Tour of Alberta – our favourite parks

As promised, we’d like to share with your our own Top 5 list of our favourite Alberta (Canada) provincial parks.

It’s no secret that we adore camping and getting out into nature. Like most folks, we have ‘day jobs’ and our son has school so that leaves us a bunch of weekends before (and after) our summer vacation to get out in our RV. We have a few requirements that we use for assessing our weekend trips and different criteria for longer stays (as say, part of our summer vacation).

Weekend Trips
One of our criteria for weekend trips is proximity to home. We’d rather not spend five hours travelling for a couple nights so we like to look for parks within a two hour radius from our home base (in Edmonton). Secondly, things to do – short trips mean we don’t always take our tow vehicle, so we like to try and find activities that can be done on foot (or by bike). Our third criteria tends to be based on whether we can make reservations and popularity.  Many local parks tend to be very busy as are all of our favourites. There are only a handful of parks within a couple hours of Edmonton and they all tend to fill up fast and many are 100% reservable so without a prior reservation, you will not get a spot.

Miquelon Lake Provincial Park

Local beaver

Part of what makes Miquelon Lake so charming is it’s location. Located about 40 minutes south east of Edmonton, it’s a quick trip and an easy drive to make after work or school on a Friday. It has lots of easy hiking and walking trails and amazing wildlife viewing opportunities. As part of the Beaver Hills Biosphere Reserve (and the Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve) there is a great mix of forests, land and lakes with many great opportunities for birding, star gazing and multi-seasonal activities.

Winter Camping – when it’s not too busy!

Downside is that it’s always busy. Reservations are necessary. The first served sites are only available during the winter camping (October 1 until mid-May). The campground offers 15 and 30 amp service, reasonably level sites, fire pits and semi-private campsites with lots of trees.


Pembina River Provincial Park

Lush campsite

This park is beautiful. Aspen forest coupled with lovely boreal forest with a calm, fishable and floatable river makes this park one of the area’s most popular. It’s about an hour and forty minutes from Edmonton but it’s an easy, 4 lane divided highway drive. It’s tucked far enough from the major highway that you’ll feel like your considerably more remote. 

Fishing the river

Offering ample opportunities for wildlife viewing, fishing (spin and fly), swimming, geocaching, kayaking, hiking and biking, it’s a great spot to spend a weekend.  The campground has power sites with firepits, lots of trees and a variety of sites (from open to densely treed).

This park too, is very busy, although it does have some first serve sites (loops B & C), they are very often full three days before the weekend. Winter camping is available and then it is all FCFS. 

Vermilion Provincial Park

Spacious Campsites

This park is a little further away (right around the two hour mark) but it’s an easy drive that takes you east of Edmonton into some lovely Alberta prairie. 

It has lots to offer too! Fully reservable (it accepts reservations in April), it offers full hook up, power and unserviced sites. Trees and no trees, back-in and pull through, it’s a large park with roomy sites. The biggest issue with this park is not all the sites are that level – however, if available, the park operators are fantastic at accommodating you if they can.

Historic caboose

There are a great many things to do out here too. Mini golf, a splash park, fishing, hiking, birding and more with close access to the town for forgotten supplies and a really great campground operator, it’s a great place to spend the weekend.

Now we’ll take you a little further away to our favourite spaces to go while on our summer vacations. These two lists are based solely on experience. They are parks we’ve gone to since childhood and love sharing them with our son and experiencing them again and again. Each trip provides some new and unique interpretations and discoveries that always keeps us coming back, year after year.

Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park

Hoodoos in the Forest

Writing on Stone is one of those places that each time you see it, it’ll look just as amazing and as impressive as the first time. Whether it’s the endless prairie, swirling coolies, towering hoodoos or the snaking Milk River valley, there is always something to see that you’ve not noticed before.

Situated about 40KM north of the USA (and about six hours from Edmonton), the park is also a National Historic Site in Canada (Áísínai’pi National Historic Site) and has been nominated

Faces in the Rock

for a UNESCO site as well. It is hot, hot, hot here in the summer but the lovely Milk River provides shade (from the Cotton Wood forests) and comfort from the river itself (be sure to check if the water’s safe before you go) are a great way to enjoy the area. Be sure to take in one of the guided walks in the Preserve – it is worth the time and cost. The interpreters clearly have passion and the Blackfoot have been integral in the development of the programs and the visitor centre.

