RV’ing 101 in Calgary

Roadtrip to the mountains
Roadtrip to the mountains
Planning your RV adventure

RV’ing 101 in Calgary

Your guide to creating a magical vacation in a motorhome or trailer in the Calgary area.
By
Tobin Rooney

Tobin Rooney is a content creator for This Big Adventure, local Calgarian, and always in favor of RV’ing over his day job.

Planning an RV Trip? Why not make Calgary part (or all!) of your RV experience? Calgary’s close proximity to the Rocky Mountains and numerous Provincial and National Parks, combined with local attractions and events, make Calgary the perfect basecamp for RV adventure. Be prepared to say, “BEST. TRIP. EVER!”.

Never RV’d before? You may be thinking, why would I RV? 

RV’ing gives you the freedom to enjoy and explore your surroundings with all of the comforts of home. If you see a picnic spot on your route simply pull in, open the fridge, and enjoy! 

RV’ing isn’t just about the destination, they make getting there half the fun! 

When travelling by RV, you can really experience the sights, sounds, and smells of the area you’re exploring…plus, hotels typically frown on having a campfire and s’mores in your room!

 

Header image: CanaDream RV Rentals (Photo credit: Travel Alberta/Anthony Redpath)

RVing in the mountains

CanaDream RV Rentals (Photo credit: Travel Alberta/Anthony Redpath)

Renting an RV in Calgary

Don’t have an RV? No problem!

There are several options for renting an RV in Calgary. If you are at least 21 years old and have a valid driver’s license and credit card, you can easily rent an RV or motorhome. Just make sure to check with the rental agency ahead of time, for all their license requirements.

If you choose to rent an RV Trailer and supply your own towing vehicle, it must be equipped with a hitch receiver, full RV wiring and a hitch with 2” ball. If you have any questions on the set up and towing capacity of your vehicle, make sure to ask your rental agency, as they would be happy to help.

If you do not have the ability or desire to tow a trailer, a motorhome RV is a great option for you! If you are flying into YYC Calgary International Airport, pick up is available from most rental companies from the airport itself.

When renting an RV in the summer months, it's good to know that there is typically a minimum seven day rental period.

It’s also good to note that most RV rentals are just the RV. If you don’t have all the essentials like dishes, bedding, chairs, flashlights and such, you can usually rent these for an additional fee.

Some great options for renting in Calgary are:

RVing in the mountains

RVing on the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park (Photo credit: Travel Alberta/Anthony Redpath)

Some Important RV Laws While Driving in Alberta

It’s important to know that no passengers are allowed in towed RVs (i.e. the trailer behind your car) and two safety chains are required for all towed RVs except 5th wheels and no secondary attachment is necessary.

In motorhomes, you require a seat belt for each passenger.

There are no passengers allowed in truck campers.

Getting To and Around Calgary in Your RV

When driving an RV, knowing the major routes is key to a quick, less stressful drive. Calgary is broken up by quadrant – Northeast (NE), Northwest (NW), Southeast (SE), and Southwest (SW). When getting directions, ensure you know which quadrant of the city you are going to. Getting around Calgary in an RV is easy, as we have several RV friendly routes with multiple lanes and clearly marked exits, which helps you navigate the city.

Stoney Trail (Highway 201)

Stoney Trail (Highway 201)is a 69-kilometer ring road that runs around the outside of Calgary. This road is a great option for accessing all quadrants of Calgary and is a perfect option to use when Highway 1 and 2 are congested, making your exit from the city quick and easy.

Deerfoot Trail (Highway 2)

Deerfoot Trail (Highway 2) runs through the city of Calgary and spans the entire length of the city from north to south. Deerfoot Trail is a great non-rush hour option and gets you access to all quadrants of the city. If you find yourself coming into Calgary on a weekday between the hours of 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. or from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., Stoney Trail is a better option as the Deerfoot gets very congested during peak times.

Glenmore Trail

Glenmore Trail is another freeway option that runs East-West through Calgary and is accessible by both the Deerfoot and Stoney Trail. Similar to the Deerfoot, avoid rush hour on Glenmore if possible.

