Avid campers are used to gearing up in January to book their favourite sites in our national parks—but that wasn’t the case this year, as Parks Canada completed a major revamp of their camping reservation system. The new platform went live on March 13, and some parks are officially open for bookings; others will continue to open throughout the month. Here’s what you need to know about the new system and how to reserve a campsite.
You need to make a new online account prior to booking
This is the crucial first step for everyone, regardless of whether you had an existing Parks Canada account. Make note of your username and password, and make sure your browser is compatible and running the site smoothly.
Different parks have different booking or “launch” dates—make sure to identify the one you want.
While March 13 was technically launch day for the new camping reservation platform, parks have varying dates for when reservations open, ranging from now until April 3. In Ontario, for example, all six national parks open their bookings on March 21. Also, note that some parks have different dates for front-country camping versus backcountry or hiking trips.
Here are a few opening dates for a few of the top parks across the country:
Banff National Park—Thursday, March 23
*Some booking dates for backcountry campsites, backcountry hikes, and shuttles within the park are different (March 22, March 29, and April 13, respectively). Read through the whole section to be sure of the one that applies to you.
Jasper National Park – Thursday, March 16
Gros Morne National Park – Friday, March 31
Cape Breton Highlands National Park – Saturday, March 18
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve – *Open as of Monday, March 13
Have your trip details ready
While some features will be familiar if you’ve booked campsite reservations through Parks Canada before, it’s helpful to have a refresher on what some key terms mean so you know which details to fill in.
You should have a general idea of the trip you’d like to do, as you’ll be asked what campsite you’re looking to reserve, the “reservable period” (the time frame of your trip, and the period that campsite is actually available), and the “operating season.” Some parks or campsites may be open for fall camping, for example, and others might not.
If you log in before bookings open, you’ll be directed to a waiting screen—when your turn comes up, you have 30 minutes to book
Remember that you’re not allowed into the booking system based on how early you logged in; it’s randomized. The goal is to have all of your trip details ready to go, so you can get the booking done quickly but also be ready to shift if necessary. While the new camping reservation system is meant to make things more streamlined, spots will still book up quickly.
Be prepared to be flexible
Look at a “site calendar” to see when a site is available. Remember that cancellations happen as the months go on; check back often, and know that not all campsites and parks are technically on a first-come, first-serve basis.
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