Underrated campgrounds in Alberta to consider booking

10 Underrated campgrounds in Alberta to consider booking

By Kelsey KrahnDestinations

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Ah, shoot, you missed out on the hard-to-get camping spots nestled across Alberta; now what? Thankfully, Alberta’s wild, meadow-laden, river-carving, Canadian Rockies-backed scenery houses an array of hidden gems, making it more than possible to set up camp and revel in a quintessential Canadian outdoorsy experience for a few days.

The list below highlights ten underrated first come, first served and reservable frontcountry camping spots to look into when the more popular places fill up. And no, these locations do not compromise on beauty. Some even boast more rustic wonder than the typical go-to campgrounds!

Honeymoon Lake Campground

Tent next to the glistening, clear Honeymoon Lake at the first come, first-served Honeymoon Lake Campground in Jasper National Park. You may not be on a honeymoon, but the ethereal surroundings will enchant you just as much as a partner would (maybe?). So bring your canoe or paddleboard, and bask in the calm, untouched scenery.

This campsite has 35 sites available, so aim to come early in the week to snag a spot for a couple of nights away from the whistles and horns of everyday life.

Amenities: Toilet, cook shelter with wood burning stove, potable water, storage lockers (bear-proof), garbage bins, payphone, fire pits, canoe launch
Do I need to reserve? First come, first served
Location: It takes around 35-40 minutes to drive from Jasper to Honeymoon Lake Campground—located in Jasper National Park
Suitable for RVs? Small RVs under 8 m can be set up here
Fee: Unserviced with fire pit will cost $26

Writing-on-Stone Campground

Catch a glimpse of Canadian history etched through petroglyphs and pictographs at the ever-so-incredible Writing-on-Stone Campground. Feel like you’ve stepped into a time machine as the scenery transports you to when the Blackfoot ancestors carved into and painted on stone in 1050 BCE.

When you transition to the present, pause to appreciate your surroundings: Milk River cutting through the landscape, mountains faded in the backdrop, and hoodoos at the forefront. Go hiking, swimming, kayaking, or canoeing here in the provincial park!

Amenities: Pit and flush toilets, fire pits, grocery/supply store, power, payphone, firewood (for a fee), showers, playground, sewage disposal, tap water, payphone
Do I need to reserve? Yes!
Location: Just under 1.5 hours from Lethbridge in Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park
Suitable for RVs? Yes
Fee: $31 for an unserviced spot and $39 for a 15/30 amp powered spot

Canyon Creek Campground

Revel in the Canadian Rockies lining the not-so-distant backdrop while the encircling trees gently sway in the wind—maybe you’ll hear a bird or two! The Canyon Creek Campground immerses you in a blissful wild setting, where the mountains jet high enough to keep everyday life woes blocked and out of the way.

Find several hikes nearby—including Upper Kananaskis Lake Trail and Lower Kananaskis Lake Trail! Tired of hiking? Go on a bike ride along the paved trails.

*Canyon Creek Campground is one of the busier locations on this list, so you can always look into Lower Lake Campground, another great, reservable location in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park.

Amenities: Picnic tables, sani dump, fire pits, dry toilets, and firewood (for a fee)
Do I need to reserve? First come, first served
Location: Peter Lougheed Provincial Park—about 50.0 km off of Highway 1 and around 2 hours from Calgary.
Suitable for RVs? Yes
Fee: $31 a night

Camping with friends

Camping with friends

Bow Valley Campground

The Bow Valley Campground offers a quintessential Canadian camping experience, with the Bow River snaking through greenery as the Canadian Rockies dominate the background. Some campsites sit near the banks of the river!

And the proximity to Canmore opens up opportunities for various activities, including heading to the quaint mountain town for relaxing summer vibes and tasty treats.

Amenities: Flush toilets, playground, showers, firepits, grocery/supply store, power, water - hookup, pit toilets, sewage disposal, water from a tap, firewood (for a fee)
Do I need to reserve? Yes, but there are six sites for walk-ins
Location: 30.0 km east of Canmore
Suitable for RVs? Yes
Fee: $31 (unserviced, walk-ins) - $47 (power/water)

Mount Kerkeslin Campground

It’s common for people to miss out on staying at Jasper National Park’s Mount Kerkeslin Campground. This quiet oasis keeps the noise to a minimum while unveiling incredible views of Mount Fryatt. You can also bask in the views of the Athabasca River—the rush of it grants a superb natural white noise to the rest of the world.

