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Under Alberta Skies: Guide to camping for non-campers

Camping is for everyone – even those who have mobility issues or phobias about bugs, dirt and bears! Studies have shown that being out in nature has real health benefits.
under alberta skies william watson lodge
Located in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park overlooking Lower Kananaskis Lake, this lovely lodge is fully accessible for persons with disabilities, seniors and their families.

Camping is for everyone – even those who have mobility issues or phobias about bugs, dirt and bears!

Studies have shown that being out in nature has real health benefits. Even a few hours can help reduce stress and invigorate a person, but those who stay longer can get even more from the experience. Anyone who has gazed up at a night sky filled with stars, cooked a meal over a campfire or slept under a canvas tent can attest to the simple pleasures that camping can provide.

Camping does pose some challenges though. It can be particularly difficult for people with mobility issues. It might also require a person to have access to expensive gear like a tent or an RV, an air mattress and a sleeping bag. Special skills may also be required to set up a campsite and build a fire. Then there’s the whole issue of camping phobias like bears and bugs.

In Alberta, there are some great options that make camping accessible and fun for even the most camp-phobic people. If you haven’t camped in a while, here are a few ideas to consider for your next trip to Alberta’s great outdoors.

William Watson Lodge

Located in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park overlooking Lower Kananaskis Lake, this lovely lodge is fully accessible for persons with disabilities, seniors and their families. With 22 accessible cabins, 11 accessible RV sites, an accessible camping hut and a trailer, there are plenty of different accommodation options to choose from. There’s also accessible picnic sites and more than 20 km of accessible trails. You can also rent equipment (hiking poles, a bike trailer, a sit ski etc.) that makes it easier to get outside and enjoy nature. There are onsite day use facilities as well. People with disabilities can make reservations up to four months in advance. Alberta seniors (aged 65 or more) can make reservations two months in advance. RV sites start at $16 per night and fully equipped cabins start at $30 per night. For information or reservations, phone: 403-591-7227.

Alberta Parks & Parks Canada glamping

Glamping (glamourous camping) has become a big deal in Alberta’s provincial and national parks and many parks now offer cabins, huts, oTENTik tents (a modern cross between a tent and a cabin) and other options that allow visitors to camp without sleeping on the ground. Most glamping facilities have real beds, floors, and equipment like barbecues, stoves, fridges, fire pits or chairs, so you don’t need to bring a lot of gear with you. Go to the park website and click comfort camping to see what’s included and make a reservation. In many cases, it’s under $100 per night. You can also book by phone. Parks Canada camping reservations: 1-877-RESERVE. Alberta Parks camping reservations: 1-877-537-2757.

Airbnb on Wheels

If you’ve ever wanted to try RV camping, but you’ve been turned off by the big price-tag associated with owning or renting an RV, you might want to check out Wheel Estate (wheelestate.ca). It’s like Airbnb for RV Trailers. People who own RVs and trailers can list them on the site to connect with people who are looking to rent. It’s a way for RV owners to offset the costs of owning a trailer by getting income from it when it’s not in use. The site provides verified renters with $1 million liability insurance. There are more than 600 trailers on the site, with the average RV trailer renting for $107 per night.

Mount Engadine Lodge Ultra Luxury Glamping

Mount Engadine Lodge (mountengadine.com) in Spray Valley Provincial Park just opened five ultra-luxury glamping tents. Each tent features a full bathroom, king bed (that can be separated into two twins) with a pullout couch, a fireplace, chandelier, hardwood floors, a beautiful grand deck, heating (in winter) and an all-inclusive meal plan. Summer rates start at $450-$475 per night for two people including all meals.

Camping Gear Rentals

If good old fashioned tent camping is what you’re really after, you can rent equipment from Backtrax rentals (campingbanff.com) in Banff. Car camping packages that include a tent rental, sleeping pads, sleeping bags, liners, stove, cookware, cutlery, dishes, a kettle and coffee press, a lantern, cooler and camping chairs for up to six people will cost $77.50 per day. The Calgary Outdoor Centre (https://www.ucalgary.ca/outdoorcentre/rental) also offers camping equipment rentals.

Learn to Camp

Parks Canada (pc.gc.ca) has partnered with MEC (mec.ca) to offer Learn to Camp events across Canada. These fun workshops teach participants camping skills like how to set up a tent and how to cook outdoors. Several sessions are offered in Alberta during the summer months. Participating in a workshop allows you to enjoy the experience of camping without staying overnight.

Debbie Olsen is an Alberta-based freelance writer and co-author of the national best-selling book, 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta.