Karma Campers are outdoorsy, adventurous people. You want to camp like Banff locals, wake up to beautiful views, and explore off the beaten path. That’s why you always ask us: “Can you stay anywhere overnight in Banff?”
Yes and no. We wrote an entire blog post about the rules of boondocking, free camping, and dry camping in the Canadian Rockies.
The short answer is no, Parks Canada only allows RVs and tents in designated campgrounds. Technically, though, there are places where you can disappear for the evening without anyone noticing. Read that blog post for all the details.
Here, we’ll break down the best official places to park your van for the night. The hidden gems are worth the trek, but the following spots are safe bets!
Try your hand at urban camping
Karma Campervans look like regular vehicles, so you can get away with streetside overnight parking in the town of Banff if you’re up for the hustle and bustle of the popular Rocky Mountain destination. One perk to an impromptu urban “campsite”: You’ll wake up close to the coffee and morning treats this way. There is typically a 12 hour limit to street parking in Banff unless otherwise indicated.
Other good options are parking lots and rest stops along the highway in Banff National Park. Lake Louise has lots of overnight overflow parking in both free and paid lots. Don’t just pull onto the shoulder of the highway for the night. You need to find a designated parking lot.
When urban camping, always check for signs—in parking lots, you’re typically good for the night if there aren’t any signs prohibiting overnight parking.
Check out the Banff RV Guide for a map and parking tips.
Choose a Parks Canada campground
Parks Canada offers plenty of great, affordable campsites in Banff National Park. Many of the campgrounds below have space for campervans with a range of amenities and service hookups.
- Two Jack Lake
- Tunnel Mountain
- Johnston Canyon (coming soon!)
- Castle Mountain
- Protection Mountain
- Lake Louise
- Mosquito Creek
- Silverhorn Creek
- Waterfowl Lakes
- Rampart Creek
Check the Parks Canada website for current availability and booking. Some campsites have a no reservation policy, so you don’t need to worry if you’re winging it on your road trip. Just show up early to claim a first-come, first-served spot. We suggest arriving right at 3pm, which is when you can check in. All Parks Canada campgrounds take payment via VISA, Mastercard, American Express, Debit and Cash. Self-check in requires exact change or credit card.
Camping alternatives near Banff
If Banff’s available campsites don’t appeal to you and you aren’t ready to try your hand at boondocking in the wild, check out the area surrounding the park. The small town of Canmore, for example is nestled along the Trans Canada Highway just a few minutes from Banff. It’s so close that visitors often bike between the two towns!
Another option: Kananaskis Country. This Provincial Park is a fan favourite where the foothills meet the rocky peaks.
Alternatively, choose a turnoff or rest area along the Trans Canada or Icefields Parkway to park your van for the night. Lots of campers break up their trip between Lake Louise and Jasper in one of these parking lots. Just don’t overstay your welcome here as they aren’t technically meant to serve as campgrounds.
Above all, respect the locals of the Rockies: don’t park a Karma Campervan in residential areas or where signs forbid overnight stays.
Enjoy Banff’s beautiful views
Everyone needs to explore Banff National Park at least once in their life. There’s so much to do and see in this beautiful destination, especially in the summer months!
The views alone should be enough of a reason to add Banff to your bucket list. Then there’s camping, of course. Hiking, mountain biking, canoeing, stand up paddleboarding, whitewater rafting, kayaking, fishing, or just driving through the winding mountain roads. When visiting anywhere in Alberta, Travel Alberta is a good resource for activity suggestions and camping information.
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