Amenities: Picnic tables, dry toilets, cook shelter with wood burning stove, potable water, food storage, garbage bins, payphone, fire pits
Do I need to reserve? First come, first served
Location: It takes around About 30 minutes from the town of Jasper and just off of the Icefields Parkway
Suitable for RVs? Yes (best for smaller RVs)
Fee: $26 for an unserviced site with a firepit

Protection Mountain Campground near Banff

It can be hard to find a place to stay near Banff and Lake Louise, isn’t it? However, you may (not you will) have luck with Protection Mountain Campground. If you come early and land a spot, expect the woodland setting to envelop you immediately. And talk about fresh air!

Protection Mountain Campground’s location in Banff National Park grants numerous chances for adventure—go hiking, road biking, mountain biking, and more.

Amenities: Communal kitchens with wood-burning stoves, fire pits, firewood (with a fire permit), flush toilets, and cold water
Do I need to reserve? First come, first served
Location: About 35 minutes from the Town of Banff and 22 minutes from Lake Louise
Suitable for RVs? Yes (best for smaller RVs)—RV owners can use the sani dump at Lake Louise Campground
Fee: $23

Sulphur Gates Campground

Sulphur Gates Campground borders Jasper National Park, granting visitors a more unbridled, natural experience. The highlight of staying here is probably meandering the short trail to a breathtaking image of Smoky River carving through the Sulphur River Canyon. Then, go back to your campsite, enjoy a fire-cooked meal before falling asleep to the hums of the wild.

This is a popular location for equestrians as there are 22 sites tailor-made for those with horses. Head down the road to snag one of the 15 tenting/RV sites.

Amenities: Firepits, loading ramp, hitching rails, pit toilets, horse corrals, water pump
Do I need to reserve? First come, first served
Location: About 7.0 km west of Grande Cache and off of Highway 40
Suitable for RVs? Smaller RVs
Fee: $31 for an unserviced site and $30 (+$4 per horse) for an equestrian site

Canadian wilderness

Canadian wilderness

Belly River Campground

Belly River Campground, located just outside Waterton National Park, makes for an ideal escape from the crowds flocking to the town of Waterton. The meadow-like landscape opens up views of the mountains touching the sky in the backdrop. Then, Belly River provides a nice contrast to the already-green landscape!

Amenities: Dry toilets, food storage, fire pits, kitchen shelters, firewood after buying a fire permit, picnic tables—there is no water here
Do I need to reserve? First come, first served—groups of 25 or more need to reserve via phone: (403) 859-2224
Location: About 30 minutes from Waterton
Suitable for RVs? Yes
Fee: $15.70 for single sites

Dinosaur Campground

The badlands in Dinosaur Campground will swirl and twist your mind back to prehistoric times. The scenery in Dinosaur Provincial Park may vary from that of Banff National Park, Jasper National Park, and Kananaskis, but it’s always fun to change things up! Imagine camping in a lovely green meadow, surrounded by hoodoos? And who knows, maybe you’ll set up your tent in a faded dinosaur footprint?!

Many sites in Dinosaur Campground inch close to the creek, while the cottonwood trees grant a reprieve from the sun.

Amenities: Cooking shelter, firewood (must buy), hand launch, payphone, power, bus tours, fast food concession, flush toilets, interpretive viewpoint, pit toilets, sewage disposal, water - tap, firepits, laundry, playground, showers, gift shop
Do I need to reserve? Yes
Location: About 40 minutes northeast of Brooks
Suitable for RVs? Yes
Fee: $31 for unserviced sites, $39 for 15/30 amp power sites, and $36 for winter camping

Lynx Creek Campground

Do the wild landscapes coating Alberta ever end? We don’t think so (okay, they technically do, but whatever). Find more outdoorsy wonder at Lynx Creek Campground in southern Alberta’s Castle Provincial Park.

You won’t find the congestion of tourists like you would in Alberta’s national parks here, but the beauty remains just as lovely. Spend time walking along the creek, breathing in the fresh air of your well-treed site, or go fishing.

Amenities: Firepits, outhouses, firewood (must buy), water-pump
Do I need to reserve? First come, first served
Location: In Castle Provincial Park and 40 minutes from Pincher Creek
Fee: $23 for an unserviced site

Did any of these campgrounds stand out to you? Let us know!

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