Sunday, January 05, 2020

2020 Campsite Reservation Guide for Alberta and BC

It's January and it's time to start booking national park campsites across Canada for the entire summer season!

It's January and it's time to start booking campsites for the summer

Provincial parks still give you a little more time to plan out your summer, but you'll want to be organized so you don't miss the dates for making reservations. (Competition for May long weekend reservations is especially high!)


All information below was written back in January when life was still normal pre-Covid craziness. Definitely continue reading for inspiration, but please visit the following websites for current updates. If you have questions, please contact the park or campground directly. Things are changing daily so make sure you check the cancellation policy with all bookings.

Parks Canada Updates - Camping is currently suspended until at least May 31, 2020 along with all new reservations.

Alberta Provincial Park Updates - Camping is currently suspended until June 1st when campgrounds will open again at a 50% capacity. Tenting will be allowed when campgrounds open and there will be bathrooms open. Camping will be restricted to Alberta Residents for the foreseeable future. Also, there will be no comfort camping or group camping this summer.

Reservations open up again on May 14th for bookings starting on June 1st. I would expect the 90 day booking policy to remain in place (meaning you'll be allowed to reserve sites through mid August.)

Backcountry bookings will also open up again on May 14th for the summer.

British Columbia Provincial Park Updates - Camping is currently suspended until June 1st when most campgrounds will start to open again. The Discover Camping reservation system will be back online on May 25th at 7:00AM PT to accept camping reservations for both front country and backcountry bookings.

BC has not released an official statement yet as to whether out-of-province users can make a campsite booking in their parks or not. The only stance they have issued is an encouragement to visit them another year. (??)

The "word" on Private Campgrounds in Alberta and BC - Most private campgrounds are open already (or will be opening by mid-May.) Most of them are opening to RV users only and you'll be required to have a bathroom in your camping unit. Contact the campground you wish to stay at directly.

Again, traveling between provinces appears to be a "gray" area open to interpretation (and changing by the week.)

National Park Reservations 

National Park campsites can be booked online for the entire 2020 camping season beginning in January.

There is no 90 day window. Book a site for any month this upcoming season in January. This includes comfort camping sites as well.

Below is the reservation launch schedule for national parks near Calgary:

Banff National Park - Wednesday, January 8th, 8am! (and backcountry campground reservations can be made as of January 23rd at 8am.)

Jasper National Park - Tuesday, January 7th, 8am! (and backcountry campground reservations can be made as of January 22nd, also at 8am!)

Waterton Lakes National Park - Thursday, January 9th, 8am!

Kootenay National Park, BC  - Thursday, January 9th, 8am! (and backcountry campground reservations can be made as of January 24th at 8am.)

Yoho National Park, BC - Thursday, January 10th, 8am!  (and backcountry campground reservations can be made as of January 23rd at 8am.)

NEW FOR 2020: Glacier National Park, BC - Reservation launch coming in May 2020.

NEW FOR 2020: Mount Revelstoke National Park, BC - Parks Canada will be opening a brand new campground - Reservation launch coming in May 2020.

NEW FOR 2020: Campsites at Lake O'Hara can be reserved online for the entire summer season as well starting on January 24th at 8am.

*Note that reserving spots on the bus to Lake O'Hara for just a day has gone to a lottery system. (More on this below.)

**All times are in MST.

For full information on reservations in all parks, visit the Parks Canada website. You can also visit individual parks from this link to read up on the campgrounds.

Camping at Redstreak in Kootenay National Park 

NEW FOR 2020!

  1. You can now reserve sites in Glacier National Park in the Loop Brook Campground at Rogers Pass. (finally!!) - RESERVATION LAUNCH COMING IN MAY.

  2. Mount Revelstoke National Park is opening a brand new campground! The Snow Forest Campground will be open for reservations and it looks like there'll also be comfort camping in three new MicrOcubes along with backcountry camping available too this season. - RESERVATION LAUNCH COMING IN MAY.

  3. Whistlers Campground in Jasper will continue to be CLOSED for the 2020 season. Book very early if you want to camp in Jasper this summer. Wapiti is a good alternative to Whistlers.

  4. The Crandell Mountain Campground in Waterton remains closed following the Kenow wildfire. The Townsite Campground is the only one that will be open for 2020.

  5. Backcountry Campsites at Lake O'Hara in Yoho National Park can be reserved online this year. Finally, you don't have to wait on hold for hours to book sites for Lake O'Hara this year. You can reserve a site for anytime over the entire summer season starting on January 24th at 8am.

  6. Day Use Bus Spots for Lake O'Hara can be booked through a lottery system this season. It used to be near impossible to get a bus spot to access Lake O'Hara for a day hike. This year, at least some lucky people will get spots. Visitors will have a one-month period from February 1 – 29, 2020, to submit an application online through the Parks Canada Reservation Service. Visit the link above for more information.
Camp in Mount Revelstoke National Park's brand new campground for 2020!

Tips for Getting the Site you Want!

  • You will want to book campsites the day that the reservation system opens for each park and at 8am sharp if planning on camping on weekends during the summer season. There will be more flexibility if camping mid-week or in the spring/fall months.

  • Be on the computer, logged in, and ready to go for 8am sharp!! Know which site you want and have it already up on your screen so that you can click on it at exactly 8am. (and if you prefer to book by phone, that is an option too.)

  • Tag team with friends to get sites you really want (especially if you are looking for sites side by side.)

    Make sure you exchange all booking info. with your friends ahead of time because you can't hold more than one permit in your name for the same date/campground. If booking for friends, you'll want their full name and address. You'll also want to know the size of their trailer or tent along with how many people they will have on their site. (And if you are booking for friends who haven't committed yet, you can change the name on a campsite permit before you show up.)

