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We’re lucky! We don’t have to travel far to find good camping near Calgary. If you’re not too sure where to set up camp, we’ve outlined a little list of our favourite nearby campsites. All of these places are about 200 kilometres or less from Calgary—a short trek definitely doable in a regular weekend! Plus – most of these campgrounds are open for booking.
Bow River Campground is located—you guessed it—right on the Bow River. Just off of the Trans-Canada in Canmore, Bow River Campground offers the best of mountain life on their unserviced sites. Spend your weekend fishing in the Bow River, picnicking along its shore, or hiking to see the world-renowned aquamarine glow of the Grassi Lakes. If you feel like you need a break from nature, the town centre of Canmore is just a short drive away.
Don’t forget your hiking shoes and your fishing license before setting up camp along Bow River. Rainbow trout, brown trout, and whitefish swim rampant in the water. Mountain views grow out of the campground, and plenty of trail heads are located within the grounds. Book this one soon because they only have a handful of RV accessible sites.
This is a popular location just a quick jaunt from Calgary. While Two Jack Lake is located in Banff National Park, it’s far enough away from the town of Banff that you feel like you might actually be camping in the wild. Tree-covered, spacious sites are available at all of the Two Jack campgrounds. Lakeside is obviously the most desirable option, but the main areas are just as serene. If you do get stuck in the overflow, Two Jack Lake is just a short walk across the highway, and accessed by a path through the trees.
Two Jack Lake is great for trout fishing. A hike around the lake leads to Lake Minnewanka, which is known for extreme winds, although it is another fan favourite. A swim in the crisp mountain water is the perfect day to cool off after a long day of hiking in the sun. In the evening, light your campfire or find a spot to watch the stars.
Tunnel Mountain in Banff National Park offers the best of both worlds: remote mountain camping, within hiking distance of the town centre. The Hoodoos Trail guides hikers down the mountain towards town, and lookout points are scattered along the way. Those who keep their eyes peeled will find a few of Canada’s red Adirondack chairs which showcase some of Canada’s most beautiful views for anyone who takes a seat. If you’re a little too tired to hike into town, a bus regularly shuttles campers up and down the mountain.
Tunnel Mountain is a popular choice for families, and can accommodate trailers up to 24 feet in length on mostly pull-through sites. Some sites have hook-ups. Some sites have fire pits. All sites have beautiful views!
Little Elbow is a little oasis located just outside of Calgary in Bragg Creek, Alberta. The views from the trails that begin in the campground are transitional. The prairies and the city of Calgary can be seen in the eastern distance, but the mountains grow above in the west. Moose Mountain, Prairie Mountain, and Forget Me Not Ridge are popular hikes in the area; Elbow Loop is great for mountain biking.
Both RV and tent campsites are available, but come prepared to survive the elements of wild Kananaskis Country.
Located northwest of Calgary, Sylvan Lake has a few options for campgrounds nestled along the shore. Campers can hang out along the beach, or bring their sail boats, motor boats, and jet skis to explore the water. Head to Sylvan Lake for hiking trails, beach volleyball, fishing, and even golf—there’s an activity to keep everyone in your family busy. Extreme adventurers can sign up for flyboarding lessons, and there’s even an outdoor water park along the lake to entertain the kids.
Popular choices for camping accommodations include Jarvis Bay Provincial Park, Sylvan Lake RV Park, and Sunny Siesta RV and Campground. Some are RVs only, some are lakeside, and some are a short hike through the trees.
Dinosaur Provincial Park
Heading east, away from our beloved Rockies, campers will still find plenty of good camping. Prairie camping, offers entirely different views—none less beautiful. Dinosaur Provincial Park campground is just barely over 200 kilometres from Calgary in Alberta’s Badlands. Visitors can camp on the actual site where huge dinosaur bone deposits were found years ago, and where erosion of the Red Deer River has shaped the landscape: hoodoos a plenty! The hoodoos adjacent to the campsites at this UNESCO world heritage site are definitely worth the drive.
The hoodoos of Dinosaur Provincial Park have attracted tourists for years. They look like the bottom of a sea floor, dried and grown high above ground. The area is rich with prehistoric fossils from all of the dinosaur remnants that have been found in our Badlands. Cottonwood and willow bushes spot the area, with a thicker cottonwood forest located on the north side of the site, alongside the Red Deer River. If you want to learn a little bit while you camp, the hikes through the hoodoos are complete with interpretive signage to explain the sights. There are also two contained interpretive viewing sites, a museum in the Dinosaur Park centre, and guided tours available into the restricted areas.