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Your Guide to Camping in Kananaskis

Camping in Kananaskis is the best way to immerse yourself in nature and disconnect for a few days. The Kananaskis area rivals mountain scenery found in any of the national parks. You don’t even need to go far from your campsite to get impressive mountain views or ponder life next to a mountain lake.

With a multitude of Kananaskis camping options, finding just the right spot can begin to feel overwhelming. This guide will help you find the best Kananaskis camping location, complete with nearby activities and Kananaskis hikes you shouldn’t miss.

tent camping Kananaskis

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Types of Campgrounds in Kananaskis

Kananaskis camping has several options to choose from: vehicle access camping, walk-in tenting, equestrian camping and backcountry camping. Most campsites open around April through October (with some exceptions).

For winter camping in Kananaskis, Alberta Parks has a list of options. Other Kananaskis winter camping options are at Mt Kidd R.V. Park or glamping at Mt. Engadine Lodge.

Vehicle Access Kananaskis Camping

vehicle access camping in Kananaskis

Vehicle access camping in Kananaskis is exactly as it sounds, regular campsites that you can drive right up to your site. You’ll find in this list campgrounds in several areas of Kananaskis including Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Spray Valley Provincial Park, Sibbald Provincial Recreation Area and Bow Valley Provincial Park.

Some Kananaskis campgrounds are by reservation only and others have sites available on a first come first serve (FCFS) basis.

Campgrounds in Kananaskis also differ based on the amenities available, from serviced sites with flush toilets and showers to those that offer only fire pits and pit toilets. 

Walk-In Tenting Campsites

Walk-in tenting campsites in Kananaskis are similar to vehicle access campgrounds, but there will be a short distance to walk from the parking lot to your site. Some of the vehicle access campgrounds listed may also have walk-in tenting sites.

Equestrian Camping

Equestrian campgrounds have features specific for equestrian campers. Alberta Parks asks that you only reserve the sites at equestrian campgrounds if you are camping with a horse, given that there are only a few options.

** Note that Jewell Bay Backcountry Campground is both a designated backcountry campground and allows Equestrian Camping.

Backcountry Camping in Kananaskis

To get even more off the grid, there are several easy to reach backcountry campgrounds in Kananaskis. There are some campgrounds with short distances to hike in that are popular with families or anyone wanting to try backcountry camping for the first time.

For backcountry camping in Kananaskis away from a designated backcountry campsite, refer to the Random Backcountry Camping page on the Alberta Parks website.

**A backcountry permit is required for backcountry camping in Kananaskis. 

Kananaskis Cabin Rentals or Glamping

For anyone still wanting to enjoy a serene nature experience but with a little more comfort, there are some great options for glamping in Kananaskis. These places include Kananaskis cabins, tipis or trappers tents.

Upper Kananaskis Lake from hike to Forks backcountry camping
View across Upper Kananaskis Lake

Making Your Kananaskis Camping Reservations

For some Kananaskis campgrounds, first come first serve camping in Kananaskis may be limited in the 2021 season. Check with each Kananaskis campground before planning your arrival.

Reservations for individual campsites and backcountry camping can be made within a 90 day window in advance of arrival.

Individual Kananaskis campground reservations begin on March 4th in 2021. The times are staggered by region, but for the Kananaskis campsites listed here in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Bow Valley Provincial Park and Sibbald Lake Provincial Recreation Area the reservations can be made starting March 4th at 11 am. See here for the launch times by region.

After Thursday, March 4, 2021 you can reserve an individual campsite at any time, any day (within the 90-day booking window).

BE PREPARED – making Kananaskis camping reservations is usually an exercise in frustration, so it’s best to be prepared in advance:

  1. Read all the information on online reservations published by Alberta Parks here.
  2. Create your account well before the date.
  3. Log in on Reserve.AlbertaParks.ca before 9am on the day you’ll be making your reservations. Reservations can also be made by calling 1-877-537-2757.
  4. Know your camping dates and specific campsites prior to booking.
  5. You’ll have more luck reserving a Kananaskis campsite mid-week than on weekends (especially long weekends).
  6. Have a back-up plan.

