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Camping in the Canadian Rockies?

rockies Canada Alberta British Columbia

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#1 Basin Deranged

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Posted 16 May 2016 - 11:35 PM

N and I are planning to spend some time wandering around the Canadian Rockies in July and August.  Neither of us have been there before.  We would appreciate any help that those of you familiar with the area can give us in getting a grasp of the camping possibilities in Alberta and B.C.


We have found a lot of information about the national parks and will plan to spend a few nights in their campgrounds seeing the famous sights.  But information about the provincial parks and dispersed camping possibilities is harder to find.  Some specific questions:


-What maps are helpful? (show campgrounds, provincial parks, smaller roads) Is there a map atlas?


-Does Canada have something similar to National Forests or Bureau of Land Management lands in the U.S. where dispersed camping is allowed?


- Do the National Park campgrounds have "drop-in" campsites?  Are these usually available on weekdays during the summer or do we absolutely have to reserve campsites ahead of time if we wish to camp in the National Parks?


-Do you have recommendations for places to visit that are off the Banff - Lake Louise - Jasper corridor? Our preference is for less-crowded areas, smaller campgrounds, and dispersed camping.


-We are enamored of ruins where I do most of my photography, old mining areas, abandoned mills, abandoned industrial sites, old homesteads, etc.  Any suggestions?


-Any other resources you would recommend?


Thank You.

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#2 Bad Habit

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Posted 16 May 2016 - 11:57 PM

Here's a link to mapbooks, as good or better that the Delorme and Benchmark ones for here in the US.  I remember running across a web-site that had a lot of info on ghost towns and old mining sites throughout BC, will have to dig that up. 



Edited by Bad Habit, 16 May 2016 - 11:57 PM.

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#3 Bill D

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Posted 17 May 2016 - 01:25 AM

Jasper is my backyard playground.  So I'll focus on it.   I'll be making my 4th trip since January this Wed.  We go all the time.  I highly recommended reserving Jasper, Banff, Lake Louise in July, Aug or you likely won't get a site.



The order in which you will want to pick your campgrounds in Jasper are:

1- Whistlers

2- Wapiti

3- Wabasso

4- Pocahontis

5- Snaring River (non reservable - pit toilets, no shower etc.) (not too many people camp here because it is a few km from Jasper and it is pretty rustic.  You might like that though).


This will also be the order in which they'll fill up first.

Firewood is free with a $8.80 daily permit (burn as much as you'd like)


Things you must do while you are there:


Maligne Canyon (hike from the first bridge to the 5th bridge and back)

(at east try to make it to the 3rd bridge or as far as you enjoy).

(do not miss this hike - this is a must do)

Keep driving up this road to Maligne Lake

(this lake drains like a bathtub each year into the canyon)


Mount Edith Cavell Glacier

(The drive up to the Glacier itself is enjoyable, lots of twists and turns.  big RVs and Trailers are not allowed, but there is a trailer drop at the base of the mountain, if needed).

(Don't miss seeing this and try to sped some time there, bring a lunch.  It's amazing and you can't even take it all in looking at the scenery for an hour.  If you list closely and long enough, you should here the glacier crack and make noise, you will notice waterfalls etc.)


Athabasca Falls (awesome, but not huge, still well worth checking out)


Annette Lake (go for a picnic and a swim (bring firewood from the campground for the camp stoves) (cold lake but incredibly clean and the best experience in the world, you will feel so alive if you go for a swim).


Old Fort Point (10 minute uphill hike for a beautiful view of Jasper, even elderly people can do this hike as there are many resting points, stairs and handrails).  Don't underestimate the view.  There are two levels.


Miette Hot Spings (at least take a drive to here even if you don't bring your swim trunks)

(you will likely see big horned sheep and elk along the way)


Mountain Goats salt lick 35km South of Jasper on HWY 93


(If you are drive from Banff/Lake Louise to Jasper you will pass this point (35km South of Jasper on HWY 93).


You can easily spend a week in Jasper and not see all the main attractions.


Everything I have mentioned is absolutely free, except the hot springs.