  • Have your payment information handy. And know that you can't book more than three sites at a time. If you need to make separate bookings on the same day for different campgrounds, you'll want to have multiple tabs open on your computer and you will have to pay for the first campground before switching to the second one.

  • There are still several first come first serve campgrounds in the national parks if you don't get a site.

  • Consider private campgrounds if you can't get into a national park campground or choose provincial park campgrounds just outside the national park.

    For example, in Waterton, you can camp at nearby Beauvais Lake Provincial Park. For Banff, we like camping outside the park gates at the Bow Valley  Campground. There are many private campgrounds in the Radium Hot Springs area if you can't get into Redstreak as well.

  • Make sure there is a fire pit on the site that you are reserving. Some sites in Banff and Jasper do not allow fires.


The Bow Valley Campground is an excellent choice near Banff National Park 

Alberta Provincial Park Reservations

For 2020 online reservations open March 10th for comfort camping, March 17th for individual campsites and March 24th for group camping. Online bookings open at 9 a.m. for each launch and can be made at the Alberta Parks reservation site

Starting this year, the reservation website will be available 365 days, allowing for consistent and easy access to year-round Alberta Parks’ camping reservations. So once the launch goes live this year, there will no longer be an official launch date for 2021.

Once this year's launch is live, you will be able to book sites up to 90 days in advance of your departure date which will include April camping, the May long weekend, and reservations through early June. For dates later than that, plan your tentative trip by counting back 90 days, and marking the reservation date for that trip on your calendar.

Note that for this year, individual online campsite bookings on March 17th will be staggered by region.

9 a.m. south region
11 a.m. Kananaskis region
1 p.m. Central region
3 p.m. north region

Once the launch has been started and the reservation system is officially open, reservations always start at 9am for each 90 day window. This includes group and comfort camping reservations.

All times are in local Alberta time.

Camping in Alberta's Provincial Parks (Photo: Beauvais Lake, Southern AB)

Special Dates

May Long Weekend Camping - March 17th

All Individual Campsites - March 17th (with a 90 day window)

Group Camping - March 24th (up to 180 days in advance of the scheduled arrival date.)

Comfort Camping - March 10th (up to 180 days in advance of the scheduled arrival date.)

Backcountry Camping  - Backcountry campsites can be booked any time with a 90 day window

All reservations can be made online.

Group camping at Twin Lakes, Crimson Lake Provincial Park

Special Tips:

  • Follow many of the same tips as per national park bookings above. Be religious about logging in before 9am and at having your site up on your computer screen ready to be booked. Tag team with friends (especially for group bookings) and pay very close attention to those 90 day windows!

  • Make sure everything is in your calendar with reminders! I even put reminders beside my computer, my coffee pot, and my bed the night before making a campsite reservation so that I don't accidentally forget.

  • If you don't get the site that you want, there are plenty of first come first serve campgrounds. Many campgrounds also have a small number of  FCFS campsites. A Full List of FCFS Campgrounds can be found here.

  • Consider booking a group site if you have at least 5 families coming with you. You'll get your own private campground or group area and will have lots of room for the kids to run around and play.

    Note that most group sites do not have power or services for RVs so you'll have to either bring generators or camp off the grid as we do. Most group sites can be booked with a payment for 5 units but some require payment for 10 units so make sure you check the details before reserving a site. Full info. on group camping can be found here.

Spring Camping in Dinosaur Provincial Park

 Important Links:

Alberta Parks Online Reservation Information

Comfort Camping in AB Parks  

Backcountry Reservations


Peter Lougheed Provincial Park is a beautiful place to camp in Kananaskis 

British Columbia Provincial Park Reservations

BC Parks has eliminated their opening day system and now goes with a rolling system of 4 months for all campground bookings.

Note that this is 4 actual months to the day so you do not need to count back the days as you would with AB Parks.

Beach life at Kokanee Creek Provincial Park, West Kootenays

For full information please visit the Discover Camping Reservation Service.

Other news, changes, and full booking policies can be read about on the BC Parks website here. 

Some provincial parks also offer group camping. Group camping reservations can be made up to 12 months in advance of the arrival date via the Discover Camping reservation service. Information on group camping can be found here.

And follow this link if you would like more information on backcountry camping and reservations.

NOTE RE LONG WEEKENDS: This one screwed me over a couple of years ago. If you want to camp in a BC provincial park over a long weekend, you must make your reservation for all nights of the long weekend.

You can NOT plan to show up on the Saturday (even if in the middle of a road trip where you're traveling outside the normal weekend period.) You must be able to camp in the park Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night of the long weekend, and you must show up on the Friday night! You can not book for Friday, planning to show up on Saturday (or hoping to cancel the Friday later.)


Camping at Surveyor's Lake in Kikomun Creek Provincial Park

Backcountry Huts and Wilderness Hostel Reservations

The Alpine Club of Canada backcountry huts and cabins can be booked a full year in advance.

Dorm rooms or private rooms in Hostelling International wilderness hostels can also be booked a year in advance.

This means that if you haven't booked anything for this upcoming summer, it might be too late. It is not too late however to start figuring out your winter plans for 2020-2021. Mark those dates on your calendar now if planning to book something for Family Day in 2021 for example.

For more information, visit the Alpine Club of Canada website or the Hostelling International website.  


One of the many ACC huts that you can book for your family (photo: Elk Lakes Cabin, BC)

Other Suggested Reading 

Camping Super Guide - This is a quick guide to all of my popular camping stories for easy reference and reading. I add to this page regularly.

Notable stories to check out:

How to Choose a Good Campsite (Family Camping Made Easy)