Friday, May 01, 2015

Our 5 Favourite Campgrounds (within a 3 hour drive of Calgary)

We spend many (most) of our weekends camping in the summer, and by the end of August we are usually so tired of driving that we swear to camp closer to home next year!  Fortunately, we have five favourite campgrounds that are all within a three hour drive of Calgary.

Below is information on these great camping spots along with photos and links to other stories I've written on the areas. I've also included some honorable mentions at the bottom because they are just a teeny bit past the 3 hour drive cut off. (and worth driving the extra half hour for!)

Camping in Crimson Lake Provincial Park (photo:  C. Schaus)

One - The Campgrounds of Peter Lougheed Provincial Park

It's less than a two hour drive to reach this gorgeous provincial park in Kananaskis Country and there are several great campgrounds to choose from.  Canyon Campground is our favourite but it doesn't take reservations which complicates things in the busy summer season. 

To make it easy on yourself, make a reservation for Boulton Creek, Elkwood, or the Lower Lake Campground and you won't have to drive out on Wed. night looking for a spot for the weekend.

Camping at the Point Backcountry Campground in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park 

Boulton Creek, Elkwood, and the Lower Lake Campground can be reserved 90 days in advance and accept on line bookings.  This makes it easy (and fair) for anybody wanting to go camping.  Just count back 90 days from when you want to go camping, put a note to remind yourself on the calendar, and then get on the computer first thing in the morning.

Why we love camping here:

  • Great paved biking on the High Rockies Trail between the Canyon Campground to the Boulton Creek Campground

  • Lots of family hiking on short interpretive trails or longer trails leading to beautiful lakes, mountain cirques, or meadows.

  • Paddling opportunities on Upper or Lower Kananaskis Lake (boat rentals available at the Boulton Creek Trading Post)

  • Paddle or hike-in backcountry camping at the Point Backcountry Campground

  • Interpretive programs and evening amphitheatre shows 

Biking in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park on the High Rockies Trail

Resources and Reading on Activities and Camping in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park

The Best Family Campground in Kananaskis (Canyon)

The Annual  Family Backcountry Trip (the Point)

Biking the High Rockies Trail in Kananaskis with Kids 

Our Favourite Hike in the Canadian Rockies - Ptarmigan Cirque 

Rawson Lake and Sarrail Ridge - Family Hiking in Kananaskis 

First Summits - The South End of Mount Lawson, Kananaskis 

King Creek Ridge  - Family Hiking in Kananaskis 

Pocaterra Ridge - Family Hiking in Kananaskis 

Paddling on Lower Lake, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park

Two - Redstreak Campground, Kootenay National Park

We love camping across the British Columbia border in the Village of Radium Hot Springs.  It takes about  three hours to drive here from Calgary and it's a scenic drive through Banff and Kootenay National Parks. 

Why we love camping here:

  • Fabulous smooth, flowy, root and rock-free mountain bike trails great for the whole family

  • A pump track and bike skills park in Radium Hot Springs

  • HOT SPRINGS! - you can camp in any kind of weather and always stay warm

  • A great lake with a beach in the Community of Invermere nearby

  • Beautiful hiking around the Village of Radium and through the valley

  • Serene floating down the Columbia River

  • Hike-in yurt camping nearby 

Camping at Redstreak Campground

While there are many campgrounds in the Columbia Valley between the towns of Fairmont Hot Springs and Radium Hot Springs, we like camping at the Redstreak Campground which is a national park campground located right in the town of Radium Hotsprings.  

There are walking trails that take you from the campground down into town or over to the hotsprings and it's a short bike ride to the local pump track and bike park.

All information on camping at Redstreak can be found on the Kootenay National Park website.  Reservations can be made on the National Parks Reservation website. (They go live in January every year for the entire camping season.)

Radium Hot Springs Bike Park

A short drive away from the Redstreak Campground, you can drive to the Community of Invermere to play at Lake Windermere or start your float trip down the Columbia River.  You can also drive down to Fairmont Hot Springs for more swimming and hiking opportunities, or you can head out in search of some great mountain biking.