Keep in mind that changes and cancellations happen all the time, so check back periodically for Kananaskis campsite bookings.

Vehicle Access Kananaskis Camping

Vehicle Access campsites in Kananaskis have several different options, from serviced sites to first come first serve (FCFS). These are the campgrounds in the following Kananaskis areas: Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Bow Valley Provincial Park, Spray Valley Provincial Park and Sibbald Lake Provincial Recreation Area.

kids in Kananaskis campground

First Come First Serve Kananaskis Campgrounds:

Reservations Required (book up to 90 days in advance of arrival):

Serviced Sites Available: 

Campgrounds near Calgary:

If RV camping in Kananaskis, Alberta parks lists all the sewage disposal stations here

** For 2021, showers and flush toilets are closed in Alberta Parks campgrounds.

Interlakes Campground

The Interlakes Campground in Kananaskis can be reached by taking Highway 40 to Kananaskis Lakes Trail. It’s approximately 14 km south on Kananaskis Lakes Trail. Those camping at the Kananaskis Interlakes campground will enjoy being on the shores of Lower Kananaskis Lake.

The campground has access to the Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes, for anyone wanting to canoe or for fishing. There’s no shortage of hikes in the area, like Rawson Lake or the 1982 Canadian Mount Everest Expedition trail. Peter Lougheed Provincial Park has both paved and mountain biking trails for cycling enthusiasts.

Amenities: Interlakes campground has 48 unserviced sites for tents or RVs, vault toilets, fire pits and secure food storage lockers for cyclists. Firewood is available for purchase on site or from the Boulton Creek Campground store.

Reservations: FCFS for camping between May 19 to October 11.

hike to Rawson Lake Kananaskis
Looking down on Rawson Lake from the trail up to Sarrail Ridge

Boulton Creek Campground

The Boulton Creek campground in Kananaskis is easily accessed from the Kananaskis Lakes Trail off Highway 40. It’s a large campground with plenty of sites to suit everyone’s needs.

The Boulton Creek Campground has a 4.9 km interpretive trail, making it an easy Kananaskis hike that’s good for kids. Make sure to stop by the Boulton Cabin, built in the 1930’s and used by forest rangers.

The area has access to other Kananaskis hiking and biking trails, like the High Rockies Trail or the Lower Kananaskis Lake hike. There are also paved bike trails in the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park.

Boulton Creek Campground Map

Amenities: Boulton Creek campground has over 160 campsites split between unserviced (86), power/water (37), power/water/sewer (32), and walk-in tenting (6). The Boulton Creek Campground has several amenities including showers, flush toilets, vault toilets, fire pits and secure food storage lockers. Firewood and groceries are available for purchase from the Boulton Creek Campground store.

Reservations: No FCFS in 2021. Make reservations for camping between May 13 and October 11 (dates are based on snow levels).

Lower Lake Campground

The Lower Lake Campground in Kananaskis can be reached by taking Highway 40 to Kananaskis Lakes Trail. It’s approximately 11 km south on Kananaskis Lakes Trail. Those camping at the Lower Lake campground will enjoy being in well treed sites near the Lower Kananaskis Lake. There are sites suitable for both tents and RVs at this Lower Kananaskis Lake campground.

The Lower Lake campground has a playground and access to the Peter Lougheed paved bike trails to keep kids busy while camping. With the Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes nearby plus some of the best Kananaskis hiking, there’s no shortage of things to do.

Lower Lake Campground Map

Amenities: Lower Lake campground has 83 unserviced sites, vault toilets, fire pits and secure food storage lockers. Firewood is available for purchase on site or from the Boulton Creek Campground store.

