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Camping on Bowen Island: Is it Allowed?

Camping on Bowen Island: Is it Allowed?

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Are you planning to visit Bowen Island, BC, and wondering whether you can go camping on Bowen Island? Though there are many things to do in Bowen Island, this is one of the most popular questions. Perhaps it’s due to the proximity of Bowen Island to downtown Vancouver and the wealth of nature and Bowen Island hiking trails.

The short answer to can you camp on Bowen Island is no.

The longer answer? Well, it’s a bit more complicated. If you’re interested to find out more about camping on Bowen Island and where else you can stay on Bowen Island, you can find out more in this post.

Can you camp on Bowen Island?

According to several official websites, there is no available camping on Bowen Island. HelloBC, the official tourism website for the province, says: “There’s no camping on Bowen“.

However, some people could read this as meaning that there is no official campground on Bowen Island. Which would be true, there aren’t any official campgrounds on Bowen Island.

Is Bowen Island Camping Legal?

Bowen Island recently amended its bylaws to rule out camping. This was following a motion to prohibit camping on Bowen Island in 2021.

This was discussed in an article in Bowen Island’s local paper that discusses the status of a bylaw to prohibit camping on Bowen Island.

“The bylaw came out of a January direction to staff ‘to develop a bylaw to restrict camping or and/or the creation of encampments on public places.’ While it has long been the assumption of Bowen Islanders that camping isn’t allowed on-island, it’s not specifically addressed in bylaws, BIM CAO Liam Edwards told the Undercurrent back in January.”Bowen Island Undercurrent on April 5th, 2021

This was passed unanimously and seems to have been adopted as of 2021 as camping in public places is now prohibited in Bylaw Number 307 with a $200 fine for camping on Bowen Island public places attached to it.

This also means there’s no camping at Mt Gardner on Bowen Island.

Why Can You Not Camp on Bowen Island?

mt gardner, camping on bowen island
Views from Mt Gardner, Bowen Island hiking trail

There are numerous reasons you can’t find free camping on Bowen Island the main ones are covered in more detail below.

Small Community: Bowen Island is a small community without the resources to deal with the added waste, noise, and damage that could arise from people wild camping on Bowen Island. Vancouverites want to find free camping near Vancouver and if this was offered on Bowen it could ruin the beauty and peace of the island.

Wildfires: Fires are prohibited on Bowen Island hiking trails. This could be due to the lack of resources available to fight an out-of-control wildfire, proximity to the community, and as a result of lichen covering the trails which are not only ecologically sensitive and important but highly flammable.

To play it safe, therefore, campfires are illegal on Bowen Island. The same is true of other smaller communities such as Sun Peaks, where you can only have fires with a permit and by giving advanced notice to the fire chiefs.

Indeed, lichen makes a great firestarter if you’re ever in need of one where campfires are legal.

Ecological: If a handful of people a year were to camp on Bowen Island, chances are it wouldn’t damage the environment; it would be able to recover. However, if lots of people are setting up camp, it compacts the ground and can damage an already sensitive ecological area.

Human Waste: There’s a lack of public facilities on the island, especially near hiking trails. We’ve all got examples. of beautiful trails that have become overwhelmed with an influx of hikers and campers.

A nearby example is the Tunnel Bluffs viewpoint which is often covered in trash (including human waste) ruining the area and the experience for everyone else.

Where can you stay overnight on Bowen Island?

So Bowen camping sites don’t exist, and you may be wondering where to stay on Bowen Island instead.

Though Bowen Island makes a great day trip, you might wish to stay longer and really soak up that island vibe. There are so many cute places to stay on Bowen Island from yoga retreats to wooden cabins and more.

Check out my whole post about the best places to stay on Bowen Island.

Where can you camp near Vancouver?

mt seymour camping (2 of 2)
Camping near Vancouver at Mt Seymour

Though it may not seem like it, there are actually several free campsites near Vancouver that you can get to with a little bit of effort.

Most of them you’re going to need to hike to or boat to, but if you know how to look then there are plenty of free campsites in Canada.

If you are going to camp always remember to leave no trace and leave sites better than you found them. Also, make sure your group knows this too! This will help keep the spot looking great for years to come and make sure it’s somewhere you want to return to.

Some of the best places to camp near Vancouver include: