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Very Private Campsites At Jonas Creek If You're Prepared To Walk In

Complete Camping Guide to the Icefields Parkway

The Icefields Parkway, also known as Highway 93 North, runs from Lake Louise to Jasper for 232 spectacular kilometres passing through Banff and Jasper National Parks. With 11 campgrounds along the parkway, it’s easy to slow down and explore the region.

Explore a spectacular landscape along the Icefields Parkway
Explore a spectacular landscape along the Icefields Parkway

This post includes some affiliate links. If you make a qualifying purchase through one of these links, I may receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you.

Here’s what you need to know about the Icefields Parkway campgrounds.

There is no cellphone coverage along the parkway but campgrounds have pay phones. For payment, have exact change or a credit card. You won’t find any WiFi either. Check ahead with Banff and Jasper National Parks for the status of any campgrounds you are interested in. Some campgrounds get closed for a summer because of upgrades.

In summer 2020 note that only a few of the campgrounds were open because of COVID though most backcountry campsites were open – though you’ll have to hike to them. Check back in April 2021 to get updates.

Mosquito Creek Campground, Banff National Park

Location: 24 kilometres north of Lake Louise.

Open: June 3 – October 11, 2021 – first come, first served 

Cost: $17.99 plus $8.80 for fire permit and firewood

Facilities: 32 sites with a cooking shelter. No power, electricity or flush toilets.

Pluses/Minuses: Campsites are wooded and private. Despite the name the mosquitoes are no worse than anywhere else. Nice areas around the river. Try for campsite #1. Some highway noise.

Note: There is a great hike out of this campground that starts on the other side of the highway. It takes you to North Molar Pass and ultimately to Fish Lakes but if you want to go that far do it as an overnight backpacking trip.

At Mosquito Creek Campground on the Icefields Parkway
At Mosquito Creek Campground Campsite #1 is the best of the 32 sites – if you ask me

Silverhorn Creek Campground, Banff National Park

2019 Update: It appears my beautiful walk-in tent campsites are no longer.

Location: Approximately 56 kilometres north of Lake Louise.

Open: June 3 – September 12, 2021. Can be reserved online.

Fees: $16.05 plus $8.80 for firewood

Facilities: 45 campsites – best for large RV’s and trailers. No longer tent friendly as sites are now close together. A big disappointment as this was my favourite in 2016. No running water. There was a bear pole and bear locker for walk-ins but I don’t know if that is still there.

Pluses/Minuses: No highway noise anywhere. Great birding. Now sounds like it’s been taken over by the RV’s. 

Very private walk-in campsites at Silverhorn Creek
Very private walk-in campsites at Silverhorn Creek

Waterfowl Lake Campground, Banff National Park

2019 update thanks to a camper: There are now lovely walk in tent sites and tent sites near the lower lake.

Location: 60 kilometres north of Lake Louise.

Open: June 24 – September 12, 2021 – first come, first served

Facilities: 116 sites; tents near the lower lakes and lovely walk-in tent sites.

Fees: $16.05 plus $8.80 for firewood

Pluses/Minuses: Great hiking trails from the campground. The lakes are beautiful with excellent views. Small amount of highway noise. Excellent choice.

Fantastic views from Waterfowl Lakes Campground on the Icefields Parkway
Fantastic views from Waterfowl Lakes Campground

Rampart Creek Campground

Location: 90 kilometres north of Lake Louise.

Open: June 10 – September 12, 2021 – Reserve online.

Fees: $17.99 plus $8.80 for firewood

Facilities: 51 sites with food lockers for walk-in campers. No picnic shelters. A secluded and rustic camping experience.

Pluses/Minuses: Private campsites. Reportedly the worst mosquitoes – according to a park employee

Everything You Need to Know About Camping on the Icefields Parkway
The Rampart Creek Campground has some good views

Wilcox Creek Campground, Jasper National Park

Location: 107.5 kilometres south of the Jasper townsite, just past the trailhead for the Wilcox Pass hike. It’s only three kilometres south of the Icefields Centre. 

