Kananaskis Camping Tips + Best Kananaskis Campgrounds

The beautiful Kananaskis Country is located in the foothills of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Kananaskis is home to dozens of Provincial Parks, countless hiking and walking trails, bold wildlife, and never-ending opportunities for adventure. There are plenty of hikes in Kananaskis to keep you busy for years, and the best way to experience them is by staying nearby and enjoy some Kananaskis camping.

Camping in Kananaskis is a fun and affordable way to indulge in all that the Canadian Rockies have to offer. Located just a 30-minute drive from the Banff National Park gates, you can enjoy the outdoors without the crowds, while still being a short drive away from the adventures in Banff.

Whether you are trying camping for the first time, taking your RV on a Canadian Rockies road trip, or you’re a backcountry enthusiast, there is a Kananaskis campground for you. Continue reading to learn all you need to know about camping in Kananaskis and the best campgrounds.


Kananaskis Camping


Kananaskis Conservation Pass

Visitors are now required to hold a Kananaskis Conservation Pass. The area covered in the pass includes Kananaskis and the Bow Valley corridor. Passes may be purchased online and are attached to a license plate number. Requirements are around vehicles and parking, not the individual. This includes parking at the Canmore Nordic Center or Grassi Lakes.

This is a new law in effect for 2021, and we hope the newly generated revenue increases the budget for Alberta Parks. Better conservation and visitor experience is a win for all.

Kananaskis Conservation Pass Prices
  • Daily Pass: $15 (registers one vehicle)
  • Annual Pass: $90 (registers two vehicles)

Camping Types

Front Country Camping in Kananaskis

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. 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.  


Backcountry Camping in Kananaskis

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 in Kananaskis 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 Kananaskis 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 in Kananaskis

Random camping, also known as public land camping, is the least common form of camping and the trickiest. 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 Kananaskis, check out the Alberta Parks website.


Kananaskis Campground Basics

  • Camping permit: Most campsites in Kananaskis must be booked in advance, which typically requires you to print off the permit 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 Kananaskis, 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 Kananaskis Campgrounds

Kananaskis Hikes

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

Kananaskis Campground Sites Facilities Price
Spray Lakes West
50  Fire pits, firewood sold, pit toilets, water pump, secure food storage, hand boat launch $31/night 
Mount Kidd 229  Camper store, tennis courts, hot tubs, showers, toilets, café, fire pits, picnic tables Full service: $53.40/night 
Boulton Creek 161 Fire pits, flush and pit toilets, pay phone, power, sewage disposal, wheelchair accessible  Unserviced: $29/night 
Canyon Creek 50 Boat launch, fire pits, pit toilets, playground, secure food storage, sewage disposal, water tap  $31/night 
Interlakes
48 Firepits, pit toilets, water pump, secure food storage, hand boat launch  $31/night 
Lower Lake 83  Firepits, pit toilets, playground, water pump, water tap, secure food storage $31/night 
Sundance
47 Free showers, washrooms, outdoor toilets, coin laundry, volleyball, and badminton courts Trapper’s Tent: $98.50/night
Mount Sarrail 44 Firepits, drop toilets, water pump, food storage lockers, picnic tables, firewood sold $31/night
Sibbald Lake 134 Firepits, cooking shelter, pit toilets, playground, water pump, hand boat launch $31/night
Eau Claire 51 Firepits, pit toilets, playground, secure food storage, water pump, firewood sold $31/night

The most common type of camping in Kananaskis is Front Country camping. This is the ideal type of camping if visiting with 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 Kananaskis below. At the bottom of this post you can find the best backcountry Kananaskis campgrounds. For a full list of camping options and descriptions, always check the website.


Spray Lakes West Campground

The beautiful Spray Lakes West Campground is located on the shore of the Spray Lakes Reservoir. Offering both tent and RV sites close to the water, you will want to bring your canoes or kayaks. This is a great campground to enjoy swimming or paddling. Most of the sites are tucked in the trees and offer a decent amount of privacy.  

With the Spray Lakes West Campground being first-come, first-served, you will want to arrive nice and early to score a site. Only some of the sites sit directly on the water, which are the first sites to get chosen. You can usually score these around 8-9am when other campers from the night before are packing up leaving. The sites off the water still allow access to the lake via pathways, but it is always nice to step out of your tent and have the lake directly in front of you. 

