The summer of 2021 marked our ten-year anniversary as a family of campers (or is that RVers?). We’ve owned three different trailers in that time and visited dozens of different campgrounds around the province (and country). In fact, going to a variety of campgrounds has been the hallmark of our (okay, my) camping philosophy. I like to see new things and that typically means a new destination every outing. Unless you’ve got a group of close friends or family you love to camp and socialize with, diversity is the way to go.
With the passing of milestone anniversaries, however, comes the inevitable allure of nostalgia and last summer we decided to indulge that temptation. Mt Kidd RV Park was for several years a mainstay of our early camping life. We annually enjoyed a spring weekend with a couple of other young families, making great memories as we found our footing as campers. And then it stopped.
Our decision to return to Mt Kidd RV Park was somewhat of an afterthought. With Covid continuing to toss speedbumps our way, we’d regrettably missed the initial booking window for several summer weekends and were scrambling for places to go. Mt Kidd is hardly an easy booking by any stretch of the imagination, but in my desperation, I’d discovered some availability in Area F.
Area F is a far cry from Area C which is where our little entourage always camped. So obsessed were we all with Area C, I’d never even visited any of the other loops save for the outskirts of Area B which one must drive past to enter Area C. We loved Area C.
Staring at the map debating whether to press “add to cart” I was overcome with second-guessing. Area F looked rather grim. For starters, it’s a far-flung addendum to Mt Kidd RV Park and looks nothing like the four main loops. If anything, it imparts the impression that ownership had an unused enclave in which they figured they could generate a little bonus cashflow from the woefully disorganized. Nothing about it on paper or satellite view encouraged booking a site in Area F. No wonder there was still availability when all other sites had long been reserved.
It was only a weekend, though, so I ignored my misgivings and booked site 29 at the far southeast end of Area F. Perhaps our low expectations helped but our most recent visit to Mt Kidd turned out to be one of our best. And Area F proved to be a hidden gem. What it lacks in services and prestige, it more than made up for in privacy and quaintness. In doing so, it provided a delightful homebase as we reacquainted ourselves with this wonderful Kananaskis campground and further explored the surrounding attractions.
I figure such a successful return to an old stomping ground deserves an updated review. My original Mt Kidd RV Park review was one of my very first, created from pictures and memories that had not been acquired with blogging in mind. Like many early creative efforts, it betrays a dearth of material and skill. Now, more than five years later, I’m happy to boast that I have plenty of material. I’ll let you judge the current state of my skill.
The Campground at Mt Kidd RV Park
The largest campground in Kananaskis, Mt Kidd RV Park is wildly popular and deservedly so. As a family camping destination, it’s hard to beat; convenient location (close to Calgary), stunning location (gorgeous mountain backdrop), prime location (next to Kananaskis Golf Course and Kananaskis Village), and stocked with all the perks expected of a resort style campground (store, playground, serviced sites).
There are a total of 229 campsites found in 6 areas (also known as loops) A through F. There is literally something here for everyone from full-service sites (74 in A, B, E), power & water sites (35 in E) power only sites (88 in C and D) and un-serviced sites (32 in F). Really, the only thing missing from the campsite menu is a walk-in tenting area.
Those campsites are laid out in four hubs surrounding a central services centre with areas A/B to the northeast, C to the northwest, D to the southeast, and E to the southwest. Lowly area F thumbs it’s blue-collar nose at symmetry, existing as an oblong grouping of two smaller loops tacked onto the southern border of D and E.
The whole campus is bordered by the Kananaskis River to the west, Evan-Thomas Creek to the north, and Highway 40 to the east. There’s wilderness to the south until Highway 40 veers westward but that’s well beyond the campground boundary. All of this is just an hour drive to the west end of Calgary. So, yeah, it fills up fast.
Nearly all the campsites are wooded except a handful designated as “open, less treed” on the official Mt Kidd RV Park map. The central services area is also quite open offering both space for play and socializing as well as splendid views of the campground’s namesake, Mount Kidd. More on that in the next section.
