Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Our New Favourite Campground in Banff

If you would have asked me last year, I would have said that Two Jack Lakeside was my absolute favourite campground in all of Banff National Park.  Four trips to Tunnel Mountain though have changed my mind and we are now in love with camping on the Tunnel Bench above the Banff townsite.

Biking on the Tunnel Bench in Banff

Top Reasons we Love Camping at Tunnel Mountain

Tent to Trail Camping - The mountain bike trails on the Tunnel Bench are our favourite trails in Banff and are accessible right from the three Tunnel Mountain Campgrounds.  You can practically bike out the door of your tent!

A little morning biking with your pancakes and bacon anybody??

It's quiet, peaceful, and well supervised! Do you hate generators, loud music, and neighbors partying until the late hours while camping? If not, please find a different campground and leave Tunnel Mountain to those of us who want to listen to the birds and sounds of nature.  We've camped at Tunnel Mountain four times now (in both Tunnel Mountain Village I and II) and have never heard a single generator, have always had quiet neighbors, and have never been woken up by anything other than morning birds or the odd train going by at night.

Natural Camping at Tunnel Mountain Village I

Tunnel Mountain is the best of wilderness camping and urban comfort.  Because the Tunnel Mountain Campgrounds are situated on a bench above the Banff Townsite, you can take the Roam bus downtown for dinner, bike over to the hostel for breakfast, or head to the hotsprings if it gets rainy at camp.  Forget the ketchup or need ice?  No worries!  There's a Safeway in Banff to stock up on anything you've forgotten and you can get ice from any of the hotels on the bench.

Hop on a bike and you can get anywhere from Tunnel Mountain

Tunnel Mountain is only an hour from Calgary!  I hate getting to camp late at night and having to set up in the dark.  Fortunately, Banff is so close to home, we can leave after work and still get to camp in time to make dinner.  One trip, we managed to go for an evening bike ride around the whole bench upon arriving.

Campsite to bike within seconds of arriving at Tunnel Mountain

Which Campground to Choose on Tunnel Mountain

Personally, we love Tunnel Mountain Village I.  It is for tents and small trailers and has a natural feeling.  Most sites are surrounded by trees and have good privacy between them.  For families with larger trailers looking for a serviced site, you can either camp at Tunnel Mountain Village II or the Trailer Court.  Information on all three campgrounds can be found on the Parks Canada site.

Biking on the Tunnel Bench Loop

The Best Bike Trails on the Tunnel Mountain Bench

We love the Tunnel Bench Loop which is an intermediate single track trail suitable for school aged kids with 20" bikes, gears and hand brakes. The best direction for riding the loop is clockwise and you can jump on the loop from any of the Tunnel Mountain Campgrounds.

For an easier ride, check out the Tunnel Campground Loop.  It is gravel and relatively flat.

Scenery on the Tunnel Bench Loop

We also like the Bow Falls to Hoodoo Trail but it requires a second vehicle parked at Surprise Corner above the Falls if you want to do it one way in the downhill direction.  We rode the trail with three 6 year old kids one way from the Hoodoos and then had an adult bike back up for a vehicle, meeting us at the end of the trail.

This is also an intermediate ride and best done by kids on 20" bikes with gears and hand brakes. There is one challenging hill (that can be walked down if necessary) followed by a couple of hike-a-bike sections closer to the falls.  Make a half day of the ride and enjoy the scenery en route.

Playing on a bridge on the Bow Falls to Hoodoos Trail

All bike links are taken from the Trail Forks website.

Junior Mountain Bikers on the Bow Falls to Hoodoos Trail

For more on biking the bench, read my story that I wrote last summer:  Mountain Biking the Tunnel Bench Loop in Banff - with kids.

I also wrote more about finishing the full Tunnel Bench Loop this summer in My Mountain Bike Partner is 6 years Old - and he's better than me!

And new for 2016: Tour de Banff - The Ultimate Family Mountain Bike Tour (Read about the complete Tunnel Bench Loop together with the Hoodoo Trail) 

Mountain biking on the Tunnel Mountain Bench

See you on the trails!

Easy riding on the Bow Falls to Hoodoos Trail


  1. You might like lake Enid near invermere

    1. Thanks for the suggestion Jamie. We've hiked around Lake Enid but haven't camped here before.