The Spray Lakes West Campground is close enough to the town Canmore that you can pop into town when you please, but far enough that you feel more immersed in nature. This is also a prime location for stunning day hikes nearby like Windtower and Tent Ridge.

  • Operating Dates: May 19 – September 19 
  • Reservation: First come, first served 
  • Amenities: Fire pits, firewood sold, pit toilets, water pump, secure food storage, hand boat launch 
  • Fees: $31/night 
  • Number of Sites: 50 

Mount Kidd Kananaskis Campground

The Mount Kidd campground is an ideal spot for RVs and is open all year round! With tons of hook-up options for RV’s, this is a great place to park your trailer for multiple days at a time. This campground definitely falls under the glamping description, with tennis courts, a café, hot tubs, and more.  

With 229 campsites, the Mount Kidd campground would be a fun spot to meet fellow campers and enjoy the company of others. The size of this campground prevents it from offering that private, quiet campsite feel. If you love to socialize and get to know your neighbors, this is the campground for you.

Though the Mount Kidd Campground also offers tent camping, I think it is a bit expensive if you are not taking advantage of all of its facilities and power hook ups. If you are just quickly passing through and do not plan on a multi-night stay, check out some other campgrounds for cheaper rates. 

  • Operating Dates: Year round 
  • Reservation: Required  
  • Amenities: Camper store, tennis courts, hot tubs, showers, toilets, café, fire pits, picnic tables, full-serviced, semi-serviced and no hook-up 
  • Fees 
    • Full service (Power/water/cable tv): 53.40/night 
    • Power/Water: $47.85/night 
    • Power Only: $45.60/night 
    • No service: $36.15/night 
  • Number of Sites: 229 

Boulton Creek Campground

The Boulton Creek campground is in the beautiful Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, and allows you to feel well immersed in the outdoors. This campground offers treed sites with decent privacy for both tents and RV’s. The Bow River campground is wheelchair accessible! 

With a paved biking path that connects each campsite and leads to Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes, you will want to bring your bike on this camping trip. There are also stunning family friendly hiking trails all around! 

The Boulton Creek campground offers unserviced sites and sites with water, power, and sewage options. The campsites are all spacious and have level gravel pads to comfortably set up your trailer, van, or tent on! 

The Lower and Upper Kananaskis lakes are just a quick bike ride away. Though it is refreshing to cool down in these stunning, bright blue lakes, they are still mountain lakes! The water is freezing cold, as is expected in the Canadian Rockies. 

A perk of this campground is the Boulton Creek Trading Post that is located nearby. This shop sells food, camping necessities, souvenirs, ice, ice cream and anything else you may have forgotten to put on your packing list. This one-stop-shop makes it easy to fully embrace your surroundings, without the need to drive to a nearby town if you forgot something. 

  • Operating Dates: May 13 – October 11 
  • Reservation: Required 
  • Amenities: fire pits, flush and pit toilets, pay phone, power, sewage disposal, showers, water hook up, water tap, secure food storage, wheelchair accessible 
  • Fees: 
    • Unserviced: $29/night 
    • Power/Water: $45/night 
    • Power/Water/Sewer: $53/night 
    • Reservation Fee: $12
  • Number of Sites: 161 

Canyon Creek Campground

The Canyon Creek campground is family-friendly campground located beside the Lower Kananaskis Lake. This is a great campsite for tents and small trailers, as the treed sites that offer privacy and shelter are not too spacious. For larger rigs, you will probably need to set up camp in the sites that are located in the open grass – there is little to no privacy or shade here. 

This campground is a great spot to enjoy the lake, spend some time on the nearby bike path, and explore Rawson Lake nearby. You can also use the boat launch to get some fishing in on the lake. Always be sure to purchase your fishing license before casting your line! If you don’t have your own boat, kayaks and canoes are available for rent at the boat launch. 

With the Canyon Creek Campground being first-come, first-served, you will want to arrive nice and early to score a site. You can usually score these around 8-9am when other campers from the night before are packing up leaving.

The Canyon Creek campground also has a playground, making this a great spot for families with young kids. Bears love to visit this area as much as families do – always keep an eye out and do what you can to avoid bear encounters. 

