Help me find a nice place to camp and relax in the Rockies.
July 12, 2009 6:06 PM   Subscribe

My girlfriend and I are trying to plan a 10-14 day camping trip out west. Trouble is, neither of us have been camping since we were kids. Looking for suggestions on where to go, and how to not get eaten by bears.

So we want to take a trip. We have the dates 8.15-8.30 open for travel. We're fine driving a ways to get where we want to go (we're coming from Ann Arbor), but we're probably looking for something in the Wyoming/Montana/Alberta area. We're thinking of going to 2 or 3 locations, for variety.

Question #1: Where should we go? We want to pitch a tent and sleep outside, but nothing too strenuous or rough. I believe the term is "car camping." My qualifications:
--I want a campground/park that is close to lots of water (lakes and rivers), mountains, and trees. Think of the scenery in Brokeback Mountain.
--I'd like something that isn't completely overrun by tourists and offers a decent amount of privacy and seclusion, but is also safe.
--Somewhere with lots of access to hiking trails. Trails that lead to great views of mountains, waterfalls, etc. are a big plus.
--Being able to build a fire would be awfully nice.
--Do campgrounds have showers? That'd be nice. I guess I don't want to be too far away from civilization, because I am sure I'm going to forget something and will need to be close to a store that sells stuff.

My ideas so far: Yellowstone, Glacier National Park, and Banff National Park in Alberta. What do you all think of those places, and do you have any other ideas? I think we'd like to try to go to 2-3 different places, staying a few nights at each park. Input on whether that's a good idea or not is welcome. For bonus points, any recommendations for a place to stay on the way? Minnesota or Manitoba or something? Speaking of Manitoba (and Banff), is there anything I need to worry about with camping in Canada?

Question #2: I am (perhaps irrationally) afraid of doing something wrong. Not abiding by some regulation and getting in trouble, or doing something stupid and getting eaten by bears or something. What should we know before setting out on this journey? Are there any good websites or books that can explain to me what I should know about camping in order to have a good time? When I was a kid, my parents took care of all the difficult logistical stuff, of course, and all I did was enjoy myself. I want to have the same experience with my girlfriend.
posted by soonertbone to Travel & Transportation (25 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

Just got back from a camping trip myself. Eerily enough, I'm also from A2.

We stayed in two places - Arches National Park in Utah and Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. This is not exactly what you have in mind, but perhaps it will give you a good idea off what to expect.

First, you should book your reservation now. In fact, you probably should have done it six months ago. I know at most national parks there are a few sites that they deem "first come, first serve" and you basically just have to show up in the morning and hope for the best.. but most of the sites are booked by reservation. You can make the reservation online. So, as soon as you decide where you're going, make a booking!

Both camp grounds had bathrooms with running water and toilet paper and regularly cleaned stalls, and drinking water available, but there were no showers at either spot.

Both camp grounds had a fire pit at every site, and you could even buy wood for a reasonable price from the ranger's office.

They give you a very idiot-proof list of very basic regulations and rules when you check in, and everyone was very nice. The few times we broke the rules (we had an RV and left the generator on after hours) they stopped by and told us and we turned it off and that was that.

Of the two, Rocky Mountain National Park was way, way more busy. There must have been hundreds of camp sites and they all seemed booked and people were everywhere. That said, we came in through Estes Park which was only about 15 minutes away and is an absolutely great town for shopping and eating out and doing all sorts of associated activities.

Arches was much different - I got the impression that there were only a handful (maybe 40 - 50) sites, and it was an 18 mile drive from the park entrance just to get to the camping. Arches is right outside Moab, which is another great little town. There are also a bunch of other parks - Canyonlands and some others, just about a half hour away.

Anyway, have fun! If you have any specific questions, feel free to drop me a mail.
posted by kbanas at 6:19 PM on July 12, 2009

As for bears, it's very unlikely you have anything to worry about. At larger, more established parks, they keep close track of where the bears are and try to keep people away from there.

Fodors, Lonely Planets, etc. are all good sources for the minutiae of national parks. Also, the National Park Service website for the US,, has a boatload of information about national parks including rules and safety tips.

In addition to the parks you mentioned, I would also consider Grand Teton National Park. It's not as big as Yellowstone, or as old, but it's gorgeous there, and it's been less crowded this year.