Reservations: No FCFS in 2021. Make reservations for camping between May 19 to September 19.

view from Sarrail Ridge hike Kananaskis
View from Sarrail Ridge Hike

Elkwood Campground

Elkwood campground in Kananaskis has 130 well-treed campsites with just over half with power/water. This Kananaskis campground has all the amenities including showers, flush toilets, a playground plus interpretive programs.

With similar access to bike paths and some of the best Kananaskis hiking trails, there’s plenty to do around the Elkwood campground. The Marl Lake Trail is an easy Kananaskis hike near the Elkwood campground. Alternatively, ride bikes to the Lower and Upper Kananaskis Lakes.

Elkwood Campground Map

Amenities: Elkwood campground has 130 sites split between unserviced (61) and power/water (69). The Elkwood Campground has several amenities including showers, flush toilets, vault toilets, fire pits and secure food storage lockers. Firewood and groceries are available for purchase from the Boulton Creek Campground store.

Reservations: No FCFS in 2021. Make reservations for camping between May 13 to October 11.

Canmore Camping with kids

Canyon Campground

The Canyon Campground, also found on Kananaskis Lakes trail, has campsites suitable for both RVs and tents. It’s near the Lower Kananaskis Lake and has a boat launch for anyone interested in heading out on the lake.

With so many options for biking and hiking in Kananaskis from the Canyon campground, it will be hard to choose. Just up the Smith-Dorrien highway is the hike to the Blackshale Suspension Bridge. From the same Black Prince Day Use, the Black Prince Cirque Interpretive Trail to Warspite Lake is a fun kid-friendly Kananaskis hike.

Take advantage of being so close by driving slightly further up the Smith-Dorrien highway for the incredible Chester Lake hike.

The High Rockies Trail is also easily accessed from the Canyon Campground for more hiking or biking in Kananaskis.

Also found at the Canyon Campground is a playground for kids to play at.

Amenities: Canyon campground has 50 unserviced sites, vault toilets, fire pits, boat launch, sewage disposal and secure food storage lockers for cyclists. Firewood is available for purchase on site or from the Boulton Creek Campground store.

Reservations: FCFS for camping between June 18 to September 6.

The Kananaskis Suspension Bridge on the Canadian Great Trail
Blackshale Suspension Bridge in Kananaskis

Eau Claire Campground

The Eau Claire campground in Kananaskis is located off Highway 40 in the Spray Valley Provincial Park. Eau Claire campground has unserviced sites for both tent camping and RVs.

The Eau Claire campground has a playground and a 1.5 km interpretive trail for families camping here. With incredible Kananaskis biking trails and hiking, there’s no shortage of things to do to fill the days.

Amenities: Eau Claire campground has 51 sites, vault toilets, fire pits and secure food storage lockers for cyclists. Firewood is available for purchase on site or from the Boulton Creek Campground store.

Reservations: FCFS for camping between April 19 to September 19.

firepit at Kananaskis campground

Mount Kidd R.V. Park and Campground

Mount Kidd R.V. Park is a privately owned campground in Kananaskis along Highway 40. With 229 sites that accommodate everything from motor homes to tents, there’s something for everyone. Some of the sites are only available seasonally while others are available for booking year round.

There are plenty of Kananaskis hiking trails easily accessed from the Mount Kidd R.V. park. The Bill Milne paved bike trail, a kid friendly bike trail in Kananaskis, can also be accessed right from the Mount Kidd R.V. park.

Amenities: Amenities vary by campsite, but each one has a fire pit and picnic table. Full service sites have power/water and sewage disposal. Other options include unserviced, power/water or power only sites.

Reservations: Make reservations for camping all year round.

paved Bill Milne bike trail in Kananaskis
Bill Milne paved bike paths in Kananaskis

Spray Lakes West Campground     

The Spray Lakes West Campground is only 16 km from Canmore along the Smith-Dorrien Highway. Campers will enjoy the tranquility of camping along the shores of the Spray Lakes Reservoir. Both tents and RVs can be accommodated at this Spray Valley Provincial Park campground.

