With campsites opening back up, everyone is rushing to grab their favourite spots. Although they fill up quickly, you can skip the worries about snagging a spot by turning your attention to Crown land instead. This type of land is open to everyone who wants to camp out without the crowds — and the expense. That’s right. Camping on Crown land is free and there are plenty of places to consider as it covers nearly 80% of Ontario. Since you don’t have to reserve a spot, it is a great option for those last-minute camping trips. Before you head out, there are just a few things you need to know to make the most of your adventures.
Verify the Location Allows Camping
You cannot just set up a tent or park your RV anywhere. You have to find areas authorized as open camping grounds by using the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry’s atlas. Look for areas in yellow marked ‘General Use Area’ to find an ideal space to camp. There are many beautiful places to set up camp around Lac Seul, Eagle Lake, and Shoal Lake if you want quick access to the waterways. Just remember, these lands are not regularly maintained, so watch for hazards as you navigate to your spot and get set up.
For access to the Crown lands, look for logging roads on maps, you can use Google aerial and street view, but the best way is to take a drive out to the area of interest, if possible, beforehand and do some investigating.
Bring All the Right Supplies
When camping on Crown lands, you will not have access to fresh water, electricity, nor sewer hookups. Many locations are also not easily accessible by RV, making a tent a better choice. Either way, you will need to bring along all the food, water, and other supplies you need. You may find yourself far from stores to restock as well, so bring a bit more than you normally would. Don’t forget to pack a GPS device for help making it out of the woods without getting lost at the end of your trip.
Get a 21-Day Camping Permit
If you are not a Canadian resident, you will need to purchase a camping permit from select Service Ontario centres. The permit costs just over $10 per person for each night you plan to stay. Canadian residents do not need to buy a permit, but they still have to abide by the 21-day limit. The limit states that the group can only camp on Crown lands for up to 21 consecutive days per year.
Look for Signs with Rules and Restrictions
Popular Crown land camping areas often have signs stating the rules and regulations everyone must follow. The signs may remind you to clean up your campsite before you leave and abide by the 21-day limit. They also often contain important information about where to park your vehicle to avoid fines and towing fees.
Check Before Lighting Campfires
Although Crown lands in the general use area are open for camping year-round, campfires are not always permitted. When the wildfire risk is high, such as during periods of limited rainfall, the government may mark certain areas as a ‘Restricted Fire Zone.’ When that occurs, you have to skip the campfire altogether. You cannot even light a fire in a contained fireplace or pit. Instead, you may use propane stoves for cooking and warmth as long as you follow the safety rules.
Review the Recreational Fishing Rules
Ontario has 20 distinct fishing zones with their own set of rules and regulations. Make sure to review the rules for the area you will camp if fishing is on the itinerary. In all areas, you will need a fishing license for each person who plans to fish, as long as they are between 18 and 64 years old. Beyond that, you must only fish once the season opens in your camping area and abide by all catch and possession limits. Make sure to measure your fish as well to verify they meet the size limits for their species.
Pack It In, Pack It Out to Leave No Trace
Just like when camping in designated sites, you need to leave no trace behind at the end of your adventures. To achieve that goal, follow the pack it in, pack it out rules when cleaning up your campsite. If you see any garbage left behind by previous campers, take that out as well to keep the Crown lands pristine for all.
When you take the tips above into account, you can always enjoy the adventures of a lifetime while camping on Crown land. Just remember to take tons of pictures to share your early adventures with the generations to come as you show them the magic of camping off the beaten path.