Love camping, but hate the hassle of all the gear and set-up? There are easier and comfier ways to camp in Alberta's national parks.
Tent camping offers some of the best nature experiences you could ask for, particularly with young kids in tow. But it can be a lot of work setting up camp, not to mention expensive to buy all the gear for the whole family, especially when all you want to do is get to the good stuff, like roasting marshmallows!
That's why our gang loves Parks Canada's new oTENTiks (pronounced like authentic) in Banff and Jasper national parks. Think of a cross between a tent and a cabin. Constructed with wooden frames and hardwood floors, they feature canvas-covered walls that enclose a sleeping and living areas complete with two queen-sized beds, a double bed, and a table and chairs. Now we can just toss the sleeping bags on the beds—no more sleeping on the ground!—and spend our time enjoying the campfire instead of wrestling with tents.
oTENTiks keep us comfortable, but we still get to enjoy the great outdoors. Similar to cottage tents, which also have canvas walls, wood floors and beds, oTENTiks step things up with an eating area and a wood stove to stay warm. Parks Canada has installed new oTENTiks in Banff National Park at Two Jack Lakeside Campground and at Whistlers Campground in Jasper National Park, with more being built in national parks across the country.
Tipi Camping in Waterton
When the night skies are clear, we also love tipi camping in Waterton Lake National Park so we can sleep under the stars. While it requires a little more "roughing it" compared to oTENTiks, it's a fun and unique Alberta camping experience.
Set up in Crandell Mountain Campground, five traditional tipis let you take in the mountain views around the fire, and then get cozy and settle in for the night. Each tipi has a turf floor with sleeping mats for comfort. The large centre opening lets you look up at the expansive night sky and offers refreshing open-air camping. The kids love to imagine they are sharing the same way indigenous people slept for thousands of years.
They love the "wildness" of it all, and I love that we are somewhat sheltered from the elements. Tipi camping in Alberta is an amazing way to get back to nature and share some cultural history, too.