Home Destinations Camping in Western Canada (BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan) in 2021: booking dates, what’s open, and what’s new this year

Camping in Western Canada (BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan) in 2021: booking dates, what’s open, and what’s new this year

by Karen Ung

What you need to know if you’re planning on camping in Alberta, BC, or Saskatchewan this summer.

Gregg Lake, William A. Switzer Provincial Park, Hinton, Alberta is a paddler’s paradise!

Summer camping season is just around the corner, so that means it’s almost time to reserve campsites! BC Parks & Alberta Parks camping reservations open this month, and Saskatchewan Parks and Parks Canada bookings can be made in April. With demand expected to be higher than usual – thank you, COVID-19 stir craziness – getting a campsite at high-demand campgrounds will require planning ahead and flexibility in dates.

Fortunately, Western Canada has several beautiful provincial and national parks to explore! As of today, provincial and national parks in BC, Alberta, and Saskatchewan will be operating at standard capacity (with the exception of group sites and double sites in AB Parks; group sites remain closed and only one side of a double site can be used, until further notice). In this story, we have provided camping reservation dates, an update on what types of camping are available, and what’s new this year. Cheers to an awesome camping season!

Please note that this information is subject to change at any time, so you should check provincial parks / Parks Canada for updates before you head out.

Camping Reservation Dates

Alberta Camping Reservation Dates

Alberta Parks individual camping reservations may be made on March 4, 2021 for up to 90 days in advance. Note that opening times are staggered by region: 9 am South, 11 am Kananaskis, 1 pm Central, 3 pm northern Alberta. For a list of campgrounds by region, please visit Alberta Parks | Individual Campsite Reservation Start Times. For reservable dates, visit Alberta Parks | Online Reservations.

Comfort camping reservations open on March 5th for bookings up to 180 days in advance, and backcountry campsites may booked anytime for up to 90 days in advance (year-round 90 day rolling window). At time of writing, group sites will not be available in 2021. Seasonal campsites may be booked on March 1st and March 8th. Not keen on planning so far ahead? Alberta Parks has 5,000 first come first served campsites. For more information, visit albertaparks.ca.

Campsites in Alberta’s national parks may be booked through Parks Canada on the following dates at 8 am:

  • April 9 – Jasper frontcountry, oTENTIKs, and cabin
  • April 12 – Banff frontcountry, equipped camping, & oTENTiks
  • April 13 – Elk Island frontcountry & backcountry
  • April 13 – Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site heritage camping (cabin, tipi, prospector tent) and rustic camping, Waterton Lakes (townsite campground), Wood Buffalo (Pine Lake Cabin)
  • April 16 – Banff & Jasper backcountry

Tips for booking Parks Canada camping: Visit Parks Canada Reservation System and click Reserve Online before 8 am. You will be placed in a queue and given a random spot in line at 8 am. (If you click Reserve Online after 8 am, you will be placed at the back of the line.) It is possible to book multiple camping trips for one park FROM A COMPUTER, but you must complete your bookings within 20 minutes. Book your sites first THEN pay. After you pay for the last campsite, you will be placed back in the queue. There is a reservation fee for each camping booking, unless the nights are consecutive.

Disclosure: I am an Alberta Parks Ambassador (volunteer role), but all words and opinions are my own.

BC Camping Reservation Dates

Ellison Provincial Park, Vernon, BC has two small bays perfect for swimming and paddling.

***NEW IN 2021: Only BC Residents can make camping reservations in BC Parks from March 8-July 7, 2021. Out-of-province visitors can book BC Parks campsites from July 8, 2021 on for up to 2 months in advance.**

BC Parks individual, backcountry, double, cabin/hut, and group camping reservations may be made on March 8, 2021 for up to 2 months in advance (not 4 as in previous years). The exception is Berg Lake Trail and Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit; backcountry sites for these trails may be booked for the season starting on March 1st at 7 am. For more information, visit bcparks.ca.

Campsites in BC’s national parks may be booked through Parks Canada on the following dates at 8 am:

  • April 6 – Glacier (frontcountry & backcountry), Gulf Islands, Mount Revelstoke (frontcountry & MicrOcubes); Fort Langley National Historic Site oTENTiks, Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Site oTENTiks
  • April 7 – Pacific Rim (frontcountry, backcountry including the West Coast Trail, and oTENTiks)
  • April 13 – Kootenay (frontcountry and oTENTiks) and Kicking Horse Campground, Yoho
  • April 16 – Backcountry camping in Kootenay & Yoho National Parks (does not include Lake O’Hara)
  • April 27 – Lake O’Hara backcountry (2021 Applications for Random Draw: Accepted April 1-30, 2021)

Saskatchewan Camping Reservation Dates

The Great Sandhills, Saskatchewan is a cool day trip from Cypress Hills Provincial Park.
Image Credit: Mélissa Cloutier Schulze (Instagram: @rockieschick22)

