Camping in Banff is one of those bucket list adventures every Canadian and visitor to Canada ought to experience. Sure, Banff is a major tourist destination, with tons of places to stay, hike, relax and shop. But one of the best ways to experience all the beauty that Banff has to offer is by camping.
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Whether your accommodation of choice is an RV, a trailer or tent, there are plenty of epic spots dotted throughout Banff National Park. There are campsites in the townsite areas of both Banff and Lake Louise, plus along the stunning Icefields Parkway. This post has all the tips on what to expect, where to camp, plus the amenities and location of each campground in Banff, so that you can choose the site that best suits your needs.
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Camping in Banff
Not only is camping in Banff an amazing experience, but it can be significantly cheaper than staying in a hotel. Since Banff is in the mountains, it’s important to be prepared for rapidly changing weather. Bring warm clothes, waterproof clothing, plus winter accessories like hats and mitts. Yes, even in summer! Here’s a super handy packing list for the Canadian Rockies.
Packing a sleeping bag, sleeping mat and extra blankets is super important as temperatures can occasionally drop below zero. And don’t forget that bear spray! Though this is a Yosemite packing list, you’ll find it useful for figuring out what to bring to Banff.
Check-in times for Banff campsites are between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and you’ll have to check out by 11 a.m. In our list below, we showcase both reservation-based camping and first-come, first-served campsites.
If you don’t have a reservation, it will be very difficult to get a spot. Be sure to show up early when you can’t reserve in advance. Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Debit and Traveller’s Cheques and cash are accepted at all locations (for self-registration, be sure to have exact change or credit card). You can visit the Banff National Park website for maps, exact addresses and to check opening dates.
Permits and Rules
If you’re planning to camp in Banff National Park, there are few things to note. First, if you’re staying for any length of time within the park , you need a park permit. These are easily purchased at entry gates, visitor centres and at the campgrounds.
Along with this, you’ll also need a camping permit, which you can grab at the campground or any self-registration kiosks. Campgrounds with fire pits charge $8.80 per night for a fire permit.
Camping with friends and family can be super fun, but make sure that you respect the quiet hour rules within the park. Quiet hours are from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. Be sure to follow campground policies so you don’t get fined.
Pets are allowed within the National Park and in many campsites. Be sure to always have them on a leash! If you’re looking to go fishing, there is also a permit for that. You can get one at all the Parks Canada visitor centres or at local’s favourite: Wapiti Sports in Canmore.
Don’t let any of these regulations scare you off. They’re established to ensure that Banff National Park stays healthy and can offer wildlife and nature driven experiences for years to come.
How to book
Reserve any of the Banff campgrounds below by calling 1-877-RESERVE (737-3783). Outside North America call: 519-826-5391. Or visit the Parks Canada online registration system, which begins accepting summer reservations each January.
Tunnel Mountain Village 1
This Tunnel Mountain campground is only open between May 7 and October 5. Located a few kilometres outside of the Town of Banff, it’s a great location for campers looking to get the most out of Banff.
It’s fully equipped with flush toilets, showers and sanitation dumps included in the $27.40 fee. Reservations for this campground start May 14 and run until October 4. This is the largest campground in the Banff area with 618 spots!
Tunnel Mountain Village 2
Not to be confused with Tunnel Mountain Village 1, this campground is open year-round and takes reservations year-round. Tunnel Mountain Village 2 is smaller than its Tunnel Mountain counterpart, but it is closer to the Town of Banff.
Tunnel Mountain Village 2 has electricity, flush toilets, showers, sanitation dumps and offers some campsites with fire pits at a slightly higher cost. Regular camping costs $32.30. Both Tunnel Mountain campgrounds also offer walk-in campsites.
Two Jack Lakeside Campground
Two Jack Lakeside Campground is located on the Lake Minewanka Loop road which is about 12 km outside of the town of Banff. Of the 64 campsites, 23 are walk-in. You can drive into your site to unload, but vehicles have to be parked in designated spots away from the campsite.
For $27.40, this campground includes flush toilets and showers, with optional firepits for purchase. If you can get a spot on the lake, you’ll have amazing views. Two Jack Lakeside Campground is open from May 7 to October 5, with reservations allowed between May 21 and October 4. If you’re having trouble getting a spot here, check out the Two Jack Main campground that offers more spots but doesn’t open until June 25.
