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Where To Camp If You Can’t Find A Campsite In Banff


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Elaina Golding



Imagine driving through the scenic landscapes of Banff National Park, eagerly seeking a campground to pitch your tent and settle in for a night under the stars. However, as luck would have it, all the campsites are fully booked, leaving you in a situation that feels like a real adventure. But fear not, there are still plenty of options available to you if you can’t find a campsite in Banff.


In this article, we will explore some alternative options for camping in and around Banff National Park. Whether you prefer established campgrounds, provincial parks, recreation areas, or even venturing into the backcountry, there are still opportunities to experience the great outdoors in this beautiful region.


So, if you find yourself in the predicament of not being able to find a campsite in Banff, don’t despair! Let’s dive into these alternative options and discover where you can set up camp for a memorable adventure.


Option 1: Overflow Campgrounds

When the main campgrounds in Banff are fully booked, one option to consider is to check if there are any overflow campgrounds available. These overflow campgrounds are typically opened during peak seasons to accommodate additional campers.


One such overflow campground in Banff is the Overflow II Campground, which is located near Tunnel Mountain Village II. It offers basic amenities such as picnic tables, firepits, washrooms, and access to potable water. While it may not offer the same level of facilities as the main campgrounds, it can still provide a place to set up your tent and spend the night.


It’s important to note that overflow campgrounds often operate on a first-come, first-served basis. Therefore, it’s recommended to arrive early in the day to secure a spot, especially during peak seasons when demand is high. Be prepared for the possibility of limited availability and ensure you have an alternative plan in case the overflow campground is also full.


While overflow campgrounds may not offer the same level of amenities as other established campsites, they can still provide a unique camping experience and a chance to connect with fellow adventurers who find themselves in the same situation. Embrace the spirit of spontaneity and enjoy the adventure of camping in an overflow campground in Banff!


Option 2: Provincial Parks

If you can’t find a campsite in Banff National Park, another option to consider is exploring nearby provincial parks. Alberta boasts several beautiful provincial parks that offer camping opportunities and are within driving distance of Banff.


One such park is Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. Located in Kananaskis Country, this park is known for its stunning mountain scenery and abundance of outdoor activities. With several campgrounds to choose from, including Boulton Creek Campground and Interlakes Campground, you’ll have options for finding a spot to set up camp.


Another nearby option is Bow Valley Provincial Park. Situated along the banks of the Bow River, this park offers an array of recreational activities, including camping, hiking, and wildlife watching. The Two Jack Lakeside Campground is a popular choice, offering picturesque views of Two Jack Lake and convenient access to the amenities of nearby Banff.


When considering provincial parks as an alternative, it’s important to check availability and make reservations in advance if possible. Popular parks tend to fill up quickly, especially during peak seasons, so planning ahead is essential. Additionally, be prepared for different levels of facilities and amenities compared to the campgrounds in Banff National Park. Provincial parks may have more rustic amenities but can still provide a wonderful camping experience in the natural beauty of the Alberta wilderness.


Exploring provincial parks near Banff not only provides an alternative camping option but also allows you to discover new landscapes and enjoy the serenity of lesser-known camping areas. Consider venturing beyond the boundaries of Banff National Park and embark on a camping adventure in one of Alberta’s provincial parks.


Option 3: Recreation Areas

If you’re unable to secure a campsite in Banff, another alternative to consider is camping in nearby recreation areas. These areas are often managed by local municipalities or land management agencies and can offer camping opportunities for those seeking a more off-the-beaten-path experience.


One such recreation area near Banff is the Ghost Public Land Use Zone. Located to the west of Cochrane, this area offers dispersed camping opportunities for adventurous campers. With its rugged terrain and scenic beauty, the Ghost Public Land Use Zone provides a unique camping experience for those willing to explore beyond the boundaries of traditional campgrounds.


When camping in recreation areas, it’s important to check for any permits or regulations that may be required. Some areas may have restrictions on campfire use or specific camping zones. It’s also crucial to practice proper Leave No Trace principles, as these areas may have limited facilities and rely on campers to respect the environment.


Other nearby recreation areas to consider include Moose Mountain Recreation Area and Sibbald Lake Provincial Recreation Area. These areas offer a range of outdoor activities, including camping, hiking, and fishing. While they may not offer the same amenities as established campgrounds in Banff, they provide an opportunity to experience a more secluded and rustic camping adventure.


Exploring recreation areas near Banff can provide a sense of freedom and solitude in the wilderness. Whether you’re seeking a quiet retreat or an opportunity for outdoor exploration, these areas offer a unique camping experience away from the crowds.


Option 4: Backcountry Camping

If you’re an adventurous soul and can’t find a campsite in Banff, backcountry camping might be the perfect option for you. Banff National Park offers a plethora of backcountry camping opportunities, allowing you to immerse yourself in the untamed beauty of the wilderness.


Backcountry camping in Banff National Park provides a chance to escape the crowds and experience a more remote and secluded camping experience. With over 1,600 kilometers of trails and numerous backcountry campgrounds, you can choose from a variety of stunning locations to set up your tent.


