The Ultimate Guide to Camping in Banff National Park

Camping in Banff is an awesome, affordable option for your trip to Canada’s most beautiful National Parks! On our last trip, we were asked multiple times about where we stayed and our camping situation, so we’re here to share our favourite campgrounds and everything you need to know for planning your camping accommodations in Banff!

Camping in Banff is going to save you a lot of money compared to paying high prices for hotels in town, and it’s also hard to come by campgrounds in the summer if you’re planning last minute. Whether you’re looking for a walk-in tent campground with a fire pit, or a fully equipped RV parking campsite with showers, we’ve got you covered with the best campgrounds in Banff!

What you need to know before camping in Banff

Before you arrive in Banff, it’s important to know that this national park is home to many wild animals and you’re visiting their home. With that said, you’ll need to be prepared to leave no trace and follow the guidelines set in place by Parks Canada. Being a responsible camper includes respecting wildlife and not feeding them by leaving trash, ensuring you have a clean campsite, and washing dishes/dumping grey water at appropriate spots.

There is no free-camping in Banff National Park, and you’re not able to boondock on park grounds. This is regulated by Parks Canada staff and you’ll be asked to leave, purchase a campsite or possibly fined for attempting to stay in the park overnight for free. This means you’ll need to plan your stay at a campgrounds if you’re a camper van, RV, car-camper, or tent-camper.

Can you camp anywhere in Banff?

No, you cannot camp anywhere in Banff but there are 17 available campgrounds for you to book your stay. This also means that you cannot backcountry camp and set up your tent wherever you’d like. The park is heavily regulated and you will not be able to camp anywhere but the designated campgrounds after purchasing your permit for the night.

Can you sleep in your car in Banff?

No, sleeping in your car for free in Banff is prohibited and heavily regulated by Parks Canada. You can choose to sleep in your vehicle if you have purchased a campsite in Banff and you’re parked at your designated site. You cannot expect to park for free in Banff and be able to sleep in your vehicle, you’ll get a knock on your door from a ranger asking you to leave or possibly get a fine!

What kind of camping can you do in Banff?

In Banff National Park you have a few different options for camping. Parks Canada has a list of available campgrounds on their website and these are your options:

  • Front-country camping (designated campgrounds with sites, washrooms, fire pits, full-service).
  • Backcountry Camping (no road access, remote, pack in and pack out).
  • oTENTik Cabins (glamping style a-frames).
  • Equipped campgrounds (available at Two Jack Lake campground).

Best Campgrounds in Banff National Park

These are our top picks for campgrounds in Banff National Park. These are large campgrounds with plenty of space available for both privacy and for groups. We’ve personally had plenty of luck reserving these spots last-minute at the gate, and it’s also important to note that you’ll have the best campsites if you book in advanced (think nice views, by the water, ect).

Tunnel Mountain Campground

Tunnel Mountain I and Tunnel Mountain II are our favourite easy, accessible campgrounds in Banff. These campground feature washrooms with showers, kitchen areas with dishwashing stations, garbage bins, electric plug-ins, fire-pits, grey-water dumps, and drinkable water. Tunnel Mountain I has a better layout with semi-private campsites hidden in the trees, while Tunnel Mountain II is more laid-out like a large parking lot.

As of 2023, you will be paying $30-$40 per night at Tunnel Mountain campgrounds and depending on your preference and camping equipment you may choose either Village I or Village II. Personally, we love the privacy for tent camping in Village I but when we camped in our camper van we preferred Village II.

Two Jack Lake Campground

Two Jack Lake campground might be one of the prettiest campgrounds in Banff National Park! If you can score a lakeside campsite, you’re in luck as the views in the morning at Two Jack Lake are stunning. This campground is split into 3 areas, Two Jack Main, Two Jack Lakeside and Two Jack Equipped. These rustic, unserviced campgrounds can feature washrooms, showers, fire pits, Sani-dumps, and kitchen shelters.

Two Jack Lakeside is your best option, but Two Jack Main is also secluded and hidden in the forest. Both are unserviced, with Two Jack Main featuring options to book an equipped campsites. These campgrounds are ideal for tent-camping, vehicle camping, and small RVs. It will cost you between $23-30 for the night, and $75 if you book an equipped site.

Johnston Canyon Campground

While we haven’t stayed at Johnson Canyon campground, this was always our back up if the sites at the first two campgrounds were full. This rustic and unserviced campground include washrooms, kitchen shelters, showers, fire-pits and firewood. This is also a great location to check out Johnston Canyon, and it will cost you $30 per night for a campsite.

Camping at Lake Louise

Camping at Lake Louise is a fantastic option if you’re going to spend the day at Lake Louise or Lake Moraine. Camping so close to these iconic lakes makes it incredibly easy to spend the entire day there, as it will take you about 45 minutes to drive to Lake Louise from Banff town. This is also a great option for visiting the Icefields Parkway since it is a shorter drive and you’ll have cell-service here (you do not have cell-service camping on the Icefields Parkway).

Lake Louise campground is one of our favourites in Banff, and features 2 options for Lake Louise soft-sided or hard-sided campgrounds. The hard-sided campground is open year-round while soft-sided closes for the winter. The hard-sided campground is fully serviced and best suited for RVs with plug-ins, and the soft-sided campground is unserviced and best for tent-camping. Both campgrounds feature washrooms with showers, potable water, Sani-dumps, kitchen shelters, and fire-pits.

Camping on the Icefields Parkway

Camping on the Icefields Parkway is a remote getaway with some of the best views in Banff National Park. These campgrounds are remote because you will not have cell-service and you will be far away from any cities, shops, roads or highways. We love camping on the Icefields Parkway for a quieter stay in Banff and you’ll have a few great options to plan your stay.

Other campgrounds near Banff

Here are a few other great options for camping near Banff, and while we don’t have experience staying here I’ve linked them with prices for more information.

  • Lake Louise Overflow ($11.50 per night)
  • Castle Mountain self-register cash-only ($23.00 per night)
  • Protection Mountain first-come first-serve ($23.00 per night)
  • oTENTik Camping ($128 per night)

Backcountry camping in Banff National Park

There are some really great backcountry camping spots in Banff National Park, and you’ll need to book your permit for $11.50 per night before venturing into the backcountry. Read about the available backcountry sites on Parks Canada reservation website in Banff National Park. This is a huge adventure on our bucket-list for this upcoming year and can’t wait to update with our top picks!

Final Thoughts on Camping in Banff

Banff National Park is an incredibly wild, beautiful and scenic park that needs to be at the top of your Canadian bucket-list! This guide showed you all of our top picks for camping in Banff and included prices and links to help make your reservations easier. By answering some of the frequently asked questions about camping in Banff, you’ll be set for your own camping adventures in Banff!

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