For Kananaskis activities nearby, enjoy a hike up Chester Lake or the West Wind Pass hike. The High Rockies Trail is also accessed nearby for more hiking or mountain biking in Kananaskis. Other popular Canmore hikes like hiking Ha Ling Peak or hiking EEOR are a 16 minute drive on the Smith-Dorrien Highway towards Canmore. In the same direction, hiking to Grassi Lakes is an easy Canmore hike the whole family will love.

Amenities: Spray Lakes West campground has 50 sites, vault toilets, fire pits and secure food storage lockers for cyclists. Firewood is available for purchase on site.

Reservations: FCFS for camping between May 19 to September 19.

Spray Lakes from hiking West Wind Pass trail
View of Spray Lakes Reservoir from West Wind Pass hike

Willow Rock Campground

If you are looking for a campground near Calgary, the Willow Rock Campground is located off the TransCanada Highway about 30 km east of Canmore.

The Bow Valley Provincial Park has plenty to offer campers looking to hike or bike in the area. An easy hike that can be accessed right in the Willow Rock Campground is the Flowing Water Interpretive Trail.

Across Highway 1X, there is a 4.2 km (one way) paved bike trail that can be accessed from the Bow Valley Campground or the Bow Valley Administration and Information Centre. Kid friendly hikes in this area include the Montane trail, Middle Lake trail and Many Springs trail.

Nearby popular Kananaskis hikes include Yamnuska and Heart Creek trail.

Amenities: Willow Rock campground has 124 campsites split between unserviced (90) and power (34). There are several amenities including showers, flush toilets, vault toilets, sewage disposal, fire pits and a playground. Firewood is sold at the campground.

Reservations: FCFS for camping between June 1 to October 12.

Many Springs Trail is an easy hike in Kananaskis
Many Springs trail in Bow Valley Provincial Park

Bow Valley Campground

Bow Valley Campground is a large campground located just off Highway 1X only 30 km east from Canmore. This campground near Calgary, which we’ve also included in our guide to Canmore camping, is right on the Bow River with some impressive mountain views. It has plenty of amenities and things to do nearby.

Accessed right from the campground is 4.2 km of paved trails. Nearby easy Kananaskis hikes include the Montane trail, Middle Lake trail, Bow River trail and Many Springs trail.

For more of a challenge, hike Yamnuska Mountain or hike Wind Ridge.

Bow Valley Campground Map

Amenities: Bow Valley campground has 173 campsites split between unserviced (36), walk-in tenting (6) and power/water (131). There are showers, flush toilets, vault toilets, sewage disposal, fire pits and a playground. Firewood and groceries are available for purchase at the campground store.

Reservations: No FCFS in 2021. Make reservations for camping between April 30 to October 11.

view of the Bow River from the Bow Valley Campground
View of the mountains and Bow River from Bow Valley Campground

Sibbald Lake Campground

Sibbald Lake Campground is another one of the campgrounds near Calgary. Found in the Sibbald Lake Provincial Recreation Area, the Sibbald Lake campground has plenty of sites to accommodate both tents and RVs. A nearby mountain lake is perfect for canoeing, kayaking or stand up paddle boarding in Kananaskis.

There are plenty of opportunities nearby for horse back riding, hiking or mountain biking.

Sibbald Lake Campground Map

Amenities: Sibbald Lake campground has 134 unserviced campsites, vault toilets, fire pits and a playground. Firewood is available for purchase on site or from the Boulton Creek Campground store.

Reservations: No FCFS in 2021. Make reservations for camping between April 30 to October 11.

Cox Hill hike in Kananaskis - camping at Sibbald Lake
Cox Hill hike in Sibbald Lake Recreation Area, Kananaskis

Kananaskis Cabin Rentals or Glamping

Sundance Lodges

Sundance Lodges located off Highway 40 in Kananaskis, has three different options for accommodations: Tipis, Trappers Tents and Tent/RV campsites.

