Tunnel Mountain Campground, Banff National Park
Driving Distance from Calgary: 75 minutes [Google map directions]
Camping Fees: $27.40-$38.20 + $8.80 firewood license ($12 advance reservation fee) Number of Sites: 3 campgrounds with more than 1100 spots (618 of them are unserviced) Facilities: Toilets, Showers, Hiking, Theatre, Cycling, Mountains, Mountains, Mountains Nearest Town: Banff, 5 km
Cell Reception: Yes
I think I’ve found my favourite close-to-Calgary camping spot. Tunnel Mountain Campground in Banff National Park is huge. The campground comprises three separate areas for trailers, campers needing hookups, and unserviced tents. The three areas total more than 1100 sites just a few kilometres outside of Banff.
We chose Tunnel Mountain I which has more than 600 treed sites perfect for tenters. Near hiking, and biking trails, Tunnel Mountain Campground is wonderful. It’s a National Park campground, so you there are a lot of trees, and the spots are very spacious. I also find the partying people tend to take to the prairies for their camping excursions, while those looking to relax go for the mountains.
We didn’t *need* to reserve a spot for our June 21 stay, but to have my choice of spot, I served up the extra $12. You can check the vacancy rate of the campground before you arrive to see what’s there and whether or not you’ll need to reserve a spot.
I chose the D loop of the campground because it was in the center of the area, close to the amphitheatre, and log pile, without being too close to the front of the camp area, or the back. This is bear country, so picking a spot in the center of the loops meant the bears would have to walk through many other campsites before they got to ours! There are food lockers to lock up your food for the day, we left ours in the car overnight.
When I go camping with the kids, I try to find a spot that’s near the facilities, so that’s why we chose D 17. The site was big enough for our Coleman tent, and the car parked on the side but not much more than that. The picnic tables are cemented in place, so don’t go thinking you can do much redecorating. Y
our tent goes there, and that’s that. The trees are not dense in the park, we could see at least 9 tents from where we were, but they are spaced out. Still, when the guys 3 rows over decided it was time to blast power ballads through their Kia Soul speakers, we heard all.
This really is a wonderful way to see Banff. You’re just a quick ride into the town, and if you want to do it up right at one of the wonderful restaurants, there is transit service to take you the few kilometres down the hill.
On my trip with Charlie, we did a day hike up Tunnel Mountain, went for a dip in the Upper Banff Hot Springs, and still had time (if we wanted) to do a gondola ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain, walk through downtown Banff, have a campfire, and roast some marshmallows.
Tunnel Mountain Campground is also a great base to explore Johnston Canyon and the Bow Valley Parkway, visit Lake Minnewanka, swim in Cascade Ponds, cycle the pathway to Canmore, go up Mount Norquay, canoe in Vermillion Lakes, or any other of dozens activities in and around Banff.
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