Open: June 9 – September 20, 2021 – first come, first served

Price: Unserviced with firepit – $24.85

Facilities: 46 sites but no tent only areas, four cooking shelters, five dry toilets, one bear-proof storage locker. No power, electricity or flush toilets. Best suited for motorhomes and trailers under 27 feet.

Pluses/Minuses: Private campsites. No real views. Highway noise. Great access to some hikes like Parker Ridge and Wilcox Pass.

Standard campsite with decent privacy at the Wilcox Creek Campground
Standard campsite with decent privacy at the Wilcox Creek Campground

Icefield Campground, Jasper National Park

Location: 106 kilometres south of the Jasper townsite. It’s only a kilometre south of the Icefields Centre.

Open: June 9 – October 11, 2021 – first come, first served

Price: Unserviced with a fire pit $24.85/night

Facilities: 33 sites – tents only. There are also walk-in campsites that are very private. Two cooking shelters, three dry toilets, bear-proof storage lockers. Rustic – in a good way. No power, electricity or flush toilets.

Pluses/Minuses: Walk-in campsites are very private. Some glacier views if you get a lower campsite on the road plus they have more privacy. Campsites are crowded at the top of the loop. Some highway noise.

The Icefields Campsite heads off into the woods via the side road in the photo
The Icefields Campsite heads off into the woods via the side road in the photo

Jonas Creek Campground, Jasper National Park

Location: 78 kilometres south of the Jasper townsite.

Open: June 9 – September 6, 2021 – first come, first served

Price: Unserviced – $24.85/night with a fire pit

Facilities: 25 sites including 11 walk-in sites that require a stiff walk up into the woods. One cooking shelters, six dry toilets, two bear-proof storage lockers. No power, electricity or flush toilets.

Pluses/Minuses: Walk-in campsites are very private and quite lovely! Campsites #8 and #9 are close to Jonas Creek. No views. Lots of highway noise if you don’t do walk-in camping. Motorhomes and trailers should be under 25 feet.

Very private campsites at Jonas Creek if you're prepared to walk in
Very private campsites at Jonas Creek if you’re prepared to walk in

Honeymoon Lakes Campground, Jasper National Park

Location: 52.5 kilometres south of the Jasper townsite.

Open: May 19 – September 20, 2021 – first come, first served

Price: Unserviced with fire pit – $24.85/night

Facilities: 35 sites. Two cooking shelters, four dry toilets, two bear-proof storage lockers. No power, electricity or flush toilets. Best suited for motorhomes and trailers under 27 feet.

Pluses/Minuses: If you can score campsites 30 -35 then you will back onto this very pretty lake. All other campsites are wooded but with decent privacy. The lake is warm enough for swimming. The lake is great for poking about in a canoe or kayak.

Honeymoon Lake is very popular because of the swimming and boating
Honeymoon Lake is very popular because of the swimming and boating

Mount Kerkeslin Campground, Jasper National Park

Location: 36 kilometres south of the Jasper townsite.

Open: May 19 – September 20, 2021

Price: $Unserviced with fire pit – $24.05/night

Facilities: 42 sites – no tent only walk-in sites. One cooking shelter, four dry toilets, one bear-proof storage locker. No power, electricity or flush toilets.

Pluses/Minuses: Campsites 7, 8 and 9 are closest to the Athabasca River. The river is very accessible and a great place to hang out. Most campsites do not have highway noise.

Camping on the Icefields Parkway at Mount Kerkeslin Campground
Mount Kerkeslin Campground on the Icefields Parkway

Wapiti Campground, Jasper National Park

Location: 5.4 kilometres south of the Jasper townsite.

Open: May 5 – October 11, 2021 are the summer dates. There are winter options here as well. Reserve online.