Saskatchewan Parks nightly and group camping reservations* for the 2021 camping season (May 20 – September 30) may be made from April 14-23, 2021 at 7 am:

  • April 14 – Pike Lake, The Battlefords, Narrow Hills, Blackstrap
  • April 16 – Bronson Forest, Meadow Lake, Makwa Lake, Lac La Ronge
  • April 19 – Saskatchewan Landing, Douglas, Danielson
  • April 20 – Buffalo Pound, Rowan’s Ravine, Echo Valley, Crooked Lake
  • April 21 – Cypress Hills
  • April 22 – Duck Mountain, Good Spirit Lake, Greenwater Lake
  • April 23 – Candle Lake, Great Blue Heron, Moose Mountain

Seasonal campsite bookings begin on April 12, 2021.

*Please note that the reservation site will not be available until April & you will be required to create a new account (Sask Parks advises you do that before April 14th!).

Backcountry (hike in) /Wilderness (boat or fly in) sites are first come, first served. Group campsites can be reserved up to 2 years in advance. For more information, visit www.saskparks.com.

Campsites in Saskatchewan’s national parks may be booked through Parks Canada on the following dates at 8 am:

  • April 14 – Prince Albert National Park frontcountry / backcountry / Beaver Glen Campground oTENTiks
  • April 14 – Grasslands National Park frontcountry serviced and unserviced sites / tent / tipi / oTENTik / equestrian

What’s Open?

Please note that every effort has been made to provide accurate information at time of writing (March 1, 2021). Services provided may change at any time due to COVID-19, so I encourage you to check the respective parks website for updates before your camping trip.

What’s open (or not) in Alberta Parks?

Individual campsites, comfort camping, and backcountry campsites will be available in Alberta Parks. At time of writing, double sites with shared amenities and group sites are closed (check back later this year for updates). You may still book one side of a double site, however.

Showers and flush toilets will be closed at most campgrounds until further notice. Bring a handwashing station and note that portable/outdoor showers are not permitted in provincial parks.

Regarding comfort camping, some items such as sheets will not be provided this year, so you will need to pack all your own bedding. Please visit Alberta Parks | Comfort Camping for more information.

What’s open in BC Parks?

Individual campsites, comfort camping, group sites, and backcountry campsites will be available in BC Parks. Showers and washrooms will be open.

What’s open in Saskatchewan Parks?

Individual campsites, comfort camping, group sites, and backcountry campsites will be available in Sask Parks. Showers and washrooms will be open.

What’s open (or not) in the National Parks?

Showers and kitchen shelters in Parks Canada campgrounds are closed, but washrooms will be open. Campground capacity may be restricted to assist with physical distancing.

What’s New?

What’s new in Alberta Parks?

Campgrounds on reserve.albertaparks.ca are now fully reservable (no FCFS sites) to reduce contact between park visitors and staff and cash handling, for a total of approximately 9,000 reservable sites. If you prefer to be spontaneous, there are still 5,000 first come, first served sites to choose from. 

Only one side of a double site may be occupied, and group sites are closed until further notice.

Happy news: Alberta Parks won’t be closing any parks (Global TV)

What’s new in BC Parks?

As of March 1, 2021, group sites have a maximum capacity of 16 people (including no more than 8 people over the age of 16 and daytime visitors). Double sites also have a maximum capacity of 16 people (including no more than 8 people over the age of 16 and daytime visitors), and camping parties should be limited to your family/household/core bubble. This information may change; please observe provincial health guidelines regarding maximum group sizes.

Golden Ears is now 100% reservable.

“Reservations for day use facilities, including picnic shelters and halls, remain closed for the 2021 season.”

What’s new in Saskatchewan Parks?

Saskatchewan Parks is launching a new reservation site in April: parks.saskatchewan.ca. Campers will need to create a new account before booking campsites this year. There will be a new “Camping this weekend” section to help you find campsites at short notice, and site users no longer have to log in at 6:40 am to join the queue… but should be online promptly at 7 am to get sites at popular campgrounds.

There are also new full-service seasonal campsites at Greenwater Lake and Meadow Lake provincial parks for $3,400.

We hope this story helps you plan your summer camping trips in provincial and national parks! For tips and tricks on booking sites, what to do if you don’t have a reservation, please see our story: How to get a campsite in Alberta this summer (and subscribe to our newsletter so you don’t miss future stories)!

If you’re in Alberta, don’t miss my segments on Global TV for more info:

  • Calgary – Tuesday, March 2, 2021 at 7:15 am; and
  • Edmonton – Thursday, March 4th at 8:20 am
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1 comment

How to get a campsite in Alberta this summer (2021) | Play Outside Guide March 2, 2021 - 9:11 PM

[…] – up to 90 days in advance; April 9-16 for national parks – for the summer camping season). See Camping in Western Canada in 2021: Booking Dates, What’s Open, What’s New for details). Alberta Parks has 9,000 reservable campsites! Private campgrounds often take […]

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