As mentioned, we had long been faithful Area C users. Spacious, forested sites with electricity in close proximity to a creek rife with rockhounding opportunities was a perfect match for our young family. Not that the rest of Mt Kidd RV Park is wildly different. Just not different enough to justify a change. At least not until poor planning forced it upon us.
Area F looks rather unappealing on a blank map and with all the relative luxuries available in the other areas, it felt like a step down. I couldn’t have been more wrong in that assessment. Our site was located on a small, circular loop at the southernmost reaches of the campground. The centre of the loop was a large, open field in which we played some exciting games of bocce with glorious views of Mt Kidd to our west.
Views from our actual campsite weren’t terribly spectacular, but frankly they’re limited in almost all the campsites. The forest cover hides the mountains quite well forcing campers to seek out open space for the magical views Kananaskis is famous for.
And I’ll admit the campsite itself wasn’t as “pretty” as those we were used to in Area C. More aspen/poplar and less conifers coupled with a utility right-of-way and trail next to us limited the wow factor but having zero neighbours on one side was nice. And honestly, my modest whining is only relative to the anomalously superior campsites unique to Mt Kidd RV Park. Bad here is still great compared to some parking lots that call themselves campgrounds.
Heading back towards the main areas, there is another oddball loop that is part of Area F. It’s a more traditionally forested loop with some nice, albeit un-serviced, campsites. The sites appeared mostly smaller here as well, with four, rare arcuate pull-throughs available.
Continuing north returns you to the main camping areas, namely D and E. I have never once stepped foot in these areas and I was immediately regretful of it. Area E, which sides on to the Kananaskis River, has some truly excellent sites! The bulk are convenient, well-treed pull-through sites, but a handful of back-in sites along the river’s valley edge are probably the best in all of Mt Kidd RV Park and I had no idea they even existed. Seriously, these are some primo spots if you can get them.
Even if you miss out on those, there are a couple other gargantuan campsites in Area E. One in particular, along the boundary between F and E, is like a small compound unto itself. I was jealous the moment I stumbled upon it and hope the folks in the site weren’t too freaked out by my staring in dumbfounded awe.
It’s funny. Having exclusively camped in Area C and never bothering to snoop around the other Areas, I never realized that the bulk of campsites at Mt Kidd RV Park are actually pull-through sites. Seriously, Areas A, B, D, and E are by far dominated by pull-throughs. Being a bit of a tradition snob, I gravitate to back-ins. They’re generally more private and my fragile ego likes the brief boost of successfully backing a trailer into such a site.
The takeaway from all this rambling is that all areas should be on your radar for a Mt Kidd camping trip. Cost variance resulting from differing on-site services and availability will impact your choices, of course, but don’t be an “area bigot” like I’d been. This whole campground is worthy of your dollars, even Area F.
One disadvantage of Area F worth mentioning is the lack of flush toilets. Bathrooms in all other areas are flush despite looking little different than typical pit toilet structures. It’s yet another perk of Mt Kidd RV Park but one that does not extend to Area F.
A solitary outhouse building exists near the entrance to the oblong loop of Area F. That makes it a short walk from the sites in the circular loop where we were located. With men and women sides, it was the usual fare at Alberta Parks and had some odour issues.
Thankfully, if smelly pit toilets are an absolute no go for you, there are plenty of far more pleasant waste excretion options in the remainder of the campground. In fact, one exists at the southern ends of both Areas D and E, so if you’re not in a hurry and don’t mind a stroll before relieving yourself, Area F won’t preclude you from enjoying the finer things in life.
For those who prefer to wallow in your own, in-house aroma, of which there are many considering the ample room for large rolling RV palaces, there’s a dump station near the entrance/exit of Mt Kidd RV Park. It’s one the better designed dump stations in these parts, with two receptacles in each of two lanes allowing four units to empty at once.
Loading up with fresh water is also best done at the dump station if you’re camping in a site without water service. There are convenient taps in areas without water but for RVs, the dump station offers the most room to fill up without disrupting traffic flow in the loops. All assuming you don’t haul water from home, of course.
