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free campin' around Banff/Canmore

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Mt Norquay ski area has a huge lot with a trailhead. Just say you are going hiking in the morning if anyone asks. The road takes off North from the hiway 1 opposite to the Western Banff exit. Go up about 2 miles, first parking lot on the right. (no johns) Nice views of Banff at night from the road.


Vermillion Lakes, about a 2 mile dead end road, parallels hiway 1 on the south side, going west from the western Banff exit. There's a couple pull outs with porta-johns. Hidden from the hiway, vehicles on the hiway can't see you and it's lower than the freeway so not much noise.


Gap Lake (?) on 1A (Bow Valley Trail) going East out of Canmore. About 3 or 4 miles from town on the right. Close to the road but hidden by trees. Right on the lake with bathrooms.


I've never had any problem car camping at any of the trailheads. The key is to come in after dark and don't sleep late in the morning. The only trouble I ever had was sleeping till about 8 am one morning and the ranger just said, you have to find a campground. I also got hassled one time because I didn't have a park pass, but they just gave me a warning and I bought one the next day.


There's a couple of rest stops also along 1A, one above Vermillion lakes and one midways between Banff and Canmore, it's a little more off the hiway below Mt Rundle. You can always car camp at rest stops.


There's also a large rest stop trailhead midways between Lake Louise and Banff on hiway 1. On the South side of the hiway


I've car camped at all these trailheads. Castle Mt., Mt Alberta, Mt Louis, Mt Colin, Mt Edith Cavell, Mt Assiniboine, Sir Donald... probably some others I can't remember.

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Caveat, YMMV


The Canmore Vermillion and Norquay are recent info (this past winter), the mountain trailheads are going back from like 2008 to 1998


low profile, in the dark, and a park pass. Officially some of this may be bending the rules.

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I should write a post about car camping. My first requirement when purchasing a car is can you sleep in the back of it.


Only been hassled 3 times in Canada, and it was avoidable all 3 times.


The first time was in January during an arctic cold front. It was 40F below and I got cold in the truck and tried to sleep in the heated bathroom and some motor-homer ratted me out to the ranger


the 2nd time was sleeping at the Mt Colin trailhead (Jasper) without a park pass. They just gave me a warning and let me continue camping there on my promise to get a pass asap.


the 3rd time was on the side of the dirt road a couple miles above the Nordic center in Canmore. I slept about 3 hours past sunrise. Probably would have been okay if it was a trailhead or rest stop. Ranger just gave me a warning.

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The old Scout camp parking was always a good place for an illegal bivy - well screened from the road by trees. They put bolders on the drive way just far enough apart to sneak a Suby in. That was a while back so it may not still be disused.

But otherwise, I have found Buck's places work well.


Up closer to Louise, the Louise overflow campground, a few KM south of Louise, is perfect (unless the main one if overflowing, which case rangers will be at the overflow).


There is a greenway path thru Canmore - hydro right of way? - we bivied on once, and when we woke up, local homeowners walking their dogs and going for their morning runs had to deke around us. Not classy. Oops. It looked good in the dark.


Whatever you do, do NOT try to sneak in late to one of the K-Country campgrounds. They look like the honour system for payment, but the province has contracted out the enforcement to a private company. Those biatches come by at 2AM to check for payment.


Illegal bivies in this area work best in August because it gets dark earlier. It sucks in earluy June when you have to wait till 11PM for it go get dark. Anyway, like Buck, I have been woken by rangers quite a few times (once when we slept on the side of the access road to their Jasper operations office...another ooops), and they have never done anything by moved us along.


Have fun

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