If you want even more room for yourself but still want to swing by Yellowstone, Shoshone National Forest is right next door, is really nice, and people always skip over it.
posted by elder18 at 6:20 PM on July 12, 2009

Oh, re: Brokeback Mountain - of the two places we stayed, this was definitely Rocky Mountain National Park. Arches is a different beast entirely.
posted by kbanas at 6:20 PM on July 12, 2009

We did this on a western road trip, about 10 years ago, never having camped before (or, to be honest, since.) It wasn't hard to find campsites, especially near big U.S. national parks like Yellowstone, Glacier, Grand Teton, etc. I wouldn't exactly say they were secluded; I mean, you can see the other tents from your tents. I think in other respects they meet your criteria. Your AAA TourBook will have them listed (and you should be an AAA member to do this kind of trip.) Though that was 10 years ago and there's probably a campground finder iPhone app now. Anyway, it was really fun and I'm glad we did it -- best of luck!
posted by escabeche at 6:21 PM on July 12, 2009

I've been to Yellowstone and loved it. Haven't been to Glacier or Banff but they're both very beautiful. Don't know about Banff but the other two both have significant bear problems - check out the park's websites for specifics about bear issues. In general the key to not having bear problems is to follow the posted rules about food - never in your tent - store in the trunk of your car or in a campground provided metal box. Don't approach bears, don't wear/use scented soap/deodorant etc and don't keep scented stuff in your tent. I've camped a lot of places with bears and never had a problem. More generally if you're not a jerk - be considerate, follow rules about garbage, food and quiet times and you won't have any problems with rangers. No reason to worry.

Rocky Mountain, Grant Teton and Devil's Tower are other national parks you might consider. All of these including your list are very heavily used though and this year many sites are booked. When you go to the park sites you'll find links to campground reservation websites. The park sites should also give you details about the specifics of various campsites - pit or flush toilets, showers, etc.

You're looking at some places to camp that can be chilly - be sure you have decent sleeping bags and either closed cell foam pads or thermarest (or the equivalent sleeping pads), good raingear and a tarp to shelter your picnic table will go a long way toward a more enjoyable experience. If you opt for car camping sites most places will have some sort of store accessible where you can get ice and some supplies. You can also opt to stay at a commercial site between national parks if you find a need for laundry and hot showers and the specific national parks you're planning on don't have same. and have fun!
posted by leslies at 6:32 PM on July 12, 2009

This is only sort of related but you asked about breaking up the trip into a few different chunks. 10-14 days is a long time to be living in a car/tent if you havent done it in a long time. That said, setting up and breaking down camp is time-consuming and the least fun part of all of this. If this were my trip that I was planning, I think I'd break it up into two separate camping trips with a night in a (interesting, funky, something) hotel in-between. This would be for a few reasons

- if any one place isn't perfect, you have two other places that are on the itinerary
- you'll know you can clean up in the hotel and not worry terribly about campground showers [you're more likely to find remote places if you're not making showers a dealbreaker]
- you may find that you want snuggly together nekkid time with your gf and you find it's too damned cold in the tent!
- you could do laundry and then pack less [though many campgrounds have laundry facilities]

The big deal with bears is to be serious about heeding the park's warnings. No food in your tent means not a candy bar wrapper and not a power bar "for later", no scented stuff means it's better to stink a little than use deoderant and be a bear target. Generally speaking the rangers are there to make sure that everyone can enjoy the park, so unless you do something crazy like set the woods on fire [amke sure you only make campfires in designated areas] you're likely to be fine just trying to be considerate and read posted signs. My usual haunts are out in the PacNW [Hoh Raniforest] or the SW [Canyon de Chelly] so I don't have a lot of specific suggestions as far as locales.
posted by jessamyn at 6:41 PM on July 12, 2009

We car camp and we live in Alberta. Your selection will give you some wonderful experiences (Waterton National Park is on the Canadian side of Glacier National). N-thing what everyone else has said.

1. Join the AAA or something like it (many folks don't like the politics of the AAA). Get hold of a "campsites across the west" guide book from whatever organization you join. You can plan your camping along your route looking through the guide for the amenities campgrounds offer and how they've been reviewed. Yes, you can get this stuff on the internet, but you may not access as you travel, hence the guidebook.