Beach time at Lake Windermere

Resources and Reading on Activities and Camping in the Columbia Valley 

The Best Family Bike Trails in the Columbia Valley

Active Family Guide to Radium Hot Springs, BC 

The Best of the Columbia Valley (Radium Hot Springs to Invermere - and beyond) 

Why We LOVE Camping at Redstreak Campground, Radium Hot Springs

Yurt Camping on top of a Mountain at Radius Retreat 

Five Reasons you need to Visit Fairmont Hot Springs Resort with your Family 

Looking out over the Columbia Valley from the Redstreak Campground 

Three - Dinosaur Provincial Park

I feel like I've written about this park a thousand times.  It's that awesome!  We've made the trek south to Dinosaur Provincial Park many many times.  It's about a 3 hour drive from NE Calgary (longer from the west side) and it's an incredible place to camp with the kids.  I also love that you can reserve 90 days in advance and there are many campsites so competition isn't too intense.

Camping along the Creek in Dinosaur Provincial Park

Why we love camping here:

  • We love the interpretive hiking trails around the hoodoos and the badlands through the campground

  • We like biking the public loop road, stopping at the fossil display houses, and cruising through the badland scenery

  • We like paddling the Red Deer River (an easy float from the Steveville Bridge up river)

  • Fossil Hunting Tours - to see actual bone beds and fossils in the nature reserve

  • The kids like playing in the creek (which, while very dirty and muddy, is a lot of fun)

Visit the Parks reservation site to book sites and check out my stories on Dinosaur Provincial Park below.

Fossil hunting in Dinosaur Provincial Park

Resources and Reading on Activities and Camping in Dinosaur Provincial Park 

Camping in Dinosaur Provincial Park

Hiking in Dinosaur Provincial Park

Wild about Dinosaur Provincial Park

Camping in the Alberta Badlands

Fossil Hunting in Dinosaur Provincial Park 

Campsite to River! Camping and Floating across Southern Alberta 

Hiking in Dinosaur Provincial Park

Four - Crimson Lake Provincial Park

This is a lesser known campground for folks from Calgary but once you go, you'll want to camp here every summer.  Crimson Lake Provincial Park is located approximately 2.5 hours from Calgary near Rocky Mountain House in Central Alberta.  It's a scenic drive along the David Thompson Highway and the lake is beautiful for boating, fishing, or swimming.

Playing in Crimson Lake, Crimson Lake Provincial Park

Why we love camping here:

  • Great sandy beach with shallow water for playing in

  • Playground right beside the beach that's got a lovely soft sand base

  • Mountain bike trails everywhere!  The Amerada Trail around the lake is super easy for families with a few hills to challenge older riders, and we like the harder trail that goes from Rocky Mountain House to Crimson Lake
  • The group campground at Twin Lakes is one of the nicest group campgrounds we've ever camped at.

  • Paddling on the North Saskatchewan River near Rocky Mountain House is exciting but still family-friendly for experienced paddlers (here is a map - we put in at the Brierley's and took out in town.)

  • You can go visit the Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site or even bike there from town.
Biking from Rocky Mountain House to Crimson Lake

For more information, check out the Provincial Park website and you can make reservations on the Parks Reservation Site.

Also, read the story I wrote last year:  Crimson Lake Provincial Park:  Hidden Gem in Alberta Campgrounds.

Lakeside Camping at the Twin Lakes Group Campground

Five - Bow Valley Campground, Bow Valley Provincial Park 

This should have been number one for proximity to Calgary. This campground can be reached in an hour from the city limits and you'll easily reach camp in time for dinner Friday night after work.

It's so easy to get here, we always wish we were camping here when we're driving past the park on our way to further locations.

Camping at the Bow Valley Campground

Why we love camping here:

  • There are riverside campsites with power and water (perfect for trailer camping.) There are also beautiful tent sites along the river.

  • Playgrounds spread around the campground

  • Quiet paved roads to bike everywhere around the campground and the surrounding trailheads for short hikes

  • There are many hiking trails accessible from the campground without ever having to drive anywhere (and they all form a loop around the park.)

  • There is a paved bike trail from the camp store down to the visitor information centre

  • Close to Canmore!! We always camp here when we want to go biking or hiking around Canmore. We even use this campground as a basecamp for exploring in Banff. 