Facilities: 363 campsites in summer + 75 winter campsites with lots of amenities like showers, flush toilets and sani-dumps. Can accommodate most sizes of motorhomes and trailers.

Fees: Unserviced with fire pit – $36.80/night; electrical with fire pit – $41.81/night; electrical only – $33.01/night

Pluses/Minuses: Its close enough you can ride your bike into Jasper or walk the trail along the Athabasca River. More privacy that Whistlers Campground.

Whistlers Campground, Jasper National Park

Location: 3.5 kilometres south of the Jasper townsite.

Open: July 12 – October 11, 2021 – Reserve online.

Fees: Unserviced – $28; Unserviced with fire pit – $36.80; Walk -in without a vehicle – $23; Electrical with fire pit – $41.81; full hookup – $39.04; full hookup with fire pit – $47.84

Facilities: 781 sites – and over 100 have power, water and sewage. It’s the largest campground in Jasper National Park. There are Otentiks here you can rent. It has showers, flush toilets, playgrounds and an interpretive trail.

Pluses/Minuses: It’s family friendly for bike riding. The campground is like a small city so although most campsites are private, noise can be an issue. The staff try very hard to keep that in check in the evening. It’s an affordable option to staying in Jasper.

Campsites are surprisingly private considering there are 535 of them
Campsites are surprisingly private considering there are 535 of them

Check-in times for camping along the Icefields Parkway

Campsite reservations cannot be made for any campgrounds along the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park except for Rampart Creek Campground. Check-in time in the Banff National Park campsites is between 3 – 8 PM. Campsites are available on a first come, first served basis so show up early.

In Jasper National Park, most of the campsites are first come, first served BUT with no specific check-in time. The large campsites near Jasper do have a reservation system in place beginning in early to mid-January. Check out for all campsites in both parks is 11 AM.

You can stay for up to 14 days in the campsites.

How much do campsites on the Icefields Parkway cost?

It depends if the campsite is serviced or not – and whether you want to buy firewood. Bring exact change as you put the money in an envelope and then deposit it in metal container. Credit cards can also be used. 

Where should you gas up?

Before you head out on the Icefields Parkway gas up in Banff, Lake Louise or Jasper depending on what direction you’re heading.

The only option along the parkway is at The Crossing Resort in Saskatchewan Crossing, 80 kilometres north of Lake Louise, and 152 kilometres south of Jasper. They also offer an RV septic dump, fresh water, treatment products and automotive supplies.

Where can you buy food?

In the village of Lake Louise there is a small grocery store, a liquor store and a couple of cafes you can hit before you start the drive. Simpson’s Num-Ti-Jah Lodge has a café and a dining room. At The Crossing Resort you can buy snacks and meals – but they are expensive.

At the Icefields Centre there is a full restaurant. Look for Sunwapta Falls Rocky Mountain Lodge near Sunwapta Falls. You can sit down for a meal or choose from ready-made sandwiches, salads etc. The food is good and you can buy an espresso drink here.

Where to eat on the Icefields Parkway
Sunwapta Falls Resort is a good place to buy snacks or get a meal on the Icefields Parkway

Rules in the National Parks

  • To stay in a campground on the Icefields Parkway you must have a valid Parks Canada permit.
  • If you stay at a campsite display the camping permit (obtained when you pay). A maximum of six people can stay at one campsite. Site occupants are the only ones allowed to stay after 11 PM.
  • If you plan to have a fire, ensure you’ve paid for the privilege. Use the wood that has been provide at the campsite and use the fire rings provided. Campfires aren’t permitted during quiet time.
  • Quiet hours are 11 PM to 7 PM. They are strictly enforced.
  • Generators can only be used between 9 AM – 10:30 AM and 5 PM – 7 PM.
  • Pets must always be on a leash.
  • On long weekends there is a full alcohol ban.
  • If you plan to fish get a Parks Canada Fishing Permit.

A few things to take on your Icefields Parkway camping trip

The Icefields Parkway Waterproof Map and Guide would be very handy.

