Canmore Camping Tips + Best Canmore Campgrounds

The cozy town of Canmore is located just outside Banff National Park and offers beautiful Canmore camping destinations amongst the Canadian Rockies. Camping in Canmore is a great way to explore the Canadian Rockies as the warm weather rolls around this summer. With incomparable mountain views, crystal clear lakes, and countless hiking and biking trails, the adventures in Canmore are never-ending! 

Camping is my all-time favorite way to experience new places, especially places as jaw-droppingly beautiful as the Canadian Rockies. Not only are you saving money by avoiding hotels, but you are truly experiencing all that the area has to offer. It cannot get much better than waking up to the sweet sound of the Bow River trickling nearby after sleeping beneath the stars! 


What You Need to Know About Camping in Canmore


Camping Types in the Canadian Rockies


Front Country

Front country camping is one of the most popular forms of camping, as it is easily accessible and is well suited for tents, RVs, trailers, or whatever else your preferred camping method is! In the front country, you either take your vehicle/camper directly to the campsite or walk your tent in a short distance from the parking area. 

Front-country campsites almost always have washroom facilities, and often offer potable water taps, showers, laundry, or kitchen areas. Though you should always check the campground website for a full list of facilities before making any assumptions. Front country camping is the best (and easiest!) form of camping for family vacations, road trippers, or people who want to try camping for the first time.  All of the Canmore campgrounds in this post are considered front-country camping.


Back Country

Some of the most beautiful camping destinations in the world are located in the backcountry of the Canadian Rockies! Backcountry campsites cannot be reached by vehicle and require hiking, paddling, or sometimes even a helicopter ride, to access.  

The backcountry campsites around Canmore often need to be booked in advance and can fill up quickly. This camping type definitely requires the most planning – from planning your route and your packing list, to booking the campground far enough in advance. 

However, if you are making a last-minute trip to the Rockies, don’t cross Canmore backcountry camping off your list! Though the most popular backcountry sites tend to require booking in advance, many campsites still run on a first-come, first-served basis and cancellations do happen frequently.

Most backcountry camping sites have drop toilets, potable water taps, bear hangs or bins, and level tent pads. Some campsites also offer fire pits, but always pay attention to fire bans and designated fire areas.  


Random Camping

Random camping, also known as public land camping, is the least common form of camping and the trickiest around Canmore. Random campgrounds do not have washroom facilities, water taps, or the other conveniences provided by designated back and front country sites.  

Random camping is best suited for people with extensive backcountry experience, who are familiar with the area and all of the risks that come with it! Seeing as these areas are lightly trafficked, be prepared to encounter wildlife, have little to no cell phone signal, and to be entirely on your own in the backcountry. 

Random camping has specific rules that must be followed – you cannot just pitch a tent anywhere you feel. For example, you must be 1 kilometer from any provincial park or other public recreation areas, 50 meters from any trail, and 100 meters from any water source. For a detailed list of rules and tips associated with random camping in the Canmore area, check out the Alberta Parks website.


Canmore Camping Basics

  • Camping permit: Most campsites in the area must be booked in advance, which typically requires you to print your permit off and bring it with you, or at least have it saved on your phone (and have a fully charged phone). If visiting a campsite that runs on a first-come, first-served basis, you will need to purchase your camping permit upon arrival. Be sure to have enough cash with you if paying upon arrival, as most campsites only accept cash payments. 
  • Campfires: when camping in Canmore, always check the fire regulations and current fire ban status. At front-country and backcountry sites, fires are typically only allowed in designated fire pits. When random camping, different rules apply depending on the area: 
    • Provincial recreational areas and Provincial Parks: fires only allowed in provided facilities i.e., provided fire pits 
    • Wildland Parks: You must be 1 km from any backcountry facility or roadway 
    • Public Land Use Zones: permitted for cooking and warming purposes, and sometimes only allowed in certain areas.  
  • Reserve the campsite: Understand what type of reservation system the campsite uses and plan your visit accordingly. The most popular campsites typically open for reservations mid-winter in preparation for the summer months and can fill up quite quickly! Be sure to figure out when the registration opens for your dream campsites so that you do not miss the opportunity to book your visit. If you are like me and become too invested in winter activities to plan for summer, there are still lots of first-come, first-serve campsites that are great for last-minute trips! 
  • Additional fees: When visiting most front country campsites, be prepared for additional fees. Most campgrounds only accept cash payments, so it never hurts to carry a little extra cash on hand for those unexpected fees.
    • Considering you are often not allowed to burn dead-fall, you will need to purchase firewood.
    • If your campsite has showers and laundry machines, these facilities typically take $1 or $2 coins 
    • At some of the more built-up campsites, s’more kits, snacks, and souvenirs are often available at the main building.  

