Monday, July 13, 2015

5 Great Campgrounds for Active Families in Southern Alberta

Finding a great campground often comes down to your camping style. Do you go camping primarily to relax or do you search for a campground that serves as an adventure base camp?

Families wanting to chill and take it easy while camping will definitely want to look for campgrounds with lakes, beaches, and quiet walking paths. Active families on the go will also enjoy swimming and paddling in a refreshing mountain lake but might want to seek out campgrounds that feature a great trail network for biking and hiking as well.

Biking on the Tunnel Bench Loop in Banff

Tunnel Mountain Village I, Banff National Park

Located on the Tunnel Bench above the town of Banff, Tunnel Mountain Village 1 is a great campground for biking and hiking right out the door of your tent.  You can set up camp and never have to get in your vehicle again from this campground.

Mountain bike trails are plentiful around the campground as are beautiful hiking trails from the hoodoos of Banff down to Bow Falls on the Bow River. 

Want to visit the Banff hot springs or head downtown for dinner?   The Roam bus stops right by the campground providing easy access to the many attractions of Banff.

Tunnel Mountain Village I is a natural campground for tenters and campers with small trailers not requiring full service or power. It is a lovely place to camp with trees surrounding most sites, central showers, wash stations for doing dishes, and fire pits at many of the sites.  Families wanting power for larger trailers and RVs can camp at Tunnel Mountain Village II or in the trailer court located next door.

Tent to Trail Camping in Banff National Park

Read more:

Our New Favourite Campground in Banff 

Mountain Biking the Tunnel Bench Loop in Banff with Kids

Tour de Banff - The Ultimate Family Mountain Bike Loop

Family Guide to Banff National Park - Top Ten Places to Explore with Kids 

Mountain biking on the Tunnel Bench Loop in Banff

The Campgrounds of Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis

The Boulton Creek and Elkwood Campgrounds are very popular with families and both accept reservations in advance for stress-free camping.

Both campgrounds are located on a paved section of the High Rockies Trail that connects 6 campgrounds in the park.  Riding downhill from Boulton Creek to Canyon is our favourite thing to do along with visiting the Boulton Creek Trading Post for an afternoon ice-cream cone. 

Families preferring to hike will find multiple easy hiking trails in the park to choose from and water lovers can spend the day canoeing on either Upper or Lower Kananaskis Lake.  Canoes and kayaks can also be rented beside the Boulton Creek Trading Post.

There is no bad campground in this park but Boulton Creek and Elkwood are the only two that accept reservations and that offer serviced sites for those wanting power and water for their trailer. (Lower Lake also accepts reservations but has only unserviced sites.)

Our personal favourite campground is Canyon because of the sunny meadow surrounding the playground.  Final options are the Mt. Sarrail walk-in tent campground and the small Interlakes Campground located on a peninsula between the Upper and Lower Lake. 

The scenery is stunning everywhere you go in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park 
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Biking on the paved trail through Peter Lougheed Provincial Park 

Beauvais Lake Provincial Park Campground

We really liked the Beauvais Lake Campground in Southern Alberta near Pincher Creek. Take a boat out on the beautiful calm lake, bike over to the lakeside playground, or bike around the lake on one of the many trails located in the provincial park.

You can also go for a walk on one of the many trails through the park (ski trails in the winter, so they are nice and wide for families pushing a Chariot or outdoor stroller.) 

We took a day trip while camping here to nearby Beaver Mines Lake where we hiked to the summit of Table Mountain.

You can also take day trips to nearby Castle Provincial Park or to Waterton Lakes National Park.

The crowsnest Pass is nearby too if you want to check out the Frank Slide.

There's no shortage of day trips available from this park - or just stay put and explore the local trails and the lake.

Biking around Beauvais Lake

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Paddling on Beauvais Lake 

The Campgrounds of Cypress Hills Provincial Park

Cypress Hills Provincial Park is Located on Elkwater Lake in Southern Alberta. This provincial park has everything from a gorgeous sandy beach to paved walking and biking paths, hiking and mountain bike trails aplenty, mini golf, and a great interpretive centre.

A typical afternoon at camp could be spent walking or biking the paved lakeshore trail, looking for birds on the boardwalks, stopping at the three lakeside playgrounds, playing a round of free mini golf (donations accepted,) going to the ice-cream shop, and then ending at the beach to play.  A family could camp here for a week and never run out of activities to do.

Biking on the easy lakeside trail between playgrounds

Camp in any of the campgrounds near the lake and you’ll find easy access to the beach and town via the fabulous trail network. My top pick for campground is the main Elkwater Campground with its big open meadow and playground.  Try to get sites around the meadow and the kids will be able to play while you supervise from your site.

Read more:

Our New Favourite Alberta Camping Destination 

Hiking on one of the many trails in Cypress Hills Provincial Park 

Alberta Badlands Camping (Dinosaur and Writing on Stone Provincial Parks) 

I couldn't decide which park I liked best, so I'm lumping them together - because they are both awesome for active families!!

Best of all, the campground at Dinosaur Provincial Park and the campground at Writing on Stone Provincial Park are both base camp type campgrounds where you don't ever have to get in your car. There are so many trails accessible from each campground you can stay right where you are the entire time.

Hiking in Dinosaur Provincial Park 

Similarities between the two campgrounds:

  • Camping in the Alberta badlands with hoodoos, sandstone cliffs, coulees, and fun rocks to scramble around on.

  • Great interpretive programs from fossil digs to rock art tours

  • Both have a gentle river you can float if you have boats and want to set up a shuttle

  • Both have fabulous hiking trails right from the campground through the badlands scenery

Main differences:

  • You'll find an actual beach at Writing on Stone on the Milk River. You can even float from one end of the campground to the far end using pool noodles or tubes. - super fun on a hot day.

  • If you like biking, Dinosaur is the place to go because you can bike around the public loop road stopping at interpretive trails and fossil displays as you go. There is no biking in Writing on Stone park.

Hiking in Writing on Stone Provincial Park 

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Floating down the Milk River through Writing on Stone Provincial Park 

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