  • Operating Dates: June 4th – September 6th
  • Reservation: First come, first served 
  • Amenities: Boat launch, fire pits, pay phones, pit toilets, playground, secure food storage, sewage disposal, water tap 
  • Fees: $31/night 
  • Number of Sites: 50 

Interlakes Campground

Interlakes Campground is located right on Lower Kananaskis Lake. With many of the campsites at the waterfront, you will want to arrive nice and early to score one of the first-come, first-served sites here. For anyone who enjoys paddling, you can dock your canoe, kayak, or paddleboard on the shore right in front of your site. Some sites here are wheelchair accessible.

The campsites here are spacious and well treed, offering a decent amount of privacy. Even if you do not get a site right at the lakefront, every site is a quick walk away and typically has a lake view (only slightly obstructed by the trees!).

From the Interlakes Campground you can enjoy the paved bike path and many hiking trails. Be sure to check out the hiking trail that wraps around Upper Kananaskis Lake!   

This is one of the more popular campgrounds in the area, so scoring a campground here can be difficult. Always arrive nice and early and have a backup plan in case there are no available sites. 

  • Operating Dates: May 19 – October 11 
  • Reservation: First come, first served 
  • Amenities: Firepits, pit toilets, water pump, secure food storage, hand boat launch 
  • Fees: $31/night 
  • Number of Sites: 48  

Lower Lake Campground

The Lower Lake Campground offers sites at Lower Lake and Boulton Creek and caters to both tent and RV campers. The sites here are well treed providing decent privacy. Select sites are walk-in, allowing tenters an extra bit of privacy while adding to the outdoor experience! Some sites here are wheelchair accessible.

Some lucky campers will score a waterfront site, but if you miss this chance, you can still access the lake by trail. All the sites are of good size and well maintained, with gravel pads, fire pits, and picnic tables. At this campground, you can enjoy the paved bike path and make the trip to surrounding lakes or the Boulton Creek Trading Post. 

The Lower Lake Campground is situated in the perfect location to enjoy the areas hiking trails! Upper Kananaskis Lake Trail, Elk Pass Trail, and Mount Sarrail, are nearby hikes of varying difficulties. Be sure to do your research of nearby activities ahead of time, as this campground does not have cell service. This campground is also known to be visited by many animals throughout the summer. Keep an eye out for bears, moose, sheep, and whatever else may be passing through! 

The Lower Lake Campground also has a playground, making this a great spot for families with young kids. 

  • Operating Dates: May 19 – September 19 
  • Reservation: Required
  • Amenities: Fire pits, pay phone, pit toilets, playground, water pump, water tap, secure food storage 
  • Fees: $31/night $12 Reservation
  • Number of Sites: 83 

Sundance Campground

The Sundance Campground is a beautiful, family-owned campground in Kananaskis. This campground caters to tents and RV’s, and also to anyone wanting to experiencing “glamping”. Sundance offers unique Tipi and Trapper’s Tents camping options, that allow you to experience camping in the Rockies from a proper bed!

Of the Kananaskis campsites, I think Sundance Campground is one of the most beautiful. The campsites all have a great amount of privacy thanks to the many lush trees between each site. This campground offers stunning mountain views and has the picturesque Kananaskis River flowing through it.

If you are new to camping, this is an excellent campground to get a feel for it. Not only does Sundance Campground offer glamping options, but you can also rent all of the camping gear you need: bedding, camping stove, sleeping mat, cooking utensils, etc. Sundance Campground allows you to try out camping before splurging on all your own gear!

This campground is also in a prime location for a long list of fun activities: hiking, biking, paddling, and swimming (check out Barrier Lake!). You can make this the full glamping experience by visiting the Kananaskis Nordic Spa, too! Don’t forget to bring your furry friend along – pets are permitted.

  • Operating Dates: May 14 – September 26
  • Reservation: Required
  • Amenities:  The Trading Post (gear rentals, basic groceries, souvenirs), free showers, washrooms, outdoor toilets, coin laundry, volleyball and badminton courts, horseshoe pits, firewood and propane sold, electrical outlets in washroom
  • Fees:  
    • Trapper’s Tent: $98.50/night
    • Large Tipi: $98.50/night
    • Small Tipi: $79.50/night
    • Campsite: $36.00/night
  • Number of Sites: 47

Mount Sarrail Campground

The Mount Sarrail Campground is a tent only campground located in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. This campground does not permit RV’s – tents only. Since it’s located in the Provincial Park and is a short drive from Calgary, these campsites fill fast! Be sure to arrive bright and early to score a campsite here.

