Camping recomendatiions

Old Jun 2nd, 2015, 09:13 AM
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Camping recomendatiions

Planning on road tripping from New Orleans to Banff/Jasper at the end of June. We'll be visiting Rocky Mountain, Dinosaur, Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Waterton/Glacier parks on the way up and intended to get to Banff by July 1 so my wife can fly home out of Calgary on July 5. There appears to be a lot of options for campgrounds in the park(s) but I am unfamiliar with the area. We will be tent camping

Do you think the parks will be overly crowded with the July 4 holiday in the US

Can anyone recommend some of the better tent camping campgrounds? We will be traveling without kids and have done quite a bit of primitive camping over the years. We will have our backpacks with us so a short hike into a camping area will work if the campgrounds are overly crowded.

Thanks for any advice,
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Old Jun 2nd, 2015, 09:14 AM
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Sorry, didn't mention this is in 2015 so I have time to make reservations

Al
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Old Jun 2nd, 2015, 09:14 AM
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Make that 2016. Need to get another cup of coffee?
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Old Jun 2nd, 2015, 10:47 AM
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so just a couple of thoughts you can ponder while you plan.
you say you'll be in banff area by july 1 for departure on july 5. does that mean that you'll have been to waterton and jasper prior to that? because i think you will want at least 3 nights in the banff area alone.
have a look at two jacks lake campground if you like quieter campgrounds. it's a little ways out of town. we tent camped at tunnel mountain and while it not the most scenic campground, very convenient to town if you want to spend some evenings down there.
friday, july 1 "canada day". you will want to have a reservation for june 30, july 1 & july 2 for sure and don't plan on moving campgrounds during that weekend. if you could arrive on june 29, that would be even better and may give you a better choice of campsites.
in jasper, if you don't mind having pit toilets and a bit of a drive to town, i always camp at snaring river campground. there is no service so it is mostly tents and small campers. as stated, pit toilets but they keep them clean. small little river and large treed sites. bring a pair of ear plugs. they come in handy whenever camping in that area with the number of trains that go through.
you are in bear country so read up on the precautions you need to take.
waterton lakes has very limited campsites and i'd recommend making reservations (usually open in april sometime). i'd recommend at least 3 nights there. i'd also recommend staying in glacier park, montana before that and be sure to schedule in a day for the "going to the sun highway" on your travel day day to waterton.
sounds like a great adventure. how many days are you planning to take for new orleans to calgary (approx 2,500 miles)
random thoughts...hope they help.
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Old Jun 2nd, 2015, 11:17 AM
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Welcome!

Be aware that July 1 is a national holiday here in Canada. In 2016 it will be on a Friday, so July 1-3 will be a long weekend.

As such, the parks are likely to be VERY busy with the campgrounds & hotels, especially around the Banff area, filling up at least by Thursday, if not Wednesday evening. Most of the national parks campsites are not reserveable (Tunnel Mountain, Two Jack Lake and Lake Louise are the exceptions in the Banff area). As such, if you are arriving on the Friday, you need to reserve well in advance or you may well be out of luck.

((Note -- My understanding is that folks from the Calgary area will often come out to the Banff area a day or two early before a long weekend to get a spot. They've leave their RV or tent and then come back for the weekend.))

Almost none of the frontcountry campsites are tent only - they will have tenting areas or spots that can be car or tent. The exceptions are a couple of places in Yoho NP and the Columbia Icefields campground on the Icefields Parkway. None are reservable, and they tend to be quite small. They will almost certainly be full by the time you arrive on July 1. There is a separate tent camping area in Lake Louise - it's surrounded by an electric fence because of regular issues with bears in the area.

Besides the frontcountry campsites, there are backcountry campsites & huts. However, they would all be at least 3-4 hrs hike in from the trailhead. You also need to reserve them well in advance because there are relatively few campsites, and demand will be very high for the holiday weekend.

Bookings for campsites/campgrounds are available 3 months in advance of the date (or the first day of a multi-day stay). For that weekend, I would book ASAP on April 1. Currently front country campsites can be booked online, backcountry campsites require a phone call.

There are a number of backcountry huts, most run by the Alpine Club of Canada. But I suspect they would either be too far in the backcountry or booked up very far in advance for the holiday weekend.