The Best Canmore Campgrounds

*For Alberta Parks Managed Canmore campgrounds that require a reservation you can book on their website here.

Canmore Campground Sites Facilities Price
Three Sisters Campground 36  Fire pits, firewood sold, picnic shelter, pit toilets $31/night 
Bow River Campground 7/59 Fire pits, firewood sold, pit toilets, food storage, water pump, power, showers, wheelchair accessible   Non-serviced:$31
Power/Water :$49
Reservation Fee: $12
Lac De Arcs Campground 28 Fire pits, pit toilets, water pump, playground, hand boat launch $31/night
Spring Creek RV Campground  39 Fire pits, playground, firewood sold, picnic table, potable water, washrooms and shower, coin laundry, serviced sites Power/water: $48
PWS:$58-$63
Wapiti Campground 88 Washrooms and showers, fire pits, picnic table, potable water, firewood sold Tent sites: $30
RV sites: $40

The most common type of camping in Canmore is Front Country camping. This is the ideal type of camping if visiting with younger kids, a large friend group, or you just enjoy the convenience that the front country offers! I have listed some of the best front country campgrounds in Canmore below.


Three Sisters Campground

three sisters canmore

The Three Sisters Campground is one of the nicest Canmore campsites and is conveniently close to the hub of Canmore. Being just a 10-minute drive away, this is a great campground for making trips into town to shop the local gift shops, enjoy the many restaurants, or tour around the art galleries. Though this location is convenient, it is right along the highway – this campground can be noisy due to the highway traffic.

The Three Sisters Campground offers treed sites that are suited for tents and RV’s. Some of the tent sites have tent pads. This campground is located right on the infamous Bow River and has a boat launch for non-motorized boats. Thanks to its convenient location, the activities are endless: hiking and biking trails, fishing, paddling, the list goes on! 

The perk of this campground is the proximity to Canmore. You may not get that “fully immersed in nature” feel here though, due to the highway noise and civilization being right around the corner. 

  • Operating Dates: June – October 
  • Reservation: First come, first served 
  • Amenities: Fire pits, firewood sold, picnic shelter, pit toilets, water pump, hand boat launch 
  • Fees: $31/night 
  • Number of Sites: 36 
  • Proximity to Canmore: 10 minute drive

Bow River Campground

The Bow River Campground is located in the Bow Valley Provincial Park, only an 8-minute drive to Canmore! This is another great campground for making trips into town to shop the local gift shops, enjoy the many Canmore restaurants, or tour around the art galleries. Though this location is convenient, it is right along the highway – it is another campground that can be noisy due to the highway traffic. 

The Bow River campground offers treed sites that are suited for tents and RV’s. This campground is located right on the infamous Bow River, giving you the chance to test your luck at fishing! Do not forget your fishing licenseThe Bow River campground is wheelchair accessible.

The perk of this campground is the proximity to Canmore, making it great for people and families that are new to camping.  

  • Operating Dates: April 16 – October 31 
  • Reservation: Required (Reservation fee $12)
  • Amenities: Fire pits, firewood sold, pit toilets, food storage, water pump, power, showers, wheel chair accessible  
  • Fees:  
    • Non-serviced: $31/night 
    • Power/Water (15/30 Amps): $49/night 
  • Number of Sites: 7 non-serviced, 59 Power/water 
  • Proximity to Canmore: 8 minute drive 

Lac De Arcs Campground

The Lac De Arcs campground is located in the Bow Valley Provincial Park, less than a 15 minute drive from the town of Canmore. Though the proximity to town makes this location ideal for visiting Canmore, the downfall is that this campground is located right along the Trans-Canada highway and is across from a concrete plant.

