The glacial lakes of Alberta’s Rocky Mountains may get all the glory, but the reality is that Albertans are spoiled with access to hundreds of freshwater lakes, rivers and waterways throughout the province.
Central Alberta is no exception to this rule. The mighty North Saskatchewan River flows directly through Edmonton’s downtown core, and dozens of lakeside campgrounds and summertime communities are only a short drive away. It may come as no surprise to learn that camping is a favorite summer pastime for Edmontonians, with easy access to ample fishing, boating and paddling opportunities.
Whether you’re looking to camp directly in the city or just want to know the best camping close to Edmonton, we’ve got you covered. Here’s the finest camping around Edmonton.
[This article is part of our 7 Adventurous Things To Do In Edmonton series. Learn more about where to hike, bike, paddle and sightsee around Alberta’s capital city region.]
Camping in the Edmonton area
Campgrounds near Edmonton
Astotin Lake Campground
Visitors to Edmonton are often surprised to see the herds of bison just off the Yellowhead Highway, one of the province’s main traffic arteries. Fully enclosed, Elk Island National Park is also home to moose, white-trailed deer, wolves, foxes, cougars, black bears and 250 species of birds—and it’s all only a 35-minute drive from Edmonton’s downtown core.
The park’s main campground is Astotin Lake Campground. With 75 non-serviced campsites, including 15 walk-in tent sites and five oTENTiks, it offers some of the best family camping near Edmonton, alongside canoe, kayak and SUP rentals.
Prices range from $10 to $122, although park entry costs extra. It’s open from mid-May until Thanksgiving and reservations—which can be made with Parks Canada—are recommended. Winter camping is also available at reduced rates ($5.01 per person per night), but showers are closed during this time period.
Elk Island Retreat
A 20-minute drive east of Fort Saskatchewan, Elk Island Retreat is a privately owned campground just outside the national park boundaries. It has 26 fully serviced RV sites, but the real drawcard here is the glamping (or “comfort camping”) options, making it some of the most sought-after camping close to Edmonton.
Options include yurts, cabins, tipis and—new in 2020—two luxe geodesic domes. Glampsites range in price from $90 to $219, while RV sites cost $48 to $53 per night, with discounts for weekday and long stays. It’s open mid-March to mid-November.
Devon Lions Campground
Situated in Devon, a small town southwest of Edmonton, the Devon Lions Campground has a plot of prime real estate; it’s right on the shores of the North Saskatchewan River, making your put-in spot a no-brainer.
This family-friendly campground is open through the summer months, with sites starting at $30.50 per night. Weekly and monthly rates are also available, but booking in advance for weekends and holidays is advised.
Rainbow Valley Campground
When it comes to camping near Edmonton, you can’t get any closer than Rainbow Valley, which is the only campground directly in the city. It’s nestled within Whitemud Park on the city’s southwest side, with access to plenty of nature trails. However, if you get sick of the great outdoors, its proximity to the freeway also means that you can be at the “great indoors” in minutes. West Edmonton Mall—which was once the world’s largest shopping center—is only a 15-minute drive away.
Open from June to mid-October, it costs $37 for an unpowered site and $43 for a powered site, with weekly rates available.
Shakers Acres RV Park & Campground
Shakers Acres sits on Edmonton’s doorstep. Conveniently located next to the Anthony Henday (a freeway that encircles the city) on the city’s west side, it has 163 pull-through and back-in sites that can accommodate that any size of motorhome. Rates start at $42 per night and $262.50 per week. It’s open from May until October.
St. Albert Kinsmen RV Park
A bedroom community on Edmonton’s northwest side, St. Albert is widely considered one of the province’s most beautiful cities. With the Sturgeon River running through St. Albert and the wetlands and lakes of Lois Hole Centennial Provincial Park on its edges, there are endless opportunities for hiking, biking and paddling.
The St. Albert Kinsmen RV Park is in the heart of the Riel Recreation Park, a green space with easy access to the city’s waterways. It has 93 fully serviced sites with views of the river, each costing $50 per night.
Métis Crossing Campground
Métis Crossing is a bit further afield than most of the Edmonton camping sites on this list, but it’s well worth the 90-minute drive. Not just a campground, the 500-acre site is composed of river lot titles from the original Métis who came to the region in the late 1800s. Today, it’s Alberta’s premier Métis cultural interpretation center.
Yes, you can camp here (there are 21 powered sites for $30, along with unpowered and tent sites overlooking the North Saskatchewan River), but the real reason to visit is the chance to paddle an authentic Voyageur canoe and learn about the area’s rich Indigenous culture and history.
Backcountry camping Edmonton
Although there are plenty of wide-open spaces to be found in central Alberta, much of it is farmland. The result is that there’s few backcountry camping spots near Edmonton and even fewer that you can canoe into. However, if you don’t want to drive all the way to Jasper to get your backcountry fix, here’s a couple of spots that will help you scratch the itch.
Along the North Saskatchewan River
One of the best places for crown land camping spots near Edmonton is along the shores of the North Saskatchewan River. For $220, outfitter CanoeHeads drops paddlers off at the Genesee Bridge (southwest of the city). Over the next two or three days you’ll paddle 70 km of Class 1 water downstream until you reach the city, camping on crown land along the way.
