camping with kids in alberta

[twitter]It may only be February, but it is camping season in Alberta.

The online reservation system for Alberta Parks lets you reserve a campsite at one of 7700 spots within 63 provincial parks around the province 90 days in advance. So this week, the reservations for the 2013 May Long Weekend began. The rolling opening works on a daily basis, so each day, one day in the summer opens up.

Nearly 3000 spots were reserved on opening day.

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The fastest way to reserve a campsite in Alberta is through, it can also be a very clumsy way to reserve a camping spot as the website is unnecessarily pretty. It is full of javascript and flash that may have been in vogue a few years ago, but now just crashes browsers and makes mobile navigation much more tricky. In fact, the reservation site is not functional on iOS – not a very good thing to have in 2013.

“We still do tend to get some freeze ups, especially on days like this when the server gets very, very busy,” Susan Johnson, spokeswoman for Alberta Tourism, told the Calgary Herald.

Government websites are usually utilitarian, and very accessible by nature. You are trying to reach the widest number of people, so to cling to a fancy technology that has fallen by the wayside, and actually restricts site access, is disappointing. I’d like to see the website go to a simpler menu system to help you find a campsite.

So if you want to find out which campsites have availability in the province, you need to do it well in advance, because pecking away on your phone may not work while you’re in the wilderness. You can also reserve by phone at 1-877-537-2757.

At you can search by region, or drag and zoom the map to find the campgrounds in an area you plan to travel to. When you select the campground, you can then zoom in on the park map, and even see panoramic photos of the specific sites to compare which one you want.

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Alberta Parks Campsite Reservation Rules For Individual Campsites:

– You can make reservations up to 90 days in advance of your arrival date. This resets daily at 9:00 AM.
– Changes cannot be made to a reservation until the departure date of the original reservation and the change fall within 90 days of today’s date.
– The maximum stay is 16 consecutive nights.
– A maximum of 4 campsites can be reserved in one transaction.

Alberta Parks Campsite Reservation Rules For Group Camping Areas:

– You can make group camping area reservations for the entire season.
– The maximum stay is 5 consecutive nights.
– There is a two night minimum stay on weekends (including long weekends).
– A maximum of one group camping area can be reserved in one transaction.

A site with power hookups will set you back $29, a more rustic tenting site costs $23 a night. If you book using you will also be subject to a $12 booking fee (Ticketmaster is jealous of that kind of service charge).


Note some campgrounds are alcohol free on long weekends.

If you do miss your favourite site, you can still try to get a first-come, first-serve booking by calling the campsite the day before arrival. Some 170 campgrounds offer several first-come, first-served bookings.


The panoramas and pictures on give you a great idea on which site to choose, but when it comes to choosing a campground, there are other sites you should search to help you pick the place you plan to camp at.

This is the single most comprehensive website for finding adventures in Alberta. There are lots of photos, of campgrounds, hikes, trails, attractions, and more. From fishing spots to cycle tracks, snowshoe trails to campgrounds, AlbertaWow has it all covered. I always bookmark this site when I am researching a camping trip in Alberta to give me a great perspective on what to expect.
The website detailing the campgrounds is much more friendly than the reservation system. There’s a good breakdown of services, directions to the campsites, and maps of the area. You can also use the maps on this site to help find first come, first served sites, phone in only sites, and ones that are reservable online.

You can also check out the campgrounds I’ve visited and reviewed: Johnston Canyon, Bow Valley Provincial Park, Dinosaur Provincial Park, Chain Lakes, Crimson Lake.

The next round of 90 day craziness will happen in April, 90 days out from Canada Day.

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