Camping in Banff

Posted June 25, 2017 by Stephanie

It’s something every North American should do once. No, I’m not talking about eating poutine – although everyone should do that too – I’m talking about driving from coast to coast, from sea to shining sea. Mike and I have been chatting about it, casually, for years now. It’s always been one of my dreams to see the Maritimes and Mike has been going on and on about seeing puffins on the East Coast forever. So we decided to just go for it: an epic cross-the continent-country camping road trip! Well, camping and city, because we want to see it all, the vast wilderness and all the things that the cities have to offer.

Technically we started our trip on Monday, but last month we visited Victoria to see Mile 0, which sounds like some sort of apocalyptic safe zone, but really is just a sign that marks the start of the Trans-Canada Highway, the only highway that connects all 10 provinces from Pacific to Atlantic. With that out of our way, we made our way from Vancouver to Banff, for some camping.

banff travel guide -

banff travel guide -

Camping in Banff is pretty intense – sold out reservations and people stealing campsites intense. So, in an effort to not get caught up in the crazy, Mike and I decided on camping at Kicking Horse River, a gorgeously milky blue river that both meanders and rushes its way through the Southeastern Rockies, in nearby Yoho National Park. It’s a pretty popular campsite as well, but we thought we’d risk it, since school isn’t out yet, and go for the first-come, first-serve sites. Turns out it was a good thing we didn’t book the site because by the time we got there it was pouring buckets and buckets of rain. We wrestled with the idea of just going for it, but in the end both decided that setting up camp in the rain is just too sad.

Our next option was either grabbing a random place to stay or trying our luck at one of the Banff campgrounds. We made our way through rainy Yoho, onto Banff, fingers crossed, hoping that the weather would clear. Spoiler: it did! Our first stop was arguably the best campsite in Banff – Two Jack Lakeside. We found that it was, no surprise, full up. The helpful ranger dude suggested Tunnel Mountain instead.

banff travel guide -

banff travel guide -

banff travel guide -

banff travel guide -

Tunnel Mountain was a little more…civilized than Mike and I are used to, but in the end we had a great time. The sites are kind of small and not very private but since we were planning on spending our time exploring, it wasn’t a problem. Plus, they have all you can burn firewood. All you do is pay a campfire permit fee and then go to the giant woodpile and bring back as much wood as you can burn. I was in campfire heaven!

banff travel guide -

banff travel guide -

banff travel guide -

Speaking of the civilized campsite, it was hilarious. We kept seeing people getting dropped off in taxis and we even saw someone get Dominos delivery! I was kind of jealous of the pizza, to be honest. We kept it simple with instant noodles the first night and Swedish meatballs with mashed potatoes on the second. There’s definitely something about eating outside that makes it so much better.

banff travel guide -

The scenery in Banff is insane. If you haven’t been, I highly recommend it. The Canadian Rockies are breathtakingly beautiful and unlike any other mountain ranges. They’re sharp and jagged, with u-shaped valleys in between. It seems like there are hundreds of glacial blue lakes surrounded by meadows, fields, and mountains. We stopped by one of them for a chip picnic and my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cap blew right off my head into the bluest water ever. Thankfully Mike had already taken his shoes off because he valiantly jumped in and rescued it. I would have felt awful if the hat ended up at the bottom of the pristine water. How horrible would it be to be that one bad tourist that accidentally littered a hat?! Also, I love that hat. (note from Mike, it used to be my hat before she stole it)

banff travel guide -

Hat adventures aside, we saw so much wildlife. No bears, thank goodness, but there were 2 deer just munching along as well as 19 big horn sheep! I made Mike slow the car down so I could snap a photo of the sheep, but to be honest, they looked like they were going to ram the car, so we just kept right on going, very slowly, so not to attract too much attention.

It was a good start to our trip: a bit of rain, a lot of fire, and so many laughs. Next stop: Calgary!

banff travel guide -

banff travel guide -

banff travel guide -

banff travel guide -

banff travel guide -


  1. lorna says:

    I am so jealous of your trip. What a glorious year to go cross country. Looking forward to the travelogue.

  2. Stunning photos!! Gorgeous!!


  3. Abbey says:

    I justt got home from a banff/jasper camping trip. It’s so beautiful! While in Calgary you should definitely get dinner at pigeonhole. The food there was fantastic and they have a natural wine program that is so impressive. We also had drinks at proof and they were also excellent! Have fun. Can’t wait to see more updates.

  4. Eva says:

    Was in Banff at the end of April. There was still snow. Totally agree. The scenery is spectacular, as your photos depict.

  5. Shannyn says:

    These photos are amazing! I have always wanted to do a cross country trip here in the states. My husband and I have been considering a trip to Banff/Calgary later this year with our son, who will be about a year old (we live in California). If we don’t have the stamina to camp with a toddler, do you have recommendations for accommodations? I hate ending up in super touristy places, but when I looked on airbnb, there wasn’t a whole lot.

  6. Amanda says:

    Let me know if you need any tips on where to go in Calgary!

    1. Stephanie says:

      ahh, we blasted right through and only spent one night in calgary! we managed to check out prince’s island and have some steak though! ;)

  7. I love this so much – sea to shining sea, baby!!! Haha. Have the best trip ever!!! And a brilliant time to do it. I wish I did that when I was younger!! I can’t wait to follow along.

    Um, Dominoe’s pizza to the campsite!??? That is insanity!! But kind of awesome too. I like how you went casual times with ramen and meatballs. K please text me a picture of the TMNT hat. Teddy and I are both jealous!!!

  8. Angela says:

    My boyfriend and I are road tripping up to Banff from Denver at the end of August. Cannot wait, and this post made me more excited!

  9. I love the west coast of the country! I was just there last month too. I hope you enjoy the rest of your travels through Canada. I suggest you grab a copy of the cookbook « Feast » to give you some Canadian recipe inspiration. And definitely eat lots of poutine and bagels in Montreal!

  10. Rebecca says:

    What an inspirational trip!! Has us wanting to pack the bags and head on up ;D

  11. These photos, AH! I need to go!!

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