The trappers tents can fit up to 4 people with one double bed and two single beds. The large tipis are similar with one double bed and two single beds. There are also small tipis with two single beds.

For those interested in camping, there are 8 unservice sites suitable for tents or RVs.

Aside from activities at the Sundance Lodges, there’s paved biking trails that start in the Kananaskis Village. Other popular hikes nearby are the Troll Falls Trail and Ribbon Creek. Canoe, kayak or paddle board Barrier Lake on hot summer days. For a short walk in Kananaskis, visit Wedge Pond or Mt. Lorette Ponds.

For a harder hike, hiking Wasootch Ridge is one of our favorite hikes in Kananaskis.

Amenities: Basic groceries and firewood can be purchased on site. Camping supplies are also available for rent.

Reservations: Single reservations begin on March 9, 2021 for camping May 14 to September 26.  

hiking Wasootch Ridge in Kananaskis
Hiking Wasootch Ridge in Kananaskis

Mount Engadine

Mount Engadine has it all when it comes to comfort in the heart of the wilderness. With lodge suites, cabins, glamping tents and a yurt, you can find the perfect accommodation to suit your needs.

Mount Engadine also has pet-friendly rooms and spaces that can easily accommodate families.

For nearby hikes, we recommend hiking to Karst Springs or a hike up West Wind Pass for kid-friendly hikes in Kananaskis near Mount Engadine Lodge.

Tent Ridge hike is also easily accessed from Mount Engadine Lodge, as is hiking to Rummel Lake or Chester Lake.

watridge lake in Kananaskis
Watridge Lake is reached before continuing to Karst Spring

William Watson Lodge Campground

**William Watson Day Use Lodge and overnight accommodations are closed until the completion of the renovation of the lodge, expected date June 2022.

The William Watson Lodge provides barrier-free wilderness lodging for people with disabilities and their families. If they have the space they will also accommodate seniors. It’s in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park overlooking the Lower Kananaskis Lake.

There is a small campground with fully serviced RV sites. There are also fully accessible cabins with 1-3 bedrooms and accessible washrooms.

Walk-In Tenting Campsites

Walk-In tent campsites in Kananaskis are campgrounds that are only a short walk from the parking lot. These Kananaskis campsites are for tents only and not RVs.

Other campgrounds, aside from the two listed below, that have walk-in tent sites are Boulton Creek Campground and Bow Valley Campground.

view from Middle Lake trail from Bow Valley Provincial Park Kananaskis
View along Middle Lake trail in Bow Valley Provincial Park

Pocaterra Walk-In Tenting Campground

The Pocaterra Walk-In Tenting campground is for group use and is walk-in tenting only. One vehicle is allowed on site for emergencies.

Amenities: Pocaterra walk-in tenting campground has space for 20 tents, vault toilets and fire. Firewood is not provided but can be purchased on site or from the Boulton Creek Campground store.

Reservations: Make reservations for camping between May 31 to October 11.

Mount Sarrail Walk-In Tenting Campground

Mount Sarrail Walk-In Tenting Campground is a first come first serve campsite in the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park area of Kananaskis Country. From Highway 40, turn onto Kananaskis Lakes Trail for 12.9 km to reach the Mount Sarrail campground.

Nearby hikes are the Upper Kananaskis Lake circuit, hiking to Rawson Lake and Sarrail Ridge. There are also over 12 km of paved bike trails in the Peter Lougheed PP made up of Lodgepole, Wheeler and Lakeside Trails. Kananaskis mountain biking trails are also fun to explore in this area.  

Amenities: Mount Sarrail walk-in tenting campground has 44 sites, vault toilets, fire pits and a limited number of secure food storage lockers. Firewood is not provided but can be purchased on site or from the Boulton Creek Campground store.

Reservations: FCFS for camping between June 25 and September 6.