16th Avenue NE & NW 

16th Avenue NE & NW is another route for East-West travel. This road becomes Highway 1 (the Trans-Canada Highway) as you exit Calgary in either direction. While 16th Avenue is the most direct route, it also has many traffic lights and can add a significant amount of drive time to your trip as you enter and exit the city. On the positive side, 16th Avenue takes you through the city and offers a multitude of options should you wish to stop and explore, shop, or eat.

For information on Alberta road conditions, call 511 or 1-855-391-9743, or visit 511.alberta.ca.

Parking your RV or trailer in Calgary during the day

Most inner-city parking lots are meant for regular cars and trucks and will not accommodate an RV or motorhome. Street parking with an RV is an option, but can be challenging to find a space during the work week as you are competing with daily commuters. The weekends will be more open to street parking.

To determine if you must pay for parking on the street, check the curb for a street sign with a four digit number, which is your ParkPlus zone and means you must pay to park on the street.

If you download the ParkPlus app, you can pay and manage your parking sessions from your smart phone, which means no more digging through the car seats for meter money or waiting in line for a parking lot station.

Many neighbourhoods, especially in the city centre and near hospitals and universities, also have restricted parking that is only available to residential pass holders, but these are clearly marked. You are not allowed to park an RV in front of a house that you do not own, or else without the homeowners’ permission. If you are visiting someone overnight and parking immediately in front of their house, that’s fine, but you cannot park in front of their neighbour’s home.

 

RV campgroud at Calaway

Calaway Park Campground

Camgroud store at Calaway campground

Calaway Park Campground

Where to stay in your RV?

The key to a great Calgary RV experience is to do some research and book everything well in advance. Booking early has many advantages – you typically get the best RV sites, you are not burning up precious vacation time looking for last minute accommodations, and it gives you more time to invest in planning activities for your trip.

Calgary West Campground

Located on the west side of Calgary, Calgary West Campground is the only campground located within the city limits. Calgary West offers free shuttles throughout the summer to connect you to Calgary Transit, and during the Calgary Stampede, an express bus gets you directly to and from the grounds. One item to note for you s’more lovers, due to the location of the park, open fires are prohibited.

Calaway Park Campground

Located minutes West of Calgary, Calaway Park Campground offers up mountain views and the opportunity to walk next door to Western Canada’s largest outdoor family amusement park! There is also a daily shuttle available during the Calgary Stampede for those looking to check out the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth!

Mountain View Campground

Located 3 kilometers East of Calgary, Mountain View Campground has country camping with quick access to the city. Daily shuttle bus service is offered during Calgary Stampede.

Other RV Options

Other fun options just outside the city for a full RV getaway include Dinosaur Provincial Park, where you can stay on-site at one of the world’s richest fossil deposits and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Aspen Crossing, where you can ride the rails on daily train excursions, and Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site, where you can explore just like David Thompson as he found a passage through the Rocky Mountains.

Parking your RV or trailer in Calgary overnight

Sometimes you roll into town late and cannot get into a camp site. Now what? The best solution we have found in our travels is to get permission from a store manager of a big box store to park in the lot for the evening.

Walmart has been traveller friendly for years and they have many locations throughout the city, but you must get permission from the Store Manager to avoid any late-night evictions or tickets. If you get approval to park in the lot, there is a general rule that you park in the far corners of the lot away from the regular shopper parking and you refrain from using RV bump out/RV slides. Each Walmart is different, so be sure to call ahead, and it is imperative to get permission before parking overnight.

Showering in Calgary

Depending on the time of year, certain campsites may not have active facilities to get you looking (and smelling) your best. You may want to freshen up prior to hitting the town, but what to do if your RV or campground lacks a good hot shower?

Dump stations for camping in Calgary

One of the nice things about an RV is having your own private washroom. The dark side of this luxury is that, at some point, you need to service it. The good news here is there are plenty of options for RV dump stations in and around Calgary. 

Most local campgrounds will have dump stations available for their registered guests and included in your camping fees. You can still service your RV at plenty of campgrounds, even if you are not a registered guest, but there is a fee for utilizing a campground dump station that averages between $6-20.

Ziplining at WinSport

Zipline at WinSport

What To Do In Calgary while on your RV Trip

Part of the fun of any RV trip is planning what to do once you have parked and set up. There are so many things to do and see in Calgary that you could stay all summer and be busy every day! There are great Festivals and attractions that are both adult and family friendly.

Good luck, remember to book early and take the time to plan your RV adventure!