Here’s something you may not know about me: I love waking up with the smell of woodsmoke in my hair. It reminds me of my youth and camping (and if I’m being honest, high school bush parties at Beaverland – don’t ask). Camping is a rite of passage for any Canadian or visitor to Canada. Obvs, I’m into both glamping and lazy camping at Banff’s equipped campsites, but camping, true camping, with a tent or trailer is an experience everyone should have. Here’s all you need to know about the best spots for Canmore camping outside of Banff National Park.
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Bow River Campground
Located along the north side of the TransCanada Highway, just off the Three Sister’s overpass, this is the campground I like to bike around when it’s closed. Shhhh… don’t tell anyone. I’m only a rule breaker because Bow River Campground is close to my favourite biking trails in Canmore.
This Canmore campground is anchored along the shores of the Bow River, hence the name. As one would expect, it’s a choice spot for fishermen with loads of rainbow trout, brown trout and whitefish if you’re skilled enough to snag them.
Heads up: This camping area is also an exit point for those who’ve rafted down from Banff, but that won’t matter to campers, as it’s mostly my neighbours Jim and Carolyn who do this.
Back to the campground… there are over 60 RV accessible campsites and most are serviced with power and water. They’ve also got a few walk-in tenting sites.
Firewood is available to purchase, and there is a hand pump for water for those few sites without. Sadly, toilets are outhouse style and there are no showers. But, hey! There is a little playground to kick your kids off to.
You have to make a reservation though, so do that here.
Three Sisters Campground
This one always confuses me, as it’s located at Dead Man’s Flats, not at the Three Sisters Overpass. (The campground just off the Three Sister’s overpass is Bow River Campground.) Anyway, you can’t miss Dead Man’s Flats where Three Sisters Campground is located.
Its marker is this massive Canadian flag flying at the service centre with two gas stations and a remarkably good Indian restaurant bizarrely called the Mad Dog Cafe.
The campground itself has 36 unserviced campsites with wood framed gravel tent pads (though RV and campers are welcome). Each site sports its own fire pit and picnic table. With loads of mature trees riddling this Canmore campground, sites are well shaded.
There’s plenty of wood available, non-flush toilets, a playground and a picnic shelter. Because this campground is right beside the Bow River, you’ll want to take advantage of the fishing opportunities and there’s also a hand launch for small non-motorized boats.
Call 403-673-2163 for more information.
Spring Creek Campground
All the benefits of town camping combined with luscious mountain views are yours at Spring Creek Campground. Situated smack dab in the middle of Canmore, it’s only a few minutes walk to downtown with all its cafes, shops and services.
No tents are allowed at this RV campground, but if you’ve got an RV, you’ll love all the amenities. There are 100 RV sites, some with 15, 30 and 50 amp water and sewer services.
Coin laundry and RV supplies are available for purchase. Washrooms and showers are wheelchair accessible.
Contact Spring Creek at 403-678-5111 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Lac Des Acres Campground
About a 10-minute drive from the town of Canmore, Lac Des Acres Campground is located in picturesque Bow Valley Provincial Park. This close to Canmore campground has approximately 30 campsites, each with its own fire pit.
The site is pretty, which makes up for the pit toilets and lack of hook ups. There is play equipment, and a hand pump delivers water.
The actual lake catches quite a bit of wind, which makes it a choice spot for windsurfers. Note: Plenty of traffic accidents happen around this stretch of the TransCanada Highway.
Believe the road signs when you’re instructed to reduce your speed to 95 km/hr.
Camping is by reservation only and you can do that on this section of the Alberta Parks site.
First up: Do not confuse this with the Wapiti Campground in Jasper National Park. This campsite is situated in the northwest section of Canmore, Alberta.
Camping here means you’re in close proximity to all the town’s amenities, the Legacy Trail (an awesome 22 km paved pathway between Canmore and Banff), plus the Travel Alberta Information Centre.
Here, there are 88 sites that range from serviced to unserviced (AKA tents). There’s a shower facility that will set you back $3 per wash, and firewood is $10/bundle.
Insider tip: Score a slightly better price on firewood at Save on Foods or Canadian Tire in the town of Canmore.
For more info call: 1-866-366-2267. Reservations are now closed (as of the May long weekend), but there are some first come first served sites available.
Alpine Club of Canada
The HI Canmore Clubhouse is part of the Alpine Club of Canada, and is less than a five-minute drive from the town of Canmore. If you’re really not into camping, this mountain hideaway is the next best thing.
It’s right in the middle of the woods and feels like a hotel without the sticker shock. You can rent out a single bunk or a cabin that accommodates up to 15 people.
Don’t worry about packing your own towel, sheets, blankets or pillows, they’re all provided. Plus, there’s a fully equipped kitchen, large deck with BBQ and coin laundry.
Be sure to walk around the property to find its authentic tipi. Pack your hiking boots and bikes, as there are several trails directly from the Clubhouse.
Reservations are essential, so call 403-678-3200.
Camping in the Kananaskis
There are few choice spots for camping in the Kananaskis. Kananaskis Country (or K-Country as locals refer to it), offers all the epic mountain adventures and vistas as Banff National Park, but isn’t on the international radar (yet).
It’s mostly Albertans who head here for camping and hiking. Relatively speaking, there’s less crowds here than in Banff, but you’ll still want to make reservations if you plan on camping in the Kananaskis. Below are a few of my favourite spots.
Mount Kidd RV Park
Situated in Kananaskis Provincial Park, Mount Kidd RV Park is one of the most desirable camping spots in the Alberta Rockies. This is a private campground and you’ll want to reserve your spot ASAP, especially if you plan on camping on a summer weekend.
Luckily, this campground is open year-round, and in the winter months, there’s often a crackling fire in the Campers Centre. Once the snow clears, you can take advantage of their bicycle paths and tennis courts.
There are over 200 sites that cater to all manner of trailers, motor homes and tents. There are fully serviced, semi-serviced and no hook-up sites. Some even have cable TV hook ups! Each site comes with its own picnic table and fire pit.
Reservation info here.
You’ll feel like you’re staying in the backcountry at this hidden gem. Situated just off Highway 40, it’s a straightforward drive to Sundance Lodges from Calgary after you peel off the TransCanada Highway.
If you’re into glamping, this is the spot for you. Bed down in one of six Sioux (First Nations) canvas tipis or cozy up inside a Trapper’s Tent – similar in it’s coverage, but different in design.
BYOB (bring your own bedding) or rent from them to enjoy maximum glamping in Alberta.
Got your own mobile bedstead? Book into the unserviced RV and tent campsites. If you’re travelling with a large posse, group areas accommodate 3 to 6 campers in a large, majorly scenic setting.
Reservation information here.
Should you need to throw in the towel, there are two hotels along Highway 40 (that’s in the Kananaskis) to rest your head at. Stoney Nakoda Resort is right at the intersection of the TransCanada and Highway 40.
It’s got a massive parking lot and doesn’t charge for truck or RV parking. If you stay over, breakfast is included, as is WiFi. This pet-friendly, Kananaskis hotel also sports an indoor pool and waterslide.
As a bonus, there are laundry facilities, an on-site casino and good nightly dinner specials.
Pomeroy Kananaskis Mountain Lodge is a 20-minute drive along Highway 40 once you turn off the TransCanada. This lovely lodge has recently undergone a major overhaul and is now home to Kananaskis Nordic Spa.
With a daily kid’s club and ample outdoor adventures for the tots, it’s pure heaven for families. For larger groups, get one of the new loft rooms that sleep six, have two full bathrooms and a wood burning fireplace.
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Have you ever been camping near Canmore? Where are your favourite spots?
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