Equestrian Camping

Equestrian campgrounds in Kananaskis have equestrian specific features like hitching rails, horse corrals or storage containers for horse feed. Some of the designated Kananaskis backcountry campgrounds do have equestrian features as well. Many of these equestrian campsites also provide easier access to trails for horseback riding.

Those specifically designated for equestrian camping should only be booked if you have a horse, since there are so few available for campers with horses. Alberta Parks lists the following campgrounds for Equestrian Camping in Kananaskis and Bragg Creek areas:

  • Dawson Equestrian
  • Little Elbow Equestrian
  • Mesa Butte Equestrian

Designated Backcountry Campgrounds with Equestrian Features:

trail to Jewell Bay campground in Kananaskis
Trail to Jewell Bay Backcountry Campground in early May

Backcountry Camping in Kananaskis

Whether you are an old hat to backcountry camping or trying it out with kids for the first time, any of these Kananaskis backcountry campgrounds will satisfy your desire to get out in nature.

Backcountry campgrounds best for families are: Quaite Valley, Elbow Lake, the Point & Jewell Bay. These either have a short hiking distance or can be accessed by canoe instead of hiking. These all have a wide enough path for chariots, although Jewell Bay and the Point will require two people to lift the chariot in spots on the trail.

Jewell Bay backcountry campground in Kananaskis

Before heading out on a Kananaskis backcountry camping adventure, know what you are getting yourself into. For most backcountry campgrounds, your water source will be either a river or lake so have water filtration.

Backcountry camping will require more planning in advance and picking the right gear, find some tips to get you started here and here.

Point Backcountry Camping

The Point campground is a family friendly backcountry campground in Kananaskis. It’s an easy 3.4 km hike along Upper Kananaskis Lake trail from the North Interlakes Day Use parking lot (8 km from the Upper Kananaskis Lake Day Use) with very minimal elevation.

Similar to the Jewell Bay backcountry campground, the Point campground can also be reached by a 4.5 km paddle by canoe or kayak from the Upper Lake Day Use boat launch. Be prepared for big waves on Upper Kananaskis Lake on high wind days.

This Kananaskis tent camping will have you waking up next to the lake shore with impressive mountain views. During the day, anyone looking for an epic day of hiking can continue the Upper Kananaskis Lake trail hiking up to Rawson Lake. For those with some extra ambition, continue the hike to Sarrail Ridge for some of the most spectacular views in Kananaskis.

Amenities: This backcountry campground has 20 tent sites, vault toilets, a group fire pit and secure food storage. Firewood is not provided.

Reservations: Reservations must be made to camp at the Point campground which is open year round.

Hiking Distance:  3.4 km one way / 25 m elevation

Closest Trailhead Parking: North Interlakes Day Use

Upper Kananaskis Lake
View of Upper Kananaskis Lake along hike to Forks Backcountry Campground

Forks Backcountry Camping

Another easy to reach Kananaskis backcountry campground is the Forks campground. This Upper Kananaskis Lake camping is a 7.3 km hike with 100 m elevation gain from the North Interlakes Day Use parking lot along the Upper Kananaskis Lake circuit and the Three Isle Lake trail. The Forks backcountry campground in Kananaskis is situated in the forest beside the Three Isle Creek.

From the Forks campground, it’s only a 3 km hike to reach Three Isle Lake.

Amenities: This backcountry campground has 15 tent sites, vault toilets, a group fire pit and secure food storage. Firewood is not provided.

Reservations: Reservations must be made to camp at the Forks campground between June 15 and November 30.

Hiking Distance: 7.3 km one way / 100 m elevation

Closest Trailhead Parking: North Interlakes Day Use

tent camping in Forks backcountry campground Kananaskis
Forks Backcountry Campground, Kananaskis

Three Isle Backcountry Camping

The Three Isle backcountry campground is also reached by hiking the Upper Kananaskis Lake circuit and Three Isle Lake trail from the North Interlakes Day Use Parking. It’s approximately 3 km past the Forks backcountry campground along the Three Isle Lake Trail. This Kananaskis backcountry campground is along the shores of the Three Isle lake with impressive mountain views.

