First Come First Served Campsites in Alberta

By Samantha Lemna | May 16, 2019

Online reservations made camping easier in many ways: A guaranteed place to stay you can check out the campground before you show up and you can plan ahead. However it’s also made it more difficult to be spontaneous – and getting a campsite at a popular campground can be a challenge! Thankfully you’re not out of options yet. When you can’t reserve a spot or you’re taking a last minute trip first come first serve (FCFS) campsites are a lifesaver.

What is an FCFS campsite?

First come first serve campsites commonly abbreviated as FCFS are non-reservable campsites found in campgrounds. You cannot book these sites ahead of time. Instead whoever shows up first to an unoccupied site can claim it.

Where to find FCFS campsites in Alberta?

There are entire FCFS campgrounds as well as sections of FCSC campsites in otherwise reservable campgrounds throughout Alberta. Alberta Parks provides a full list of FCFS campgrounds and campsites. FCFS sites are also available in Alberta’s national parks.

How to Claim an FCFS Campsite in Alberta

It’s a pretty simple process:

  • Show up at a campground and find an unoccupied FCFS site. They’ll be indicated on the campground map or at the entrance gate. In some campgrounds you may have to manually check to see if a campsite is occupied.

  • Register your choice of unoccupied FCFS campsite. You can pay a manned desk or leave payment in the indicated box – make sure you have a cheque or exact change!

  • Set up your tent or park your RV. You must have a tent or RV to “claim” a campsite – chairs are not sufficient!

  • Keep in mind that check in and check out times apply. You need to leave before the check out time (usually between 11:00am and 2:00pm) or you’ll have to pay for an extra night.

    Is it easy to get FCFS spots?

    During peak camping season (July and August) on long weekends and at premier destinations FCFS can be hard to get. Many people will drive out Tuesday or Wednesday to campgrounds nearer to Calgary and Edmonton and set up a tent to reserve a spot for the weekend.

    Here are several tips to get a spot:

    • The farther the campground is from an urban centre the more likely you’ll be able to find a spot even during peak camping season.

    • Go earlier in the week and pitch tent to reserve your spot – just remember you’ll need to pay for those nights. Monday – Wednesday are the best days although you’ll still likely have a good chance if you go earlier on Thursday too.

    • Plan to arrive early in the day to get the best pick of spots.

    • Call ahead to see if there are open spots.

    Even if you’re not a planner or simply can’t plan camping trips until the last minute you should still be able to get out and enjoy our incredible province.