Dinosaur Provincial Park (photo: Leigh McAdam/Travel Alberta)

How to Reserve a Campsite in Alberta Parks

By Craig Moy

For most of us, camping is strictly a summertime adventure—a few days’ getaway to a provincial or national park, where we can pitch a tent, swat mosquitoes and spend some time in the water. The problem is that planning for a camping trip is a midwinter task; you need to know where and when you want to go months in advance, because campsite-booking season begins on January 8, 2019.

No matter if you want to camp among the hoodoos at Dinosaur Provincial Park, park your RV at Peter Lougheed, or find solitude in the backcountry of Waterton Lakes, it pays to be prepared. Here’s what you need to know to give yourself the best chance at securing your preferred campsites.

• Reservations at Alberta provincial park campgrounds are subject to a “90-day rule”: bookings for individual campsites can be made up to 90 days in advance of your desired arrival date. For example, a stay starting on July 10 can be reserved as of April 11.

• Campgrounds at some national parks can be reserved for a time period that’s shorter than a park’s actual operating season. Dates outside of the “reservable period” are available to campers on a first-come, first-served basis.

• If you plan to make your reservations online, save time and hassle by creating accounts with Alberta Parks and Parks Canada prior to the opening day of bookings.

• Have a backup plan in case you aren’t able to book your first-choice of campsite and/or dates—especially if you want to reserve several different sites as part of a road trip.

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• Some campers will book time at a site that opens its full season early on, and then cancel later if they’re able to get a spot at a preferred campground that has a shorter booking window. Checking back at the parks’ reservation websites throughout the season may yield some surprise finds as cancellations occur.

• Note that reservations at Jasper National Park will be harder to come by this year, as Whistlers Campground (the park’s largest campground) is closed for reconstruction.

Visit reservation.pc.gc.ca or call 1-877-737-3783

January 8, 8 a.m.: Jasper (except backcountry and Palisades campground)

January 9, 8 a.m.: Banff (except backcountry)

January 10, 8 a.m.: Elk Island, Kootenay, Rock Mountain House, Waterton Lakes, Wood Buffalo, Yoho

January 23, 8 a.m.: Jasper backcountry & Palisades campground

January 24, 8 a.m.: Banff, Kootenay & Yoho backcountry

Click here for more information about booking at national parks in Alberta.

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Visit reserve.albertaparks.ca, or call 1-877-537-2757

February 4, 9 a.m.: Group use for all applicable parks

February 11, 9 a.m.: Comfort camping (yurts and cabins) for all applicable parks

February 19, 9 a.m., 1 p.m. & 3 p.m.: Individual campsites at most parks

February 20, 11 a.m.: Bow Valley PP, Peter Lougheed PP, Etherington Creek PRA, Little Elbow PRA, McLean Creek PRA, Mesa Butte PRA

Click here for more information and advice on booking at Alberta provincial parks.