Amenities: This backcountry campground has 16 tent sites split between two loops, vault toilets and secure food storage. No fires are permitted.

Reservations: Reservations must be made to camp at Three Isle campground between June 24 and November 30.

Hiking Distance: 10.3 km one way / 580 m elevation

Closest Trailhead Parking: North Interlakes Day Use

Three Isle Lake Kananaskis
Three Isle Lake, Kananaskis

Lillian Lake Backcountry Camping

Accessed by hiking a one-way distance of 6.3 km from the Galatea Day Use parking lot, the Lillian Lake Backcountry campground has 17 tent sites. This Kananaskis backcountry camping offers campers the opportunity to camp by a beautiful mountain lake.

Nearby hiking options include hiking to Galatea Lakes or Ribbon Lake.

Amenities: This backcountry campground has raised tent platforms, vault toilets, a group fire pit and secure food storage. Firewood is not provided.

Reservations: Reservations must be made to camp at Lillian Lake campground between June 24 and November 30.

Hiking Distance: 6.3 km one way / 475 m elevation

Closest Trailhead Parking: Galatea Day Use

Ribbon Falls Backcountry Camping

Ribbon Falls Backcountry Campground has 10 tent sites and is open from June 15 to November 30. Access to the Ribbon Falls campground is by an 8.7 km hike from the Ribbon Creek Day Use parking lot. This is an easy hike through a stunning valley that crosses the creek several times.

The trail begins wide and biking is allowed up the 4 km mark, at which point there is a spot to lock up bikes and continue along the trail. The remainder of the trail is much narrower and undulates through the forest until it reaches the campsite and the Ribbon Falls just past the campsite.

Enjoy this backcountry camping in Kananaskis at the base of a rushing waterfall.

Amenities: This backcountry campground has vault toilets, a group fire pit and secure food storage. Firewood is not provided.

Reservations: Reservations must be made to camp at Ribbon Falls between June 15 and November 30.

Hiking Distance: 8.7 km one way / 375 m elevation

Closest Trailhead Parking: Ribbon Creek Day Use

Ribbon Falls next to Ribbon Falls backcountry campground in Kananaskis
Ribbon Falls on a rainy day in July

Ribbon Lake Backcountry Camping

Also reached from the Ribbon Creek Day Use is the Ribbon Lake campground. It’s found 2 km past the Ribbon Falls and is reached by using chains to climb up a cliff. The total one-way hiking distance to reach the Ribbon Lake backcountry campground is 10 km with 625 meters of elevation gain. Other options for hiking to Ribbon Lake are from Galatea Day Use and from Buller Mountain Day Use.

Amenities: The Ribbon Lake backcountry campground has 20 tent sites, vault toilets, a group fire pit and secure food storage. Firewood is not provided.

Reservations: Open from June 24 to November 30, reservations must be made to camp at Ribbon Lake.

Hiking Distance: 10 km one way / 625 m elevation

Closest Trailhead Parking: Ribbon Creek Day Use

hiking along Ribbon Creek in Kananaskis
Hike along Ribbon Creek

Elbow Lake Backcountry Camping

With only a 1.3 km hike into this Kananaskis backcountry campground, it’s an easy one to get to. The 15 tent sites will have you enjoying the peacefulness of the forest while having the beautiful Elbow Lake nearby.

The short hike to this backcountry Kananaskis campground makes this a good one to try out backcountry camping with the kids. Be aware that the trail is steep to start, but it’s also wide enough to use a chariot.

While staying at Elbow Lake campground, enjoy completing the hike around the stunning Elbow Lake or hike up to Edworthy Falls. Other Kananaskis hikes for families in the Highwood Pass area are the Highwood Meadows interpretive trail, Arethusa Cirque and Ptarmigan Cirque.

The Elbow Lake trail is the only one in the Peter Lougheed PP that allows equestrian use, plus it’s an access trail for mountain biking in Kananaskis in the eastern areas of the park. Be prepared to share the trail with other hikers, bikers and horses!