Before embarking on a backcountry camping trip, it’s essential to plan and prepare accordingly. Ensure you have the necessary equipment, such as a lightweight tent, sleeping bag, and camping stove. Familiarize yourself with the park’s regulations and obtain any required permits or reservations.


When choosing a backcountry campground, consider the distance and difficulty of the hike. Some campgrounds are easily accessible, while others require longer and more challenging hikes. Research the trail conditions and difficulty levels to ensure they align with your fitness and hiking abilities.


In addition to the exhilaration of camping in the backcountry, you’ll have the opportunity to spot wildlife, marvel at breathtaking landscapes, and enjoy the tranquility of nature. Remember to pack out all your garbage and respect the delicate ecosystem to preserve these pristine areas for future generations.


Backcountry camping in Banff allows you to create lasting memories while experiencing the true essence of the wilderness. It’s a chance to disconnect from the bustling world and reconnect with nature on a deeper level.


Option 5: Local Accommodations

If you’re unable to find a campsite in Banff, another alternative worth considering is staying in local accommodations. While it may not provide the same outdoor experience as camping, it allows you to explore Banff and its surrounding areas while still enjoying a comfortable stay.


Banff and the nearby town of Canmore offer a wide range of accommodation options, including hotels, lodges, cabins, and vacation rentals. Whether you’re looking for a luxurious hotel with amenities or a cozy cabin nestled in the mountains, there’s something to suit every budget and preference.


Staying in local accommodations provides several advantages, including access to amenities such as hot showers, comfortable beds, and kitchen facilities. It also offers the opportunity to explore the town’s attractions, shops, and restaurants during your stay.


When considering local accommodations, it’s advisable to book in advance, especially during the peak tourist seasons. Banff and Canmore can get busy, and accommodations can fill up quickly, so making reservations ahead of time is essential.


While it may not provide the same connection to nature as camping, staying in local accommodations allows you to explore Banff and its surroundings at your own pace. You can still venture out for day hikes, scenic drives, and sightseeing, making the most of your time in this incredible region.


So, if you can’t find a campsite in Banff, consider staying in one of the numerous local accommodations available. It’s a comfortable and convenient alternative that still allows you to experience the beauty and adventure of this remarkable area.


Option 6: Alternative Campgrounds near Banff

If you’re unable to find a campsite within Banff National Park, there are alternative campgrounds located near Banff that can provide a similar outdoor experience. These campgrounds offer a range of amenities and proximity to Banff, allowing you to still enjoy the natural beauty of the region.


One such alternative campground is Tunnel Mountain Village II Campground. Located just outside of Banff, this campground offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and convenient access to the town. It provides electrical hookups, hot showers, and a camp store for your convenience.


Another option is the Bow River Campground in Cochrane. Situated along the banks of the Bow River, this campground offers a serene setting and a chance to relax in nature. It features large, private sites, picnic tables, firepits, and access to the river for fishing and water activities.


If you’re willing to expand your search further, the Spray Valley Provincial Park located near Canmore is another excellent choice. This park offers several campgrounds, including the beautiful Three Sisters Campground. With majestic views of the mountains, hiking trails, and fishing opportunities, it provides a peaceful and picturesque camping experience.


When exploring alternative campgrounds near Banff, it’s important to check availability and make reservations in advance, especially during peak seasons. These campgrounds can still be popular, and securing a spot ahead of time is recommended.


While they may not offer the same proximity or amenities as the campgrounds within Banff National Park, these alternative campgrounds provide an opportunity to experience the beauty of the area and enjoy outdoor activities. They allow you to still be within reach of Banff and its attractions while providing a unique camping experience.


So, if you can’t find a campsite in Banff itself, consider exploring the alternative campgrounds near the area. You’ll still have the opportunity to immerse yourself in nature and create lasting memories amidst the stunning landscapes of the Canadian Rockies.



While it can be frustrating not being able to find a campsite in Banff National Park, there are still plenty of alternative options available. From overflow campgrounds to provincial parks, recreation areas, backcountry camping, and local accommodations, there are various ways to continue your adventure and enjoy the majestic beauty of the Canadian Rockies.


Overflow campgrounds provide a simple and spontaneous option, while provincial parks offer a chance to explore nearby natural areas and their unique camping opportunities. Recreation areas provide a more off-the-beaten-path experience, allowing you to discover secluded spots away from the crowds. Backcountry camping opens up a world of adventure and wilderness, immersing you in the untamed beauty of Banff’s backcountry. And if you prefer a more comfortable stay, local accommodations offer a range of options to suit different preferences and budgets.


It’s important to plan and prepare accordingly for these alternative options, as availability may vary and reservations may be required. Checking regulations, understanding trail conditions, and practicing Leave No Trace principles are essential to ensure a respectful and enjoyable experience for both you and the environment.


While not finding a campsite in Banff may initially seem like a setback, it can actually lead to new and exciting adventures. Embrace the spirit of exploration and adaptability, and you’ll discover that the beauty and adventure of Banff extends beyond its established campgrounds.


So the next time you find yourself unable to secure a campsite in Banff, remember that there are still plenty of opportunities to experience the wonders of this remarkable region. Explore the alternatives, embrace the unexpected, and embark on an unforgettable adventure amidst the breathtaking landscapes of Banff National Park and its surrounding areas.