Planning a Camping Trip in Alberta

By Samantha Lemna  | 
11/28/19 11:30 AM
    

Alberta wildflowers with a valley and mountains in the background.

Alberta is home to 5 national parks and over 450 provincial parks and protected areas. Camping gets you close to the incredible nature found here, including mountains, forests, and prairies. Planning a camping trip in Alberta is pretty straightforward thanks to the internet, but it can get overwhelming. In this article, we’ll break down everything you need to know about planning a camping trip in Alberta. 

 

Planning a Camping Trip in Alberta’s National Parks

If you plan on camping in one of Alberta’s national parks, you’ll need to purchase admission. The best (and cheapest option) is normally to purchase a Parks Canada Discovery Pass for the year: 

  • $67.70 per adult
  • $136.40 for a family

 

This pass grants you access to all of Canada’s national parks for a year from the purchase date. 

 

Each national park in Alberta has a few choices for campgrounds. Here’s a list with their price per night:

  • Banff National Park
    • Tunnel Mountain ($27.40-$38.20)
    • Two Jack ($21.50-$27.40)
    • Lake Louise ($10.80-32.30)
    • Johnston Canyon ($27.40)
    • Castle Mountain and Protection Mountain ($21.50)
    • Mosquito Creek, Rampart Creek, and Silverhorn Creek ($17.60)
    • Waterfowl ($21.50)
  • Elk Island National Park
    • Astotin Lake ($15.70-$120.00)
  • Jasper National Park
    • Columbia Icefield, Honeymoon Lake, Jonas Creek, Mount Kerkeslin, Snaring, Icefields RV Overflow ($15.70)
    • Pocahontas ($21.70)
    • Wabasso ($21.50-$32.30)
    • Wapiti ($27.40-32.30)
    • Whistlers ($22.50-$32.30)
    • Wilcox ($9.80-$15.70)
  • Waterton Lakes National Park
    • Townsite ($22.50-$38.20)
    • Belly River ($15.70)
  • Wood Buffalo National Park
    • Pine Lake ($15.70-$100.00)

 

Prices range from $15-40 per night for a campsite, depending on the services available in the campground as well as accommodation type. Equipped campsites and oTENTik campsites (where everything is set up for you) are $70 and $120 per night, respectively. Group campsites and backcountry campsites also have a special rate.

 

If you want to have a campfire, you’ll need to purchase a fire permit for each day. It’s $8.80 but comes with unlimited firewood. 

 

You can reserve a campsite at one of Alberta’s national parks online or by calling 1-877-737-3783 (or 519-826-5391 if you’re calling from outside of Canada). Reservations open in January for the next year. There are also a number of first-come, first-served campsites, but keep in mind these can be hard to snag in popular parks over the weekend during summer!

 

Planning a Camping Trip in Alberta’s Provincial Parks

You can find and reserve a campsite at one of Alberta’s provincial parks online or by calling 1-877-537-2757. Reservations open each year in February (although some campgrounds are first-come, first-serve and open year-round).

 

You can book individual campsites, group camping areas, comfort campsites, and backcountry campsites. There are also accessible campsites at some campgrounds. 

 

The fees are as follows:

  • Online reservation: $12 (non-refundable)
  • Campsite reservation: $5 - $26 per night
  • Additional fees for special services (water/electrical/sewer hookups, free showers, etc): up to $7 per night

 

Some campgrounds provide firewood while others sell it. You may also need to buy and bring your own wood. Keep in mind that campfires are only permitted in the designated fire pits and may not be allowed if there is a fire ban.

 

Services vary depending on the campground. Generally, the more services the campground provides, the higher the per-night cost. Some campgrounds offer heated showers and bathrooms with full hookups for RVs while others are primitive and do not have potable water. You can find the perfect campground for you by searching for activity, amenity, or location. There are over 450 parks, so this is a great feature! 

 

Planning a Camping Trip in Alberta - Private Campgrounds

Alberta has many private campgrounds. Some are true paradises with wifi, full hookups, and a waterpark, while others are more humble, remote, and aimed at getting you close to nature. The Alberta Campground Guide is a good place to find a campground or you can search Google Maps to find one near where you’d like to explore.

 

As these campgrounds are privately owned, it will depend on the individual campground as to what services it offers, when you can reserve, the type of campsites, how you book, and the price per night. Some offer deals for long term stays or groups. 

 

Planning a Boondocking Trip in Alberta

You can boondock on public land use zones (and private property if you have permission from the owner). On public land, you’re limited to 14 days in one location and you should pack out all garbage - leave no trace of your visit! 