The preserve is restricted access only. In part because it is home to the largest collection of rock art in North America but also because it’s home to many different animals, including pronghorn antelope, prairie rattlesnakes as well as raccoons, deer and various birds. But there are many other trails to walk and hike that don’t cost a penny and the visitor centre has beautiful displays and interactive activities that are absolutely free!

Endless skies

The park is busy all summer. It’s a quite a drive but the unique landscape, beautiful campground, lush river valley and impressive rock art attracts visitors from all over the world. Be sure to book a campsite in advance or check it out during the shoulder season!

Dinosaur Provincial Park

Dinosaur Valley

Dinosaur Park is every child’s dream come true. It is where Dinosaurs lived and died and one can hardly walk in the preserve and not find remnants of these ancient animals. It is an active field station for the Royal Tyrrell Museum and the harsh landscape is overwhelmingly beautiful. Hoodoos, coolies, dinosaurs, cotton woods, John Wares cabin, an interpretive centre, engaging tour guides and ice cream – what’s not to adore about this remote little place located about 50km south east of Brooks (which is about 4.5 hours from Edmonton) .

The campground is spectacular too. With over 120 sites, there are a variety of site styles. From smaller sites that back on to coolies to ones in the lumbering shade of the cotton wood trees, there isn’t an ugly site to be seen. It is usually always full so again, reservations are a good idea.




Thanks for letting us share with you our top five picks for Alberta Provincial Parks!




Pacific Rim National Park Reserve – Part One (Vacation 2017)

Sunset at Green Point

After our stay in Ucluelet, the next stop on our journey was Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. There are three distinct parts to PRNPR: Long Beach Unit, Broken Group Islands and the West Coast Trail.  As we only explored the Long Beach Unit, we will be sharing some resources for discovering the other two portions of the Park (see the end of this article for links). 



Our campsite

We stayed at the Green Point Campground (Long Beach Unit). The campground is tucked on the ocean side of the park reserve and ensconced in old growth forest. The roads in the campground are narrow and although some of the sites would accommodate larger RVs, be sure to check out details on the Reservation site as the turning radius’ are not as spacious as one would like when touring with a large (35 foot plus) RV.

View from our Campsite

The campground has two beach access points – both are a bit of a hike down easy terrain. The campground also has a beautiful theatre (Green Point Theatre) on site, where they host a variety of interpretive programs throughout the peak summer. We enjoyed two programs – “Bears, Wolves & Cougars” – a film and talk about the three largest carnivores that reside in the park and how we can coexist with them. Our son took this talk extremely seriously. We will be sharing his thoughts on the talk and what he took away from it on our Kid’s Corner. The other was a shoreline walk where we learned so much about our ocean and the beaches on the west coast and some of the visible critters who live there (if you know how and where to look!

Very old tree stump that we shared our campsite with!

Reservations at Green Point are necessary during the summer. We booked our campground one hour after reservations opened in January, so we secured a much coveted ocean-side campsite and although we had an obstructed view (see above photo), we had the full benefit of the ocean sound and were even fortunate enough to had the remains of an old growth (approximately 600 years old) tree stump in our site! Noise does not transfer from site to site so it gives you a very secluded camping experience. The campground has a maximum stay policy of seven days – done to allow many to experience this unique and breathtaking landscape. It should be on everyone’s bucket list.

The park also has a few other hidden gems tucked in it’s trees and we look forward to sharing them with you soon as they are worth the short drive and hike to take in their sites!


Please explore some further reading about the West Coast Trail and the Broken Group Islands – two areas we hope to one day be able to explore! 
1. Parks Canada Information on the Broken Group Islands & the West Coast Trail
2. BC Parks blog post about the Islands
3. More info on the Islands from Vancouver Magazine
4. A lovely write up about a hiker’s trip on the West Coast Trail
5. Another great write up on the WCT


*The information above, has been provided as courtesy as we adored the parts of the park we explored and want to encourage others to explore these more remote points in the park. We are not affiliated with any of the linked sites.
**Please note that travelling to these remote parts require specific permits & permissions from Parks Canada.



Ucluelet (Vacation 2017)

If there was a place a vacationer could stay forever, it would be the west coast of Vancouver Island. We easily (and quickly) fell head over heels in love with Ucluelet (and area). See our Vacation Series here!

We stayed at “Surf Junction Campground” – a cute little spot, eight kilometers north of Ucluelet and less than one from the Highway 4 junction. The staff were helpful, kind and very friendly. It was clear they had passion for their job and their community. We had a reservation (which was a good thing) although they did have RV sites available, their tent sites were full.

