Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Campsite to Trail - The Best Campgrounds for Biking Families

Let me know if this question from a reader sounds familiar:
"Packing up 5 bikes and a chariot is an ordeal we don't want to do every time we want to go for a ride, so we are looking for a campground where we can get onto some good trails right from our campsite.  We also don't want to have to bike on crowded, touristy roads through town to get onto the trails either."
Fortunately for this reader, and for anybody else looking for a good "bike base camp." I have several great campgrounds to choose from and they can all be reached within a half day of driving from Calgary. (Many are within a 1-3 hour drive.)  We love biking and agree that it is a pain in the butt if you have to constantly pack up the bikes every time you want to go for a short family ride.

Biking in Kikomun Creek Provincial Park at Surveyors Lake, British Columbia

The Best Bike Base Camps for Families 

Wapiti or Whistlers Campgrounds, Jasper National Park

We love camping at the Wapiti or Whistlers campground in Jasper because they are at the end of the Wapiti bike trail which leads to downtown Jasper, or connects you with other trails leading all over the park. There's also a great bike trail right in the Whistlers Campground that connects several small play areas with a big main playground.

Enjoy easy family biking in Jasper without ever jumping in the car

These campgrounds make #1 on my list for biking base camps because of all the amazing places you can bike to without ever getting on a road or highway, having to load up bikes, or having to take them apart to fit in a vehicle.

None of the trails in Jasper's trail network are paved, but they are all easy for children and relatively flat with few hills.

To read my full trail report on Biking in Jasper, read:  The Best Family Bike Trails in Jasper.

We biked to the Lake Annette Beach from Camp - no roads, no highway.  100% pathway riding

Surveyors Lake, Kikomun Creek Provincial Park (British Columbia)

Surveyors Lake is another great campground for families who like biking.  Located in the East Kootenays near the town of Fernie, you can bike around camp or take a day trip into Fernie to bike the town trails.

We loved biking around camp on the Great Northern Rail Trail.  It is definitely mountain biking terrain and has a few challenging hills.  Older kids and teens will love biking here though and my son has been riding the trails since the age of 4.

Biking the Great Northern Rail Trail in Surveyors Lake Campground

Alternately, you can drive into Fernie to play at the Bike Park, ride the easy trails in town, or try some introductory mountain biking near the aquatic centre.

For more information on biking and camping at Surveyors Lake, read my following stories:  Camping in British Columbia:  Kikomun Creek Provincial Park and Another Great Camping Trip to Surveyors Lake 

For information on biking in Fernie, read:  The Best Family Bike Trails in Fernie, British Columbia. 

Playing at the Bike Park in Fernie

Crimson Lake Provincial Park, Central Alberta

Families camping at Crimson Lake Provincial Park can bike the 9km Amerada Trail around the lake without ever jumping in a car.  You'll be on a nice gravel pathway the whole time and it's wide enough for a bike trailer. (note there are a few decent sized climbs though so prepare to do some walking if kids don't have gears on their bikes)

Alternately, there's a mountain bike trail that goes all the way from the nearby town of Rocky Mountain House to Crimson Lake and it's definitely challenging enough for all levels of riders.  We walked the tough hills but otherwise found the ride to be doable with kids.  You just might have to explain to young children that you are going for a "bike hike" and be prepared to walk the tricky sections.

Easy boardwalk biking at Twin Lake

The 12km long trail from Rocky Mountain House to Crimson Lake can be split up into shorter distances by using Twin Lake (half way between the town and Crimson Lake) as an ending or starting point.  (we found that we appreciated the use of a shuttle vehicle for this.)

For more information on biking and camping at Crimson Lake, read my story here:  Crimson Lake Provincial Park - Hidden Gem in Alberta Campgrounds.

Easy mountain biking between Crimson Lake and Rocky Mountain House

Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis

There's no "one" campground here that is best in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park.  As long as your campground is on the paved bike trail, you'll be able to bike out of your campsite anytime you want without ever jumping in a vehicle.

There is a 12 km paved trail that connects the PLPP Visitor Information Centre to the Mt. Sarrail Campground at the far end of the park. In the middle, the trail passes by four other campgrounds including Canyon, Elkwood, Boulton Creek and Lower Lake.  Camp at any of these five campgrounds and you will be right on the bike path.