If you don’t have a tent or camping gear to speak of, you can get a fully equipped campsite at Two Jack Main Campground. All the deets on that can be found here.
Johnston Canyon Campground
Situated 22km from Banff, Johnston Canyon is one of the most beautiful and accessible spots to hike in Banff National Park. The campground is open from June 25 to September 21 and offers reservations until September 20.
For $27.40, campers have access to flush toilets, showers, and sanitation dumps, as well as optional fire pits for an additional cost. They’ve also got food lockers for walk-in campers.
If you’re looking to hike Johnston Canyon, this campground is a fantastic place to stay, because parking for the trail can be very difficult. Read: next to impossible some days, as it’s a super popular hike. The campground is just across from the trailhead, which ensures you’ll be able to access the hike.
Rampart Creek is located on the Icefields Parkway, 88km north of Lake Louise – on the drive to Jasper National Park. This small campground used to be first-come first-served, but they have opened up the majority of the spots to reservation.
It’s open from June 3 to October 12, with reserved spots available from June 12 to September 13. For $17.60, campers have access to a dry toilet and water. Note: There is no RV fill and water can occasionally be unavailable depending on weather. Also be aware there’s no disabled access or cellphone service.
Camping near Lake Louise
Lake Louise offers both tent camping and a trailer campground. The trailer campground is open year-round with electricity, water and sewer as well as flush toilets, showers and sanitation dumps for $32.30. There is no tent or tent-trailer camping permitted on RV sites.
The tent campground at Lake Louise offers 206 spots for campers from May 30 to September 27. Included in the $27.40 fee are flush toilets, showers and sanitation dumps. These sites do not have electricity, water or sewer access.
Both campgrounds take reservations June 12 through September 24 and are located just outside of Lake Louise and a short drive to the town of Banff.
Waterfowl Lakes is another campground located on the beautiful Icefields Parkway. Unlike Rampart Creek, this campground is only 55km from Lake Louise.
For $21.50, campers have access to water, flush toilets, and sanitation dumps. This is a first-come, first-served campground. Meaning: it’s important to show up early to get a spot! This campground is best for tenting and small trailers or motorhomes. As with the other Icefield Parkway campgrounds, there is no cell-service.
Mosquito Creek Campground
Another campground along the Icefields Parkway, Mosquito Creek is only 24km from Lake Louise, making it perfect for those looking to explore the townsite. Like Waterfowl Lakes, this campground is first-come, first-served, so arrive early!
There is water and dry toilets available to campers. It costs $17.60 to camp here. This small campground might be named Mosquito Creek, but don’t worry, there are no more mosquitos here than any of the other campgrounds!
Camping Near Banff
As mentioned earlier, camping in Banff during the spring and summer months can be crazy busy. With so many beautiful spots outside of the national park, there are some quieter options available near Banff.
True, these spots might be a little further away from Banff townsite, but they still boast stunning views and amazing hiking trails. Look for campgrounds in Canmore or Kananaskis campsites such as the few listed below.
Bow Valley Campground
Located in Bow Valley Provincial Park, this campground is just 30km east of Canmore. They offer unserviced and power/water campsites as well as interpretive programs, bike rentals, canoeing outfitters and much more.
Camping is available here from May 1 through October 12 with reservations available between May 3 and October 7. Prices depend on the services in the campsite and reservation fees. The campsites are well treed, so you’ll have some semblance of privacy from other campers. Call 403-673-2163 for info or book via Alberta Parks.
Boulton Creek Campground
Boulton Creek Campground is located in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park in the Kananaskis region. There are plenty of options for campers here, with unserviced to fully serviced lots, showers, equipment rentals, a camper’s store, as well as hiking trails and paved bike paths.
This campground is also close to the Kananaskis Lakes. Camping is available between May 7 and October 12, with reservations being taken from May 3 to October 14. Prices vary depending on the services in the campsite and reservation costs. It’s run by Alberta Parks, so you’ll need to reserve off their site here.
Can’t find a spot? There are plenty of places to stay at in Banff with four solid walls. Check out these top Canmore hotels, motels and hostels. Or, you could splurge with a stay at Fairmont Banff Springs. Then there’s Elk and Avenue, a more affordably priced hotel in Banff you may wish to consider. And did you know Sunshine Mountain Lodge is open during the summer months?
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Where are your favourite spots for camping? I’d love to hear any and all camping tips, too!