The traffic and factory noise here is high, so this may not be the best campsite for your dream nature getaway. Instead, this campground is a good home base if you are looking to explore the Canmore area, or is ideal for a single-night stay for travelers just passing through the area.

The Lac De Arcs campsites are suited to RVs and tents. The tent sites have some trees for privacy, but are mostly in the open with little shade. With the campground on the Lac De Arcs, it has waterfront views and offers water activities. This lake is popular for windsurfing, paddling, and fishing. Be sure to purchase a fishing license before casting your line!

Other activities in the area include hiking, biking trails, and visiting the town of Canmore. The Lac De Arcs campground is wheelchair accessible, with wheel chair accessible washrooms.

  • Operating Dates: April 30 – October 11
  • Reservation: Required
  • Amenities: Fire pits, pit toilets, water pump, playground, hand boat launch, shelter, firewood sold
  • Fees:  $31/night
  • Number of Sites:  28
  • Proximity to Canmore: 14 minute drive

Spring Creek RV Campground

Walking along Policemen’s Creek nearby

The Spring Creek RV campground is located less than a 10-minute walk from main street in Canmore. This beautiful campground is perfect for long term stays, providing you a central home base so you can experience all that the Canadian Rockies have to offer.

This campground is located right at the base of the Three Sister’s mountains and along a picturesque creek, providing stunning views. This campground does not permit tents and is only suited to RVs. There are three different types of RV campsites: regular back-in, creekside back-in, or pull-thru, all of which offer different service types.

Being just a short walk to the town of Canmore, the activities at this campground are endless. You can enjoy the town of Canmore and its many bars and restaurants, hike up EEOR, drive to Lake Minnewanka, or scope out the areas beautiful lakes.

The Spring Creek RV Campground is the ideal place to enjoy Canmore from the comforts of your own trailer. This campsite is not the classic nature getaway but instead allows you to stay in town and meet new people, without the need to splurge on a Canmore hotel.

  • Operating Dates: Year round
  • Reservation: Required
  • Amenities: Fire pits, playground, firewood sold, picnic table, potable water, dump stations, washrooms and shower, coin laundry, serviced sites
  • Fees:  
    • Power/water (30 amps): $48/night, $288/week
    • Power/water/sewer (30 amp): $58/night, $348/week
    • Power/water/sewer (50 amp): $63/night, $378/week
  • Number of Sites:  39
  • Proximity to Canmore: 10 minute walk

Wapiti Campground

The Wapiti Campground is just a short 6-minute drive to the town of Canmore. Located off of the Bow Valley Trail, this campground is easy to access and is in a central location. This campground makes for a great home base to explore the town of Canmore and get on the Legacy Trail to ride your bike to Banff.

Though the location is convenient, like most Canmore campgrounds, the Wapiti campground is located beside the Trans Canada highway and main railway, meaning it experiences high traffic and railway noise. This being said, this Canmore campground is probably most ideal for travelers briefly passing through rather than a multi-night stay. If the proximity to the highway doesn’t bother you, you’ll have a fantastic time here.

The Wapiti Campground is suited for tents and RVs. All of the tent sites are walk-in only – meaning you must walk your tent and gear into the site, a short ways from where you leave your vehicle. The tent sites are well treed, providing some privacy. The RV sites do not have many trees, with little privacy between sites.

The Wapiti Campground is great for people looking to be close to Canmore without splurging on a hotel. From here, you can enjoy Canmore, you are close to Banff National Park, and the Bow Valley Parkway that will connect visitors to Lake Louise.