Amenities: The Elbow Lake backcountry campground has 15 tent sites, vault toilets, a group fire pit and secure food storage. Firewood is not provided.

Reservations: Open from June 15 to November 30, reservations must be made to camp at Elbow Lake.

Hiking Distance: 1.3 km one way / 125 m elevation

Closest Trailhead Parking: Elbow Pass Day Use

secure food storage at Forks campground in Kananaskis
Example of food storage available at backcountry campgrounds

Jewell Bay Backcountry Camping

Jewell Bay backcountry campground is both an equestrian campground and a designated backcountry campground in Kananaskis. Jewell Bay campground is situated right on the shores of Barrier Lake in Kananaskis. This Kananaskis campground is closed annually from April 14 to June 16 for the elk movement in the spring.

The easiest access to the Jewell Bay campground is by hiking an easy 3.9 km from the Barrier Dam Day Use Area on Highway 40. It’s also possible to reach the Jewell Bay backcountry campground by boat across barrier lake or by hiking the Quaite Valley to Jewell Pass trail. The hike from Quaite Valley to Jewell Bay is 9.4 km.

To kayak or canoe to Jewell Bay campground, it’s a 1.5 km paddle across Barrier Lake from the Barrier Lake Day Use boat launch.

Amenities: The Jewell Bay backcountry campground has 7 tent sites, vault toilets, a group fire pit and secure food storage. Firewood is provided.

For equestrian camping, Jewell Bay campground has hitching rails and horse corrals.

Reservations: Open from June 16 to April 14, reservations must be made to camp at Jewell Bay.

Hiking Distance: 3.9 km one way

Closest Trailhead Parking: Barrier Dam Day Use

view of Barrier Lake from Jewell Bay Kananaskis equestrian campground
View of Barrier Lake from Jewell Bay Backcountry Campground

Quaite Valley Backcountry Camping

The Quaite Valley backcountry campground can be reached by hiking 4.5 km from the Heart Creek Day Use parking lot on Highway 1 or by hiking 8.6 km from the Barrier Dam Day Use parking lot. The trail is wide, making it possible to use a chariot for families planning a backcountry camping trip with small children.

Nearby activities include hiking Heart Creek Trail, hiking to the Heart Creek Bunker and even the nearby Yates Mountain Loop Trail.

Amenities: The Quaite Valley backcountry campground has 20 tent sites, vault toilets, a group fire pit and secure food storage. Firewood is provided.

Reservations: Open from June 1 to December 31, reservations must be made to camp at Quaite Valley campground.

Hiking Distance: 4.5 km one way / 100 m elevation

Closest Trailhead Parking: Heart Creek Day Use

trail to Quaite Valley Kananaskis campground in backcountry
Trail near Quaite Valley Backcountry Campground

Kananaskis Camping Tips

tent camping in Canmore
  1. Download trail maps in advance. Most of the areas in Kananaskis don’t have cell service. Make sure you download any hiking or biking trail maps in advance.

  2. Educate yourself on camping and wildlife. Never leave any food or attractants out.

  3. Have bear spray for hiking and always make plenty of noise.

  4. Research your availability of water at the campsite. Be prepared to boil water or have a filtration system for backcountry camping.

  5. Be prepared for cold nights. The overnight temperatures in the mountains can still get below freezing especially in the spring and fall.

  6. Pack rain gear and don’t be afraid to pack mitts and toque. You might want them even in the summer!

  7. Always check if fires are allowed or if there are any bans on fires. Make sure your campsite has a fire pit. Camping isn’t quite the same without a fire.

  8. Pack all your hiking gear to have the best days out on the hiking trails.

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Your guide to camping in Kananaskis. This Kananaskis camping guide includes all the best Kananaskis campgrounds, backcountry campgrounds, and even the best things to do in Kananaskis near campgrounds.

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