I would highly recommend a tarp or two, depending on the size of your group.

If anything rips – a sleeping bag or your tent for instance, this gear aid tape will come to your rescue.

Since you’re car camping, you can enjoy a certain degree of comfort. I’d recommend a camp chair per person. 

If you’re terrible at starting fires, take some fire starter and stormproof matches

The Coleman two-burner stove is always a winner when you’re car camping.

Other Camping Options

In the Banff area there are several large campgrounds including Tunnel Mountain and Two Jack Lake. In Jasper, Wabasso Campground (231 sites) on Highway 93A offers a reservation service as does Pocahontas with 140 sites on the Miette Road.

Alternatives to Camping

If you aren’t into camping there are some options from hostels to hotels to cabins. Most fill quickly in summer so reservations are recommended.

There are five hostels – Mosquito Creek, Rampart Creek, Athabasca Falls, Hilda Creek and Beauty Creek.

For hotels or chalets try Num-Ti-Jah Lodge, The Crossing Resort, The Glacier View Lodge at the Icefield Centre, Sunwapta Falls Rocky Mountain Lodge or Beckers Chalets.

What you don’t want to do

We forgot our tent poles in Calgary. Let’s just say there was a lot of swearing when that dawned on us and then a look at our options; drive six hours return back to Calgary to get them (no); check into the hotel at the Columbia Icefields (probably booked and expensive so no) or rig up something – which is what we did in the end.

We did bring three tarps of varying sizes though one leaked as we quickly found out since it was raining at the start. Although we didn’t have protection at the sides of our tent – and it sagged, it did keep us bug free and mostly dry.

My advice: Don’t forget your tent poles, tent, stakes, tarps or rope. Find a campsite with closely spaced trees. (This is walk-in campsite #1 at the Icefield Campground.)

When you're camping on the Icefields Parkway don't forget the tent poles - or a tarp
When you’re camping on the Icefields Parkway don’t forget the tent poles – or a tarp

Further reading about things to do in Jasper National Park

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

Everything you need to know about camping on the Icefields Parkway including pros/cons of each campground and where to buy food and gas

A big thank you to Travel Alberta for making this post possible.

 

 

 

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 48 Comments

  1. If I want to stay in either the Wilcox or Icefields campground on a Monday evening at the end of June, and we would be arriving in the evening, is it likely I will get a campsite?

    1. @SAHiker If it’s June 30th no – as it’s Canada Day on July 1st & a national holiday. If its June 26th you gave a chance. I think you’d have better luck at Wilcox than the Icefields. Depending on the time of day I would also really recommend checking out a few of the campsite BEFORE you get to Wilcox so you aren’t left with nothing. Lady luck would still need to be onside as the parks will be crazy busy in 2017. However – the hiking out of their is first rate!!

  2. Do you think that we would be able to get a campsite on July 19 or July 20? I know the parks are busier this year, and I don’t want to not have a place to sleep one night. We are looking at Columbia Icefields or Waterfowl.

  3. I plan to visit around mid september and will be tent camping. Would you know which campsites are warmer(less cold) than others?

      1. Which campground do you recommend that is in the middle of Jasper. We may not want to relocate often since we are doing a 4-5day trip, so we would ideally would want to camp out at 2 campsites to cover the park.

        1. @Benny I’d try for the Columbia Icefields Campground (tents only) or nearby Wilcox and then move closer to Jasper; I liked Mt Kerkeslin campground.

    1. @John None at campsites but I do believe you can get it at Sunwapta Lodge at the cafe. I’m not sure if the Icefields Lodge has it but you could email them and see if they could help. Hard to live without it but very refreshing if you ca pull it off.

  4. What season tent would be good to use in September. Could we have snow or heavy rain.I have a 3 man 4 season tent and also a 3 season 2 man tent

    1. @Colin You can literally have everything but fall is usually pretty darned nice. If you’re driving I’d take the 4 season tent but if I personally was backpacking I’d still opt for the 3 season tent.