New to Edmonton in 2021, Urban River Adventures picks tourists up from downtown Edmonton in a jetboat before whisking them away to a crown land island on the North Saskatchewan River. Camping spots are close to Edmonton and options include canvas tents, bubble tents, dome tents and hammocks, but if you’re into the good old fashion nylon variety, island hopping adventures—where you paddle from island-to-island by kayak or SUP and camp overnight—are also available starting from $150 per night.
Elk Island National Park has six backcountry sites ($10.02 per person) located on the west shore of Oster Lake, a waterfowl sanctuary. Access is via the Shirley Lake Trail (six kilometers one way). It’s relatively flat, making for some great family camping near Edmonton. Reservations are recommended.
Lakeland Expedition Rentals
While not in Edmonton, Lakeland Expedition Rentals in Lac La Biche (a 2.5-hour drive north of the city) outfits keen paddlers to tackle Alberta’s only backcountry canoe circuit. At 38 kilometers in length with a doozy of a portage at the start (3 km), it takes about three days to complete.
Crown land camping Edmonton
When conventional campgrounds closed or imposed restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of people seeking out crown land camping near Edmonton exploded, with the number of people following the Crown Land Camping Alberta Facebook group swelling to over 60,000 members.
Unfortunately, most of the Public Land Use Zones (PLUZ) sites are in Alberta’s north and west, meaning that you’re unlikely to find free camping in Edmonton. (You can technically camp on agricultural crown land, but you do need to ask the leaseholder first, which can be easier said than done.)
For more information, Road Trip Alberta (by local Albertans and budget travel experts Dalene and Pete Heck) has written a comprehensive guide to crown land camping in Alberta.
Lakes near Edmonton for camping
Miquelon Lake Provincial Park
Celebrating the natural beauty of the Beaver Hills, this provincial park—located midway between Edmonton and Camrose—is part of the Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve.
In addition to several smaller ponds, it has a campground on the edges of Miquelon Lake. While the lake’s waters aren’t suitable for swimming, it can be used for canoeing or kayaking. The campground has nearly 300 sites, starting at $30 per night, which can be reserved online.
Lac Ste. Anne
If you’re looking for camping near Edmonton with a beach, go where the locals go. Lac Ste. Anne is about an hour northwest of the city. The main community, Alberta Beach, is Edmonton’s answer to cottage country, with countless cabins surrounding its shores.
The county owns and operates three campgrounds (including one beside the popular Pembina River), but Alberta Beach Family RV Park and Campground is within walking distance of all amenities. Sites start at $30 daily and $170 weekly.
You’ll know you’re near Wabamun when you see a giant dragonfly, allegedly the world’s largest. One of the most popular lakes in Alberta—and one of the best spots for camping near Edmonton with a beach, the waters of Wabamun Lake are ideal for swimming, paddling, and even sailing.
The seasonal campground, located within Wabamun Lake Provincial Park, has about 275 treed sites starting at $35 per night, which can be reserved online.
Like most of the other lakes on this list, you’ll have to drive about an hour from Edmonton to reach Pigeon Lake, but once you get there you’ve arrived at one of the most popular summer destinations in Central Alberta. (The evidence is the 10 summer villages and 2,300 privately owned cabins in the area.)
In addition to hundreds of powered and unpowered sites ($30 to $54), Pigeon Lake Provincial Park campground has eight full-equipped and accessible yurts for $125 to $170 per night. Winter camping is also available here.
Winter camping Edmonton
Your best bet for year-round camping in Edmonton is in Alberta’s provincial parks. Unlike privately owned campgrounds—which are typically only open from May until October—many offer winter camping options at reduced rates.
Lower rates also mean reduced services; booths may not be manned due to fewer visitors and self-registration is often in effect. Visit AlbertaParks.ca for winter camping options.
Camping stores Edmonton
Mountain Equipment Co-op
A perennial favorite for camping supplies in Edmonton, MEC has not one, but two nearly brand-new stores within city limits. The south-side location (1624-99 St.) is the larger of the two, while the Oliver Square location (1904-104 Ave) is close to downtown.
It doesn’t matter what kind of camping gear you’re looking for in Edmonton, you’ll find it at Campers Village. The Albertan chain has two locations in Edmonton: one on the west end (10951 – 170 Street) and one on the south side (3235 Calgary Trail).
This is hunting and fishing country, so it should come as little surprise to learn that Cabela’s (a subsidiary of Bass Pro Shops) is a popular spot to pick up camping supplies in Edmonton. If you’re headed north or south out of the city on an adventure, you’ll find a location on your way out of town.
Camping gear rental Edmonton
If you’re looking for locally owned camping outfitters in Edmonton, contact Timberwolf Tours. In addition to tours of the Athabasca River, the Spruce Grove outfitter rents out canoes, tents and other camping gear. A shuttle service for canoe trips is also available.
Mountain Equipment Co-op
Edmonton has two large MEC locations (one near the downtown core and one on the south side) with gear rental programs.
Rent Eh Tent
Rent Eh Tent is good at more than just clever names. The Edmonton outfitter hires out everything you might need for an outdoor camping or paddling adventure.
From wilderness camping to glamping, Edmonton’s picturesque parks and lakeside campgrounds have the perfect site for you. | Photo courtesy of: Explore Edmonton