For more information, check out the Provincial Park website and you can make reservations on the Parks Reservation Site.

Also, read the story I wrote about camping here: 5 Reasons to Love Camping at the Bow Valley Campground. 

Riverside camping along the Bow River

Honorable mentions (campgrounds located just a bit further from Calgary)

There are a couple more campgrounds that deserve a mention but they are slightly outside the 3 hour driving range I tried to stick to for this story.  Below are the two honorable mentions that I highly recommend visiting for a long weekend.

Turtles everywhere when you camp at Surveyors Lake in British Columbia

Surveyors Lake Campground, Kikomun Creek Provincial Park

Kikomun Creek Provincial Park is located just outside the Town of Fernie across the border in British Columbia.  The drive is interesting through the Crowsnest Pass area and it's worth stopping at the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre en route.

Peaceful morning paddling on Surveyors Lake

I love turtles so this park was a winner for me right from the start!  Painted turtles swim in the calm waters of both Surveyors and Hidden Lake, and you can paddle free of noise from motor boats on beautiful Surveyors Lake where there's a fabulous beach for the children. 

Playing at the beach at Surveyors Lake

We also love mountain biking here on the old rail trail or we drive into Fernie for the day and go biking there.

To reserve sites at the Surveyors Lake Campground, go to the BC Parks Reservation site.

Resources and Reading on Activities and Camping in Kikomun Creek Provincial Park

Camping in British Columbia - Kikomun Creek Provincial Park

The Best Family Bike Trails in Fernie, British Columbia

Family Mountain Biking at Surveyors Lake

Writing on Stone Provincial Park

Another honorable mention, this campground is amazing but just outside the three hour driving range.  It's about a 3.5 hour drive from Calgary - worthy of a long weekend camping trip.  We love this park for the opportunities to go hiking and exploring in the Alberta badlands.

The river is also a lot of fun to float down, and there's a great beach for the children to play at along the Milk River in the campground.

Hiking in Writing on Stone Provincial Park

Please read my previous stories below for more information and to see a lot more photos than I can post here.  To make a reservation for this campground, visit the parks reservation website and book 90 days in advance.

Resources and Reading on Activities and Camping in Writing on Stone Provincial Park 

Camping in Writing on Stone Provincial Park

Find us in the River - Camp Life at Writing on Stone Provincial Park 

A beautiful place for a family hike in Writing on Stone Provincial Park

Other Great Campgrounds Near Calgary

There are a lot of other amazing places to camp near Calgary.  For more suggestions, check out the following stories:

The Best Provincial Park Campgrounds in Southern Alberta

Where to Camp in the National Parks of Alberta

You'll also find reviews for everywhere we've camped in my Camping Super Guide. 


  1. It's encouraging that you liked Redstreak. Maybe we will have to give it another go. We went 3 summers ago and haven't wanted to go back. We were there in July, and it had to be one of the worst campground experiences we've had. The sites offered little privacy and the amount of very late night (early morning?) drinking and smoking by neighbors was plentiful (i.e., and all day binge). Not really the environment you want to bring the littles to. Maybe we just managed to go on a doozy of a weekend, but it was an area I'd like to explore more, and it sucked that we hated that campsite so much. Glad to see you had a very different experience.

    1. We'll be spending a week there this summer so I certainly hope we have a good experience Kathleen. Sorry for your bad one. Hopefully it's very different if you go again. Usually Parks Canada cracks down on partying pretty hard.

  2. Hi Kathleen. Kathleen sorry you and your family had such crappy experiences there. We have gone several times to Redstreak and found lots of shade and peace. "G Loop" has no fires and that was easier on our lungs. More mature people seem to be there and less big dogs (we do love dogs though...but...).

    Glad you are going to give it another try. My husband says that in all his years of camping, Redstreak has been the best campground.

    Anyways, all the best to you 2 ladies! We are so blessed to have this area available to us.

  3. I wish I could travel the world.......... thanks for the dream

  4. Pender island is great, especially if you go when there is a band playing at the pub because it gets all the locals out to party. They have camping near the beach right in front of the pub. They have a disc golf course in the Forrest too which is really cool.

    1. A little far from Calgary, but thanks for the inspiration and the suggestion. We'll have to add it to our list.