Top 5 Campgrounds within 4 Hours of Calgary

By joanne lemna | July 27, 2017

Narrowing a list down to my 5 favourite campgrounds within a 4 hour drive of Calgary was nearly impossible because my list grows longer every time I visit a new park. I chose to focus on campgrounds where you can park your trailer and enjoy hiking biking and exploring without having to jump in your vehicle for the duration of your camping trip.

These campgrounds within 4 hours of Calgary are all set in locations with stunning scenery water beaches and trails beckoning you to lace up your hiking boots for a short adventure.

Bow Valley Campground

Bow Valley Campground 2 Tanya Koob.jpegA favourite with Calgary families this campground is located less than an hour away from the city in the beautiful Bow Valley Provincial Park . It’s so close you’ll have no problem getting to camp Friday after work in time to cook some hot dogs over the fire for dinner. Choose a riverside campsite with power and water hookups for the ultimate in comfort camping.

How you’ll entertain yourselves at camp:

  • Walk or bike over to Many Springs Trailhead and enjoy a short 1.3 km loop hike as you search for rare orchids keep your eyes out for beavers and enjoy the walk on the boardwalk section of the little pond.
  • Bike the paved Bow Valley Bike trail with fabulous views over to Mount Yamnuska.
  • Hike along the Bow River on the 2.1 km trail that runs behind many of the best campsites in the campground.
  • Bike the quiet campground roads visit Middle Lake stop at the store for a treat or hike other trails in the park. Everything is easily accessible on foot or by bike making this a great campground for those who like to stay put without driving anywhere.

Elkwood Campground

Elkwood Tanya Koob.jpegAnother favourite with locals this campground can be reached in an easy 90 minute drive from the west Calgary city limits. It’s a great choice for a short weekend camping trip when you don’t have an extra day off to go further away. Choose a site with power and water hookups for easy camping in spring or fall. We also like camping near the playground with young kids. Located in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park  it’s a pretty location with lots to do.

How you’ll entertain yourselves at camp:

  • Hike the short 1.5 km Marl Lake Loop with trailhead in the Elkwood Campground
  • Bike the paved 12 km bike trail that winds its way through the park connecting the Boulton Creek Elkwood Lower Lake and Canyon campgrounds. We like to bike it one way down to Canyon and then hang out at the playground while an adult goes back for the truck.
  • Visit the Boulton Creek Trading Post for Ice-cream (easily reached by the paved bike trail).
  • Canoe or kayak on either Upper or Lower Kananaskis Lake for stunning views of the surrounding mountains (with boat rentals available beside the at the Boulton Creek Campground).
  • Hike to Rawson Lake trailhead is a short drive away drive to nearby Highwood Pass and hike the Ptarmigan Cirque Trail one of the best hikes in all of Kananaskis or hike around Upper Kananaskis Lake. There is no shortage of great hiking available in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park.

Dinosaur Provincial Park Campground

Dinosaur Tanya Koob.jpegLocated in Southern Alberta near the small town of Brooks this campground requires a bit more of a drive so you’ll want to save the outing for a long weekend or summer vacation camping trip. Book a power site along the creek or backing onto the badlands and the Coulee Viewpoint Trail. It gets pretty hot here so consider saving this one for fall when temperatures are more pleasant and cool.

How you’ll entertain yourselves at camp:

  • Hike the 0.9 km Coulee Viewpoint Trail up above the Visitor Centre for fabulous views of the badlands.
  • Hike the 1.3 km Badlands Trail for up close views of hoodoos and interesting rock formations.
  • Bike the Public Loop Road an easy 3.2 km gravel loop (shared with vehicles) that stops by two fossil houses and trailheads for the Badlands Trail the Trail of the Fossil Hunters and the Cottonwood Flats Trail. The hiking trails cannot be biked so just park your bikes in the racks located at each trailhead or fossil house.
  • Paddle the Red Deer River from the Steveville Campground Bridge upstream back down to Dinosaur Provincial Park in an easy half day outing (13 km paddle). Note that there are no canoe rentals in the park so you’ll want to bring your own boat with you.
  • Take the kids to the dinosaur-themed playground stop in at the Visitor Centre to tour the small museum and learn about the fossils that have been found in this park (small fee to enter) or walk over to the Cretaceous Cafe for ice-cream and other treats.
  • Sign up for a guided tour . There are a variety of tours suited for families and kids of all ages. We recently enjoyed the Centrosaurus quarry hike where we got to walk to a bone bed containing the remains of hundreds of horned dinosaurs.

Redstreak Campground


This campground would easily be in the top two for us if I had to choose a favourite campground. It’s a little bit further with a 3 hour drive but we still make the trek out for a 2-day weekend (always wishing we had another day). Choose power sites in the E loop on a gorgeous beach (bathrooms showers and a playground conveniently located in the middle of the loop).

How you’ll entertain yourselves at camp:

  • Bike the fun natural trails around the campground.
  • Hike the Redstreak Loop Trail (2.2 km return) to a gorgeous lookout above the E Loop with views over the Columbia Valley.
  • Hike the Redstreak Campground Trail to the Radium Hot Springs pools (4.6 km return). We love this outing even in the summer because there is a swimming pool at the hot springs with a diving board and slide. We also like to make our hike into a loop by hiking the Juniper/Sinclair Canyon Trail on our way to the hot springs returning on the Redstreak Campground Trail. A map of the trails can be downloaded here.
  • Bike or drive down to the Village of Radium Hot Springs and visit the town bike park located in Sinclair Creek. There’s a lovely hiking or biking trail in  Sinclair Creek as well. Visit the Village playground (located two blocks back from Main Street on St. Joseph Street) and stop for ice-cream on the main street. Note there is also parking for RVs and trailers behind the visitor centre if you want to tour the village after pulling out of camp.
  • Take a day trip to nearby Invermere where you can spend the day at the beach on Lake Windermere or check out local mountain bike trails. Our favourite trail is the 9km Old Coach Trail (wide double track gravel trail) which runs one-way from Dry Gulch back to Radium Hot Springs. We like the single track trails off to the river side of this trail as well.

Surveyors Lake Campground

Surveyor Tanya Koob.jpegSurveyors Lake is located just outside of Fernie in Kikomun Creek Provincial Park  BC. It’s approximately 3.5 hours from Calgary. While we have made the drive for a weekend I recommend saving this one for a long weekend or summer vacation camping trip. Try to choose a campsite on the Surveyors Lake side of the campground for easy access to the beach. If you end up on the other side you can always drive to the day-use beach as well.

Note that there are no power sites here and that it gets very hot in summer if you don’t have air conditioning. If you’re partial to having power there are power sites available in the Ponderosa Campground which is located in the same provincial park on Lake Koocanusa.

How you’ll entertain yourselves at camp:

  • Spend the day at the beach rent a boat or stand up paddleboard and go out searching for painted turtles.
  • Hike around Hidden Lake where you’ll see the highest concentration of painted turtles.
  • Explore the mountain bike trails in Kikomun Creek Provincial Park part of the Great Northern Rail Trail. Maps can be picked up in the campground showing the trail network.
  • Take a day trip into Fernie where you’ll find no shortage of activities including a bike and jump park  mountain bike trails in abundance a great biking/walking trail around the downtown core on the Main Town Loop  and a spray park. You can launch all of the adventures above from the aquatic centre parking lot on the corner of Pine Ave & Ridgemont Drive.