  • Operating Dates: June 1 – October 12
  • Reservation: First come, first served
  • Amenities: washrooms and showers, fire pits, picnic table, potable water, firewood sold,
  • Fees:  
    • Tent sites: $30/night
    • RV sites (30 amp): $40/night
  • Number of Sites: 88
  • Proximity to Canmore: 6 minute drive

Tips for Camping in Canmore

Canmore Nordic Center Sunset
  1. Always be wildlife aware: When you are camping in the outdoors, you are visiting the animal’s home and need to respect it. Be proactive: do not leave food unattended, always pack your food in a secure area (vehicle, food lockers, bear hangs), travel in groups of two or more, and always carry bear spray. If you do encounter an elk, bear, or any other animal, do not approach them. Give them their space and know how to respond to an encounter based on the animal. This is a great article for dealing with a bear encounter.  
  2. Prepared to be out of cell phone signal when camping: Whether you are deep in the backcountry or staying at a front country site, a lot of campgrounds, access roads, and trails do not have cell service. Always tell someone exactly where you are going, how long you are staying, and when they should expect you back. It is never a bad idea to carry a GPS device or trail map, so that you are not dependent on a cell phone signal. That being said all of these campgrounds in Canmore will have 4G access as they are close to the town.
  3. Know your campground: Different campgrounds have different rules, different amenities, and different surroundings. Be sure to check the campsites website before your visit to understand things like campfire regulations, party size limits, quiet hours, included amenities, or nearby activities.    
  4. The early bird gets the worm: If you are visiting a first-come, first-served campground, you will want to arrive bright and early in hopes of catching others on their way out. No matter the day or the time, there can often be a lineup of cars waiting for a site especially peak summer. Be patient, but also do not be afraid to have a backup plan in case you don’t score a site! If you can, visit during the week and avoid holidays.  

Backcountry Camping Near Canmore

Backcountry camping is one of the best ways to explore Canmore and its surrounding area, away from the crowds and the hustle of towns. Camping in the backcountry is the most rewarding type of camping, as you challenge your limits only to be gifted with stunning views in quiet, untouched areas.  The Canmore and Kananaskis area offers backcountry options for a range of ability levels, from single night trips to multi-night excursions.

When heading into the backcountry in this area, each camper must have a permit. Permits cost $12/night, per person and must be kept on hand throughout your trip to show park wardens. Some backcountry sites require you to reserve the site in advance, and others run on a first come first serve basis. No matter the campground, each backcountry site is limited to a maximum of 6 people and one tent. 

To book a back country reservation or to learn more rules and gain tips of tackling the backcountry, head over to the Alberta Parks website.  

Most Popular Backcountry Destinations Near Canmore

Though Canmore day hikes are plentiful, the backcountry camping in Canmore is a bit limited. If you are looking to experience the backcountry, you will have to venture a bit further from the comforts of town and into the Kananaskis area.

Some of the most popular backcountry camping destinations in Kananaskis, near the Canmore area, are listed below:


Why Choose to Camp in Canmore Over Camping in Banff?

Canmore

It is always tough to choose between Canmore and Banff when visiting the Rockies. When it comes to camping, there are a few reasons that make camping in Canmore more convenient than camping in Banff.

  • For starters, Canmore is closer to Calgary. This makes it convenient for visitors to plan a Canmore camping trip from the city, without spending precious vacation time in the car.
  • With Banff National Park being such a world-renowned travel destination, front country campsites can be crowded in the busy months of summer. Camping outside of the park in the Canmore area tends to be less crowded. Considering the busyness of Banff, it is often much easier to gain reservations for Canmore campgrounds too.  
  • Being outside of Banff also means you do not need a Parks Canada pass. Though park passes aren’t too expensive, and you’ll likely buy one if you visiting the Rockies, it is always nice to save a bit of cash if you are not planning on venturing into Banff and want to tackle some Kananaskis hikes instead.

Travel Planning Resources

  • Packing Guide — Check out our Banff packing list to help pack your bags and ensure you don’t leave anything at home.
About Regan

Hey, I’m Regan – an outdoor enthusiast living in the beautiful Bow Valley! I have always been eager to make the most of nature’s playground, mainly through hiking, skiing, and camping, and feel lucky to now be doing so in one of the most beautiful places on this planet. I believe that the Canadian Rockies have something to offer everyone, and I want to do my part in helping you explore the area and all its beauty!

Follow my adventures: @regan.mahoney

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