School’s back in but the kids still get two days off each week and there’s no better place to spend that free time than at a campground. Autumn is a great time to take that final camping trip of the season and you’ll find it much easier to get spots in the popular campgrounds than it was in July or August. Many weekends in September are warm enough for a final beach day, and there’s no better time to go hiking or biking with golden colors surrounding you, cooler temperatures and quiet trails.
Here are our top five favorite campgrounds for a Fall family camping trip close to Calgary:
1. Tunnel Mountain Village I, Banff National Park. There are three campgrounds on the Tunnel Mountain Bench above the town of Banff and there is usually space to be found on even the busiest of weekends. Our favorite is the Village I Campground, which is natural, non-serviced and best for tents or small trailers. There are many reasons to choose Tunnel Bench for a Fall camping trip. It’s warm, sunny and ideal for cool camp mornings. Also, there are trails for biking and hiking all over the Bench and you can access them without ever jumping in your car. Finally, you will be close to the amenities of the Banff townsite in case you want to skip cooking dinner at camp. And did I mention that there are hotsprings nearby for those chilly evenings? You won’t find a better campsite within an hour’s drive of Calgary for a quick autumn camping trip.
2. Red Streak Campground, Radium Hotsprings, BC. Situated in the sunny Columbia Valley, Radium Hotsprings is one of our favorite retreats for a Thanksgiving getaway. Cross over the border into BC and you’ll feel like it’s summer all over again! Enjoy mountain biking, hiking, swimming at the hotsprings or even take a day trip to Lake Windermere for a final beach day. It’s all possible well into October while using Red Streak Campground as your adventure basecamp. This campground is a hidden gem in Kootenay National Park and is within walking distance to the townsite and the hotspring pools. It also has power loops if you want a little more warmth in your trailer for Fall mornings or evenings.
3. Dinosaur Provincial Park Campground. Located in Southern Alberta, this campground is an early or late season favorite with its warm weather and desert-like climate typical of the Alberta badlands. Interpretive hiking trails are plentiful through the hoodoos around the campground and families can even enjoy some peaceful canoeing on the Red Deer River. Visit Dinosaur Provincial Park this autumn and you’ll soon be making it an annual family tradition.
4. The Campgrounds of Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis. The popular Boulton Creek and Elkwood campgrounds can be hard to get into when the kids are on summer vacation. Come September, though, it’s relatively easy to find a spot anywhere in this beautiful provincial park. While autumn mornings and evenings will get chilly here in the mountains, daytime temperatures are generally pleasant for hiking, biking or even canoeing on the Kananaskis Lakes. Our favorite campground is the Canyon Campground with its sunny meadow surrounding a playground for the kids. Families with trailers can book a serviced site in either Boulton Creek or Elkwood for some added comfort when it gets cool outside. For a great family hike in the area, head up toward Highwood Pass and hike to Ptarmigan Cirque to see the golden larch trees around the third week of September.
5. Bow Valley Campground, Bow Valley Provincial Park. This is another popular campground for early and late season camping thanks to its proximity to Calgary and its location in the sunny Bow Valley. Sites are tricky to get in the summer but usually open up by September for a quick weekend getaway. The park has many family-friendly interpretive trails, a paved bike trail and is conveniently located 15 minutes away from the town of Canmore. Camp in Bow Valley and spend your day in Canmore hiking to Grassi Lakes, biking on the town trails or even take one final beach trip to Quarry Lake.
Tanya is a freelance writer and mom to a spunky six-year-old. She loves hiking, camping, skiing and all things mountain-related. She is the author of the blog, Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies, rockiesfamilyadventures.com.
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