In our half-decade of family camping, a weekend at Mount Kidd RV Park has quickly become our traditional kickoff to the summer camping season. We’ve made annual pilgrimages for several years now along with a group of two or three other families each June. Relatively close to Calgary, in beautiful Kananaskis Country, Mount Kidd is well known and regularly visited by Calgary campers. And rightly so, as Mount Kidd is just about the perfect mix of wilderness mountain camping with all the comforts of a modern RV park.
This is bear country. Notices and warnings are posted in all the washrooms and campground staff regularly update campers of any bear sightings in or near the park. My wife, in fact, had a benign but retrospectively unnerving encounter with a bear a couple years ago while walking back from a mid-night washroom visit. It can be scary but by following the rules and staying aware, you are unlikely to have any unhappy interactions with bears. This should not scare you away from the park.
Despite the bear concerns, Mount Kidd RV Park is a fantastic family campground for those looking to escape to the mountains without embarking on a back country or un-serviced adventure. For starters, the scenery is stunning. Built on a partly forested meadow/flood plain at the foot of the majestic Mount Kidd (surprise!) where Evan Thomas Creek joins Kananaskis river, the campground is surrounded by natural beauty. There is unnatural beauty to behold as well with Kananaskis golf course residing on the opposite side of both water courses. It’s not so unnaturally beautiful at the moment, having been destroyed by the 2013 floods that ravaged southern Alberta. The golf course was a treasure prior to the floods and is currently being rebuilt, presumably to its former glory.
The scenery will enchant everyone whether you are an avid hiker or prefer to simply sit on a park bench and look around. We haven’t done any major hiking in the area, but have gone on family excursions along the trails immediately surrounding the campground. This close-in hiking is very easy with the ground relatively flat and trails well worn. I imagine heading off towards the mountains makes for a more challenging hike, unfortunately that’s just not in my tool bag anymore. Geocachers will also appreciate the handful of caches people have stashed in various location in and nearby the campground. We’ve gone exploring for several of them and been rewarded with a wonderful walk in the wilderness.
Evan-Thomas Creek provides another outlet for hours of fun for curious kids. A typical Rocky Mountain creek, the creek winds its way along a wide bed of rock ranging in size from sand to large boulders that will leave budding geologists wondering how they got there. Water flow varies dramatically according to season, becoming a full-fledged river during spring flooding then withering to tame brook in the summer and fall. My kids love walking the creek bed looking or pretty rocks, mostly fossil-bearing limestones and dolomites, or building rock and timber “bridges” across the creek. Hours pass dreamily as we explore and engineer the creek. The creek bed also provides a wide-open clearning from which Mount Kidd and the surrounding ranges are easily viewed adding to the enjoyment.
The preceding paragraph was written prior to our most recent excursion to Mount Kidd two weekends ago. My son and I were stunned to discover that as part of the major flood mitigation and golf course rebuild efforts, the Evan-Thomas Creek waterway has been dramatically engineered. This was an incredibly disappointing discovery as we love spending hours hunting rocks here. Much of the natural rock bed has been covered with rocky, silty fill having been dug up and/or filled over in order to deepen the channel and build up the berms on either side. All those terrific river rocks are now gone or buried for the most part and building “dams” are foot bridges is no longer possible. It also appears that some attempts at landscaping along a man-made water course has occurred, though I can’t imagine this work surviving next spring’s flood season. I haven’t a clue what the ultimate plan is here other than to prevent further catastrophic flooding to parts of the campground and the rebuilt golf course. I suppose I understand the intent but I still find the result incredibly disappointing and, frankly, ugly.
For those preferring to keep close to their mobile home base, there are plenty of ways to enjoy life within the campground. The main office building has an open sitting room with fireplace for comfy relaxing, especially if a freak storm rolls in which can easily happen in the mountains. There is a well-stocked store for food supplies you’ve forgotten as well as firewood and repair materials. A hard ice cream and soft-serve bar is also present which makes for a fantastic treat after a hard day of exploring on hot summer days. A small outdoor wading pool is adjacent to the building. We’ve never been it if due to repairs occurring or camping too early in the season, but I imagine it’s fun for those looking to cool off. A small arcade is also present along with a modest pool table. Again, we don’t typically go camping to enjoy such indoor endeavours but I’m sure others, perhaps with moody teens, would be grateful for their existence.
Next to the main office is a large open field for playing Frisbee, soccer, or catch and if the weather is nice you’ll always find families out there enjoying some physical activity. A modern playground tucked in next to this field offers even more fun for young kids.
The campground consists of several alphabetically labelled loops. Each loop is a unique having different services available and varying degrees of tree cover. We prefer Loops C which has larger, well-treed sites spread further apart giving a bit more privacy as well as exploration acreage for kids. Ours have discovered “mystery balls”, the detritous left by air gun owners (don’t ask…it’s Alberta) and happily spend even more hours trying to find these colourful little plastic pellets.
As mentioned, the sites in this loop are big, nicely separated, and have large, flat gravel beds upon which to set up your RV. Each site has a firepit and flush toilets are sprinkled conveniently throughout the loop. These little bathrooms are also heated which is appreciated during beer-induced pee breaks on cold nights. In the mountains, that’s pretty much every night. There are hot, pay showers as well but only at the main office or select washrooms throughout the park.
There is wi-fi available but it is very hit or miss for reception. You’ll have a hard time using it from your campsite unless it’s located close to the main office. And that’s assuming its functioning at all. Several times we’ve been camping there and the entire system is down and repairs don’t happen quickly. Conversely, cell reception is decent here depending on provider so you won’t be isolated from “life”. Your opinion on the benefits of that may vary.
The campground is very popular due to its surroundings and close proximity to the ever-sprawling city of Calgary. Reservations can be made 90 days ahead of arrival date and you’d best be on the computer or phone the second booking opens to get a site. This is especially true during the core camping season of June through August. Shoulder season offers easier reservation availability. Tardiness on booking will leave you disappointed especially if you have specific sites you prefer to camp in.
I recommend Mount Kidd for anyone looking to camp in a wilderness setting while maintaining some services. I give Mount Kidd RV Park 4 Baby Dill Pickles out of 5. We love our annual pilgrimage to this campground. The kids love the river exploring we do and we enjoy the forested experience of camping in Loop C. It may cost a little more and cancellation penalties are steep, but for the convenience and proximity to our home it’s a small premium worth every penny in my opinion.
Oh, and no trains! Mount Kidd is south of the major Rocky Mountain transportation corridor so you don’t need to worry about the damn trains waking you up through the night. That’s worth a few extra bucks alone.
It’s a shame the engineering efforts for the new golf course have disrupted the natural beauty of Evan-Thomas Creek. It won’t prevent us from enjoying Mount Kidd in the future, but it certainly has taking a bit of the shine off the place for us. The unceasing march of development knows no bounds.
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