|Lower Kananaskis Lake|
We went out this past weekend with the goal of finding out why this park is so incredibly popular with families. We wanted to know why you had to book 3 months to the day, first thing in the morning, and be religious about it in order to get a reservation for the Boulton Creek or Elkwood Campground. We explored the bike trails, conquered the interpretive trails, sought out playgrounds, threw rocks in the Lower Lake and even went for a short canoe ride.
|Hiking around Marl Lake|
We were a little naive heading out Friday with no reservation, assuming we'd easily find a campsite. We knew we'd never get into Boulton Creek or Elkwood but we thought we'd have no problems getting one of the 100+ sites at Lower Lake. Along with the smaller Interlakes Campground, there are 150 campsites that don't take reservations in PLPP and we aimed to grab one.
The first sign that maybe we were in trouble was upon entering the park when we saw a sign saying all campgrounds were full. The optimistic I am, I thought maybe they hadn't updated the sign yet since it was early in the afternoon and campsites had to be vacated by 2pm. We drove to the Visitor Centre and they confirmed our fears that yes, we'd most likely find no free campsites in the park. We began the unpleasant task of driving towards the Lower Lake to find out first hand if this was true. We chose loop B with trailers behind us choosing A and C - let the games begin! Who would find a spot? Would anybody?
Driving around the loop we were frustrated by the amount of sites clearly claimed earlier in the week - a lawn chair here, a tent hastily thrown up there. The Drop and Go Game has become quite a problem in local campgrounds here with locals driving out earlier in the week, paying for a site, and going back home until the weekend. It makes it almost impossible for those rule-abiding campers like us to actually find a site. Park rules prohibit such behavior but campground attendants have to catch you in the act to really do much and can't touch your private property once you've paid for a site. Fail to show up by the time your renewal payment is due though and expect to find your tent shoved into the trees by the site's new occupants - and this is actually encouraged by Park Staff.
Surprisingly, we did find a free site near the end of our loop and I'm pretty sure it was the only vacant site in the whole park after talking to other campers who had been trying as early as Wednesday to find a site. Apparently, spending a night in overflow is common practice as you wait for a site to clear the next morning. Thank God we didn't have to go that route.
|Our campsite at Lower Lake|
I find it sad that it's so hard to be spontaneous about camping. The days of making a last minute decision to go camping, packing up Friday after work and driving out to a nearby campground are gone. We're generally pretty good about making reservations but you get tired of planning out every weekend of summer back in April. We left a few hole in our calendar on purpose so that we could play things by ear. I hate to think that next summer we might actually have to book a campsite in advance for every weekend - just in case we want to go out.
If you are available to go camping mid-week or are ok with shoulder season camping (Spring/Fall), you'll have fewer problems getting a site. Also, If you are willing to seek out more remote campgrounds or places off the beaten path, you'll find something for sure. Guaranteed though, if you want to camp where all the other families are camping (usually for good reason), start with a reservation and plan ahead!
One does have to wonder though - why are there so many campgrounds that don't take reservations and how do people get spots in them? Ideas? I'd love your feed-back and advice. 150 available sites for last minute folk seems like a lot to me. How do you get one of those coveted non-reserve sites?
|Happy Camping Moments|
I'd also love to hear from you if you know of a great local campground within a two hour drive of Calgary that's actually easy to get into without a reservation.
Watch for part two of this story: Peter Lougheed Provincial Park for Families
In the next post I'll cover the interpretive trails, biking trails and best ways to explore the park as a family.