The May long weekend marks the start of camping season for many Albertans and most campgrounds near Calgary are already booked up. 

Karen Ung, a blogger and frequent camper, offered tips and tricks to the Calgary Eyeopener for those looking to take a last-minute trip into the wilderness.

Q:  Is there any point in trying to book anything at this point?

A: Surprisingly there are a few reservable sites for those who do not want to go out without a reservation. You do have to be willing to drive a little bit. You are going to have the most luck down in Cypress Hills… which is about three hours and 45 minutes from Calgary… But the good news is there are tons and tons of first-come, first-serve sites in the national and provincial parks.

Q: Some of those are real treasures and some get ignored. Give me a few that you would try near Calgary.

The closest one would be Sibbald Lake, which is 70 kilometres away and it's quite a big campground, so we've had luck there a few times in the middle of the summer. You can't make a reservation there, so we showed up and we had the pick of the place. There are a 134 sites there. There's even a nice quiet loop that is a generator-free zone — loop B — so I'd recommend that for the tent campers. You've got hikes you can do right from the campground and the lake is stocked with rainbow trout — so a great place for first time fishers.

Karen Ung

Karen Ung, a blogger and former Calgary Outdoor Club organizer, offers tips on enjoying Alberta's wilderness. (Karen Ung/Instagram)

Q: If you don't mind train noise you can always try Bow Valley Provincial Park.

A: Absolutely. That one, the location is both a plus and a minus. You are between the railway and the highway, but you know what, my family slept fine. My husband and my children slept fine. My friends in a trailer slept fine. But we are in a tent and I'm a light sleeper, so if you are a light sleeper, bring your ear plugs. But you actually get more of a wilderness experience than you'd expect being so close to Calgary.

One really cool thing about that site is it's one of the rare first-come, first-serve campgrounds that has showers. So this is actually [called] Willow Rock in Bow Valley Provincial Park. The Bow Valley campground is a reservable one and I believe it's full.

Q: You are a big fan of the David Thompson area. I don't think most people know where that is.

A: This is a hidden gem about three hours from Calgary [west of Rocky Mountain House] … There are, I believe, 15 campgrounds in that area plus four group campgrounds, so you are guaranteed a campsite. Every year we've been there … we've had no problem getting a spot, often getting a lakeside spot, which is amazing. But for a long weekend, I can't guarantee a lakeside spot. But I'm sure anybody could get a campsite up there. There's all sorts of amazing sites.

David Thompson Corridor

A map showing campgrounds along the David Thompson Corridor near Rocky Mountain House, Alta. (Alberta Parks)

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener

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