2. National parks will have a variety of campgrounds, some more rustic than others. Banff for instance has everything from what is essentially a parking lot for RVs to much more natural and remote campgrounds.

3. In general in Canada, provincial campgrounds are also reliable. You can recognize them because they'll be called something like "Scenic Lake Provincial Park". However, some of my favourite campgrounds have been privately-owned and operated, and in Alberta, the operators of provincial campgrounds are all private contractors. I don't know what state-owned and operated parks are like in the US.

4. Weekdays you should have no trouble getting into a campground, but on weekends you should plan and call ahead.

5. As for bears, keep your campsite meticulously clean of all food apart from actual preparation and eating, of course. Keep your cooler and any food in your car at night. The national and provincial parks have brochures on "bear awareness" and you can read them on the web.

6. Nights get cool in the mountains (about 45F at night) and the weather can change very quickly. We have a friend who says there's no such thing as bad weather, only inadequate clothing. It's not silly to be prepared for a little snow.

7. If you end up coming to Alberta, Waterton is way less busy than Banff. You might also try Kananaskis, a provincial park a tad east of Banff. Brokeback Mountain was filmed there.

Good luck. I'm sure you'll have a great time.
posted by angiep at 6:48 PM on July 12, 2009

In Banff try Two Jack Lake, it's not too far from the town, right by the water, they have car camping and short walk camping (100ft, I swear) and you're surrounded by beautiful mountains. I suggest site 14 or 25. It's first come first serve, so get there early in the day.
posted by furtive at 6:50 PM on July 12, 2009

I'd suggest you head straight across from Michigan to the Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, and from there undertake a loop through the Canadian Rockies - through the Pass (which I believe is where Brokeback Mountain was filmed - it is very beautiful. I once spent a couple of weeks fencing in the railway that runs through it) to the East Kootenays, B.C. There's tons to see around there - beautiful scenery, old mining towns, hot springs - and all sorts of camping options - National Parks, Provincial Parks, free camping in Crown Land. Then you could drive up through the interior mountains of BC to the Trans Canada and head back east through the real high alpine of Yoho, Banff & Jasper Parks - a loop up into to Jasper along the Icefields Parkway would be a must but I'd suggest some hiking around Lake Louise - up into incredible meadows above the treeline, but not really too extreme or remote (but not busy either!). Skoki Valley and Paradise Valley for example are amazing destinations for a day or two's hike out of Lake Louise.
As far as bears go - I guess they are a consideration. I know the Cdn Parks usually provide food-hanging areas at their campsites, and the staff are pretty aware of any bear activity - posting advisories and things like that. I wouldn't worry about it too much. Keep an eye out and try to not to be too stealthy on the trail.
posted by Flashman at 7:16 PM on July 12, 2009

I don't know if it puts your mind at ease, but you are far more likely to be injured by a bison than a bear.

Yellowstone is gorgeous and very accessible, but it is also very crowded and busy. I prefer camping in Grand Teton National Park - it's much quieter. However, you could easily do both! Seek out some of the evening ranger talks at Yellowstone - they are well worth it.

Custer State Park in South Dakota's Black hills also has really nice campsites. And decent bathrooms and showers, particularly by the Sylvan Lake campground. You might stay there on your way. You can hike through the Black Elk Wilderness to the top of Harney Peak from that particular campground, which I highly recommend.

Glacier is my favorite park ever, however, I've only stayed in the lodges so I can't help you with camping recommendations. I would recommend seeing Glacier while it still has actual glaciers - they will be gone within 20 years.
posted by Ostara at 7:20 PM on July 12, 2009

I second Jessamyn's suggestion of staying in each place for a few days with a stopoff in civilization in the middle of the trip. Two weeks is a long time to spend camping at a stretch if you're newish to it.

I like to time things so I arrive in late afternoon (before dark, so it's easier to make camp), poke around near the campground, eat, go to bed; go for a long hike the next day, stay until you run out of interesting hikes.

Amenities vary a lot. Check the NPS's website for details. In my experience, anywhere that's intended for car campers will have at least a designated fire pit and a toilet. Most will have water available (though be aware that in some places there are separate potable and non-potable water systems!). Some will have showers, electricity, RV hookups, possibly a tiny store with bug spray, postcards, toothpaste, and an ice machine.