Easy biking in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park

This is a great place for families to bike and all steep hills on the path are well marked in advance.

For more information on biking and camping in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park read this story:  The Best Place To Bike and Camp in Kananaskis

Biking on the paved trail in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park

Cypress Hills Provincial Park, Southern Alberta

Cypress Hills Provincial Park is our newest "favourite place" to go camping with our bikes.  If you camp down near the lake in the town of Elkwater, you can hop on and off easy little mountain bike trails that connect 5 different campgrounds with the lakeshore.  Meanwhile, the lakeshore has its own 2.4km long paved bike trail that's great for young children just learning to ride.

There's something for everybody in Cypress Hills from expert riders looking to challenge themselves on technical single track to children still riding with training wheels.

Enjoying some easy mountain biking in Cypress Hills Provincial Park

Thanks to the trail network in the town of Elkwater, you can bike from camp in search of ice-cream, bike to the coffee shop, to the interpretive centre, marina, beach, mini-golf course, or to trailheads for hiking.  You could spend a week in Cypress Hills Provincial Park and never get in your car.

Families looking for more challenging riding will appreciate the use of a vehicle to shuttle bikers up into the hills for some fun downhill biking that always ends back at camp near the lake.

To read all about the bike trails we enjoyed in this park check out my newest camping story: Our New Favourite Alberta Camping Destination.

Easy riding on the Shoreline Trail, Cypress Hills Provincial Park

Tunnel Mountain Village Campgrounds, Banff National Park

There are three campgrounds at Tunnel Mountain on a scenic bench located just above the town of Banff.  Circling the campgrounds is a lovely little mountain bike trail, very easy and great for novice riders.  There's a few small hills but it's easy double track riding on a nice gravel trail.

Around the outside of the easy Tunnel Campground Loop, you'll find the intermediate Tunnel Bench Loop.  We like to hop on and off the two trails at various intersections whenever the riding gets too easy or too tough.  Meanwhile, we send Dad on the black loops (running outside of the blue loop) and meet up with him further down the trail at the next viewpoint.

Family riding doesn't get more awesome than this with trails for all abilities starting and ending right at your campsite!

Mountain Biking on the Tunnel Bench Loop, Banff

Last year we camped at Tunnel Village II which had power sites for our trailer but this year we have been camping at Tunnel Village I which is more natural and rustic in nature. The third option is the trailer court for families camping in larger RVS looking for full services.  No matter what your camping style is, there is something for everybody and a bike trail for any level.

With the assistance of a vehicle, you can also drive down into the town of Banff, head to other nearby trails, drive to Lake Louise for the day or head to nearby Canmore.  You'll find enough trails to keep you biking for a month.

Campsites at Tunnel Village I have lots of trees, shade, and privacy - Premier campground for sure!

 Read these stories about biking in the Bow Valley and Banff for further inspiration:

Intermediate mountain  biking on the Tunnel Bench Loop

Bow Valley Campground, Kananaskis

We camped in the Bow Valley Campground last weekend and I finally got the chance to test out the paved Bow Valley bike trail.  Despite being paved, it was one heck of a workout and definitely had some hills to power up in both directions.  That being said, it's a lovely 4km long bike trail and older kids will do well on it.  Younger children just may have to walk a hill or two.

Biking the Bow Valley Campground Paved Trail

The other thing I liked about this campground is that families were biking all over the park to various trailheads and day use areas, to the store for ice-cream, and to the river to play.  You'll be biking on campground roads while there but most people weren't driving around much so the roads were very quiet.  There were even children on training wheels biking around the park on the main roads.

This is definitely a biking park and most campsites were filled with bikes of all shapes and sizes.  (there's a few good hills in the campground that the teens were having fun with on their scooters too.)