If all this sewage talk has you feeling dirty, fear not, you can take a shower at Mt Kidd RV Park as well. Found on the outer bend of the campground road at the north end of Area B, this full shower and washroom building is the icing on the cake for a glamping weekend in Kananaskis.
Inside are sinks, stalls, urinals, and showers. The latter were inoperative due to covid when we were there, so I can’t comment on their cost. I honestly don’t know if they are free or not or even if they offer a good cleansing experience. The structure is newish looking and the fixtures appear fully functional. Regardless, the shower house is a nice amenity for those living their best life out in the mountains during warm, summer vacations.
Central Services Area at Mt Kidd RV Park
The central area is the heart of Mt Kidd RV Park. It’s also home to the Camper’s Centre, the first place you’ll go upon arrival. A large, RV-friendly parking lot fronts the exceptional office, store, and lounge complex known as the Camper’s Centre. Well, that’s what the map calls it. I’ve never called it that nor have I heard anyone else call it that. Sounds fancier than “store,” I’ll grant you that.
The Camper’s Centre has everything you could possibly need for a glamping vacation. There’s the registration office, of course, where you check in. A well-stocked store resides here as well filled with overpriced food (just being honest … and really, that should surprise no one) to cover any forgotten meal ingredients. The store also has a decent selection of camping related gear should something break or go missing during your stay. It’ll save you a trip back to the city most of the time.
The store is where firewood is sold for those who did not bring wood from home. It’s sold in cellophane wrapped bundles. I didn’t buy any this trip so can’t attest to pricing but expect it to be $10 or more I would think. If my fuzzy memory is at all reliable, I think they even had different bundle sizes at one time, like firewood and kindling, or some such. No idea if that is still the situation. Whatever the case, there is decent firewood available at Mt Kidd RV Park.
You can also purchase propane, which is a huge bonus for a campground these days. There was a time when every large campground seemed to have propane for sale but not anymore. Mt Kidd bucks that trend with two large propane dispensers outside the store and down a path a short way. Cost and ease of purchase are once again a mystery to me. I’m kind of anal in my camping prep.
Perhaps the most desirable section of the Camper’s Centre is the little ice cream and treat counter where you can get a cone of delicious hard ice cream, soft serve, and even slurpee style ice drinks. There are even some hot refreshments and treats available if, for some unknown reason, you’re not in the mood for ice cream. I can’t report on the quality of these alternatives because I always buy ice cream. I mean … it’s ice cream. What’s there to even contemplate?
The Camper’s Centre also boasts a large lounge area for hanging out with a lovely stone fireplace and some table games, a small but genuine coin-op arcade, and a large bathroom and shower facility that opens onto a picnic area just next to the wading pool. None of these were open or accessible during our stay in 2021 due to Covid restrictions.
I’ll be frank and state here that I’ve never once seen the wading pool open or being used. Our typical spring timeframe likely influenced that unfortunate result when our kids were small enough to enjoy it. And now with Covid interfering and the kids being teens anyway, I doubt we’ll ever go in it even if we did discover it operational during a camping trip. Hopefully mid-summer campers with little ones are getting to use it, otherwise it’s the biggest tease going.
Outdoor fun is the name of the game at Mt Kidd RV Park anyway, and you’ll find plenty of campers enjoying the large open field immediately west of the Camper’s Centre. It’s just an open field but is spacious and mowed making it ideal for impromptu soccer games or tossing of baseballs and Frisbees.
Fenced tennis courts are found between the Camper’s Centre and the field, off to the side. I’m sure this is a wonderful perk for tennis players, but I’ve yet to see anyone actually playing tennis there. I’m sure some do, but it isn’t the popular yuppy pastime it used to be.
North of the tennis courts are two aged and, frankly, unused horseshoe pits. Another throwback, I love seeing horseshoe pits at campgrounds. It’s a terrific game that nobody seems to play anymore. I can’t even get my kids to play which must surely have some of my ancestors rolling in their graves. Sadly, my children are in the vast majority and these pits exist as little more than gravelly sandboxes and entrances to gopher homes.