Don't be embarrassed to talk to a ranger, attendant, or whomever about local conditions, how hard a given hike is, and so on.

Things to worry about (other than bears): insect bites! DEET is nasty stuff, but effective. Bring some. I use a less-unpleasant soy-based insect repellant when it works and fall back to DEET when I have to. Sun! Make sure you have appropriate, layered clothing; sunscreen; perhaps a hat; and don't go anywhere without some water.
posted by hattifattener at 7:21 PM on July 12, 2009

If you go to Alberta, you should really consider Jasper National Park as well as Banff - both areas are stunning and it's worth the drive on Highway 93. I lived in Jasper for 4.5 years and never got bored with the trails and sights there.

There are lots of campgrounds in the town area (Whistler's, Pocahontas, Wapiti, and Whirlpool immediately come to mind) and a few further away (Saturday Night Lake - about 9km from town - was one of my favourites).

Some of the campgrounds have a limited number of fire pits, so booking early never hurts, especially between May and October, so you don't end up on a shitty overflow site. Obviously, no fires outside designated areas. Lots of campgrounds have bear poles (you attach your food and toiletries and garbage and run it up a big pole so the big teddys can't get at it). I was always conscious of animals in the area - it helps to make lots of noise on the trails.

When I lived in Jasper, one of the laundromats had shower facilities and likely still does. MeFiMail me on this if you'd like. Have an awesome trip!
posted by futureisunwritten at 7:26 PM on July 12, 2009

I just returned from an excellent camping trip at Glacier National Park. I used to camp there as child and this was my first trip back as an adult. I highly recommend it. It meets all of your stated needs aside from in-campground showers (there are numerous places to shower outside the park - KOA, RV Parks, etc). It's a hiker's paradise, and Lake McDonald, while very cold, is a beautiful mountain lake.

I camped on the West Glacier side (the *only* side, if you ask me...) and we set up a tent and "car camped" in Apgar campground. It's a large campground but it offers fairly private sites, clean bathrooms, and drinking water. If you want a bit more privacy or to be in the park deeper, I would check out Fish Creek campground or Avalanche campground, respectively. Apgar campground is very close (<>
This is a great place to camp as well because of all the programs, hikes, and activities the forest rangers put on every day of the week. They provide guided hikes, evening programs, kids activities, and an endless supply of trail, wildlife, and park knowledge to make your visit a truly in-depth experience. Don't forget to ride the new Going to the Sun Highway Shuttle (free!) they now offer. It's a great way to get out of your own car and see all the sights of that magnificent drive without worrying about driving off the cliff.

Check out Glacier. You won't be disappointed. Oh, and have good time! :)
posted by karizma at 7:35 PM on July 12, 2009

So, when would you go? That would make a huge difference in picking your locales. Arches would be painfully hot right now, but if you're planning ahead for late September, it would be perfect. Vice versa for Alberta - good now, cold later. jessamyn's half-and-half itinerary is what I'd do, too.

Re: showers, most campgrounds have showers. Many places, they require quarters. I haven't been to the particular places you're asking about to comment on them. For feeling clean, also consider baby powder, those alcohol wipes that come in foil packets, and/or hand sanitizer. You didn't ask about blisters, but I'd bring Moleskin and something to cut it with.

Honestly, it's pretty hard to screw up car camping, so don't worry too much about all of this. :) Even backpacking is pretty basic if you take human needs seriously: water, warmth and dryness, sun protection and not heat stroke, sweets, a little salt, and calories for energy. Even on short hikes, I'd have the basics: a day's worth of water, a power bar or two, a hat, sunscreen, a lighter, and probably an emergency blanket. There's then an art form in how well you take care of the basic needs: "ah, yes, let's pass around the GORP and apples right after the afternoon's hiking but before anyone's blood sugar crashes." "Ah yes, if I leave my wet, sweaty shirt on, it will make me cold, which is kind of a bigger deal than normal. So I should change now even though I'd rather lie here being lazy." If you're just a bit more deliberate about taking care of yourself, you'll be fine.

