Alberta is filled with campgrounds of all sorts- from busy pull-through trailer parks to backcountry tent camping, there’s something out there to suit every kind of camping family. We tend to choose those campgrounds that have great facilities, private sites and are well maintained. We also like to enjoy the unique landscapes and the diversity Alberta has to offer. My family also likes to stay busy when we head out for the weekend and enjoy areas where we can take advantage of local attractions and activities. I know there are amazing backcountry campgrounds and awesome places off the beaten track, but while my girls are young we tend to stay in places that are easily accessible and have some amenities. I also consider bathrooms (or even outhouses!) essential ;). So this list includes campgrounds that include all those things. While this isn’t a completely inclusive list of our favourite places, it is a great starting place for exploring the best campgrounds Alberta has to offer.
Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park
The unique landscape is what initially enticed us to camp at Writing-on-Stone almost 10 years ago, and the awesome campground has had us coming back ever since. Our favourite feature is the hiking (and climbing) through the miles of hoodoos- my kids can not get enough of scaling them. The Milk River also winds through the campground, making it a perfect shallow tubing river and giving visitors a fantastic sandy beach. There’s powdery white sand along the edge of the river and it flows slow enough for kids to play safety in and around. The visitors centre offers fun hands-on exhibits for kids (and adults) and there are guided tours lead by First Nation’s hosts to check out the pictographs drawn on the side of the cliffs. I love history and culture experiences, my kids love exploring, and my husband loves beautiful scenery so it has become a perfect destination for our family. But be prepared for the temperature in the hoodoos being HOT in the summer. The tour guides have measured temperatures into the high 50s along the cliffs during mid-day tours. There is no cell service in the campground, you need to get out of the valley to check your phone. (Which I say is a good thing!) And the Visitors’ Centre offers free wifi if you just need to stay connected. All and all, it’s THE place for non-stop exploring, relaxing and learning.
Crimson Lake Provincial Park
Crimson Lake has one of the nicest beaches Alberta Parks have to offer. It’s wide, sandy and clean. The lake water is crystal clear and perfect for swimming with a sandy, weed-free bottom along the beach. There’s fishing piers and a boat launch separated from the the swimming area. The campground offers three large playgrounds, one of which is a “natural” playground built out of logs, sand and bridges. My kids adored the giant slides built into the hillside. Our campsite was huge- as most of the sites in the our loop seemed to be- and it was incredibly private. The walking trails along the lake and through the forest were well mapped out. The entire park just felt peaceful. While we were there the campground was completely full, but it didn’t feel busy at all because of it’s large size and the amount of huge trees giving guests privacy. We even found time to participate in one of the evening interpretative programs in the amphitheatre which my kids adored. The park does a great job with daily programming- they also had outdoor movies on a big screen, scavenger hunts and family activities running every day of the week. I really feel like Crimson Lake is one of Central Alberta’s hidden gems. Worth visit, even just for a day trip to the beach and ice cream. Bonus- there’s a stable with trail rides and a petting zoo in walking distance from the Provincial Park.
A yearly tradition in our family, Whistler’s campground holds a place in my heart. It’s in a great location in Jasper National Park, just minutes from the gondola. We love Whistlers because we love Jasper. Yes, it’s busy and packed in the summer, but the mountain views are beautiful and the activities are endless. The campground has a great trail through the middle, lined with all different set-up logs that double for balance beams and mountain biking obstacles. There’s lean-toos, log cabins and wood tipis also set up along the trail path and my kids love exploring them as often as possible. There is a tiny creek which has also provided my family with hours of wading and playing. Being that it is a National Park, there is interpretive programming nightly and you can stay as busy, or as relaxed, as you like. The trail system in Jasper is fantastic and Whistlers is connected to trails that lead all over the National Park. This campground is in close proximity to all the activties Jasper has to offer- Magline Canyon, beautiful lakes and beaches, incredible hiking, and the townsite. But be prepared for some sites not having fire pits and most of the hook-up sites not being very private. You need to book on opening day for the best sites (there are some that are “parking lot” style) and they fill up for the summer months quickly. But don’t worry, if you can take a few days mid week to explore this campground, you can book last minute.
Long Lake Provincial Park
Long Lake is another hidden gem we discovered a couple summers ago. We loved the fact that it is super close to the city (90 minutes) and we loved the look and vibe of the campground. The lake is surrounded with tall spruce trees and it gives the feeling of being on a small lake in BC. The beaches around the lake (both campers beaches and public beaches) were clean, the water was warm and the playgrounds were waterfront. We were in a upper loop, away from the lake and it was so quiet (and we soon found it is was well patrolled by park staff to maintain that). Definitely a pretty park and worth checking out for a weekend of water activities. However, check the water quality on this website before heading out to ensure there isn’t any issues with algae, as it tends to be a problem by August.
Crandell Mountian Campground
Perhaps the campground with the best in-site panaramic views on the this list, Waterton’s Crandell Mountian campground is a can’t miss destination. The only catch is that you have to go early to snag a spot- it’s all first come first serve. But it’s worth taking the risk- the Red Rock Canyon is minutes away and a incredible natural attraction in Alberta. The river running along the campgrounds edge is the perfect and a great spot to explore and play. The complete Waterton area is worth the drive to the farthest southwest corner of the province and won’t disappoint (read about all the things that make Wateron Lakes National Park great HERE).
Dinosaur Provincial Park
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Dinosaur Provincial Park is considered a must-visit Alberta Park to me. Most of sites aren’t overly treed or private, and some years the mosquitos are quite problem in the valley, but I’ll look past those details just to get to those badlands views. The campground is located right in the middle of the valley, surrounded by hoodoos and endless hiking opportunities for all abilities. Add on the option to go on an actual dinosaur dig, enjoy family programming like making your own fossil cast class, or learning about prehistoric times in the Visitor’s Centre, there seems to be something for everyone. If the incredible scenery isn’t enough to get you to head out to Dinosaur Provincial Park, maybe the modern amenities like free showers, free wifi, a yummy restaurant, a sandy creek to play in, comfort camping (complete with air conditioning and a heater!) or a dinosaur themed playground might entice your family.
Red Lodge Provincial Park
This one might be bit biased (okay totally bias) as I grew up visiting Red Lodge Provincial Park, but after taking my children there for the first time this past year I remembered why I liked it so much. The location is easy to get to (just off Highway 2 at the Bowden overpass) and the campground offers simplicity. We love the Little Red Deer River slowly winding it’s way through the campground. There’s multiple sandy locations to enter with a inner tube and float down the river. The kids can enjoy one of several small river beaches throughout the park. They can get messy in mud, or can get brave on small cliffs jumping into the water. We also loved walking along the riverbank, enjoying the large playground and biking down the trails. You can also look forward to another bonus- Glennifer Lake Recreation Area (on the Dickson Dam) is only 15 minutes away and a great place to spend the day if your family loves the beach like mine, or has a boat to enjoy water sports.
Where’s your favourite place to take your family? I’d love to hear your hidden gems or places that we should explore!