Heading west past the field will bring you to the playground. It’s a decent sized metal contraption with climbers and slides underlain by pea gravel. My kids had loads of fun on this back in their younger days and judging by the crowds midday, it remains a popular activity still. A couple benches by the playground offer respite for weary parents who can sort of keep an eye on their energetic offspring while simultaneously taking weight off their feet and staring at the beautiful mountains looming overhead … umm … ish.
I should also mention that there is a second, smaller playground hidden in the woods between the two loops of Area B. Called a “tot lot” on the official map, it’s made of the same materials as the main playground, just little.
Further west even still is the Mt Kidd RV Park amphitheatre, another amenity I’ve yet to use or see any activity at. I swear that Kananaskis (and many other Alberta parks) must have been the most amazing places to visit 35 years ago before neglect, budget cuts, and general cynicism took root and killed these types of extras. Sure, I’d likely bitch if I had to pay for them outright but seeing them existing but unused always makes my mind wander back to some imaginary golden age I completely missed.
All this I knew from our former visits. What I didn’t know until we set up shop in Area F, was that there is a small trail system within the campground.
Now, if you look at the official website’s map, there’s a trail all around Area C and throughout the campground. I’ve never seen that supposed trail. We always gravitated to the creek bed where there is ample rocks to hunt and explore. Finding a passable trail in the woods west of the loop seemed foolhardy.
There is, however, a genuine trail emanating from Area E that goes out onto an “island” in the Kananaskis River. It’s even got a sign and name: Mount Kidd Trail. The island, I suspect, is only an island during spring flood. It surely wasn’t much of an island during our July visit.
It was a fun little hike, though. You can get right to the shore of the river in a couple spots. It appears to have once been an informational trail as there are a couple random placards along the way but mostly it’s now just a dirt trail cycling around this “island” and back to the campground. It won’t blow your mind, but’s it’s a nice little tour that doesn’t require leaving the campground.
Bill Milne Trail
If you’re looking for something more challenging, or at the very least, lengthy, look no further than the relatively new Bill Milne Trail. A cycling trail, this paved pathway runs from Wedge Pond south of Mt Kidd RV Park, through the entrance of the campground, past the Kananaskis golf course and on into Kananaskis Village.
It’s a wonderful, sometimes challenging trail, that makes for easy exploration of the immediate attractions around the campground. The four of us ventured out for a bike ride that certainly tested our limited physical conditioning. Although mostly flat from the campground to the intersection of Mt Allan Drive and Highway 40, the trek up into the village isn’t for the faint of heart. We stopped for a breather at each of the handy rest spots at the end of various switchbacks on the trail south of the river.
The 10 km distance was a bit much for us, even with the downhill thrill of the return ride. Were we better conditioned (and prepared) we likely wouldn’t have felt like death by the time we returned to camp, but we nonetheless had an enjoyable time exploring Kananaskis Village. This bike trail is a wonderful addition to the area.
I actually stayed at the village for a weekend some 20 years ago. It was a company getaway back in the days when the oil and gas industry lavished such rewards on their employees. I honestly don’t remember much about that visit other than a rather embarrassing attempt at playing tennis with my coworkers.
Returning now and having a good look at the exterior of the place, I have to admit I was a bit surprised at how run down it all looks. Kananaskis Mountain Lodge is basically a fancy hotel in the mountains with myriad amenities on the grounds along with a nearby ski hill (Nakiska) and nearby golf course. It’s quite renowned in the region or was at one time. The federal government even held a G8 summit there in 2002.
Its former glory is not hard to imagine. Not Banff Springs glory, but well beyond Super 8 glory. We poked our heads into the Kananaskis Village Centre where a store resides that sells clothes, souvenirs, treats, and basic pub like foods. I was hoping we’d be able to snag an ice cream after our lengthy bike ride, but all that was available was some soft serve or popsicle style snacks in a cooler. That was a letdown.
Across the hallway from the store is a postal office which is kind of cute. Gives the place a genuine “village” feel to it, though I don’t know how many international tourists come here and send postcards abroad. I’m hardly in the know, but I don’t consider Kananaskis Village on par with Banff or Jasper townsites in this sense.