Surf Junction (RV site)

With full hookups, well treed and private, our site was a little oddly laid out but with a little jockeying, we had no issue getting set up. An even better bonus – the site was level! Always a bonus when parking an RV! There was lots of room for our chairs and RV mat and we were able to enjoy being outside – not always something one expects when staying in commercial campgrounds! The picnic table in our site was a little – unstable – but it held up our barbecue well. We didn’t utilize their onsite shower or washroom facilities, but if they were kept nearly half as well as the (camp) sites and office were, I’m sure they would be great.

After practising on the beach, they headed into the ocean to test their skills!

The boys booked surf lessons – the lessons included a snack, boards and (wet) suit rentals as well as a ride to (and from) the beach. Although it was not hot and sunny the day the boys went, the ocean was cooperative and the boys had a great lesson with Michael. He was fantastic with our son and both my boys got to ride some great waves and it spurred a love of the ocean (and surfing) in them both. We’d certainly stay at Surf Junction when we go to the island next. I went along for the ride and spent most of their lesson walking in the ocean (it’s cold) and taking pictures of them.

How to scare a mother – look at those waves rushing towards my son!

Ucluelet itself is quite a delightful little town. With a year round population of about 1800 people, the town is small enough to not feel crowded but still large enough to support a hospital, shops, an aquarium, schools and several great restaurants.

We visited two of the many beaches in town – Big Beach and Little Beach. The beaches are a lovely place to spend a few hours (longer if you pack a picnic) and they give you a lovely sense of the ocean and it’s power. Big Beach introduced us to the ocean (as the day we arrived, we went into town and found the ocean so we could see the ocean for the first time). Rocky, sandy and with lots of driftwood, it really is an unbelievable place and so easy to lose track of time just watching the ocean crash onto the rocks.

Photo courtesy of Ucluelet Fishing Charters

Although we didn’t see it, we were able to hear the continual sound of the lighthouse sending it’s warning out to sea. The Amphitrite Point Lighthouse began operation in 1906 (after a tragic crash in 1905) but the original lighthouse was destroyed in 1914. The current structure commenced service on March 23, 1915.

Also on high on our list of things to see and do in Ucluelet, we were able to spend the afternoon at the Ucluelet Aquarium. It truly brought the necessity for conservation and preservation into sharp focus. All the interpreters are passionate, engaging and very informative. They have many ‘touch’ pools so one can experience the ocean and their state of the art water system pumps fresh sea water into their pools and all the critters are returned to the ocean at the end of the season.

  • Ucluelet Aquarium
    Ucluelet Aquarium
  • Giant Green Anemone
    Giant Green Anemone
  • Our son with sea cucumber
    Our son with sea cucumber
  • Plumed Anemone
    Plumed Anemone
  • Octopus
  • Star Fish
    Star Fish


One key takeaway for our son was the amount of garbage that is collected from our oceans. In both the Aquarium and the Kwisitis Visitor Centre (on Wickinninish Beach in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve), they have various art installations made from the garbage collected on the beaches in the area. It truly is overwhelming just how much trash ends up in our oceans.

We experienced so many wonderful things while in the Ucluelet area, we could have stayed forever! The next leg of our adventure was Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, a truly unique and distinct area and we can’t wait to share it with you!

Qualicum Falls & Cathedral Grove (Vacation 2017)

Our journey started by leaving our home city (Edmonton) on June 18th, this saw us stop overnight in Jasper National Park before heading on to Kamloops. After a brief stay, we booked it to Delta and hopped the ferry to Nanaimo. We drove through to Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park and set up camp for the next few days and commenced our two week stay on the Island.

Water fall through the trees
Qualicum Falls

Like most of the provincial parks we’ve stayed in in British Columbia, Little Qualicum Falls was immaculately kept and seemed to attract a great selection of campers, all of whom seemed to be there to enjoy nature – not their generators or their radios. The park is patrolled frequently and it is always full. Reservations are must – we actually saw a family packing up as they’d pulled into what they thought was a vacant site, only to find out it was booked (you can book many BC campsites here). Within the campground itself, there are many hiking trails and sites to see. The falls themselves (upper and lower) are a short walk from the campground (in the day use area) and are quite beautiful and not as busy as some of the other tourist sites we’ve visited. The campground is in the middle of a beautiful forest that’s filled with lush ferns, Douglas fir and it felt like we’d stepped back several million years in time! At any moment, we expected to see the ghost of a massive Apatosaurus munching away on the gigantic, lush vegetation!

