $18. You will also have to pay a per person backcountry fee of $10 for campsites. If you book via phone there is an extra $5 surcharge.

Do You Need to Reserve? Yes. There are no stand-by or walk-up permits available.

Tips and Tricks for Getting a Reservation: Make your reservation as early as possible. For better chances avoid long weekends or pick a mid-week trip.

 

So there you have it: 2021 BC backpacking reservation dates for 8 different trips. How many of these hikes have you done already? Tell me in the comments. I’ve done all of them except Mount Assiniboine and Bowron Lakes. But the real question should be: which of these trips do you want to do most? (My answer might be all of them. Eep.)

 

READ NEXT:

I’ve written about a few of the trips on this list:

 

Want a spectacular backpacking trip that doesn’t require reservations? I’ve got some suggestions:

2 Comments

  • Reply
    Heather
    January 3, 2020 at 11:39 am

    I think I’ll try for lake ohara in September. Seems like it will be the easiest option with a 3 year old and a new born!

    • Reply
      Taryn Eyton
      January 5, 2020 at 10:47 pm

      Lake O’Hara is a great option for kids. The campground is great and if you have a baby carrier, you should be able to explore lots of hikes. Have a great time!

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