Group Camping in Alberta
Whether you’re looking to camp with a big group for a special event or just to spend time with friends and family, it can be a hassle to figure out where you’re going to camp. This article breaks down your options as well as includes information on if you need a special event permit, liquor license, and event insurance.
Options For Group Camping in Alberta
If you’re planning on camping in Alberta with a big group, you have five options:
Group camping sites in the provincial and federal parks
Individual campsites in the provincial and federal parks
Random camping areas
Group Camping Sites
Speciality group camping sites are offered in all of Alberta’s national parks and many of the provincial parks. The level of accommodation, size of party, and services available vary by the campground.
Banff National Park - Two Jack Main and Johnston Canyon
Elk Island National Park - Astotin Lake
Jasper National Park - Whirlpool
Waterton National Park - Belly River
Each site has its unique rules around booking. You can call 1-877-RESERVE (737-3783) to book or find out more information about group camping in Alberta’s national parks.
Alberta Parks is much more convenient to book through and has a lot more options for group camping. You can phone 1-877-537-2757 or use their website to reserve a group site. Simply select the “Group Camping Area” option, dates, and a location you’d like to camp near (or the specific park you want if you’ve planned that far ahead).
There are a few things to keep in mind when reserving through Alberta Parks:
Reservations for group sites open when all reservations open and can be made for any time throughout the season (book early for popular destinations or weekends)
Group site sizes range from 5 RVs or tents to over 60, so select the right size for your party
You will be required to pre-pay for between 5-10 units, depending on the campground
Rates per night vary from $100-420 with most being between $150-$250
There is a 5 night limit for group campsites (however, once there, you can extend if there aren’t any other reservations)
If there is a “special event” aspect to your camping trip, you may require a special event permit - find out more here.
Multiple Individual Campsites
If you have a smaller or more haphazard group, an alternative to booking group sites is to simply book individual campsites that are neighbouring or in the same loop. Some national and provincial parks even have specific loops and sites designed for this.
For national parks, the best way to book multiple individual sites is online through the reservation website. You can also call 1-877-RESERVE.
Keep in mind, the rules for the maximum number of people, tents, RVs and vehicles varies for each national park and all of the parks allow for a maximum of six people per campsite (with the exception being immediate family units that are larger than six people - i.e. 2 parents and 5 kids).
Alberta Parks also has rules for the maximum number of units staying at a single campsite. These can be a bit confusing, so here are the scenarios that are permitted:
Two RVs and one car
One RV and one or two tents and one car
One, two or three tents and up to two cars
You will have to pay per accommodation unit and it’s up to you to ensure your chosen campsite(s) are large enough to fit everything. Alberta Parks also allows a maximum of six people per campsite, again with the exception of families with more than four dependents.
First-come first-served sites may also be an option, but be prepared that there may be no availability or sites may not be close together. Go to get your spot earlier in the week (by Wednesday), especially if you plan to camp during July or August or at a popular campground. You may have more success with the shoulder season and more remote or less popular parks.
Private Campgrounds for Groups
Many private campgrounds have special group sites or will work with you to book multiple sites for your group. However, keep in mind that you may need to pay extra or book in advance. Some campgrounds will also be unable to accommodate special functions or be unwilling to host large groups. It’s best to call and inquire well in advance of your planned trip.
You can find an interactive map of private campgrounds in Alberta here.
Random Camping in Alberta
This is a great option for groups for a few reasons:
No need to worry about making reservations and what happens if people cancel.
You can set up how you’d like.
Don’t need to worry as much about disturbing others.
The downside is that there aren’t any services and you’ll be boondocking, which may not be an option for everyone. You’ll also want to ensure you’re far enough away from any other campers and that there’s enough room for everyone.
Remember that you can’t just set up camp anywhere. Check out the rules and recommendations from Alberta Parks on where to camp and how to best preserve the environment. Wildland provincial parks allow for random camping and this website is a good resource to get you started on where you can camp.
Using Private Property for Group Camping
For the highest level of privacy and freedom, camping on private property is your best bet. It’s best if the land belongs to someone who’s joining in on the camping trip, although some people would be happy to lend out their land (for free or for a fee). Always ensure you have permission from the landowner in writing before you camp. Keep in mind that you will likely be dry camping.
Group Camping Etiquette
No matter where you stay, ensure the group is respectful. If you’re staying in a campground, know the rules and follow them. Do your best to not disturb other campers and pay attention to quiet hours. Rule-breaking can result in getting kicked out of the campground as well as fines.
Always clean up and never leave behind a mess. If you’re camping outside of a campground, ensure your campsites are causing minimal damage, pack out all garbage, dispose of waste properly (or pack it out if you’re in RVs), and practice safe campfire habits.
Liquor License and Event Liability
If your group camping is part of an event such as a wedding, reunion, or club or corporate function, you may want to look into event liability insurance. You can learn more here.
Remember that Alberta Parks requires a special permit to use its group camping sites for these types of events.
If you plan on serving liquor, you will also require a liquor license. In this case, you’d also want event liability insurance due to the risks associated with alcohol.
Talk to your broker if you’re unsure if the event you’re having requires liability insurance.