The only other option would be to see if you can get extremely lucky and get a spot at the Lake O'Hara Campground. The Lake O'Hara area has very strict access quotas - there is no car or cycle access - for day trips you must book a ticket on a bus up to the lake or walk in 11km. For camping, reservations are required and come with a bus ticket. The area is stunning with some of the best hiking around.

The campground is technically a backcountry campground, but the bus goes right to the campground and it's more frontcountry in style. But tents only. Both day and overnight spots are by reservation only. The day ticket system changed this year, but for campsites, you must call their phone line exactly three months in advance of your first night. It's one phone line, so it's sheer luck whether you get through and campsites are generally booked up within the first 30 minutes the line is open.

Another option, which can be booked more than 3 months in advance are the wilderness hostels. These are located near Banff and along the Icefields Parkway. They cost no more than a campsite, and generally have dorm rooms (some have private rooms) with all bedding provided, outhouses, and a cook cabin with potable water from a tank, full cooking facilities and pots/pans/cutlery/plates etc.

A couple have proper running water - Kananaskis, Shunda Creek and Castle Mountain, and some have other perks like saunas or satellite WiFi. They're a great way to be out away from the townsites (and often more remote than most campsites) without having to worry about all the camping stuff. All are located right by great hiking areas. Mosquito Creek is near Bow Lake, Rampart Creek and Hilda Creek are not too far from the Wilcox Pass. Castle Mountain is probably the closest to Banff.

They do tend to be small, and for a holiday weekend will be popular with groups, so you need to book as far in advance as possible.

If possible, I would try to arrive on June 31. If not, I would strongly suggest opting for a bookable front country campsite or hostel. Or booking a backcountry campsite.

Since you have prior primitive camping experience, I assume you are well aware of bear-safe camping. They are quite strict about it here - i.e. storing all food/scented items/garbage in bear boxes, car or from a bear pole and cooking away from tents.
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Old Jun 2nd, 2015, 11:23 AM
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I have heard good things about Snaring and Two Jack Lake, though the former is not reserveable.

One further note - be aware that in Banff/Yoho NP and some campgrounds in Jasper NP there is a complete ban on alcohol consumption in campsites/campgrounds during long weekends (i.e. July 1-3). You can have unopened cans/bottles in your vehicle, but you cannot consume or have any opened containers for the duration of the weekend.
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Old Jun 2nd, 2015, 01:21 PM
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Phenomenal advice everyone

Now that you mention it the last time I camped in Canada was around the 4th of July some 30 years ago and I remember being there on July 1. I don't recall the state park but I do remember visiting Glacier/Waterton and heading toward Vancouver, bypassing Banff. The campground was so crowded tents where going up in the middle of the traffic turnarounds. The rangers just said good luck and help yourself to an available piece of grass. The people already there just laughed and said to come on in, they moved over a bit and I ended up having a great time with new friends.

The main goal of this trip is to take my wife to Waterton/Glacier and Banff/Jasper. We've both been everywhere I mentioned except Dinosaur and that will just be a couple of hours.

I have two weeks for the drive up and another week or so for the drive back. My schedule is flexible but my wife is still working a full time job and the most she can get is two weeks.

I will probably move the trip a couple of weeks back, I'm guessing the middle of June will have problems with weather??

As mentioned

Day 1 New Orleans to Raton New Mexico Long hard drive two drivers and early departure from new orleans at 2am get Hotel room in Raton

Day 2 Rocky Mountain National Park camp out I night

Day 3 Dinosaur NP short visit, Rock Springs Wyoming hotel

Day 4&5 Short visit to Grand Tetons NP and two nights in Yellowstone (our 3rd trip to this area) camp out 2 nights

Day 6 to Waterton Glacier NP Hotel

Day 7&8 Waterton Glacier NP (my second visit) camp out camp out 2 nights

Day 9 visit Glacier NP Canada then to Golden for night in Hotel

Day 10 & 11 Banff/Jasper camp out 2 nights

Day 12 drive to Calgary late in day and spend Night in hotel in Calgary for early flight

Day 13 Wife catches 6am flight and I drive back through Banff and Glacier to Revelstoke Drive south along Columbia River catch ferry at Shelter Bay and drive through Idaho along Pend Oreille camp out or get hotel

Day 14 Drive to Hell's canyon camp out

Day 15 Through Salt Lake City to green River Hotel

Day 16 Arches and CanyonLands NP (3rd visit) camp out 1 night

Day 17 & 18 To Albuquerque and home

This is a long hard trip but it is still in the planning stages. The only firm date will be her flight. I may end up reversing the route and meet her in Calgary for the drive back down the Rockies.

