What you need to know for the best winter camping in Alberta

Jennifer Allford

Travel Alberta

Mar 04, 2019 - 4 minute read

Winter camping is so hot right now. From roughing it in your tent to cozying up in cabins, more people are heading out to stay in the snow. Whether you want to try your hand pitching a tent with your mitts on, or leave your boots by the fireplace while glamping, you’ll find what you’re looking for in Alberta’s great outdoors. So throw on your red plaid, maybe grab an axe and get out in the woods this winter to enjoy big blue skies and cold crisp air.

Alpine Club of Canada

There are dozens of Alpine Club of Canada backcountry huts catering to those who love a heart-pumping adventure before settling in for the night.

Travel Alberta | Ryan Bray

Glamping: If your idea of winter camping includes a chandelier and hardwood floors, then Mount Engadine Lodge has you covered. The heated tents just an hour from Canmore in Kananaskis have a full bathroom, a gas fireplace and a deck—all just a quick walk away from lodge with a dining room serving up hearty family style dinners and big brunches.

Cabins: If you still want your own indoor bathroom, can live without hardwood floors and don’t mind bringing in your own bacon and eggs, then check into a little cabin on the shores of Lac La Biche in Sir Winston Churchill Provincial Park, northeast of Edmonton. It’s best to call to reserve one 780-623-8449.

Backcountry huts:  Alpine Canada runs a whack of backcountry huts in the mountains for adventurers who are happy to ski or snowshoe for hours to arrive at the door. For some, you pack your own food, others can provide meals. Either way the huts book up fast.

Pitch your tent or roll up in your RV: Alberta has dozens of parks with campgrounds that are open all winter long. Search for a winter campsite at one of Alberta’s many provincial parks or check out campgrounds open in the winter in the national parks. While you’re less likely to have noisy neighbours winter camping, you may also have fewer amenities than in the summer. For example, you may need to bring your own firewood and drinking water. It’s a good idea to call to check.

Camp Cookhouse

Even if you're roughing it, don't pass up the chance to eat some delicious comfort food at Camp Cookhouse & General Store in Cypress Hills.

Travel Alberta | Chris Amat

Here are a couple of suggestions:

  • Cypress Hills Provincial Park: Straddling the border with Alberta and Saskatchewan, Cypress Hills offers winter camping enthusiasts a choice of setting up at  Elkwater or Spruce  Coulee campgrounds or heading into the backcountry to Reesor Dock or the Tom Trott Hut. But no one will judge if you’d rather stay rustic and inside with a little cabin at Resort at Cypress Hills. 
  • Dinosaur Provincial Park: While it’s a little trickier stumbling upon fossils when they’re under a blanket of snow, it’s still pretty cool to think you may be sleeping on top of an ancient slow lizard or bird-like dinosaurs. The park, an UNESCO World Heritage site, has a campground that’s open all winter long.

Camping in Jasper National Park

Dressing in layers is the way to go when winter camping, so you can peel off as the day warms up. A campfire and some hot chocolate will help keep the cold at bay, too.

Parks Canada | Ryan Bray

Pro tips:

  • Keep moving: When you go camping in the summer, you can spend hours just hanging around the campsite playing cards. You’re probably not going to get through too many games of crib in the winter though, even with your warmest toque pulled down low. Instead, you’re going to want to keep moving. So along with your cribbage board and Thermos filled to the brim with hot cocoa, pack your skis, snowshoes or skates and stay warm hitting the trails to explore the joys of winter.
  • Wear layers: The same rules apply as when you head out skiing or snowshoeing—leave the cotton in your underwear drawer and bring lots of synthetic layers. That is unless you’re sitting around the campfire belting out your favourite Fleetwood Mac song. Then you want to bring something thick to sit on and wear an outer layer of fire-resistant wool—a big sweater, a coat or itchy blanket—to make sure the wood and the singalong are the only things catching fire.

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