Every summer I bring my kids to Whistlers campground for a week of playing, exploring, marshmallow roasting, and campsite spying.
Yep, I said campsite spying. Are you a campsite snoop? Do you enjoy seeing how other people are camping just as much as you enjoy the camping itself? You know, walking around the sites and checking out all the different get-ups: Jeeps with roof-top tents, converted school buses, tiny tents, circus tents, trailers with campers parked on top, mobile mini-mansions, old-school vintage campers, and futuristic pop-ups…. The list goes on and on!
And there’s no better place to be a camping spy than in a giant campground. The bigger the campground, the more camping families, get-ups, equipment, and gear! How about a campground with almost 800 sites? That’s a lot of campers! Whistlers campground in Jasper National Park is one such campground. Below, I’ll share why Whistlers makes a perfect family campground.
Whistlers Campground in Jasper National Park
I read somewhere that Whistlers Campground was the largest campground in Canada. I don’t know where I read that information and I can’t seem to find it again. But, I do know that Whistlers is a big campground!
In 2017 Parks Canada’s brochures stated that there were 781 sites available at Whistlers. Jasper has 10 campgrounds, with 1956 campsites in total. The next largest campground in Jasper is Wapiti with 364 sites, and it’s just across the highway from Whistlers.
As to be expected, with a campground this large, Whistlers has all the standard campsite amenities. This is the only campground with full hook-ups (if you’re quick enough to reserve them) on drive through sites. Whistlers also has running water, flush toilets, showers, organized programming, an amphitheater, playgrounds, and a fun nature play walking path.
Another neat thing available at Whistlers Campground are these oTENTiks. (https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/ab/jasper/activ/passez-stay/oTENTik) We haven’t been lucky enough to stay in one yet. But I’ve heard they’re very nice, spacious, and affordable. Basically, these OTENTiks are soft walled cabins with bunk beds, a table and chairs, a small electric heater, and an electric light. You bring your own sleeping bags and cooking equipment, but you don’t have to worry about a tent, or sleeping on the ground!
Staying at Whistler’s campground will cost somewhere around $28 – $38 (Canadian Dollars) per night. This depends on what hook-ups you might get. Also, in Jasper National Park, you must pay an $8/night campfire permit fee if you’d like to have a fire. If you do plan on having a campfire, make sure you reserve a spot with a fire pit. The permit fee includes your use of the already chopped firewood. You’ll just need to go get it and bring it back to your site. In fact, you’re not actually allowed to bring your own firewood into the National Park or across provincial lines.
Why Whistlers is the Perfect Family Campground
Super fun playground and biking area: In the center of the campground right beside the shower facilities is a large field, the amphitheater, play structures, and swing sets. Although I wouldn’t say that Whistlers intentionally made a bike park, the kids use the playground area like one. There’s a sand path with twists and turns, bumps and hills to loop around on.
Hot water: Yes, this is a big one for me! Jasper nights are cool, even on hot summer days, and it’s so much easier to convince the kids to wash the day’s dirt away when the water is warm. I especially like that they have big dish washing sinks by the washrooms with hot water too!
Organized programming: Parks Canada staff put on various games and events throughout the summer at a few of the different campgrounds. It changes slightly from summer to summer, but generally they have games, campfire sing-a-longs, and theater productions (which can be surprisingly entertaining!). You’ll need to ask at the booth, the information center, or hunt out posters in the outhouses for details of that summer’s activities, times, and locations.
The walking path: Not all walking paths are made equal. The path cutting through the middle of Whistlers Campground wins points for being so exciting for young kids. At short intervals along the path, the kids can balance along wooden beams, hop from stump to stump, scramble over small walls, splash through creeks, and even play in a little lean-to fort or house. When we do this trail as a group of families, most of the adults get up and try their balance and jumping too!
I asked my 9 year old what he thought his favourite thing at Whistlers Campground was. He answered “that fun trail thing”.
Close proximity to the town of Jasper: Because Whistlers Campground is so close, biking families can use the trails to get to and from town or to get onto the trails to explore over by Old Fort Point, Jasper Park Lodge, and enthusiastic bikers can get all the way to Maligne Canyon or Valley of the Five Lakes.
The elk: As long as it’s not calving or rutting season, watching the elk saunter by your campsite can be a very exciting event!
What we don’t like about Whistlers
How big it is: I know, I know, I just told you how I enjoy looking at all the campsites and get-ups. However, the down-side to a really large campground is that kids who want to explore have more chances of getting lost and turned around (adults too!). Also, on busy summer weekends, the line-up of cars to get into the campground at dinner time can be really long!
Which campsite should you reserve?
This is a hard one, because choosing a site does depend on your camping equipment. Not all sites are big enough for trailers. Nor do all sites have electricity, or campfire pits.
For our family’s vintage camper, I do appreciate having electricity to run our little heater on cool nights. When we stayed at the campground last July, the temperature did drop to about 10-12 (Celsius) at night. We would have been okay, but I was still getting up to nurse the baby in the middle of the night and I found the trailer very cold once I got out of my sleeping bag. Because of this I like to have electricity.
Our favourite loops for electricity are 64 and 67. The sites in this part of the campground are more open and get lots of sunlight through the trees. Loops 64 and 67 are also close to the walking trail and play areas.
If we’re not concerned about having electricity, we really like loop 9. Loop 8 would be good too, but I think that’s only for tents or tent trailers and so we haven’t stayed there. Both 8 and 9 loop are right on the playground. If your kids are old enough to go play unaccompanied, then try for these sites. They’ll have a great time!
If you’re camping in full luxury (with water and electricity) you’ll probably want loops 50-59. These sites are larger with-pull through parking. Know that you really should be reserving these sites as soon as the reservation system opens up in January each year. You’ll find more information about reserving campgrounds in this post.
Also, remember that if you are close to the washrooms, you’ll have more foot traffic around your site. The washroom buildings keep an outside light on as well. If you think this might bother you or your sleeping family, you may want to choose a site further from these buildings.
I remember how years ago we’d hop in the car, gear piled high in the backseat and head off to the mountains, no certain plans… just open to go where the feelings and roads would take us. It’s hard to do that now. I’ll admit this is mostly because the backseat is now occupied with little people. But those little people have different demands and comforts. As much as I want to instill a sense of adventure with my kids, I also don’t want to cuddle a muddy kid all night long or hold a toddler over a stinky outhouse toilet if I don’t have to. Which brings me right back to why Whistlers Campground in Jasper National Park is a great choice for families!
Planning to stay at Whistler’s Campground or another Jasper Campground?
If you’d like some information on all the campgrounds in Jasper National Park, you’ll find this is a helpful article. I also explain how the reservation system works for the park. Basically, to get the best reservable sites, you’ll want to have your camping plans made by the beginning of the year. Seriously, they book up fast. Like 10 minutes fast!
Lastly, what will you do while you’re visiting the park? I’m all for hanging out at the campsite to play and read and explore. But, you’ll be in Jasper and you’ll want to take in a few of the sights, I’m sure! Here are a few articles you’ll find helpful:
- Ultimate bucket list of 100 things to do in Jasper.
- 2 day family itinerary for exploring Jasper National Park.
P.S. I’d love to help you stay up to date with Jasper news, local’s tips, activity ideas, and adventure suggestions. If you join the Jasper Edition Newsletter, I can pass that information along to you once each month, ensuring your next visit to Jasper will be even better!