Group of friends relaxing at a campsite

Hidden gems: 5 campsites to check out from Edmonton

For Edmontonians eager to take advantage of Alberta’s mountain scenery and panoramic views, there are many excellent – and lesser-known – campsites close to home. If you’re someone who wants to get into the outdoors each weekend, these are some tranquil campsites within reach of Edmonton that you definitely need to add to your summer camping bucket list.

Elk Island National Park

Elk Island National Park, Alberta

In part thanks to regular bison sightings, Elk Island National Park is one of my favourite spots to get away, and is extremely convenient to access from the city. Often explored by day hikers, this quiet national park is also a great spot for a multi-day camping trip. The Astotin Lake Campground is nestled right next to Sandy Beach, so you can enjoy all the amenities offered at Astotin Lake (which doubles as an epic sunset viewing spot).

The park is also home to five Parks Canada oTENTik tents for anyone who likes to camp in comfort. Pick up a Parks Canada Pass from MEC before you visit.

Want to know more? See our guide to hike in Elk Island National Park.

Rainbow Valley Campground

Girls hanging out in tent at campground

You couldn’t ask for a more convenient campground than this one – it’s smack dab in the middle of the city. Rainbow Valley Campground allows even the busiest of schedules to include a night under the trees. The campground is in Edmonton’s River Valley system, and is surrounded by well-maintained trails. Adventurers may want to check out the campground’s brand new neighbour, Snow Valley Aerial Park. It’s a huge obstacle course (and the first of its kind to be built in Canada). As a self-proclaimed outdoor junkie, there’s good reason why Rainbow Valley is my favourite “staycation” spot when I want to escape.

Chain Lakes Provincial Park

Chain Lakes park view

On the outskirts of the Rocky Mountains, and just over three hours south of Edmonton, Chain Lakes Provincial Park is one of Alberta’s best kept secrets. Located 10 minutes south  of the Bar U Ranch National Historic Site, this campground borders the Chain Lakes reservoir and is a perfect spot for a lakeside weekend and exploring some of Alberta’s iconic ranchlands. After your camp coffee in the morning, spend the day at Parks Canada’s Bar U Ranch for a look into the ranching lifestyle of the 1800s.

Plan your getaway with our guide to camping at Chain Lakes Provincial Park.

Carson Pegasus Regional Park

Couple walking towards lake with a canoe

If you want to get far away from the mountain crowds, Carson Pegasus Provincial Park will appeal to you for its exclusivity. About 205km northwest of Edmonton, this campground is just outside the town of Whitecourt. The park has nearly 200 campsites, including 12 walk-in sites located at the end of a peninsula – if you’re packing light, this is the ideal spot to set up your tent, enjoy a good book and watch the stars. It’s also next to McLeod Lake, so be sure to bring all your beach essentials and consider trying a new paddlesport while you’re there. On your way back into the city, stop at Chickakoo Lake for a quick loop around some of the awesome trails.

Crescent Falls Provincial Recreation Area

View of Crescent Falls

While Alberta’s prized destinations are Jasper and Banff national parks, Crescent Falls Provincial Park could give them a run for their money. A little bit further out of Edmonton (about three and a half hours), this no-reservation, tenting-only campground is positioned nicely next to the Bighorn River and close to a number of hiking trails. Be sure to check out the Crescent Falls view point and hike the trails that run along the Bighorn Valley. Bring your coziest warm layers for this one, as the mountain temps can dip while you’re out stargazing.

Whether you feel like staying close to home, or simply don’t have time for a long road trip, these are some of great camping spots close to the city. Be sure to review the Leave No Trace principles before you pack up, and enjoy minimizing your time in the car and maximizing your time outdoors.

Photos: Flickr / Mack Male, WikiCommons / Craig.Lowen, Shutterstock / Blend Images, Shutterstock / Darren John Yates

Katie Schneider, writer
Katie Schneider

An Edmonton-based globe-trotting adventure enthusiast whose heart resides in all the mountain peaks, muddy trails and sunset-viewing spots she’s ever stood on.