Kananaskis Country Camping
If you’re planning on a Kananaskis Country camping trip, you’ll be amazed at the number of options (2,300 auto-accessible campsites in 31 campgrounds). Be warned, though; Calgarians are well aware of this mountain wilderness, and every weekend through summer Kananaskis Country is overrun by urbanites in SUVs and families in minivans.
Most Kananaskis Country campgrounds are extremely popular and you’ll need reservations. Make these up to 90 days in advance of your planned stay through the RESERVE ALBERTA PARKS online reservations system. Some campgrounds are first-come, first-served, but these have fewer facilities and are often in more remote locations. The main concentration of campgrounds is in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, where six campgrounds are linked by hiking and biking trails along the western and south sides of Lower Kananaskis Lake. The campgrounds are in Bow Valley Provincial Park, beside the Trans-Canada Hwy. between Hwy. 40 and Canmore, are easy to access and often enjoy warmer temperatures than those at higher elevations to the south.
Please also visit this page: Kananaskis Country Camping Without Reservations
Bow Valley Provincial Park Campgrounds
Bow Valley Provincial Park, beside the Trans-Canada Highway between Canmore and Calgary, has two large campgrounds, and a convenience 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, and kitchen shelters. Continue beyond the administration centre to reach BOW VALLEY CAMPGROUND (May to early Oct.). Across Highway 1X, the loop road through WILLOW ROCK CAMPGROUND (Apr. to late Oct.) passes a few powered sites in an open area, then descends to a smattering of well-spaced unserviced sites, some right near the river. This campground also has a coin laundry and playground.
Kananaskis Valley Campgrounds
MOUNT KIDD RV PARK (403/591-7700) is the finest RV park in all of the Canadian Rockies. This private campground (book directly) is 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 km from the TransCanada Highway. The campground’s showpiece is the Campers Centre (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 km south beyond Mount Kidd RV Park to EAU CLAIRE CAMPGROUND (mid-May to early Sept.). 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 Bow Valley Campgrounds 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 for sale at each campground. These campgrounds are operated by Kananaskis Country Campgrounds), whose website is a wealth of information and includes vacancy reports, updated at 10 a.m. daily through summer. Reservations are made through the RESERVE ALBERTA PARKS online reservations system.
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.) comprises two distinct types of camping at the northern end of Lower Kananaskis Lake, just over four km 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-kilometre (0.7-mile) hiking path that traverses the Kananaskis Canyon. Another trail leads across Kananaskis Lakes Road to the nearby information centre (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 kilometre (0.6 mile) south of the information centre (and on the same side of the road), ELKWOOD CAMPGROUND (mid-May to early Sept.) is the largest of the park’s campgrounds, with 130 sites. It offers coin-operated showers along each of four loops, flush toilets, a playground, and an interpretive amphitheater.
BOULTON CREEK CAMPGROUND (May to Oct.) 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.
Immediately beyond Boulton Creek Campground, turn right to access LOWER LAKE CAMPGROUND (mid-May to early Oct.), 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.), at the southern end of Upper Kananaskis Lake, 2.5 km 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.), 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.
SIBBALD LAKE CAMPGROUND (mid-May-mid-Oct.) lies within easy walking distance of Sibbald Lake and is signposted off Highway 68, 24 km west of the Trans-Canada Highway and 12 km east of Highway 40. It contains 134 sites spread along five loops (Loop E comes closest to the lake) winding through a mixed forest of aspen, spruce, and lodgepole pine. Amenities include pit toilets, picnic tables, fire rings, and drinkable well water.
Elbow Valley Campgrounds
Five campgrounds, with a combined 551 sites, lie along the Elbow River Valley. Reservations for Gooseberry, McLean Creek and Little Elbow can be made through RESERVE ALBERTA PARKS online reservations system up to 90 days in advance. The other two campgrounds are first-come, first-served, and fill every weekend, so plan a midweek visit.
The most developed of the five is MCLEAN CREEK CAMPGROUND, 12 km west of Bragg Creek and just south of Highway 66, by McLean Creek and within walking distance of McLean Pond. At the campground entrance is the Camper Centre, with groceries, coin showers, and firewood. As in all campgrounds in Kananaskis Country, each of the 170 sites has a picnic table and fire pit. GOOSEBERRY (10 km/6.2 mi west of Bragg Creek) also has powered sites.
The other campgrounds and their distances from Bragg Creek are PADDY’S FLAT (20 km/12.4 mi), BEAVER FLATS (30 km/18.6 mi), and, at the end of the road, LITTLE ELBOW (50 km/31 mi). The last has facilities for campers with horses. Each of these campgrounds has only basic facilities—pit toilets and hand-pumped drinking water. McLean Creek is open year-round, while the other four campgrounds begin opening in mid-May and close between early September and the end of October.
Sheep Valley Campgrounds
Along Highway 546 are two campgrounds. SANDY MCNABB CAMPGROUND (May-mid-Oct., Reserve Alberta Parks) is the first you’ll come to, a short walk from the river right by the entrance to Kananaskis Country. It’s named for an Albertan oilman who made an annual pilgrimage to this spot with his family. Each of the 112 sites is powered and has a picnic table and fire pit. Other facilities include drinking water and washrooms with showers.
At the end of Highway 546, 21 km farther west, is BLUEROCK CAMPGROUND (mid-May-mid-Oct., no reservations), where some of the 66 sites are set aside for equestrian campers.
Highwood/Cataract Creek Campgrounds
All three campgrounds in the Highwood/Cataract Creek areas are south of Highwood Junction. ETHERINGTON CREEK CAMPGROUND (mid-May-Sept.) is seven km south of the junction, while CATARACT CREEK (mid-May-early Sept.) is five km farther south. Both offer primitive facilities, including water, pit toilets, firewood, fire pits, and picnic tables. No reservations are taken at either campground.
Continuing south, along Highway 532 up and over Plateau Mountain Ecological Reserve, is 32-site INDIAN GRAVES CAMPGROUND (reservations taken at 403/995-5554, mid-May to mid-Oct.).