The biggest mistake I ever made camping was, on my first trip, we got drenched during the first night but tried to keep going without a good plan for drying out. Getting wet the first night wasn't a bit deal, but somewhere in the middle of the next night (damp and shivering all night), the real misery kicked in. We should have said "okay, we're totally wet. Let's not try to be hardcore. We have no idea how to dry out, seeing as how it's still drizzling, and we're only going to get colder and sicker from here -- let's head back now, before we're even further from the car."
posted by salvia at 7:54 PM on July 12, 2009

Response by poster: This is really great stuff, thanks everybody.

I really hope to hear more stories and recommendations, but I'll say for the future responders that I'm not actually all that concerned about bears. That was a poor attempt at humor. What I'm really concerned about is unwittingly violating the legal and social norms that govern people when they go camping. There's obviously a huge subculture that I'm not a part of, so I'm looking for "things one should know" before making a first foray into the subculture. Not leaving food out is an easy one: what are the others?

Again, thanks for all the anecdotes.
posted by soonertbone at 8:38 PM on July 12, 2009

Not leaving food out is an easy one: what are the others?

If you're going to one of those RV / car camping sites, it's best if you don't drive in after dark, and if you do, as you look for spots, be a bit careful about not shining your bright headlights right on somebody's tent while they're trying to sleep.

In these areas where there are a bunch of campsites, it's sometimes hard to tell which is the the main trail from Point A to Point B, and which is a side path over to a campsite. Try not to walk through someone's campsite.

Also, people do tend to be pretty friendly with their campfire and whatnot, so you wouldn't be out of line if you invited people over to have a beer or some s'mores or whatever, though this certainly isn't required, and they're not weird creeps if they invite you over.
posted by salvia at 8:56 PM on July 12, 2009

Yeah, I have to say I hope your 10-14 days isn't two weeks of woe because you're waking up each morning realizing what you forgot and/or aren't prepared for. At least try to get away on an overnight sometime between now and then so you start to get a sense of what the rhythm of camping is like. My most recent experiences have been with a Boy Scout troop, and let me tell you, being organized is very necessary. You can wing some stuff, but -- say -- breakfast really isn't one of them. Until you've done it for a weekend you have no idea what it takes to set up just for that one meal, and until you've tried to go without a warm meal (yes, even in August) ... well, you'll miss that more than anything. You had to pack everything away the night before, and now you have to unpack it, start the camp stove, fetch the water, make the coffee, and THEN you have room to make the eggs and/or bacon. If you don't get up bright and early and get this done and get everything cleaned up and packed away before you really relax, it's going to be noon before you can think about what you're doing for the day.

I'm not saying you won't enjoy getting used to this, but it might be more of an adjustment than you expect.
posted by dhartung at 9:39 PM on July 12, 2009

One of the really fun parts of camping for me is planning out the meals. Spend some time online looking up recipes you think you could manage to put together at a campsite without too much hassle.

I like to bring along fish filets in plastic bags of marinade. To cook them, you just remove them from the bags, wrap them in tinfoil and place them in the campfire. When I seal the tinfoil well, the filets cook better than any I've managed to make at home. (When the tinfoil doesn't get sealed well, uh, make sure you brought extras and try again...)
posted by voltairemodern at 10:07 PM on July 12, 2009

One of the things that will make you a good camping neighbour is to keep noise down and not incessant. Even if the music you're playing is someone else's very favourite, it might become less welcome played -- even at a moderate volume -- 10 hours a day. Scrupulously observe the "quiet times" in the campground, usually between 11:00 pm and 07:00 am. They'll be posted near the registration office and may well be on your campsite receipt.

Keep your car to your own site rather than obstucting the common roads/paths or someone else's site.

Make sure your campsite is clean before you leave.

And our family may be more sensitive to this than others, but try to leave as small a footprint on the natural landscape as possible. Don't cut branches for wiener/marshamallow sticks. Don't dump soapy/greasy water into the bushes.

Drive slowly through the campground as you're getting to and from your site. There are often young children tearing around.

Pack flip-flops for each of you to use in the showers. There are some showers that are spotless, and others less so. Wear flip-flops. Also keep hand sanitizer with you if there aren't flush toilets.

>dhartung is right in that a great deal of camping seems to be abou preparing food and then cleaning up after. Even though I'm not especially keen on these chores at home, I find them quite enjoyable camping. There's a relaxed sense of time. But if you are planning on certain activities, do keep in mind that getting ready will probably take longer than in an urban setting.
posted by angiep at 10:26 PM on July 12, 2009

what are the others?