As far as bear experience I always tease my wife that as long as I can outrun her I'll be just fine.
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Old Jun 2nd, 2015, 03:01 PM
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No state parks in Canada - either national or provincial parks. No ranger either -they're wardens or park interpreters up here.

And things have changed - certainly no sharing of campsites or 'camp wherever there is room'. Usually it's a maximum one one car and two tents per campsite (in Jasper NP, one tent) and there is always a fee. Camping outside of a designated spot will not permitted.

There are a few overflow campsites opened up when it's really busy, but they are usually parking lots with no facilities. More for RVs than tents.

If your goal is to see Banff/Jasper and Waterton/Glacier, you're going to be doing it from a car window. I would honestly skip Glacier NP (Canada). It really isn't that different from Banff/Jasper and it will be well out of your way. I'd use that time to actually breathe in Banff/Jasper and to avoid spending all your time in peak season/holiday traffic.

I would strongly suggest against moving camp every night or two nights during this time period. You will find it very hard unless you have bookings for every night - and setting up and breaking down camp that often will be very tiring and take away from your time to see/do things.
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Old Jun 2nd, 2015, 04:43 PM
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Ok

I'm driving through Glacier Canada on the way home so I can add the saved time to Banff or Jasper. That gives us 3 maybe 4 nights in the park. Considering it is our first time up there that's probably a good move.

30 years is a long time and no doubt the provincial parks had to make changes to deal with the increased visitation. I know how the US parks have changed.

I'm going to take a long look at the suggestions for camp sites and plan on picking a single spot to set anchor for the time of our visit.

August and September are big hurricane months so I can't be 2000 miles away from home. Is mid June a transition period for the parks and there is a good chance of facilities not being open or getting snowed in? We don't do well in snow.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2015, 05:29 AM
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two things...snow in june is unlikely but i find it can often be rainy.
you said the key date is your wife's departure, which is true but please head our advice that you really have to keep that canada day long weekend in mind. it will be busy, reservations are highly recommended and i would situate in one spot june 30, july 1, july 2 and july 3. i'm not sure if they have 3 night minimums for camping reservations on long weekends. i think they do. with your tight schedule, maybe you need to consider just staying in banff...plan one day driving PART of the icefield parkway but not going all the way to jasper.
have fun planning...
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Old Jun 3rd, 2015, 06:43 AM
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ITT

When I said "set in stone" I meant that will be the date we base our trip around, when we decide what the date will be. She just told me that she can arrange her work schedule to allow us to leave earlier. I think it's good advice to just miss that entire weekend and plan on visiting earlier in June. Maybe plan on being in Banff June 20 through the 23rd.

I am concerned about the bad spring weather in the central US. Hopefully the second week of June will be late enough to miss a lot of that stuff.

yep, the hard part of planning a trip like this is learning things like "Canada Day" is July 1 or what type of advance reservations are needed to book a campground.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2015, 08:36 AM
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I don't think there are any minimum night requirements for campsite bookings in national or provincial parks (some hotels & B&Bs most definitely yes). It's just that availability usually goes so quickly for long weekends that people only stay in spot.

June is not a bad time to see the mountains - by late June the seasonal roads will be open and hiking is fine other than in the higher alpine areas. And you would have a lot fewer issues with campsite availability, though I would still book for the weekends. It can be cool at night, but you can get cool nights throughout the summer -- down to the 40s or cooler at night, especially along the Icefield Parkway. It's a fairly dry climate here, so you can get very warm days, but very cool nights. I've had it go from 4c to 32c in the course of a day in Jasper.

We always moan about the rain in June, but on average I don't think it's actually any rainier than July or August. It also rarely rains for a full day - more like afternoon showers or thunderstorms coming through. Snow is not usual at the lower elevations, but nothing is impossible. I got snowed on in mid May.

I agree that you if you only have 4 nights max, I would stay in Banff. You'd be very rushed to get to Jasper especially with having to deal with campsites. You can do a day trip half way down the Icefields Parkway (to the Athabasca Glacier) and see much of the scenery.

