What a delight the Pigeon Mountain hike near Canmore turned out to be. Once you…
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
Further reading about things to do in Jasper National Park
- What You Can Do on a Stop at the Columbia Icefield
- 5 Stunning Hikes to do along the Icefields Parkway
- 10 Things to do in Jasper in the Summer
- Kayaking Majestic Maligne Lake in Jasper National Park
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A big thank you to Travel Alberta for making this post possible.