Monday, February 22, 2021

2021 Campsite Reservation Guide for Alberta and BC

Here we go again! We're still making reservations for ski resorts, and now we're thinking about the summer camping season as well. Ready or not, it's time to pull out that calendar and to start planning for the May long weekend - and beyond.

Camping season is almost upon us for another year!

National Park Reservations 

National Park campsites can be booked online for the entire 2021 camping season beginning in April this year. (which is a change from previous years when you had to book in January.)

There is no 90 day window. Book a site for any month this upcoming season in April. 

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

Banff National Park - Monday, April 12th, 8am MDT! (and backcountry campground reservations can be made as of April 16th at 8am.)

Jasper National Park -  Friday, April 9th, 8am MDT! (and backcountry campground reservations can be made as of April 16th also at 8am!)

Waterton Lakes National Park - Tuesday, April 13th, 8am MDT!

Kootenay National Park, BC  - Tuesday, April 13th, 8am MDT! (and backcountry campground reservations can be made as of April 16th at 8am.)

Yoho National Park, BC - Tuesday, April 13th, 8am MDT!  (and backcountry campground reservations can be made as of April 16th  at 8am.)

Mount Revelstoke National Park, BC - Tuesday, April 6th, 8am PDT! (backcountry campground reservations can be made on the same day.)

Glacier National Park, BC - Tuesday, April 6th, 8am PDT! (backcountry campground reservations can be made on the same day.)

Soon! We'll be camping in the sunshine again soon.

Special Reservations for Lake O'Hara in Yoho National Park: 

Backcountry Campsites at Lake O'Hara can be reserved online for the entire summer season as well starting on Tuesday, April 27th at 8am MDT!

*Note that reserving spots on the bus to Lake O'Hara for just a day has gone to a lottery system. You can enter the lottery between April 1-30, 2021. More information on the lottery will be found here on the Lake O'Hara website. - To enter the lottery, follow the link above from a computer. It won't work from your phone without a lot of searching.

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.

We love camping in the national parks!

NEW FOR 2021!

  1. We're still in the midst of a pandemic. I've tried to reflect accurate information here, but double check everything! I expect dates to change, some campgrounds to open late (or not at all,) and for things to exist in a constant state of mild confusion. Most bathrooms should be open in provincial/national park campgrounds but showers may not be open in all parks. (And if you're camping at a private campground definitely check to see if bathrooms will be open.)

  2. Whistlers Campground in Jasper was closed for the 2020 season. Plans for its reopening date are still up in the air for 2021 but it should be open this summer. Check back in May on the Parks Canada website.

  3. The Crandell Mountain Campground in Waterton remains closed following the Kenow wildfire. The Townsite Campground is the only one that will be open again for 2021.

  4. As of 2020 there is a campground in Mount Revelstoke National Park. Information on reservations can be found above.

  5. As of 2020, reservations can be made for two campgrounds in Glacier National Park. Information can be found above. 

  6. Comfort camping should be open again this year. The Banff NP and Kootenay NP websites list o'TENTiks opening as of May. The Jasper o'TENTiks will open when Whistlers Campground opens. Comfort camping can be booked at the same time as regular campsites.

  7. There are currently 2 campgrounds available for reservations on the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park. More information can be found above. 

  8. Reservable shuttles to Moraine Lake and  the Lake Louise lakeshore will be online this summer.  Reservations can be made as of Wednesday, April 28th at 8 am MDT for the entire summer.
Camp in Mount Revelstoke National Park's brand new campground this summer!

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 2021, online reservations open March 4th for individual campsites and March 5th for comfort camping. Group camping remains closed at this time, due to COVID-19 gathering restrictions.

Starting on March 4th, individual campsite bookings can be booked up to 90 days in advance of your planned arrival date. Sites that are already available within the 90-day window can be reserved on this day as well. This means that on March 4th, you can book sites for arrivals on or before June 2nd, 2021. (and yes, this includes the May long weekend!)

Because the May long weekend is such a popular time to camp, launch times on March 4th will be staggered by region.

9 am South region
11 am Kananaskis region
1 pm Central region
3 pm North region

Online bookings open at 9 am for each launch and can be made at the Alberta Parks reservation site

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

Comfort camping bookings can be made up to 180 days in advance of your scheduled arrival date (starting on March 5th when the launch system goes live.)

Backcountry camping is already open for bookings at the website above. These sites can be reserved up to 90 days in advance of your scheduled arrival date.

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 4th for individual campsites 

All Individual Campsites - March 4th (with a 90 day window)

Group Camping - Not currently applicable for the 2021 season

Comfort Camping - March 5th (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

There have been a lot of changes here since the Covid outbreak started last spring. BC Parks has also changed their reservation policy only allowing campers to reserve sites two months in advance instead of four months (as was the previous policy.)

Beach life at Kokanee Creek Provincial Park, West Kootenays

The BC Resident Advantage for 2021

The biggest Covid related restriction can be summarized below:

"Due to the ongoing pandemic, we are not yet able to return to business as usual. B.C. residents will have priority access to camping reservations for the entire summer season. For the purpose of accessing priority reservations, a B.C. resident is someone who resides in B.C. Visitors will need to confirm they are a B.C. resident before booking a campsite. For those of you coming from out of province, reservations start July 8." - BC Parks

So in a nutshell, if you're from Alberta, you'll have to wait until July 8th to try booking campsites in a BC provincial park. (Note this is for provincial park campgrounds only. Alberta residents can still camp in the national parks or in private campgrounds across BC.)

Albertans are also still allowed to enjoy provincial parks in BC for day trips (so you can drive in to use the beach and park at a day use area,) and Albertans can still take advantage of  first come first serve (FCFS) campsites.

Basic Booking Policy and Rules for 2021

"On Monday March 1st at 7am PT, backcountry reservations will be available for the full 2021 season for the Berg Lake Trail and the Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit. 

On Monday March 8th at 7am PT, most frontcountry and backcountry reservations will be available and can be booked up to two months in advance of your trip." - BC Parks


NOTE RE LONG WEEKENDS: 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.)

Follow this link for more information on operating and reservable dates for each park.

And review the full Covid policies for the 2021 camping season.


1 comment:

  1. Tanya, many thanks for such a useful article!
    Now I am much better prepared for a booking process! :)
    Have a great camping season!