It is a stone’s throw from MacMillan Provincial Park – which is home to Cathedral Grove – Vancouver Island’s largest old growth, coastal forests. If you’re in the area, Cathedral Grove is a ‘must stop’ location – and oh, so many people do!

broken tree in coastal old grown forest
Fallen trees

There are two coastal forests to walk through in Cathedral Grove. One is a large old growth Douglas fir forest. The trees are massive, imposing and spiritual in nature. The largest of which is an imposing 9m in circumference, nearly 76 metres tall and is almost 900 years old!

burned out western red cedarOn the other side of the highway, is another massive forest filled with ancient  Western Red Cedars. Although not quite as large as their neighbours, it is home to the remnants of the western giants. The oldest and largest of which, was set aflame by vandals in 1972. This beauty, nicknamed the “Giant’s Grave” once stood 71 metres tall and 4.5 metres in diameter!

Although there are many (many) visitors there are any given time, for the most part, it doesn’t feel crowded (the parking lot, however, is). Be very aware of the traffic and respect the speed limits and watch for pedestrians! It is worth the moment to stop. Be sure to enjoy the surroundings and the silence and take the time to exist in a very special, spiritual space.


Read the introduction to our summer vacation here!

Our Summer Vacation – 2017 Edition (an overview)

Straight of Georgia
BC Ferry ride to the Island

Like most families, we take an annual summer vacation. Our journey for 2017 would take us to Vancouver Island. Located on Canada’s south west coast, it is the largest island on the the west side of North America

Boasting a land size of 31 285 square kilometres with a population of about 760 000, it is known for it’s old growth forests, vibrant arts scenes and it’s wildlife.

Maligne Lake Boats with mountains behind
Maligne Lake

We typically don’t like to travel long days. Four or five hours is our maximum daily drive but we knew we wanted to get to the island quickly so that we could maximize our time there. We also knew with 2017 being free entry to Canadian National Parks, that some of our journey would be very crowded, thus our decision to take our son out of school two weeks early. A decision we made in conjunction with his teacher and with the full support of the school administration. The thing with missing the last two weeks is that most of the work is done – it’s just the fun stuff left. But surfing lessons, eating fresh seafood and touring historic sites is all fun stuff too, right?

Over the next few weeks, we will be sharing with you our journey, hit our highlights (Kid’s Can Cook!), favourites and talk about how the Trip Tracker app helped keep us on track and on budget (almost). We will share some things we learned, a bit about the people we met and speak about the natural disasters we encountered (the British Columbia Forest Fires) and how we handled that while being on the road.

Super Summer Giveaway (part one)!

We have been trying out new products during our travels and we’ve put together some great prize packs! We want to share all the great things we’ve been using and discovering and what better way to do than giveaways!

On our last trip, we replaced our old barbecue brush with a new product from Pampered Chef Canada. The wooden grill cleaner is made from solid oak and when used on a hot grill, the wood begins to form to your grill. We’re happy to report it works well and cleans the grates beautifully.




Next, we’ve got a bottle of Victorian Epicure’s “Oh Canada Dry Glaze” – perfect for flavouring your next barbecue! Beef, pork, fish or chicken all pair well with this – available for summer only – spice! We tried it on chicken and it was delicious – with hints of maple, it’s sure to please!



Best of all, we’ll send you a free download code for RV Trip Tracker (available for Android only)!


For your chance to enter, check out our Facebook and Twitter pages!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

RV Trip Tracker – an overview

Trip planning, whether for a weekend excursion or a long vacation is a lot of fun but it can be a challenging even with the tools we have available today. Which route to take, where to stay, and what activities to enjoy are all part of the planning. Understanding what a trip is going to cost can be a bit more difficult. Let’s start by giving a general overview of the software.

Calculating the costs of a planned trip is really just the old act of budgeting. It is not fun or exciting for most of us, but is necessary when we are making decisions about a much anticipated trip. The easiest way to estimate what future trips are going to cost is to look back and see what past trips have cost. Collecting that data in a single place has always been difficult, but now we have a tool to aid us.

The RV Trip Tracker allows us to gather the individual costs of a trip and keep them in a single place. Then we can summarize all this data and understand what our trips cost us both over a period of time and over a distance. We can then bring this knowledge forward and use it to get an estimate of what future trips are going to cost.