The campsites here are well treed, providing a good amount of privacy between sites. All of the sites are walk-in, adding to the overall nature experience. There are also great mountain views from the campground.

The Mount Sarrail Campground is located between the Lower and Upper Kananaskis Lakes, making it easy to visit either lake to swim, paddle, or fish. Don’t forget your fishing license if planning to test your luck! This campground is also in a central location for many local hikes: Rawson Lake, Elbow Lake, Fossil Falls, and Three Isle Lake to name a few.

  • Operating Dates: June 25 – September 6
  • Reservation: First come, first served
  • Amenities: Fire pits, drop toilets, water pump, food storage lockers, picnic tables, firewood sold
  • Fees:  $31/night
  • Number of Sites: 44

Sibbald Lake Campground

The Sibbald Lake Campground is located in Sibbald Lake Provincial Recreation Area, and is well suited for both tents and RVs. The campsites here are well treed, providing privacy between sites.

Located right on Sibbald Lake, some of the campsites here are waterfront! The lake offers lots of summer activities, including swimming, paddling, and fishing. To try and catch some of the plentiful Rainbow Trout here, be sure to have a fishing license.

The Sibbald Lake Campground has a playground, making it a great campground for families. There are also interpretive trails that can be accessed directly from the campground. You can also find a great spot for mountain biking just past the campground at Sibbald Flats – be sure to bring your bike along!


Eau Claire Campground

The Eau Claire Campground is located in the beautiful Spray Valley Provincial Park. These well-spaced out campsites offer lots of privacy thanks to the many lush trees, and are suited for both RV’s and tents.

From the Eau Claire Campground, you can access the Eau Claire Interpretive Trail. This is a short, easy loop through the trees that is great for kids. For something more challenging, there are lots of great hikes in the area – Opal Ridge, Limestone Mountain, or Lillian Lake to name a few.

This cozy campground is located along the Kananaskis River, which provides great views and fishing opportunities. The location of this campground also allows for beautiful mountain views.

  • Operating Dates: May 19 – September 19
  • Reservation: First come, first serve
  • Amenities: Firepits, pit toilets, playground, secure food storage, water pump, firewood sold
  • Fees:  $31/night
  • Number of Sites: 51

Tips for Camping in Kananaskis

Kananaskis Hikes
  1. Always be wildlife aware: When you are camping in the outdoors, you are visiting the animals 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 2 or more, and always carry bear spray. If you do encounter an 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. Be prepared to be out of cell phone signal: 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. 
  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. Arrive Early: 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. 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 in Kananaskis

Most Popular Backcountry Camping Destinations in Kananaskis


Why Camp in Kananaskis?

With the beautiful Banff National Park right around the corner, you may be wondering: why should I choose camping in Kananaskis over camping in Banff? Though Banff National Park is tough to beat, here are some of the perks that come with camping in Kananaskis:

  • Kananaskis is Close to Calgary: The beautiful Kananaskis Country is less than an hour drive from the heart of Calgary. This is the perfect place to enjoy a weekend of camping without wasting precious outdoors time on the commute.
  • Peace and quiet: With Banff National Park being a world-renowned travel destination, Kananaskis can sometimes fly under the radar. This means that front country camping in Kananaskis is likely to be a bit quieter and even more peaceful than a camping trip in Banff.
  • It’s Easier to get a reservation: Again, with Kananaskis being less popular than Banff, it is likely you will be able to score a reservation more easily here. Campsites in Banff National Park can sell out within moments of the reservations opening for the season, so Kananaskis is the ideal place for last minute trips.
  • No need for a National Parks Pass: When visiting Banff National Park, you will always needs a National Parks Pass. Though they aren’t too pricey, this is still a bit of money you can save by camping in Kananaskis where no Parks Pass is needed.
  • Kananaskis is beautiful: Kananaskis Country offers unique beauty compared to it’s neighboring towns. Kananaskis is located in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, meaning the views here are different than those in Banff. Though the foothills may not be as jaw-dropping as the heart of the Rockies, it is still a new experience that is well worth the visit!


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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