It’s the dead of winter, but it’s starting to feel a lot like summer. If you like camping, anyway. Parks Canada opened their reservations on January 27, 2016 and now the provincial sites with Alberta Parks will be available to reserve for the summer over the next few weeks.
Here are the dates you need to know:
On February 8, group campsite reservations will open at 9 a.m.
On February 16, comfort camping sites will open for reservations at 9 a.m.
On February 22, the entire roster of individual reservable campsites in Alberta will open for 90 day advance bookings by region. South: 9 a.m.; Kananaskis: 11 a.m.; Central: 1 p.m.; Northeast and Northwest: 3 p.m.
Beauvais Lake Provincial Park
Location: Near Pincher Creek, 2 1/2 hours south of Calgary.
Campsites: 90+ sites: 53 serviced, 34 unserviced, 8 walk-in tent sites.
Services / Activities: Fishing, Birding, Boating, Hiking, Playground
Why you should go: There are lots of good little hikes, decent fishing, and always a good chance of seeing a bear. Wait, what? This beautiful lake in the foothills is gorgeous on its own, but also just 30 minutes away from Waterton for some big mountain exploring.
Chain Lakes Provincial Park
Location: West of Nanton, 80 minutes south of Calgary.
Campsites: 60 campsites
Services / Activities: Playground, Beach, Boating, Fishing, Horseshoes, Windsurfing, Concession, Birding
Why you should go: It’s one of the closest lake campgrounds to Calgary and has all the things you need in a campground from swimming to boating to fishing. The lake is also a popular camping spot in the winter for ice fishers.
Crimson Lake Provincial Park
Location: Near Rocky Mountain House, 2 1/2 hours north of Calgary
Campsites: 173 campsites (another 39 at nearby Twin Lakes)
Services / Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Beach, Boating, Hiking, Playground, Interpretive Talks, Horseshoe Pitch, Concession
Why you should go: The beach here is just as beautiful as the campground. The sites are heavily treed and private. The beach is shallow and sandy and perfect for digging by the kids and relaxing by the parents. The lake is popular for water skiers, canoeists, kayakers, and sailors alike.
Dinosaur Provincial Park
Location: Near Brooks, 2 1/4 hrs east of Calgary.
Campsites: 94 Tent/RV sites and 7 Comfort Camping sites.
Services / Activities: Playground, Hiking, Interpretive Centre, Guided Walks, Boating, Birding
Why you should go: You get to pretend you’re on Tattooine, you can hunt for fossils, and explore the richest bed of Cretaceous Period dinosaurs on the planet. The guides here are excellent and I really recommend taking one of the walking tours into the protected areas to see some exciting bone beds.
Peter Lougheed Provincial Park
Location: In K Country, 1 3/4 hr west of Calgary.
Campsites: There are 14 different campgrounds in the park with more than 450 sites for front country and backcountry camping.
Services / Activities: Hiking, Interpretive Centre, Fishing, Boating, Playground, Windsurfing, Cycling
Why you should go: The National Parks may get all the attention from the tourists, but locals know the views are better in K Country. This park is a wonderful gateway to the backcountry with epic hikes in every direction.
Rochon Sands Provincial Park
Location: Near Stettler, 2 1/4 hr north of Calgary
Campsites: 69 camp sites.
Services / Activities: Swimming, Fishing, Boating, Playground
Why you should go: We camped here while me made the daytrip over to Stettler to catch a ride on the Alberta Prairie Railway where you experience a real live train robbery. The campground itself is on a huge lake popular with boaters. The beach itself doesn’t have much sand, but it’s shallow enough for kids and families. The other fun part about heading up here, is pulling in to Torrington half way for lunch to see the Gopher Hole Museum.
Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park
Location: Near Milk River, 3 1/2 hours south east of Calgary.
Campsites: 45 Tent/RV campsites, 18 Group Camping Sites, and 3 Comfort Camping sites.
Services / Activities: Playground, Boating, Hiking, Swimming, Beach, Guided Walks, Interpretive Centre
Why you should go: This is consistently named the best campground in the province. It’s a hike to get there, but it’s worth it. The scenery is gorgeous, there are areas to explore, the river is relaxing, and the campground is just perfect. Oh, and there’s the petroglyphs – make sure you get the guided walk to see the best images of our provincial history.