Kananaskis Camping

If you’re camping, you’ll be amazed at the number of options (2,300 auto-accessible campsites in 31 campgrounds) and the lack of crowds in Kananaskis Country compared to the national parks. Be warned, though; Calgarians are well aware of this mountain wilderness, and every weekend through summer the region is overrun by urbanites in SUVs and families in minivans. Therefore, plan to arrive during the week, and you’ll almost always be assured of a spot.

The websites below provide links to the provincial reservation system, which opens in mid-February for the upcoming summer season.

Bow Valley Provincial Park

This park beside the Trans-Canada Highway holds a number of picnic areas, two large campgrounds, and a grocery store (near the entrance to Bow Valley Campground) with bike rentals and firewood sales. Facilities at the two campgrounds within the park are as good as any in the Canadian Rockies. Both have showers, flush toilets, firewood for sale ($8 per bundle), and kitchen shelters. Continue beyond the information center to reach Bow Valley Campground (May to early Oct.), where unserviced sites are $23 and a limited number of sites with power and water are $35. Across Highway 1X, the loop road through Willow Rock Campground (Apr. to late Oct.) passes a few powered sites in an open area ($29), then descends to a smattering of well-spaced unserviced sites ($23), some right near the river. This campground also has a coin laundry and playground. For more information, or for reservations contact Bow Valley Park Campgrounds (403/673-2163, www.bowvalleycampgrounds.com).

Kananaskis Valley

Mount Kidd RV Park (403/591-7700, www.mountkiddrv.com, unserviced sites $32.50, hookups $41 to 48, booking fee $10) is the finest RV park in all the Canadian Rockies. It’s nestled below the sheer eastern face of Mount Kidd in a forest of spruce and lodgepole pine, along Highway 40 south of Kananaskis Village and the golf course, and 26 kilometers (16 miles) from the TransCanada Highway. The campground’s showpiece is the Campers Center (yes, the American spelling). Inside is the main registration area and all the usual bathroom facilities as well as a game room, a lounge, groceries, a concession area, and a laundry room. Outside are two tennis courts, picnic areas by the river, and many paved biking and hiking trails. The combination of amenities and the mountain location – unequaled anywhere in the Canadian Rockies – makes this an extremely popular campground.

Those who can survive without such luxuries should continue 6.5 kilometers (four miles) south beyond Mount Kidd RV Park to Eau Claire Campground (mid-May to early Sept., $22), operated by Kananaskis Camping (403/591-7226, www.kananaskiscountrycampgrounds.com). Facilities are limited to 50 sites (those on the outside of the loop afford the most privacy), each with a picnic table and fire pit, along with pump water, pit toilets, and a playground. No reservations are taken, but the website posts up-to-date vacancy numbers. Other options for campers are to continue south along Highway 40 into Peter Lougheed Provincial Park or take Highway 68 east from Barrier Lake to Sibbald Lake.

Peter Lougheed Provincial Park

Within Peter Lougheed Provincial Park are six auto-accessible campgrounds that hold 507 sites. They’re linked by bicycle and hiking trails. Firewood is available at each campground for $8 per bundle. These campgrounds are operated by Kananaskis Camping Inc. (403/591-7226, www.kananaskiscountrycampgrounds.com), whose website is a wealth of information and includes vacancy reports, updated at 10 a.m. daily through summer.

The following campgrounds are listed from north to south along Kananaskis Lakes Road, from Highway 40 to the end of the road.

Canyon Campground (mid-June to early Sept., $20) comprises two distinct types of camping at the northern end of Lower Kananaskis Lake, just over four kilometers (2.5 miles) along Kananaskis Lakes Road from Highway 40. An open meadow provides pull-through sites suited to RVs and trailers (Loop B), while up the hill off to the right, sites are protected by a forest of spruce and fir. Between the two loops is the trailhead for a 1.2-kilometer (0.7-mile) hiking path that traverses the Kananaskis Canyon. Another trail leads across Kananaskis Lakes Road to the nearby information center (the trailhead is beside Site 37). Each of 51 sites has a picnic table and fire pit, which along with pit toilets and tap water are the limit of facilities.

Just over one kilometer (0.6 mile) south of the information center (and on the same side of the road), Elkwood Campground (mid-May to early Sept., $23) is the largest of the park’s campgrounds, with 130 sites. It offers showers ($1 for five minutes) along each of four loops, flush toilets, a playground, and an interpretive amphitheater.

Boulton Creek Campground (May to Oct., $24 to 35) has coin-operated showers just beyond the registration gate (complete with rack for those who have a bike), flush toilets, and an interpretive amphitheater. A few of the 118 sites have power, and the campground is within walking distance of a restaurant and grocery store. Boulton Creek is the only campground that takes reservations; book through Kananaskis Camping Inc. (403/591-7226, www.kananaskiscountrycampground.com).

Immediately beyond Boulton Creek Campground, turn right to access Lower Lake Campground (mid-May to early Oct., $22), with 98 sites spread along three loops. Some sites (along Loop B) come close to the lake but are not within sight. Each private site has a picnic table and fire pit, while campers share pit toilets and two playgrounds. Eight sites are set away from the road–perfect for tent campers who don’t mind a short walk. Boulton Creek Trading Post is a short walk up and over Kananaskis Lakes Road from Loop A.

Mount Sarrail Campground (mid-June to early Sept., $22), at the southern end of Upper Kananaskis Lake, 2.5 kilometers (1.6 miles) beyond Lower Lake Campground, is for tenters only. It’s described as a walk-in campground, but some of the 44 sites are right by the main parking lot. It has pit toilets, pump water, and bearproof food caches.

Finally, where Kananaskis Lakes Road branches left to the upper lake and right to the lower lake is an unpaved one-way road through Interlakes Campground (mid-May to early  Oct., $22), which loops back along the shore of Lower Kananaskis Lake before rejoining Kananaskis Lakes Road. It has 48 sites, many with lake views and some accessible enough to pull through a large RV or trailer. Facilities are basic: pump water, picnic tables, fire pits, and pit toilets, but if you score one of the lakeside sites, you’ll be in prime position for a magnificent sunrise.