RVing in Alberta, Canada: Alberta Beyond the Rockies

RVing in Alberta, Canada: Alberta Beyond the Rockies 1
Horsethief Canyon near Drumheller in Alberta has some spectacular badlands.

When most RVers think of RVing in Alberta, Canada, they immediately think of Canada’s Rocky Mountains, with iconic National Park destinations like Waterton, Banff, and Jasper.

But Alberta has so much more to offer: major cities, rodeos, and festivals, plus a range of RV camping opportunities. Alberta is also a mecca for paleontology buffs, world renowned for dinosaur fossil discoveries from the iconic late Cretaceous period. Plus, with no provincial sales tax (only the 5% federal GST applies), the lowest gasoline prices in the country, and the generous CAD-USD exchange rate, travel in Alberta is incredibly affordable.

RVing in Alberta, Canada

The Rockies are spectacular, of course, and the route from Banff to Jasper along the mountainous Icefields Parkway should not be missed on your Alberta visit.

However, these popular areas are especially crowded from the end of June through Labour Day weekend. Camping reservations are recommended during peak season, as the first come, first served campgrounds are often full by mid-afternoon.

Thankfully, there are several overflow camping areas located just south of Lake Louise, also at the Icefields Discovery Centre, and just north of the town of Jasper where you can count on snagging a spot in a pinch.

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Rocky Mountain jewel Athabasca Falls creates a stunning canyon easily accessible to visitors on the Icefields Parkway in Jasper National Park.

But there is so much more to see for the intrepid adventurer ready to explore off the well-trodden tourist beat. Alberta’s best kept secret must be the David Thompson Highway 11, which stretches east from midway up the Icefields Parkway at Saskatchewan crossing. This scenic highway parallels the glacial North Saskatchewan River, which flows east into Abraham Lake, a massive reservoir of turquoise water.

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I enjoyed the most scenic and isolated river kayaking of my life on a 15 km stretch of the North Saskatchewan River, floating in my inflatable kayak with minimal paddling on the easy current through the Kootenay Plains Ecological Reserve to land safely at the south end of Abraham Lake.

Boondocking in Alberta, Canada

There are multiple free river and lakefront boondocking opportunities along this stretch, with many accessible to RVs right off the highway. Nearby you will find helicopter tours, horseback riding and hiking trails.

If cell signal is a must (as it is for many Xscapers), good signal here extends from the small town of Nordegg to the popular free Abraham Lake camping area, with room for a dozen rigs or more and multiple lakefront spots. Nordegg has basic groceries, laundry and shower facilities at the Shell station, plus an RV sanidump behind the motel.

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Free wild camping on beautiful Abraham Lake with cell signal!

While western Alberta is all about the mountains, eastern Alberta has spectacular badlands and dinosaur fossils along the beautiful Red Deer River valley. Fossils continue to be found all over the province, but the treasure trove lies in Dinosaur Provincial Park.

Dinosaur Provincial Park offers a beautiful campground on the Red Deer River, where you can camp within easy walking distance of hiking trails and the park museum, where you can join guided dino-tours into the otherwise off-limits Nature Preserve Area.

What to See in Alberta, Canada

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Dinosaur Provincial Park, an expanse of stunningly beautiful badlands in southeast Alberta, is a Unesco World Heritage Site for the incredible dinosaur fossils found here.

Alberta’s premiere dino-museum is the Royal Tyrrell Museum, located 2 hours away in Drumheller. A world class paleontology education centre, their dino-gallery is the largest I’ve seen, with all kinds of dinosaur skeletons on display.

Alberta has an excellent deal for history buffs with their Experience Alberta’s History Annual Pass which provides unlimited admission for one year to 19 Alberta’s Provincial Historic Sites and Museums, including top Royal Tyrrell Museum, Royal Alberta Museum in Edmonton and the Remington Carriage Museum in Cardston.

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The famous T-Rex skeleton Black Beauty has traveled the world from Singapore to Australia to Japan and is now waiting for you at the Royal Tyrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta!

Best of all, Alberta has everyone’s favorite jaw-crunching predators, the Tyrannosaurid Therapods. Yes, T-Rex is here and in fact, evolving after Pangea had broken up, T-Rex is only found in Western North America, making Alberta one of the best places to see him!

Boondocking Xscapers will find some sweet free camping spots in dino-territory as well. 

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Severn Dam Park, just 30 minutes from Drumheller (and 1 hour from Calgary), allows free RV camping by a reservoir with views of rolling fields all around and excellent cell signal on the hill.
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Steveville Bridge Campground, near Dinosaur Provincial Park, has free RV camping in a cottonwood grove by the Red Deer River, with cell service on the Rogers network. If you have a kayak or paddleboard, you can even float down the river from here, 11 km right into the park.

Alberta is cowboy country and they have the rodeos to prove it, especially the world famous Calgary Stampede held over 10 days in early July. Billed as the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, the Calgary Stampede has it all: a parade, fireworks, cowboy competitions, country music superstars, and their signature chuckwagon races! Located in the heart of Calgary, this extravaganza is worth the commute into the city. 

For a more RV-accessible rodeo experience, consider one of the many small town rodeos, like the Ponoka Stampede closer to Edmonton. Held at the end of June, it’s one of the largest and best in Alberta and has affordable RV camping right at the rodeo grounds! 

A highlight of my summer RVing in Alberta was joining the province’s friendly square dance community. Local clubs host affordable weekend square dance hoedowns all summer long that include free RV parking at scenic rural community centres. Although we were new to square dancing, we were eager to learn and the experienced dancers helped us along and made us feel welcome!  

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Free RV camping at a Square Dance Hoedown hosted by the Country Sunshiners in early June at Wilton Park Hall in Calmar, Alberta.

After spending one summer RVing in Alberta, I feel like I have just scratched the surface. With more to explore, I know I will be back.

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Author Margot Bai inside the World’s Largest Dinosaur

Author

Margot Bai

Margot Bai has traveled the 4 corners of North America in her 17’ Taylor Coach travel trailer, from Maine to the Florida Keys, and Baja California Sur to Canada’s Yukon Territory. Follow her adventures on Instagram @margotbai   

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RVing in Alberta, Canada: Alberta Beyond the Rockies 11

2 Responses to “RVing in Alberta, Canada: Alberta Beyond the Rockies

  • Margot Bai
    Robert Graff
    2 weeks ago

    Now I want to spend more time in Alberta next summer, we are planning to see the Rockies in Jasper and Banff so thank you Margot for writing about these other places.

  • Margot Bai
    Kevin Smith
    2 weeks ago

    Fabulous adventures, thanks for the story!

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