Don't be like the drunken cackling ninny round the campfire who kept me and Mr. Llama up for three days two years ago! Sound travels oddly in the woods, there's no ambient noise that muffles our ordinary babblings. I'm sure that woman and her friends weren't some just-out-of-prison drunkards getting liquored up before going into town and beating people up. She was probably a third grade teacher or something. When you're outside at night, treat it like you would if you were in your home with someone sleeping in the next room--not as if you were alone in ten miles of woods.

Beware The Cackler.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:08 AM on July 13, 2009

I love to camp! The boyfriend and I have been camping the past three out of four weekends. Car camping is great, much easier than backpacking: aren't sure if you want it? Just throw it in! Bring duct tape and two 50' lengths of nylon rope. Bandanas have a multitude of functions (headband, pot grabber, splint, washcloth...) Sunblock and bug spray, yes please. If you will be doing dishes in your campsite, bring biodegradable soap (e.g. Campsuds). Don't forget extra batteries for your headlamp or flashlight! Bring a book and a deck of playing cards, or some other game that the two of you enjoy. First aid kit, yes yes yes. Don't bring a stereo, ugh.

Some things to google are "10 Essentials" (or are there 14?) and "Leave No Trace." The trick is, of course, planning. If you drink coffee, figure out how you will do that: is instant ok? (For me, NO.) So, am I bringing my Nalgene french press or an I bringing Folgers Singles? Bring cans of beer, not bottles (broken glass is no good). Bring high energy snacks for your hikes: GORP, granola bars, jerky, fruit leather. Miso soup or cup o' soup is a good first course for dinner, especially if you are cold or wet. Get your food all organized beforehand, and bring some extra. Write it out:

Sun: b: bacon, eggs, OJ, and coffee; l: pb&j sandwiches and apples; d: steak fajita foil packets on the fire (steak, peppers, onions, salt and pepper, a little water, double layer of foil, on a grate over coals, or right in the coals, yum!), with a can of beer, and smores for dessert!

Mon: b: 2 packets of instant oatmeal and coffee; l: tuna sandwiches (foil packet of tuna with little packets of mayo and relish in a pita) brought on the hike; d: Zataran's rice and beans, and hot chocolate for dessert.


When you are enjoying intimate times in the tent (or elsewhere!) with your girlfriend, remember, sound travels much more than you are used to. Also, someone may well be able to see your tent, so, lights off for getting down. But that's the great thing about camping, isn't it? Go have sex in lovely, discreet locations as you go on hikes. Then take a nice photo of the two of you (clothed!) afterward in that spot. When you look through your vacation photos, you can enjoy those photos particularly much! And bring a dedicated after-lovin-cleanup washcloth or rag for the tent...

The biggest thing, though, is to be nice and forgiving and have a great attitude. It's the end of the day, and we're hungry and tired, so we will be a little quiet cooking dinner. Just let it go. It's raining? Who cares, you brought rain gear, didn't you? You are camping! You are having so much fun!

Ask us specific questions if you have them, and afterward let us know how it went.
posted by teragram at 4:13 AM on July 13, 2009

I just got back from Lake Louise (Banff National Park) and the Lake Louise campground fit all of your qualifications. (There were electric fences for the bears but it was stressed that you still must keep your campsite free of bear attractants like food.)

All the rules and regulations of the campsites will generally be provided to you when you arrive. In Lake Louise, this meant, putting all wildlife attractants in the car at night, not leaving fires unattended, quiet time from 11 pm until 7 am, things like that. I discovered on my last trip that firewood is provided at Canadian national parks so there's no need to bring your own.

You can book campgrounds in advance online at Parks Canada and with Alberta Provincial Parks for a small fee.
posted by Kurichina at 9:49 AM on July 13, 2009

If it was me I would go western half of (less people) Glacier nat. park, where you should be able to find something around Lake McDonald or another lake in the area. Then up 93/95 to Fairmont in BC where the hotsprings are at, (like at Fairmont Hotsprings Resort) and then into the western Kooteny/Jasper/Banff park system. Keep in mind this is an area of parks almost as big as the mitten where you're from and the roads are not direct and also very slow with tourists stopping to look at the big sheep eating popcorn out of the car windows. I would suggest skipping the southern part of the park and going up to at around Lake Louise to Yoho Park

Specifics things to do that are amazing:

Iceline hiking path: in Yoho Park
The good: All day hike- amazing views- not too difficult - and not to far from civilization. WATERFALL! Here are more pics that provide a good idea as to what it is about. The bad: All day! Starts off tough. Also: don't do the continental divide - that one is pretty tough.

