This post by Jody Robbins was originally published on the Travel Alberta website.
Alberta was made for camping, but not everyone has all the necessary gear, let alone space in their backpack for it. That’s where “glamping” (glamour + camping = glamping) comes in. Alberta is rife with luxury outdoor accommodations that take the hard work out of camping. Glamping offers comfy beds, running water, and sometimes heat, all while enabling that campfire-roasted marshmallows that make camping the best thing ever. Whether you’re into yurts, safari tents, or bubbles, getting back to nature has never been easier at these nine tricked out glamping spots in Alberta.
1. Dinosaur Provincial Park
Dinosaur Provincial Park is famous as one of the world’s most significant sites for dinosaur fossils (the number of skeletons unearthed here is unreal), but the best part is staying overnight. You can fall out of bed (yes, a real bed!) and start hunting for fossils right next to your campsite, either on your own or with a guide. These walled tents have floors raised off the ground, giving dino hunters extra warmth and comfort. Pillows and bedding are provided, meaning you only need to bring your own food that can be stored inside the mini fridge.
2. Elk Island National Park
oTENTiks are A-frame tent-cabin combos found in many of Alberta’s national parks. The ones here give glampers an up-close-and-personal view of one of the highest densities of hoofed mammals in world. This is the place where bison traffic jams are a thing. At Astotin Lake Campground, oTENTiks are set up with beds for six people, including a table, chairs, and electricity. You get your own campsite too, with a fire pit, Adirondack chairs, propane barbecue, and picnic table. Close to your site are washrooms with showers, a shared kitchen shelter, and potable water.
3. Waterton Lakes National Park
Each summer, two traditional First Nations tipis are set up at Crandell Mountain Campground, an insanely pretty spot on the Red Rock Parkway. With this legit natural experience, you’ll have to bring slightly more gear, such as your own sleeping pads, bedding, and cooking utensils. But it’s still minimal clean up, and food tastes so much better when it’s cooked outdoors anyways. Bedding down in a such a unique shelter is something you’ll be boasting about long after summer’s over.
4. Pigeon Lake Provincial Park
Several round, insulated structures, called yurts, have been mounted on wooden decks along the shores of Pigeon Lake, and tricked out like a hotel room. You bring the camp eats and the bedding, and the rest is supplied, right down to the wiener-roasting sticks. After spending lazy days at the lake, take in the sweet sunset views from your deck, as you fire up the gas barbecue grill. Even more rare in the camping world: each yurt has a wooden ramp and a low bunk that makes them wheelchair accessible.
5. Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site
Decisions, decisions. You’ll have to choose between spending the night in a First Nations Tipi or a Métis Trapper's Tent at this National Historic Site. Sleeping mats are set atop wooden floors in the tipis, while trappers tents have real beds. Rustic tables, chairs, and fire pits are provided at both. Making this an even more real-deal heritage experience, campers are given a bison hide to cozy up in, a period cooking kit, ingredients to cook traditional bannock, and brew trapper’s tea, plus a flint/steel fire-starting kit. Don’t worry: nobody will judge if you resort to good old-fashioned matches, but you might want to take advantage of the complimentary period cooking class.
6. Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park
A sacred site situated in the tranquil Milk River Valley, Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park dissolves all traces of city stressors. An escape for the frazzled, it’s riddled with beautiful hoodoos and the largest concentration of First Nations pictographs in North America. Rest your head inside a massive safari-like canvas tent kitted out with a bed, futon, electric fireplace, and dining table.
7. Lesser Slave Provincial Park
Renting a cabin in the woods does sound appealing, but not exactly luxurious. For that extra level of comfort, hit up The Nest, a sunlit timber lodge sandwiched between Lesser Slave Lake and the Boreal Centre for Bird Conservation. This Alberta Parks Comfort Camping facility includes a wood-burning fireplace, full kitchen, showers, and laundry facilities. Up to 10 guests can settle into private bedrooms with either bunk or queen beds.
8. Sir Winston Churchill Park
Alberta's only provincial park located on an island sports lakefront sites on Lac La Biche. These spacious cabins are ideal for large families, accommodating up to eight people. Some of the units are open all year and, thanks to the electric heater, you’ll stay toasty warm after a viewing of the Northern Lights. Flush toilets, showers, lights, a full kitchen, and private deck make it oh-so easy to eat well at this glamping hotspot.
9. Cypress Hills
A high plateau rising out of the prairies filled with lush valleys and pine forests, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were camping in the Rockies while in Cypress Hills. In the provincial park there are three backcountry huts perfectly placed to hit the trails. Each is accessible by vehicle when there isn’t too much snow (trekking in by snowshoe or cross-country skis in winter is an option.) Tote your own sleeping bags, camp stove, and water and you’ll be set up with the rest. Bunks with mattresses, a dining table and chairs, plus cooking utensils are all ready for you.