If you’re into glamping (glamour camping) Alberta, Canada has tons of options. Camping (I’m talking about a tent here) tends to lose its lustre when children are brought into the fold. At least it did for us. That early morning light creeping through the tent’s nylon walls. The unsuccessful shushing of the toddler who begins babbling at 5 am. That’s what led us to throw in the towel. Fortunately there’s an entire world of glamping out there. Here’s a few of my favourite luxury outdoor accommodations in Alberta.
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Glamping in Alberta
So many campgrounds nowadays offer glamping options. But there’s two things you need to know. First, they go fast. You need to make glamping reservations as soon as you can. April is when Alberta Parks opens their reservations for the upcoming summer. You need to get in it, like, fast. Second, Alberta Parks doesn’t use the term glamping. They call their glamping units comprised of tents, tipis, yurts, cabins, etc… comfort camping. Below is a list of my favourite glamping/comfort camping options in Alberta.
I never understood why people invest in campers. They’re expensive and a hassle to deal with off season. Apparently over 1 million travel trailers in Canada only get used 14 days a year. For real. Even in season, where do you park the massive beast? Tally up your insurance costs and storage fees, and you might as well spend a week at a resort instead. This my friends, is where Wheel Estate comes into play.
For those folks who love the novelty of camper camping, but don’t want to shell out for their own trailer, Wheel Estate comes to the rescue. This nifty online service allows trailer owners to rent their units to verified guests. Owners earn money by listing their trailers for free and renters get use of a camper without the hassles of ownership. It’s a also a cool way to test drive units you’ve got your eye on. Think of Wheel Estate like Airbnb for outdoorsy folks.
Dinosaur Provincial Park Camping
The Comfort Camping suites in Dinosaur Provincial Park are in a word: amazing. You get to spend the night in this massive safari-like tent in one of the world’s most significant dinosaur sites. This is a world renowned fossil park, and no other site in the world comes close to the number of dinosaur fossils or complete skeletons found. There’s also regular camping to be had in Dinosaur Provincial Park, but it’s decidedly not as glamorous, hence the term: glamping. Wink.
Each glamping tent is decked out with a fridge, proper bed and even an electric fireplace. They’ve got cutlery, lights and a couch, too! Eve and I spent some time in one of these tents, but weekend availability is pretty hard to come by. Still, there are plenty of mid-week options available this summer. Book in with Alberta Parks here. If you can only get away during the weekend, consider venturing a tad further from Calgary at Writing on Stone.
Writing on Stone Campground
Further south, Writing on Stone Provincial Park is another excellent camping option. The campground is paces away from a natural sand beach, where you can swim or tube. And you’ll love all the shade provided by those towering cottonwood trees in the Milk River valley. Each canvas tent has its own private deck, fire pit and barbecue. It’s pretty much the same set up as at Dinosaur Provincial Park, but this sacred site contains the largest concentration of First Nations pictographs in North America. Note: Writing on Stone campground is getting busier and busier. Reservations are essential in the summer months. More info here.
Three National Parks within striking distance of Calgary: Banff National Park, Jasper National Park and Elk Island National Park offer oTENTik experiences. An oTENTik is essentially a tent-cabin combo. Each A-frame-style oTENTik is equipped with a bbq, table and chairs and electric plug-ins. Yes, electricity means it also has light! It sleeps six on two-queen sized and one double-sized bed. You bring your own bedding, camping stove and cutlery. It makes camping such a breeze, you’ll wonder why you ever pitched a tent.
But for those who feel camping requires a tent, but don’t have their own, these three National Parks also offer Equipped Campsites. You can read more about my experience with Eve in an equipped site in Banff at Two Jack Main Campground here. Essentially, you get a six-person tent set up for you with a sleeping pad, stove, eating utensils, pots and lantern provided. You only need to bring your sleeping bag. And food. And mama might require wine.
Tipi tent camping Alberta
Close to Calgary, you can bed down in tipi at Blackfoot Crossing Historic Park. Additionally, two traditional First Nations tipis are set up at Crandell Mountain Campground in Waterton Lakes National Park each summer. You have to bring more gear for the canvas tipis (sleeping pads, cooking utensils, etc…) but staying in such a unique shelter makes it worth it. For those who don’t want the fuss of packing, equipped campsites are also on tap at the Townsite campground.
Note: Due to fire infrastructure damage, Crandell Mountain Campground is currently closed.
In Alberta, there are now lots of yurts to spend the night in. Mount Engadine Lodge has a winterized yurt, so it’s open all year round. It sleeps four with two bunk beds and offers the same all inclusive dining program as guests of the lodge have. Other popular yurts are found at Pigeon Lake – about an hour’s drive from Edmonton, Alberta and a two-hour drive from Calgary.
Pigeon Lake was the cool lake when I went to University. And by cool, I mean warm. This is a warm lake, where all the cool people cabined. Sorry for the confusion. Here, you’ll find insulated yurts (round tent-like structures) that are mounted on a spacious wooden deck on the shores of the lake.
Back to the yurts, they’re set up just like a hotel room, only you bring the bedding. They’ve got so many bed options, and I especially love how they’re wheelchair accessible. Now if you really, really want four solid walls around you, check out The Village at Pigeon Lake. Here, you’ll find a hotel, spa, some really good restaurants and lots of fun shops. I’m so enamoured by this complex it’s on my spring bucket list.
If you’re looking to bed down in unique tents, look no further than in Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site. Campers can spend the night in one of two very unique experiences. You have a choice between a First Nations Tipi or a Métis Trappers Tent (real beds in this one). To get you in the mood, Parks staff offers fire starting kits and even a period cooking class. I recommend having the kids watch the cooking class, too. If only so they realize just how hard it is to cook a marshmallow without burning it. Don’t bring any food or toiletry items into the tents, though! #wildlife
Alberta Cabins to Rent
Still not convinced camping is your thing? There are plenty of cabins to rent all over Alberta. You could head up north and rent The Nest. Ideal for larger groups and family reunions, this timber frame lodge is situated in the Boreal forest at Lesser Slave Lake Provincial Park. It’s an actual cabin, so you won’t have to deal with sleeping upon uneven ground, and you’ll stay toasty warm inside should it rain. It’s got a wood burning fireplace in the great room plus laundry facilities. If this isn’t one of the best Alberta Parks cabins for families to rent, I don’t know what is.
Have you ever gone glamping? Where are your favourite spots to rent?