Camping in squamish


Original Post
mac gilbert · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2011 · Points: 0

I know there is an international forum but decided to post here since many people travel to Squamish from Seattle. My questions are:

1) what does the border crossing look like on a Friday evening? Worth it to go later due to traffic?

2) suggestions on where to camp/sleep in or near Squamish. I understand there is a camp area next to the chief. I would assume that it gets filled pretty quickly and am concerned it will be full by late Friday ( when I plan to arrive).

Thanks for the help!

Chipper Maney · · Seattle · Joined Sep 2015 · Points: 30

1) Yes, crossing is likely to be busy.  Yes, going later might save you a bit of time.

2) Not much camping in Squamish.  Campgrounds are likely to be full. Chief campground is your best bet, as it's first come first-served. You can also sleep in your car in the parking lot. Alternatively, you can camp on the side of the road up the Mamquam River FS Road north of the chief. There are some other small secret spots scattered about.  Better camping on up toward Whistler, but it's a bit of a drive.

JCM · · Seattle, WA · Joined Jun 2008 · Points: 5
Chipper Maney wrote:

1) Yes, crossing is likely to be busy.  Yes, going later might save you a bit of time.

2) Not much camping in Squamish.  Campgrounds are likely to be full. Chief campground is your best bet, as it's first come first-served. You can also sleep in your car in the parking lot. Alternatively, you can camp on the side of the road up the Mamquam River FS Road north of the chief. There are some other small secret spots scattered about.  Better camping on up toward Whistler, but it's a bit of a drive.


Some bad beta in the post above. Corrections:

1. Driving late will save you a ton of time, not just a bit. Not just at the border but also in Seattle/Everett and Vancouver traffic. Traffic and border waits can be awful at 5pm, but nonexistent and 9pm. Also, going to the correct border crossing. This can mean a 3:15 hour drive instead of a 5 hour drive. Huge difference. I'll post some more border/drive beta in a bit.

2. The campground is often full. This much is true. But don't camp in the parking lot, and don't camp on the Mamquam FS Road. This was the standard procedure as recently as last year, but there have been some major rule changes this year. There is a thread about it. Squamish is moving toward a major crackdown on unregulated campin close to town. There are some new camping options opening later this year, but until then expect things to be very limited.

Your best bet for camping is in various spots north of town. Camping at Chek is a popular option, though there are some closer areas as well. People who visit regularly all have their secret locations. Don't expect to be able to roll in blindly and find a tent site. Your options are much better if you can sleep in a vehicle, since suitable parking spots greatl outnumber suitable tent sites.

JCM · · Seattle, WA · Joined Jun 2008 · Points: 5

Border/traffic beta:

I go to Squamish weekends pretty regularly (last time was...last weekend), and here is the system we've worked out:

1. Leave Seattle between 6:30 and 6:45 on Friday evening. Seriously- that's the 15-minute window. It is late enough to avoid most traffic and border waits, but early enough that you get to Squamish by 10PM. Everett is the main traffic sticking point. Check the traffic before you go.

2. As you approach Bellingham there is a sign indicating border wait times. Pay close attention. We usually use the Lynden crossing. This route is about 5 minutes extra driving compared to the Blaine crossings (Pacific Crossing and Peace Arch), but typically has a much shorter wait time, so it usually worth it. At Lynden, it is fairly common that we can drive right up to the crossing with little to no wait (at 8 PM or later). Never use Peace Arch; the wait times are always longest there. Pacific Crossing can be a good option, but make sure you check to wait times first.

3. There is a Safeway in Lynden which is a good place to get cheap gas and supplies before crossing the border.

4. On the way back, same departure window- leave Squamish between 6:30 and 6:45 on Sunday evening. From the Canadian side, the Lynden crossing is called the Abbottsford crossing.

5. When crossing back into the US, have all your produce up front with you to declare. This will save time. They don't care about veggies, but are kind of tweaky about fruit. Make sure any apples have a "USA" or "Washington" sticker on them.

6. Crossing into Canada they generally don't care about produce- they just want to make sure you have money and a job and will be leaving Canada reasonably soon. The more you can do to present yourself as a vacationing yuppie, the better.

mac gilbert · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2011 · Points: 0

Thanks for all the beat! I appreciate it. 

Creed A · · Salt Lake City, UT · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 680

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Nick Drake · · Newcastle, WA · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 438

JCM nailed it. Just to add, we had to come in a bit late last weekend and arrived at the chief campground at 11pm. Amazingly sites were still plentiful.

Please note that as of this week they will be towing cars from the lot there who don't display their tags. Don't forget to put it on the dash of your car and make sure you list the correct plate number when you register for your site.

JCM · · Seattle, WA · Joined Jun 2008 · Points: 5

That's good to know regarding the campground. In high season- July and August- it is always full. Perhaps right now is early enough that the roadtrippers haven't arrived to fill it up yet. So I guess it is worth rolling through the Chief campground.

A good backup option is the camping near the Brennan Park rec center https://squamish.ca/our-services/community-parks-and-trail-maintenance/district-campground/ It is less likely to fill up than the Chief.

Chris Small · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2013 · Points: 0

Cat Lake just north of Squamish has a forest service campground with walk-in sites and you may be able to get a site at Alice Lake prior to July. 

Gavin W · · Surrey, BC · Joined Feb 2015 · Points: 23

Correction on border crossing names:

From the West:

  • Peace Arch / Peace Arch (Blaine)
  • Truck Crossing / Pacific Crossing (Blaine)
  • Lynden / Aldergrove 
  • Sumas / Huntingdon
ollieon · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2012 · Points: 5
Trevor. · · Boise, ID · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 741

Any recommendations for free vehicle camping bearing in mind the new situation? Previously I've just driven a few miles up the Mamquam Road( Not the Mamquam FSR, but the other Mamquam Rd on the north side of the river), pulled over and crawled into the back of my truck, but it sounds like that's no longer legit? It doesn't need to be nice, I just want a legal spot to park and sleep at night that's not too far from town. If you don't want to spray your secret spot all over the internet, feel free to PM me.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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