If we know our trips have typically cost us $32.00 per day, then a 14 day trip is going to cost $448.00. If we are spending $1.25 per kilometer, a 865 kilometer trip will cost $1,081.25. So a 14 day trip of 865 kilometers will cost about $1,529.25.




With the RV Trip Tracker you can catalogue all the vehicles you use. If you have a motorhome with a towed, both can be recorded and have expenses recorded for them. If you travel with a truck and trailer, enter just the truck, or enter both if you wish. You can keep track of maintenance expenses as well as trip costs.

Then set up your trip. One of the handy features of the RV Trip Tracker is you can set up trips ahead of time so that trip expenses incurred before the beginning of the trip, like groceries, can be recorded and included in the trip.

When you start, your trip enter your beginning mileage then at the end of each day enter your ending mileage. The app will carry forward your mileage to start each day. During your trip record your expenses as you incur them. Fuel, campsites, and groceries are among the items you can keep track of.

During the trip the app will give you a running total of mileage and basic expenses. And at the end of the trip you can get a summary of the trip or you can export the entire trip so you can load it into spreadsheets or another database for your own special analysis.

Then on your next trip, once you have decided where you are going to go and how long you will be away, you can easily estimate what the trip is going to cost.

A great RV vacation: using January to plan for July!

Want a perfect vacation? Use this recipe: Time + Effort + Flexibility.

Wasa Lake Provincial Park (Cranbrook, BC)

Once upon a time, one used to just be able to say ‘hey, I feel like heading out camping this weekend!’ and you did. Put a few clothes in a bag, grabbed a pillow and a some groceries and out the door you went. Part of the allure of camping was the freedom to just go at a moments notice, your home on your back (or behind your vehicle) and only the open road ahead.

Fast forward 30 years, and things are not the way they used to be! With an ever growing population and an even larger love of the outdoors, planning a weekend away all too often has to be planned months in advance. Many popular campsites (especially those adjacent to larger urban centres), fill up quickly and you can very well find yourself without a place to camp if you show up late on a Friday night!

What is one to do? How do you find spontaneity while RVing? Can you plan for a trip in July in January?

Time. Take the time to research where you are going to go, where you are going to stay. How much time are you going to spend in any one place? Are you arriving mid-week or on a weekend? If you take the time to figure out the basics of your vacation, it eases the pressure.

It takes effort. Sometimes, seemingly more effort than it is worth. With the advent of Google and online reviews, finding a decent place can be daunting. I have learned, through the extensive planning of our last three summer vacations, that online reviews are very much subjective. What one person finds horrible, another may find only a minor annoyance and sometimes, there is no issue at all.

Read reviews but also ask friends and family for recommendations. Social media can be a great equalizer so use it to your advantage. Call the campgrounds – often, a first impression of the voice who answers the phone will tell you more than any review you read. Is the person friendly? Can they answer your questions? Do you feel rushed or dismissed? A five-minute phone call is a little effort but could be very rewarding.

Finally, be flexible. With dates, with expectations, with your idea of ‘perfect’. With luck, your unit will fit the site! With luck, it isn’t beside the garbage! The campground allows you a legal place to park and rest your head. You want clean, you want friendly, you want to enjoy yourself. Sometimes perfect is what you make it.

Many times, campgrounds are happy to accommodate you if you are flexible. Can you shift your stay a couple days? Arrive on the afternoon of a holiday Monday instead of the Friday of the long weekend?

But how can you be spontaneous? My top three tips:

  1. Be patient. Instead of having to be out camping May Long Weekend, go the weekend after. Guaranteed it will be quiet! Guaranteed you’ll find the choice camp spot!
  2. Go early! Then book the Friday off work and leave first thing Friday so you can get one of the coveted “first come, first served” spots. Research where you going though, as many provincial (and I assume, state) campgrounds are leaving fewer and fewer FCFS spots in their campgrounds.
  3. Go mid-week! Many of Alberta’s campgrounds offer discounted camp spots if you go for a mid-week stay instead of on a weekend!

Bonus Tip: If you are able to take all your vacations in the shoulder season, finding a campsite tends to be easier. Find your perfect and work within it.

App Now Available!

We are very pleased to announce the RV Trip Tracker app is available for download from the Google Play Store! Now you can get the jump on early planning and learn all about your new app before the crush of camping season begins!

In the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing tips and helpful mini-tutorials that will aid you in learning your way around the app so you can optimize it for your own use. Toss away the guess work of how much your vacation cost and keep track of all the great things you did so you can remember where you stayed and forecast next year’s holiday!