Is Camping Free in Alberta by Elevated Experience Camping

Campsites in Alberta | Is Camping Free in Alberta

While camping is a very inexpensive activity, many people want to be able to enjoy camping in the most cost effective manner, and want to know if there are any campsites in Alberta that are free. While there are campgrounds in national parks in Alberta, such as Jasper, Banff and Elk Island, just to name a few – there are actually 17 national parks in our beautiful province!

And there are many more campgrounds and campsites in provincial parks across the province – 179 to be exact! Finally, there are privately owned campgrounds as well, over 300 throughout Alberta.

Where You Go Will Factor Cost

Whether you decide to camp in a national park, provincial park or private campground, there will be a cost. The prices are minimal, especially compared to staying in hotels, motels and hostels. When choosing which campsites in Alberta to stay, a general rule applies: the fees while staying in a national park will typically be higher, because revenues get reinvested into the campground.

Fees at provincial parks are considerably less, but there are usually fewer things to maintain, but also fewer amenities. Private campgrounds will charge varying amounts, not set by a certain standard, so you will have to ask each company what the fees are for each campground you are considering staying at. And of course, the amenities will vary location to location as well.

Amenities Determine Price

There are many different types of sites to consider when choosing what campsites in Alberta you want to stay in. Of course, there are RV campsites versus tent sites, group camping and comfort camping, which are all considered front country camping.

Also called car camping, it is not necessarily sleeping in your car, although that is a popular way to camp with many models of SUVs, vehicle tents, and air mattresses designed to fit your vehicle. But what front country camping actually is, is staying in campsites you can drive right up to. No hiking required, you can keep everything in your vehicle, and unpack once you’ve arrived at your campsite.

Front country camping usually have considerable more amenities, not just bathrooms and wood piles, but interpretive programming, places for snacks, showers and more! Front country camping and their wide selection of amenities will cost more than camping in places that have fewer amenities.

Campsites in Alberta | Comfort Camping Is More Costly But Well Worth It

As well, various amenities may be added on to the price of your campsites in Alberta. Campsites that have a wider variety of services, such as powered sites, flush toilets and showers, playground, picnic shelter and concession will usually be more than a site that has firepits and an outhouse and nothing else.

And one type of camping that’s quickly growing in popularity is glamping. These glamp-sites as they are known combine glamour with camping, also called comfort camping. These campsites in Alberta feature already set up shelters such as mini cabins, lean-tos, yurts, canvas tents, even treehouses! These cost more to maintain, and that’s reflected in the price.

Many people have fallen in love with the combination of roughing it with comfort!

Backcountry Camping Is Less Expensive

And while these are the most popular and numerous campsites in Alberta, they are not the only ones. Backcountry camping is quite a popular activity with adventurous people who don’t mind roughing it a bit more. Backcountry camping will have very few amenities, such as potentially a firepit or picnic table.

There are often food lockers close to backcountry campsites in Alberta to ensure you can keep the food away from wild animals like deer and bears who will find easy snacks irresistible. Backcountry campers will usually have specialized camping gear that is ultra light, so they can carry everything they need on their back, as the hike in to one of these types of campsites is an hour hike or more away from your vehicle.

No one will want to hike that multiple times in order to get camp set up. Backcountry camping will typically have lower fees for camping, but a special permit is required, but in Alberta that’s $20 per person for 3 days, or an annual pass is $30 per person, so it usually ends up the more inexpensive option.

Rough Camping

Many people confuse rough camping with backcountry camping, although the two are remarkably similar in many ways. Rough camping or random camping as it’s often referred to as means that there is no designated campsites in Alberta you stay in. You simply find available land and set up your camp. However, that does not mean that you can random camp just about anywhere.

In Alberta, random camping is only permitted in wildland provincial parks, which are different than regular provincial parks. You must have your backcountry camping pass – so while it’s not free, the pass costs $30 per person each year. It’s much less expensive than staying in a campsite, depending on how often you camp, but finding an appropriate place to camp is not as easy, since there isn’t a published list of land you can camp in.

Random Camping Information

When random camping, you cannot camp within 1 kilometer of a designated campsite, a road, a provincial park or recreational area. When you do go to set up camp, it’s recommended that you set your camp up in places where other people have already set up camp, to minimize environmental impact, or camp on durable surfaces such as rock or gravel, or in areas with less vegetation.

You must be 60 metres away from water sources, with toilet facilities being 100 meters away from water sources, and then pack your waste and garbage out. If you can’t pack out your poop, dig a hole 20 cm deep to put your poo in, so that it decomposes rather than washes into the water sources.

Do not wash your body, dishes or clothes in the water sources, as cleaning products are harmful to wildlife. Wash in a separate basin, and scatter the water you wash in, so that the soil can filter it. The goal of random camping is to leave no trace you were even there. So while random camping is as close to free as possible, it’s definitely a style of camping that not everyone would be amenable to.

Additional Costs

As with anything, there may be additional costs that will drive up the cost of your camping experience. Are you entering into a national park like Banff, Waterton Lakes, Elk Island or Yoho? You will be asked to pay a fee to enter. The fee will depend on how long you’re planning on staying, as well as what park you’re visiting, and the age of each visitor.

Plan your camping accordingly so you’re not caught off guard with extra fees. Another extra cost you may not be aware of, is a firewood or fire permit fee. Some campsites in Alberta include the fee with your campsite price, other’s don’t. If you know you want a fire, it’s best that you ask if the price is included or not. If you’re paying per firewood bundle, you will want to know before you go!

Camping Is A Popular Activity

Another extra cost that may catch you off guard is an extra tent fee. Some group campsites charge by the tent. Be aware before you get there what the entire cost will be, especially if you plan on sharing the cost of the campsites in Alberta among your whole group. Electrical, sewer and pressurized water hook ups at your campsite will be additional as well, as is sewage disposal and sewage pump out service. If you’re planning on making use of the showers, that’s usually an additional fee as well, and if you’re camping with horses, you may be asked to pay per night to corral them.

Even with additional fees, staying in comfort camping sites and making good use of generous amenities, staying in campsites in Alberta for your vacation is a fun and cost effective vacation! Contact a great campsite like Elevated Experience Camping to ensure you have a reservation to get out of the city and enjoy the Alberta views this summer!

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