For more information on camping and biking in Bow Valley, read April Camping in Bow Valley Provincial Park

Other recommended reading: 

The Best Family Bike Trails in Canmore

The Best Family Bike Trails in Kananaskis 

The Bow Valley Biker Gang  

Biking in nearby Canmore, a short drive from the Bow Valley Campground


Mt. Kidd RV Park, Kananaskis

We haven't stayed at the Mt. Kidd RV Park yet but the campground is right on the paved Bill Milne Path and we love this easy bike trail. There's a big climb up to Kananaskis Village but as long as you stay low along the highway and just bike between the Kovach Day Use Area and Wedge Pond, it's pretty easy going. 

Read more here: The Best Family Bike Trails in Kananaskis

Biking on the Bill Milne Trail near Kananaskis Village

Also, from the RV Park, you are close to the trailhead for Troll Falls which is an incredible family bike ride.  Most people choose to hike this trail but it's one of our favourite rides for some easy mountain biking.

Photo opp. along the Hay Meadows Trail, Kananaskis

Wasa Lake Provincial Park (British Columbia)

There is a mountain bike park, half pipe and pump track right in the campground of this provincial park.  While it's a bit more challenging than many bike parks we've visited, it is still worth checking out if you have junior mountain bikers in your family.

Wasa Lake Bike Park

There is also a 8 km paved bike loop around the Village of Wasa called the Wasa Lion's Way. It is a very nice bike ride to enjoy with the kids after playing at the lake all day.

Biking on the Wasa Lion's Way Trail

Finally, families can drive to Kimberly for a day trip and bike the North Star Rails to Trails Path to Cranbrook in a 25km paved bike ride.  

More information can be found in this story:  Camping Across British Columbia - Wasa Lake.

Biking the North Star Rails to Trails Path

Want to go further afield?  

Check out this story I wrote about biking on the Kettle Valley Railway (KVR Trail) in Kelowna, British Columbia.  The story is here at:  Biking the Kettle Valley Railway from Kelowna to Osoyoos.

Biking the Myra Canyon Trestle Bridges in Kelowna, British Columbia

You'll have to drive to the Myra Canyon trailhead to do the trail in the photo above, but there are other sections of the KVR that cross right through campgrounds in the towns of Penticton and Okanagan Falls to the south of Kelowna.

Being able to jump onto the Kettle Valley Railway Trail from our campsite in Penticton was a highlight of our summer vacation last year.

Camp to Trail biking in the Okanagan, British Columbia

Suggested campgrounds:

  • Wright's Beach Camp - Located in Penticton, this campground is right at the trailhead of the KVR section that goes from Penticton to Okanagan Falls

  • Banburry Green Campground - Located in the town of Kaleden, the KVR crosses right through this campground en route from Penticton to OK Falls

  • Sun and Sand RV Campground - Located in Okanagan Falls, this campground is located at the far trailhead of the Penticton to OK Falls section. 

Biking on the Kettle Valley Railway between Penticton and Okanagan Falls

Don't want to camp?  Check out these "resort base camps"

Kids on Wheels:  Nipika Mountain Resort - over 100km of bike trails on site with accommodations in cozy log cabins

Kids in the Backcountry - Escape to Banff's Sundance Lodge - The Brewster Creek Trail is a great trail for kids on balance bikes with all inclusive accommodations at Sundance Lodge

Family Backpacking in Banff National Park - No Tent Required - Red Earth Creek is another great trail for kids on balance bikes or for families with older kids and teenagers.  Accommodation is at the amazing Shadow Lake Lodge where every guest gets a private cabin

We went for the Snowshoeing and Returned for the Mountain Biking along with Just Another Day in Paradise - Mount Engadine Lodge in Kananaskis is a great base camp for biking the Mount Shark Trails.

How to Plan a Kananaskis Biking Weekend - without camping - the Kananaskis Hostel has quick access to the Bill Milne Trail, Troll Falls, and the trails of Kananaskis Village. 

 Nipika Mountain Resort is an awesome Biking Base Camp

Did I miss a great campground that you love to stay at while camping and biking?  Let me know and I'll add it to the list for review.


  1. Fantastic biking and camping roundup!!! : ) I so want to go to Jasper and Rocky Mountain House / Crimson Lake now! Agree with all the other locations - they are RAD for biking, especially the KVR!

    1. Thanks Karen. Maybe we can plan a trip to Jasper and Crimson together next summer.

  2. Wow! This is quite the list. I think it may be time to go to Canada!