  5. We plan to stay along the parkway right after labour day (Sep 7/8) – do you think we’ll have a hard time finding a spot in the evening of the 7th?

    1. @DG As its past Labour Day you should be okay. Some of the more popular campsites will still have a lot of people but I’d be surprised if you had problems.

  6. Hi Leigh,
    This is great, thanks,
    What happens if a group of bikers shows up to a campground in the evening, and it’s full. Do they have overflow or a no-turn-away policy? Or do you just have to ride on?

    1. @Jenn You would just have to ride on. Hopefully there would be a few fast members in your group that could nab several campsites. And if you choose the less popular ones you’d have a very good chance of a spot.

  7. Thanks for all the details. But I want to bring my own small portable toilet with me. Is there any problem with that?

  8. Lots of great info, thank you! I wish I had seen this before our trip last week. We scoped out campsites between LL and the Columbia Icefield. Where are the walk-in sites (we prefer walk-in over camping near our car) at Silverhorn? We couldn’t find them. Also, Waterfowl lakes campground has 10 walk-in tent sites.

    We are going back this weekend and Silverhorn would be a good base for our planned day trips, if we can find secluded tent sites. Otherwise that campground is like a big parking lot.

    1. Hi Shauna,
      You have to drive past all the parking spots to the far end of the campground. Then you park your car and if I remember correctly walk over a small bridge. There were several excellent very private ones that would be excellent so do spend some time exploring. I agree that the rest of the campground is like a parking lot.

  9. Hi. Travelling in mid-July with 2 kids and a tent. Lots of “first come, first serve” sites on the Jasper National Park website and none available among the “reservable” ones. Do you know how likely it is that we will find something in “first come, first serve”? There are absolutely no other accommodations I can afford!

    1. @Jane If you get a decent start to your day and can be in a campsite by about 2 PM you should be in good shape. It’s a bit of the luck of the draw but avoid the busiest ones and your chances of nabbing a campsite go way up.

  10. Hi there,

    Very useful information!!

    We will be travelling in an RV and will be staying in and around Banff over October 14th… will the camping spots be busy at this time due to thanksgiving? We haven’t booked anything but wondering if we need to over the period? Thanks.

    Cheers.
    Mark.

    1. @Mark I would be very surprised if you have any problems. If anything some of the campsites might be closed so be sure to check in with the gate attendant for up to date info when you drive through. And take lots of warm clothes.

  11. Hi Leigh,
    Thanks for the article, best I have found out there thus far!
    We are travelling the Icefield Parkway down to Banff from the 10th June next year.
    We were looking to park & stay in our RV at the following sites:
    Wapiti
    Rampart creek
    Waterfowl Campsite
    Mosquito/National park

    Reading you article, none of these allow reservations, so at that time of year do you think getting a space will be difficult?

    Thanks for any advice in advance 🙂

    1. Hello Paul,
      Timing is everything when it comes to scoring a campsite. I thought you could reserve at Wapiti (??) but what I might recommend is nixing one campsite and spending a couple of nights at another. It will reduce the stress level of scoring a campsite, especially on a weekend. Try to arrive by about 3 PM. Hope that helps.

  12. Hello Leigh,

    Thank you so much for your article, it is really helpful.
    We are planing a RV trip next July, do you know if it’s possible to make a reservation for a campsite before 3pm?
    Are the campsite usually full during summer?
    Thank you!

    Genevieve

    1. Hi Genevieve,
      You can’t make reservations at many campsites – save for some in Jasper itself. The others along the parkway are first come, first served. I would say with Covid and closed borders that there will be lots of pressure on campsites this summer. If you can stay for a few nights at one place that would take the pressure off. Whistlers Campground will be reopening – more info here – and you can sign up to be on an email list. https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/ab/jasper/visit/carte-FII-map/whistlers?utm_source=gmb&utm_medium=whistlers

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