Camping in Banff National Park is the perfect summer activity for families wanting some time in nature and outdoor enthusiasts wanting to summit their next mountain! Whether your a local planning a small road-trip through the mountains or a tourist renting an RV to drive the incredible Icefields Parkway; these 8 tips are essential before hitting the highway!
Reserve Your Campsite
If your planning on camping in Banff National Park (and you absolutely should!) you’ll want to make sure you have a campsite. Some of the campgrounds operate on a first-come first-service basis, some are reserve-able, and some are a mix of both. A few campgrounds are also tent-only so make sure to keep that in mind if you have an RV! Check in is at 11:00 am so its better to find a campsite early, setup some chairs or a tent, pay for the site, and then head out for the day to explore the area. This way you don’t have to worry about whether or not your’ll have a place to sleep that night. For reservations and more information on campgrounds, click HERE.
One of my favourite reasons to go camping in Banff National Park – wildlife is everywhere! It’s not uncommon to see elk, sheep, moose, deer, mountain goats, grizzly/black bears, eagles, and chipmunks along with hundreds of other species. Binoculars and a telescopic camera lens are essential for your visit! It’s important to respect the animals by keeping your distance and always practice bear safety (carrying bear spray, talking loudly, exploring in groups, and keeping food away from your tent).
The National Park is home to mosquitoes, horse flies, spiders, and other insects so packing a good bug spray and after-bite cream! There is a lot of standing water throughout the park especially during the early summer which can make for a mosquito breeding ground. If you wanted to go all out, you could even bring a mosquito face/head mesh… although it’s not usually necessary.
Wake Up Early
There’s more than one reason to set that alarm clock a little earlier while your camping in Banff National Park. First of all, the sunrises are exceptional! If your up for it, a sunrise hike is a great way to begin your day and there are endless hikes to choose from! It’s also the best time of day to see wildlife and avoid crowds. The early mornings are cool and quite so the animals will be on out feeding to avoid the heat of the day. Keep an eye out in open meadows and along shorelines. Lastly, you have the rest of the day to relax and enjoy the view after a morning full of hiking and sight seeing!
Fire Starter/ Axe
If you love having a fire in the evening then bringing a good fire starter and an axe is a great idea! Most of the campgrounds have large piles of fire wood but the logs are large and the piles aren’t always sheltered (if the wood gets wet it’ll take forever to start!) It’s also good to bring your own axe because the campgrounds don’t typically supply one. Camping in Banff National Park just wouldn’t be the same without cuddling around the fire with some hot chocolate (or moonshine) in the evening!
Some of the Campgrounds in Banff/Jasper National Park don’t have anyone working full-time, so they trust that you’ll pay your fee using the envelope and drop-box. At the entrance of each campground will be an information booth where you can grab an envelope, put the correct amount of cash inside, and then slip it into the drop-box. This is why caring cash in various amounts is so important!
After leaving Calgary or Edmonton you’ll want to make sure you top up the fuel tank before entering the National Park. Gas prices rise dramatically and there are only a few to choose from! Filling up in Canmore (from Calgary) or Hinton (from Edmonton) is a good idea. NOTE: There is one gas station half-way in between Jasper and Lake Louise at the Saskatchewan Crossing but prices are HIGH.
Dress for the Weather
The weather in the Canadian Rockies can be very unpredictable and changes fast so it’s important to come prepared! A lightweight rain coat/ wind breaker combined with dressing in layers will help you be prepared for any weather that may come your way. Don’t let the weather slow you down! Mornings may be filled with fog and rain but the afternoon can be filled with sunshine so be sure to keep a sharp eye on the weather forecast and remember, it can literally change in 5 minutes!