The May long weekend is coming up soon and the camping season will officially launch for another summer. Don’t despair though if you haven’t decided where to go yet or if you haven’t finished making all of your reservations. Many provincial park campgrounds still have openings through the summer and there are some great non-reservable spots out there too. Private campgrounds are another option and many haven’t even begun to accept reservations for the summer yet.
We’ve camped all over Southern Alberta but I’ve narrowed our favourite campgrounds down to the top 5 family-friendly spots within a three-hour drive of Calgary.
Dinosaur Provincial Park Campground
This is a great early season campground for May and June when it’s still cold in the mountains. We love hiking through the badlands, biking the loop road through the hoodoos and playing in the mud along the creek. Spring camping here is warm, sunny, and bug-free. It’s a guaranteed kid-paradise and it’s easy to find spots on most weekends. www.albertaparks.ca/dinosaur.aspx
Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park Campground
This is another great campground for spring before it gets too hot in Southern Alberta. Similar to Dinosaur Provincial Park, you’ll spend your days hiking through the badlands and climbing hoodoos. Differences are that you have more freedom in this park to actually climb on the hoodoos and explore without signs everywhere telling you to stay on the official trail. There’s also a small beach on the Milk River and some great paddling when the river is high enough. Information on day paddling trips can be obtained from the information centre at the campground or on a sign located at the playground by the river. Read more about the experience of one of our authors here. www.albertaparks.ca/writing-on-stone.aspx
Waterton Townsite Campground, Waterton Lakes National Park
Editor’s Note: The author originally wrote about Waterton Springs Campground, a private campground located just outside of Waterton Lakes National Park. As this campground has permanently closed, we have added the following option for camping in Waterton.
Enjoy the convenience of staying in the Waterton Townsite Campground. While it is often busy, this campsite has the advantage of location and is within walking distance of Upper Waterton Lake, Cameron Falls, and townsite amenities. With its proximity to local shops and restaurants, it’s easy to wander down to get ice cream on the main street. Enjoy propane fires at your campsite, as otherwise fires are only allowed in common kitchen shelters. The campsite is also fully serviced. www.pc.gc.ca/en
Little Bow Provincial Park Campground
This little campground doesn’t have much in the way of hiking, biking, or even a playground, but it does have a lovely beach that will entertain children for a long weekend (or longer.) It’s a great place for families with boats and for those that like water sports from wakeboarding to kayaking and canoeing on the Travers Reservoir. This is where you go in the summer to relax in the sun for a week when you want to camp close to Calgary without the long drive to the beaches of British Columbia. www.albertaparks.ca/little-bow.aspx
Peter Lougheed Provincial Park Campgrounds
Canyon is our favourite campground in Kananaskis. The challenge is that it doesn’t accept reservations so you’ll have to go out mid-week to get spots in the summer. Go in June or September though and you shouldn’t have too many problems getting a site. From this campground, you can hike the Canyon Interpretive Trail, bike to Boulton Creek and back for ice cream on the paved bike trails, and you can take your canoe or kayaks out for an evening paddle at sunset on the Lower Lake. Families will find plenty of adventurous activities to entertain them at this natural campground. Families wanting power sites for their trailer or RV, or wanting to make a reservation in advance can still camp nearby at the Boulton Creek Campground or Elkwood Campground, also located in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. There are no bad campgrounds in this park and you’ll be a short hour and a half away from Calgary which is great for a short weekend outing. http://www.albertaparks.ca/peter-lougheed.aspx
For more information on camping in Southern Alberta, read The Best Provincial Park Campgrounds in Southern Alberta or Where to camp in the National Parks of Alberta on my blog.
More information on camping in the provincial parks can also be found on the Alberta Parks website.