Wednesday, January 25, 2023

2023 Campsite Reservation Guide for Alberta and BC

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

The May long weekend is coming soon! 

National Park Reservations 


National Park campsites can be booked online for the entire 2023 camping season beginning in March this year. (See note below:)
"We’re moving our reservation system to a new platform! The look and feel will be different, but the features and functions will be similar. Because of this change, Parks Canada will be launching reservations for the 2023 season starting in March."

Reservations will open in March for visits between April 2023 and March 2024.

And unlike with provincial parks, there is no 90 day or three month window. You can book any site for a stay during the entire camping season once reservations go live. 

Reservations have been staggered by park to ensure that the website doesn't crash.

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


Banff National Park - Thursday, March 23, 2023 at 8 am MT for front country camping and Wednesday, March 22, 2023 at 8 am MT for backcountry camping


Jasper National Park -  Thursday, March 16, 2023 at 8 am MT for front country camping and Monday, March 20, 2023 at 8 am MT for backcountry camping


Waterton Lakes National Park - Thursday, March 30, 2023 at 8am MT for front country camping in the Townsite Campground


Kootenay National Park, BC  - Wednesday, March 29, 2023 at 8 am MT for front country camping and Wednesday, March 22, 2023 at 8 am MT for backcountry camping (same as Banff and Yoho for backcountry reservations)


Yoho National Park, BC - Wednesday, March 29, 2023 at 8 am MT for front country camping and Wednesday, March 22, 2023 at 8 am MT for backcountry camping (same as Banff and Kootenay for backcountry reservations)

Reservations for guided Burgess Shale hikes also go live the same day as front country campground reservations. 

Scroll further below for more information on Lake O'Hara.


Mount Revelstoke National Park, BC - Monday, March 13th, 2023 at 8 am PT for both front country and backcountry camping


Glacier National Park, BC - Monday, March 13th, 2023 at 8 am PT for both front country and backcountry camping

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 starting Tuesday, March 28, 2023 at 8 am MT.

Reservations for the day use bus to Lake O'Hara can be reserved online for the entire season starting Wednesday, April 12th, 2023 at 8 am MT.

And this means no more lottery for the Lake O'Hara bus - which I have confirmed! Day use spots will be reserved using the new reservation website + queue-it system.

Read more about camping and day hiking at Lake O'Hara here. - note as of late January, the Yoho National Park website has not been updated for 2023 and is not accurate. 

Most up to date information will be at the main Parks Canada website.

Visiting world-famous Lake O'Hara requires a lot of luck every year

Special Reservations for Shuttles to Moraine Lake and Lake Louise:

Reservable shuttles to Moraine Lake and the Lake Louise lakeshore will be online again for this summer.  Reservations can be made starting Thursday, April 13th, 2023 at 8 am MT.

Reservations will be made on the same website that you use to book campsites for bookings in the period between May 13th to October 10th. 

And note, starting in 2023, there will be no public vehicle access for Moraine Lake. You'll need to reserve seats on the shuttle bus, take Roam Public Transit, or bike up to the lake. Lake Louise is still accessible, but the parking lot fills up very quickly each day so you're better off taking a bus to reach this destination as well.


Before May 13th, I would suggest planning a day to bike up to Moraine Lake Road because the road will be closed to all vehicles. Note the hiking trails will still be snowy, so this would purely be an opportunity to view the lake and enjoy a peaceful visit.


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.

Plan a day hike at Lake Louise or Moraine Lake with shuttle bus tickets for easy access 

Transitioning to the New Parks Canada Reservation Website


Parks Canada is moving their reservation system to a new platform! After the move, you’ll need to create a new profile.  A full tutorial will be shared here in February.

Important dates:

February 26 - By this date, log in to your existing account and take note of sites you may have reserved in the past. 

February 27 to March 2 - The reservation system will not be available as Parks Canada migrates to the new platform. While you wait, check specific launch dates for places where you want to reserve.

March 3 and onwards - Create your new account, and get acquainted with the new system in preparation for launch.

March 13 -  First reservations launch!

Reservations will open in March for all campground bookings in the National Parks for 2023


Making a Reservation on the Parks Canada website


As of 2021, Parks Canada has gone with a queue system for campsite bookings. They have confirmed that they will repeat this system again for 2023 because it keeps their website from crashing.

The basic process for booking sites is as follows:
  1. Log in to your Parks Canada account on the day that you can book sites for your chosen park BEFORE 8AM MT (8AM PT for Mount Revelstoke and Glacier.)

  2. You will be placed in the queue and given a random number. You won't know what number you have until 8am when they shuffle everybody in the queue. You may be number 50, you may be number 5000. It is 100% random. 

  3. It does NOT matter if you join the queue at 7:30 or at 7:59. There is no rhyme or reason for your place in the queue.

  4. Make sure you have at least one to two hours of free time to make your bookings. If you have to work, try to find somebody else who has free time that morning to make your bookings for you. If you end up with a high number in the queue, you may be waiting for over an hour to get on the website to make your bookings.

  5. You can not choose your campsite before joining the queue. You can try, but everything will be shuffled at 8am and so anything you had done before this time will be lost. You should still know which sites you are trying to book, but have it written beside you on a piece of paper.

