When camping in Alberta, many people automatically think about going to the campgrounds in Banff or Canmore. In reality, there are plenty of other options with more amenities and often cheaper spots. Kananaskis camping delivers all the views, similar amenities and typically less crowds than Canada’s National Parks.
Kananaskis camping is all about getting back to nature. You’ll feel a sense of privacy and peace here. The area is flush with mountain ranges and forests filled with evergreens and icy blue glacier lakes.
Pretty much every site is near hiking and biking trails, fishing opportunities and wildlife viewing. Here’s a look at the main Kananaskis camping sites.
Located in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Elkwood Campground provides both RV and tent sites with lots of trees to provide privacy. The campground provides both power and water options or unserviced lots. Elkwood is a good base if you want to explore the Kananaskis Lakes, which it’s close to.
The campground also offers interpretive programs, playgrounds, showers, bike and hiking paths and fire pits. For the showers, you need to use $2.00 tokens (credit cards are accepted) to take a 5-minute shower.
There are two things that are particularly great about Gooseberry Campground. First, it opens early and it stays open late in the season. You can camp here from the end of April until mid October.
Second, there’s a ton of sites. Gooseberry offers over 80 sites that are first come, first served. They recently added power sites for RVs (51 of them), but Goosberry also offers 28 unserviced sites, plus 6 for walk-in tents.
Its location couldn’t be prettier – right inGooseberry Provincial Recreation Area – which is about 10 km west of Bragg Creek and near the Elbow River. You’ll find lots of good fishing and hiking opportunities nearby.
Mount Kidd Campground
Mount Kidd is a year-round campground offering well-treed campsites and spaces for both RVs and tents. The lots fill up fast so take advantage of their reservation system.
They have just over 70 full service sites, 46 with power and water, over 80 sites with power only and 32 camp sites with no services – perfect for tenters or tent trailers.
When it comes to amenities, it’s more a matter of what they don’t have. Tennis court: Check. Supply store: Check. TV hookups: Check. Of course, Mount Kidd Campground sports bike paths, is close to plenty of hiking trails and Nakiska Ski Resort. Yes, you can camp here in winter and ski, as it’s open all year round.
Boulton Creek Campground
There are 120 spacious campsites at this campground located near Kananaskis Village along Highway 40. Don’t let its location in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park fool you. This region boasts just as much dramatic scenery as what you’d find in Banff National Park – minus the crowds.
As far as amenities go, Boulton Creek Campground sports showers, water and power hookups, picnic tables, fire pits, flush toilets (!), water, and firewood (for a fee). Sites are well treed and overnight here affords close access to the Kananaskis Lakes. Unfurling from the campsite are a variety of hiking trails and a paved bike path. At nearby Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes, you can fish for rainbow trout, cutthroat trout and bull trout.
Cataract Creek Campground
Cataract Creek Campground is a large, unserviced campground located 45km southwest of Longview. There are more than 100 sites suitable for tents and small RVs. There is plenty of hiking in the lodgepole pine forest and plenty of fish in the creek.
Camping at Cataract Creek is first come, first served, so you’ll want to get here on perhaps a Thursday night before a summer weekend. There aren’t a ton of services – fire pits, outhouses and a water pump, but it’s all you’ll need if you’re looking for a traditional camping experience – like you may have had as a kid.
Beaver Flats Campground
Located in the Elbow Falls Provincial Park just west of Bragg Creek, Beaver Flats Campground has 6 walk-in tenting sites and 49 larger sites for RVs. The RV sites are well-treed, while the tent sites are placed along the crystal clear Elbow River.
There’s tons of options for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding from this campground. And if you’re an experienced paddler, you’ll appreciate the challenging water environment of the Elbow River.
Beaver Flats Campground is unserviced and runs mid-May until early September. It’s first come, first served and the only amenities are: firewood, water pumps, and outhouses AKA pit toilets.
Little Elbow Campground
This campground is located in the Little Elbow Provincial Recreation Area near Bragg Creek. Little Elbow is a popular summer and fall campground, with lot of mature trees and sites nicely spaced apart from each other.
Little Elbow Campground can handle up to 64 RVs and tents, plus it offers 30 dedicated walk-in tent sites. Nearby are trails for hiking and mountain biking. The area is popular for horseback riding and fishing, too.
Mesa Butte Equestrian Campground
This is a small equestrian campground, found in Mesa Butte Provincial Recreation Area near Millarville. Mesa Butte offers many equestrian related amenities including hitching rails, corrals and ramps. There are also hiking, biking and riding options in the area.
There are only 15 unserviced campsites at Mesa Butte that are open from mid-May until mid-September. If you want to camp later in the fall, see the recommendation below. You can’t reserve at Mesa Butte in advance, so if you’re heading out with your horse trailer, you’ll want to beat the crowds.
Strawberry Equestrian Campground
This campground situated in Strawberry Provincial Recreation Area, is only open during the fall months – typically after the Labour Day weekend until the end of November. Strawberry Equestrian Campground is anchored along the banks of the Highwood River, 45km southwest of Longview.
The campground is meant for equestrian travellers and offers hitching posts, corrals and easy to access riding trails through the area. There are only 20 campsites at Strawberry Equestrian Campground and they don’t take reservations. But since most folks pack up their camping gear once the leaves turn, your chances are good.
Spray Lakes West Campground
Found in Spray Valley Provincial Park, south of Canmore, Spray Lakes West Campground is great for people looking to explore Kananaskis Country or the town of Canmore.
These unserviced campsites are located around the Spray Lakes Reservoir and have sites suitable for RVs and tents. You can’t reserve in advance, but they have 50 sites available from mid-May until mid-September. The area offers hiking trails, boating, fishing and lots of opportunities for wildlife viewing.
Hotels in Kananaskis Country
In the event you can’t find a campsite for the night, there’s a few Kananaskis hotels you can consider. By far the nicest one is Pomeroy Kananaskis Mountain Lodge. They did a major overhaul in 2019 so now it’s quite swish, while remaining family friendly.
I especially like their airy, loft-style guest rooms with wood burning fireplaces. It’s got a fantastic children’s pool and waterslide, and on the grounds lies the fantastic Kananaskis Nordic Spa. The Nordic spa is for adults only, but the lodge offers childcare.
Also located at Kananaskis Village is Mount Kidd Manor. It’s less expensive than the lodge, but you’ll still get access to the waterpark and other amenities from the Pomeroy Lodge. They’re situated right across from each other and share the same parking lot, plus hiking and biking trails.
Another wallet friendly alternative is staying at HI-Kananaskis Wilderness Hostel. In addition to shared rooms, it has one private room with a double bed and single bed above – perfect for small families. Their lounge is quite nice – with a wood burning fireplace. Plus it has a kitchen and laundry facilities.
Where is your favourite place to camp in Alberta? Don’t forget to check out this post on camping in Banff if you’re headed to the National Park.