Illecillewaet Campground in Glacier Park has a bunch of great day hikes as well. Get up- hike!

Not mentioned: caving is lots of fun and more exhausting that might otherwise be expected. I went caving locally so never got to this one - but caving is wild fun so I strongly encourage you to go do it. Only downside: they usually smell a little (which you get used to) and the potential to be totally crushed (which you don't get used to). Adventure!

More hiking info and here.
The Rockwall was another path that was recomended because it has a giant waterfall, but I haven't hiked it so you'll have to figure that one out.

There are lots of tourist info available at: Canadian Rockies which has a list of camping options and you'll need to spend some time at the national park sites which others have linked to.

Overall thoughts: most of the lakes and rivers are directly fed by glaciers, which means they are very very cold and you can't swim in them. That's why the hotsprings are so great.
Bears and humans! The more isolated you go the more bears & other wildlife there are. So be smart when hiking.
posted by zenon at 11:58 AM on July 13, 2009

What I'm really concerned about is unwittingly violating the ... social norms that govern people when they go camping...

I, and other avid campers, wholeheartedly thank you for that.

Basically, just respect other people's space. Don't walk through others' campsites. Keep it quiet so that the people around you can enjoy the great outdoors. (Even if The Cackler and his drunken friends are across the way hooting it up.) And clean up after yourself. Leave no trace, and all of that.

There really are a *lot* of people who display very poor camping etiquette. It's almost common to find that the people before you have left trash in the fire ring, or bottle caps under the picnic table, or some such shit. And don't get me started on the parents who are perfectly happy to have their kids be playing somewhere else -- even if that means that they're running in circles around your tent. (That's what happened to us last weekend. It was rage-inducing.)

Just remember that you aren't alone out there in the wilderness. There are other people about, and they want to enjoy their time too.

(I say this not so much to you, but to all the rude campers I've ever encountered. Boy, I hope they're reading this!)

Also, in terms of comfort and since you're not backpacking, you should really invest in a roomy tent. For a two-week trip, you'll really want to have some room to spread out. We have this 4-person Coleman tent, which we got on sale for $49, and we love it. It's easy to put together and is roomy enough for the two of us.
posted by mudpuppie at 2:30 PM on July 13, 2009

There are certain things oyu may not know if you're not semi-regular campers that may be helpful.

- if you're car camping, live it up and bring real blankets and pillows if you want. Make sure you have a pad to lie down on that will fit you both, but no need to have mummy bags
- bring a ground cloth to put under your tent in case the weather turns. If you have a decent tent, it can rain some and you won't get wet BUT if you don't have a ground cloth water can seep in through the bottom. Here's some info. You can make a very simple one with a tarp that's cut to be just a bit bigger than the footprint of your tent.
- a small bucket and some campsuds and a clothesline can be great for doing a quick wash to underwear/socks/whatever
- compartmentalize! have a few separate containers for food, clothes, safety items, tent+gear and then you can move them around as you need

The biggest etiquette tip (after respecting nature generally) is really about noise first and other people after that. Be quiet if you're coming in late (and try to get in early if you have noisy stuff like an air mattress inflator or whatever), keep your voices down after people are turning in, keep your music down generally, maintain a zone of privacy around your stuff, and assume people have it around their stuff. Don't hog communal bathrooms/showers, don't make the outdoors your bathroom if there are pit toilets and the like. Don't leave stuff out overnight that is likely to fly away if it gets windy. Pack out what you bring in and use waste receptacles if they're offered. Don't mess around with animals, don't feed animals, be respectful with your picture taking etc. That said, if you're considerate generally and okay with learning as you go, there is a lot of published material (on site and in books) teaching you how it all works. Have a great time!
posted by jessamyn at 2:49 PM on July 13, 2009

« Older Time to Decide: New MBP or Not?   |   Is webring technology stuck in 1998? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.