  6. You won't have much time to make your bookings (especially if you have multiple bookings to make.) Make sure your credit card information is handy and know what you're trying to book before you log on to the website.

  7. Most people try to get more than one number in the queue to increase their odds at getting a good number. This is only possible though if you have more than one computer/laptop in the house. You can not just open multiple tabs in the same browser. Every browser shares the same number in the queue. 

    You can however open different browsers on the same computer to get more than one number in the queue. (Example, log in with both Chrome and Safari.) 

    Note, if you do get multiple numbers in the queue, please go with your best number and then close all other browsers so that those numbers can be released to other people trying to book. 

  8. Make sure you're actively monitoring your browser as your number counts down!! If you miss your time to book your campsites, you'll have to join the queue again and you'll be at the back of the line. 
Reservations may be stressful at the time, but worth it come summer!

Other 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.

  • 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.)

  • 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.


AND THIS IS THE NEW WEBSITE WHERE YOU MAKE YOUR RESERVATION: To be announced March 3rd.



Everybody looks forward to that first camping trip of the season!


Alberta Provincial Park Reservations



As of 2022 Alberta Parks online reservations on Reserve.AlbertaParks.ca will now be a year-round service. 

There is still a 90-day booking policy for regular campsites and backcountry campsites, but there is no more "opening date" for reservations. Simply count back 90 days from when you wish to begin camping, and mark that date on your calendar. 

Also note that comfort camping can be booked 180 days in advance! That means that in January you'll already be able to book sites for July!


Grab a group of friends and book some great campsites this summer in a provincial park


Group camping areas can also be booked 180 days in advance. This means you'll be able to start looking for group sites in January for arrival dates in July.

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

** And note that Alberta Parks has also gone to the queue system so you may have to wait to get onto the parks reservation website in the morning.

Read more about the queue system under national park bookings above.


Group camping at Twin Lakes, Crimson Lake Provincial Park

Special Tips:


  • Follow many of the same tips as per national park bookings above. Tag team with friends (especially for group bookings) and pay very close attention to those 90 or 180 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


AND THIS IS THE WEBSITE WHERE YOU MAKE YOUR RESERVATION: Reservation website 


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


British Columbia Provincial Park Reservations



BC Parks launched a new reservation service in 2022, so if it's been a few years, you'll have to create a new account.


And NEW FOR 2023, reservations can be booked 4 months in advance of all trips (which is very different from Alberta Provincial Parks.) You'll be able to book sites for the May long weekend in January.

Backcountry permits are also available to reserve 4 months in advance of your trip.

- and note that the Berg Lake Trail is still closed with reservations on hold. Visit the BC Parks website often for updates.

Also new for 2023, Group campsites can be booked a full year in advance starting this January. 


Beach life at Kokanee Creek Provincial Park, West Kootenays


Using the New Booking System

Know in advance that BC Parks will be using the Queue-It Software at peak times so you may have to wait to log in to the website to avoid having the site crash from overuse. If you haven't made a booking with the queue-it system before, basically you need to log in before 7am PT where you'll be given a random number. You'll find out what your number is at exactly 7am. Everybody in the queue is shuffled randomly. You may luck out with number 200 or you may end up with number 10 000.

I can not stress the importance of having backup dates, plans, campgrounds, and campsites (if you have a favourite you were hoping to get.)

Read more about using the queue system above under national park reservations.


Reservations are NOT Transferable once Booked 

"Reservations are not transferable. Reservation holder name(s) ("Occupant Name" and alternate "Optional Authorized Person") must be provided at the time of booking and cannot be added or changed later. Any reservation holders found to be transferring or selling their reservations to another party, risk their reservation being cancelled without a refund. If a customer can no longer use their reservation, they are encouraged to cancel it so that any unused camping fees that are not forfeited as a penalty, can be refunded to the credit card that was used to make the original reservation."


And know that at least ONE of the reservation holders must be present upon arrival and during the stay. ID may be required to prove you are the reservation holder. - So don't think you can just sell your site to another family and have them "pretend" to be you. 


You can not reserve extra nights to "save" a site

And if you think you can book early, accept you'll get no refund for un-used nights, and just show up on Friday night, that isn't going to work!

"Reserved sites are held until 11 AM the day after the scheduled arrival date. If you do not notify the park operator directly of a late arrival, you will be considered a no-show and your reservation will be cancelled." - and your site will be given away!

 

Imagine scoring a campsite here!


Camping in BC provincial parks over Long Weekends

To make a reservation for a statutory holiday weekend, you are required to book a minimum of 3 nights.

The nights you must camp are below for 2023:

Victoria Day: Monday May 22, 2023 (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights)

Canada Day: Saturday July 1, 2023 (no minimum stay)

BC Day: Monday August 7, 2023 (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights)

Labour Day: Monday September 4, 2023 (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights)

Thanksgiving: Monday October 9, 2023 (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday)


Follow this link for information on making reservations


For Bookings, Follow this Link to BCParks.ca 


The are some amazing places to camp across British Columbia!

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) 

 




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