 

The best part about boondocking in Alberta is getting to enjoy the peace and quiet of this beautiful province - for free! Here’s a list of the public land use zones in the province.

 

Planning Group Camping Trips in Alberta

The provincial parks in Alberta have reservable group sites. There is a 5-night stay maximum in group campsites, although you may be able to extend if no one else has made a reservation. The price starts at $50 per night and varies depending on the services available at the campground. It is a flat fee for every 5 or 10 camping units (RV or tent) and you can pay an additional fee for more units. 

 

If you’re hosting a special event (a wedding, reunion, club event) you may need a special event permit. Get this before you reserve your campsite!

 

Jasper National Park offers one group camping site, reservable for $245 per day. You can host a minimum of 15 people to a maximum of 50. 

 

Last-Minute Camping Trips in Alberta

If you haven’t booked, don’t worry, you have options. Many provincial and national parks offer first-come, first-served campgrounds and campsites. This means whoever gets there first and claims the spot (by putting up a tent or parking an RV and registering) takes the campsite. You can learn more about these sites here. Long weekends or campgrounds close to Alberta’s bigger cities may mean that these sites are already claimed.

 

You can call around to national parks, provincial parks, and private campgrounds to see if they have any spots available. The further away from Calgary and Edmonton, the better your chances are of finding a place to camp. 

 

You can also boondock on public land use zones, just make sure you’re prepared as you won’t have any services or conveniences of a campground. 

 

Planning a Camping Trip in Alberta FAQs

When should I book a campsite in Alberta?

If you’re planning on camping on a long weekend or a summer weekend, you should book as soon as possible. Reservations open up in January or February for national and provincial parks, respectively. Private campgrounds will vary. 

 

When do reservations open for booking a campsite in Alberta?

Usually, they open in January for national parks and February for provincial parks. Private campgrounds may take reservations year-round. 

 

Do I need to book ahead for a campsite in Alberta?

If you’re planning to camp on a long weekend (May, July, August, September) or even a weekend in July or August, you’ll want to book ahead. You should also book ahead if you want to reserve a group campsite. 

 

Are there accessible campsites?

Yes, some provincial parks, private campgrounds, and national parks have campsites that are accessible. You can book accessible campsites online or by phone.

 

How much does camping in Alberta cost?

The cost ranges from free to over $100 per night. It will depend on the type of camping you do (if you’re staying in a campground, enjoying the comforts of a cabin, hiking to a backcountry site, or if you’re boondocking). The price tends to reflect the services available at the campground, as well as its popularity. 

 

Where can I book a campsite?

You can book online or by phone for national parks or provincial parks. Private campgrounds will vary, but you can always give them a call.

 

Can I camp year-round in Alberta?

Yes! The province’s provincial and national parks allow for winter camping at certain campgrounds, although there may be reduced services. Often these sites are first-come, first-served. Private campgrounds may also be open year-round. Of course, if you’re prepared for the cold and snow, you can always try your hand at boondocking. 

 

The main camping season is usually from May to October. Reservations are usually from the May long weekend to the September long weekend, although sometimes they run until October. 

 

Is there firewood at the campgrounds?

It depends on the campground. Some will provide firewood, others will sell it as part of the fire permit or per bundle, and others do not have firewood so you’ll need to buy and bring your own. 

 

Are there bathrooms and showers at the campgrounds in Alberta?

It will depend on the campground. Most will have at least pit toilets and some have heated bathrooms and showers. 

 

How many people can stay at one campsite?

The number of people will depend on the campground’s rules. Usually, it is 4-6 adults per campsite or 1 family (2 adults and their children). 

 

How many camping units can you have at one campsite?

This depends on the size of the campsite and the individual campground. Some will limit you to 1 RV or 1 tent and 1 vehicle, while others are more flexible if there’s space. In some cases, you may be allowed to have an extra tent or vehicle for a small charge.

 

Can I camp anywhere in Alberta or a provincial or national park?

No, you are only allowed to camp in designated places like a campsite or public land use zone. If you have permission, you can also stay on private property. Some people may stay overnight at a rest stop or parking lot (you should ask permission first). 

 

Can I camp with my pets?

Yes! Dogs (and cats) are welcome. They must be on a leash at all times and cannot be left unattended. Ensuring your pets are comfortable and well trained will help avoid disturbing other campers.

 

Have any other questions about planning a camping trip in Alberta? Leave them below and we’ll do our best to answer!

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