If you want a world class view you can take the Jasper Sky Tram to the top of mountain.  This will cost money.  I've never done it, but I'd like to some day.  I like free :-).

Edited by Bill D, 17 May 2016 - 05:33 AM.

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#4 iowahiker


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Posted 17 May 2016 - 11:54 AM

We have visited the Canadian Rockies on day hiking trips four times including the summer of 2016.  We recommend reservations for the campgrounds near Banff, Lake Louise, and Jasper for any day of the week (we like Wabasso near Jasper).  Banff and Lake Louise can be very crowded including endless traffic jams but getting out to see the best sights between 8 and 9 am worked for us.  The no reservation campgrounds generally have a good selection of sites during the week but filled every weekend and overflowed on holiday weekends.  Reservations will provide a nicer site on weekends.  Kananaskis Country southwest of Calgary is a collection of large provincial parks which is very scenic.  We had reservations at Kananaskis Lakes (4+ campgrounds, reservable and non-reservable) which had many sites open mid-week but filled on weekends.


The no reservation campground (Tunnel 3) near Banff is poor so we make reservations at Lake Louise and explore Banff and Lake Louise and Yoho CNP and the southern half of the Icefields Parkway from Lake Louise CG.  Between Lake Louise and Jasper the campgrounds are mostly non-reservable.  Waterfowl Lakes CG has flush toilets and so is busy.  The other non-reservable campgrounds between Lake Louise and Jasper with pit toilets had nice open sites mid-week.


 Some trip reports from 2016:







Highway 11 east of Saskatchewan Junction (north of Lake Louise) is very scenic with dispersed camping along Abraham Lake but, like most places in the Canadian Rockies, popular.  The Backroad Mapbooks show campgrounds on the map and then a table in the back gives campground details including many small primitive campgrounds.

Edited by iowahiker, 17 May 2016 - 01:02 PM.

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#5 Basin Deranged

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Posted 18 May 2016 - 12:16 AM

Thank you all for your input!  I will order a couple of the mapbooks this evening.


Bad Habit, is this the website? http://www.ghosttown...ada/bc/bc.html  Looks like I'll be spending some time combing through it!


Bill D, thanks for all the insider tips!


iowahiker, the trip reports and especially the photos are spectacular, definitely gives us something to anticipate!


Does anyone have any suggestions for less-traveled areas, even if this means long rides on dirt roads or jeep roads?

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#6 Bad Habit

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Posted 18 May 2016 - 01:35 AM

No, that's not the one I was thinking of.  Although, I'll be searching through it a lot myself.


The Canadian Rockies are definitely on my list of places to explore (of course, there's not many places that aren't).  I am long range planning for a trip up the Sunshine Coast, ferry over to Vancouver Island, then up to Port Hardy, then another ferry to Bella Coola, then work back south through the Rockies.  That's only a smidgeon of BC.  So much to see and explore there.  All it takes is time, and money, currently both are in short supply

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#7 Vic Harder

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Posted 18 May 2016 - 01:57 AM

As mentioned above, Kananaskis (K-country) is very good, and far less busy than any of the NP.  Check out the Forestry Road for even less traveled spaces.



A lot depends on what you want to do when you are up here.  Hiking?  You have to check out “Don’t waste your time in the Canadian Rockies” http://www.hikingcam...ike-rockies.php

Best hiking book I own.

To add to BillD’s recommendations, if you are near Jasper, do check out Mount Robson Provincial Park as well.  If the weather co-operates, it is a spectacular sight!

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#8 Basin Deranged

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Posted 19 May 2016 - 09:06 PM

Thank you Vic Harder.  That Forestry Trunk Road looks like just the thing we are seeking!


The hiking guide looks fabulous, expensive but fabulous. 

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#9 smlobx


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Posted 23 May 2016 - 07:34 PM

check out www.ioverlander.com

 for various offerings posted by other wanderers...

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#10 robbie


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Posted 26 May 2016 - 04:26 AM

When we travel in B.C. always look for Forest Service Recreation Sites.. Rustic and non reservable, rarely busy and free.


here is the link.....http://www.sitesandt...ca/default.aspx


Enjoy your visit..



Watson Lake, Yukon

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