Outside, in the central communal area, is a lovely pond. The views in all directions are quite pretty and it’s generally a lovely spot to just sit and relax for a bit. Maybe people watch.
To the side at the end of the store building is a rental outlet offering canoes and bikes for visitors. The bikes make sense but I’m unsure of where folks would canoe here. Certainly not on the grounds. I suppose you can rent a canoe and haul it to other parts of Kananaskis, like say the upper and lower lakes. That’s a bit of haul though so you’d need to be able to transport the canoe yourself. This outfitter location is not at the edge of any kind of lake. Still, nice to have access to such equipment.
The main resort grounds are encircled by a walking trail that generally takes you to all the outdoor amenities available in the village as well as some lovely viewing spots.
There are tennis courts.
And a baseball diamond and accompanying grass field.
A basketball court.
A sizeable, modern, children’s playground.
An outdoor hockey rink that one hopes is actually used in the wintertime. It looks pretty rough and I fear it’s been abandoned.
Definitely abandoned horseshoe pits.
Multiple picnic areas.
And upgraded viewpoints with actual views.
It’s not hard to see that Kananaskis Village’s peak has passed. Without sometime significant TLC, it won’t ever regain the stature it once held. And that’s a shame, though hardly a surprise as the attitudes and economy have changed from the unbridled boom days of years past.
I’d be hard pressed to recommend a non-camping stay at the village. It would depend on the cost, but I sure wouldn’t be paying premium dollars for a room without some investment by ownership first. As a curiosity destination for a bike ride while camping at Mt Kidd RV Resort, though, it’s a worthwhile outing. And if the prepackaged ice cream at the village store doesn’t turn your crank, there’s always a genuine hard ice cream reward waiting for you back at the campground store.
Kananaskis Golf Course
The bigger draw in the area is the remarkably beautiful Kananaskis golf course. Tucked in the valley between the campground and the village, this is genuinely one of the prettiest golf courses you’ll ever play and it’s public!
I golfed here once as well, many years ago back when I could do such sporting things. Can’t remember a damn thing about the game but I do recall the views being unreal.
In 2013, terrible flooding all but destroyed this cherished golf course and there was plenty of discussion as to whether it was worth rebuilding. I completely understand the reluctance to using public funds to build a somewhat luxurious golf course where it is only playable perhaps four months of the year.
I don’t even play golf anymore but still found myself a wee bit delighted it was rebuilt. From pros to beginners, golf lovers to the modestly curious, this double course is a definite treat. Even just looking from the clubhouse over the nearby holes with the mountains in the background is worth having a looksee by passersby. And there are some spectacular views of the course from the viewpoints up at the village which is situated above the northern extent of the course.
It’s doubtful I’ll ever get back here to play. I tried nine holes at a small, prairie town golf course this past summer and was reminded all too well of my limitations in whacking that dastardly white ball around. I faired little better with pink, orange, or lime balls. But if you’ve still got a reliable body and like the game of golf, make the effort to get here and play either of these wonderful courses.
Returning to Mt Kidd RV Park was a delightful trip down memory lane. That we were able to add a new chapter of unexpected pleasures made it all that much better. I’m so glad our experiment with Area F turned out to be so unexpectedly pleasant.
We may not return for a few more years again, but I’ve no doubt it’ll be packed full all camping season. Being so close to the city of Calgary and with all the amenities available, it’s no surprise that Kananaskis’ biggest campground is also one of its most popular. It’s pretty much the perfect campground for families seeking a not-so-rustic camping adventure.
I originally gave Mt Kidd RV Park 4 Baby Dill Pickles back in 2016 but I’m feeling generous today, so let’s bump that up a notch to 4.33 Baby Dill Pickles out of 5. It’s not perfect, and there’ll be moments when I look at that rating and wonder what I was thinking, but with the rosy goggles of nostalgia are dazzling my vision, I’ll be content with this lavish rating.
You’re welcome to disagree, and I’ll likely nod in agreement with every reason you give. In the end, I’m sure we will both concur that Mt Kidd RV Park is far better than your average resort-like campground. For families in Alberta, it’s one that must be checked off the bucket list.
Find another campground here.