I'd want at least 5 nights in the area to split between Banff or Jasper. OR if you can do 4 nights stay in a hotel/PHA in Jasper so you aren't spending time setting up/breaking down a campsite. Another option could be to stay in an OtentNIk - these are pre-set up heavy duty tents with beds,fireplace and table - reduces the time needed for set up/break down:

http://www.pc.gc.ca/voyage-travel/he...n/otentik.aspx
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Old Jun 3rd, 2015, 12:27 PM
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kgsneds

That's probably what will happen, my wife is fine with 2 maybe 3 nights in a tent then she's looking for a soft bed and long hot shower.

I'll seriously consider all your suggestions.

Maybe you complain about the rain in June because you're ready for winter to be over and need a couple of dry, warm days to shake out the cobwebs!!
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Old Jun 9th, 2015, 03:19 AM
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With Canada Day on July 1 and the Calgary Stampede July 8 - 17 we decided to arrive in the park on Thursday July 21 with my wife flying out of Calgary on Monday July 25th. I'll drive home through Idaho and Utah.

That means we leave New Orleans early in the morning on July 8 and work our way up the Rockies toward Banff/Jasper.

There is a rafting trip in Dinosaur NP that visits native American petroglyphs so we added a couple days to the front part of the trip. This gives us 14 days to drive up to Banff/Jasper and 4 days in the park

She wanted to book the Fairmont the night before she flies out but after looking at the room rate I'm going to veto that idea. Is the hotel so special that not sleeping there will be a mistake?
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Old Jun 9th, 2015, 07:38 AM
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Which Fairmont?

Chateau or Banff Springs? Both are quite grand, and it might be worth a night's splurge if only to get a chance to eat at one of the restaurants (it's getting very difficult to get reservations for the restaurants if you are not staying at the hotel).
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Old Jun 9th, 2015, 07:59 AM
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Just too rich for my blood. I'll check again when we firm our dates and get closer to leaving. I noticed if I booked the room tonight in Jasper it was only C$260 if I booked in in August it was C$500 so I guess they are still off-season rates

Thanks for the heads up about the restaurant though
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Old Jun 10th, 2015, 07:10 AM
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Just a thought is camping in the forest reserve outside of Calgary. It is free, no permits required and there is much wilderness you can always find a spot. There are 3 main areas that I like Waiparous which is NorthWest of Cochrane between Banff and Calgary. Maclean Creek which is just south of Bragg Creek between Banff and Calgary and Indian Graves which is south of Calgary by Chain Lakes. Beware that these are also favourites for the off road ATV crowd.

If you can get a permit from Parks Canada camping up Johnston Canyon is very nice 2 miles up to the Ink Pots ( don't know if there is a camp spot there as last time 15 years ago it was being rehabilitated and had to hike another few hours to the next site) or if you want to rough it with a swimming pool Mount Kidd is a beautiful camp ground outside of Banff park but for RV'S I know it is booked in advance. All along the Bow Valley Corridor there is great camping and beautiful scenery. There are a many hike in camping spots along this route and no ATV's
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Old Jun 10th, 2015, 07:14 AM
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Also forgot to mention the world famous Calgary Stampede starts on July 3rd. It is just like Mardi Gras without the beads. We wear cowboy hats.
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Old Jun 10th, 2015, 07:45 AM
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Certainly there is some free camping on crown land near Calgary. But you do need to be prepared for driving off road (you can't camp right next to a road usually), having absolutely no facilities, as well as making sure you are actually on crown land. Many of those lands abut national or provincial parks or reserve or private land - and free camping is not permitted there. Nice areas, but not everyone is always up for dealing with treating water (and finding a source if it's dry), handling human waste etc.

There is a campground at Johnston Canyon - lots of amenities and 100% bookable. I'd book it for that time given how busy it's likely to be. There is no camping at the Ink Pots - I don't there ever has been (legitimately) since it's too close to the road to be considered a backcountry location. The closest backcountry campsite would be several km further back. You'd need to make reservations (if space is still available) and purchase backcountry passes for each night.

I agree that there are some very nice campground in the Bow Valley. They are quite popular, so especially on weekends, you need to book (where possible) or arrive early. If the weather is good, lots of folks from Calgary (and farther) will be looking for weekend camping spots.
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