One of the hardest parts of setting off on an adventure for the first time is figuring out where to go. Here is a list of some of the resources available to you.
• Personal Web Pages and Blogs (like this one).
Frequently people like me are compelled to create something beyond the actual free camping experience. Hoping to be inspiring and encouraging other people to head out and discover the majesty that we’ve found. On top of free campsites, each of these pages is as individual as the creators and some of them are rife with other information you can take advantage of. This is as opposed to learning just by experience, or the hard way.
• Crownland Use Policy Atlas
This tool contains area-specific land use policy for Crown lands in Ontario. This area represents more than 39 million hectares of land and water. View and make a customized map using the layers and search for an area-specific land use policy or amendment online. The Atlas allows users to view Crown land-use area boundaries and create maps for a variety of purposes, including recreational or free camping on crownland. Ontario residents may stay for twenty-one days, other groups are limited to seven days of camping at one location.
• Unmaintained Provincial Parks.
Ontario Parks (ontarioparks.com) has non-operating parks listed on its park locator page. No fees and no bookings for the free campsites but no amenities. Some are popular destinations for long weekends like Aubrey falls by Chapleau. Most of time, however, you are unlikely to see anyone else or have phone service, so make sure you’ve notified someone of your planned route.
• Backroads Mapbook.
An incredible source of information. Beyond even their map books and GPS maps, they have destination and adventure maps as well. They also have specific articles like the top ten free camping sites in Ontario. Could you ask for anything more specific.
• Stealth Camping.
Sometimes you just need somewhere to crash, and a hidden campsite is all you need. Remaining undetected lets you camp in places that are not necessarily legal. Using stealth, or guerrilla camping lets you camp for free in city parks, restricted areas and even private property, but you usually plan on having your camp torn down by morning. Obviously, van camping is much more conducive due to convenience.
• Talking to Other Travellers.
Some of the sites I’ve found were as simple as asking other adventurers about their favourite places. Not just other travellers and camping but even the locals can tell you the best spots to spend a day beautifully wasting time. Where is your favourite beach is such a simple question, and not surprisingly, people become excited themselves as they share their favourite things. You’ll get a better feel than any article you could read.
• Magazines and Articles.
I turned up highway 129 to Chapleau from Iron Bridge after reading an article about the scenic highway route devoid of towns and residences. It was a motorcycle magazine writing about Ontario’s own ‘dragons tail’ but I frequently collect brochures and magazines for my own research. A lot of these will just be regurgitations of other articles. Like me, you might wonder if they ever actually saw what they write about or just worried about creating content and mildly plagiarized and added to someone else’s writing. Still, it frequently points you in the right direction.
• Niche Websites and Apps.
Most of these web pages, apps and groups are compilations gathered and shared by their users. Photos of campsites, descriptions and amenities are catalogued in some of them. ioverlander.com, campendium [not much in Ontario…], freecampsites.net, allstays.com. Facebook groups and forums are worth joining as well.
• Your Own Collection of Free Campsites in Ontario.
The more you wander and explore, the more you’ll discover. Over the course of your travels, you will accumulate your own free camping locations, and spots worth visiting or hiding from a storm in. A GPS from your local pawn shop will help you keep track of where they are. Trust me, your phone will be useless frequently with no signal.
With gas prices and inflation, people are being forced to streamline their lives and try to find cheap ways to vacation. Free Camping in Ontario can fill that bill. The gas getting there is your only real expense…beyond that, you’d have to eat anyway. It’s a freedom I think we all could use after the past two years so take a piece for yourself.