Several years ago when I was working in Green Bay, WI, I came across the picture above. It was taken by a RVer camping at Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada.
It was love at first site. Jan and I both wanted to camp Banff.
Last Wednesday (January 9th) I was able to book a 10-night stay this July in Banff’s Tunnel Mountain Trailer Court campground . . . 7 of those 10 nights are in a prime (“the prime” to me) campsite.
Here’s how I did it . . .
First, besides Banff National Park there are a number of campgrounds in the Banff area (see RV Park Reviews). However, I’ll only talk about the Banff National Park campgrounds.
By the way, if you’re not a planner, then this post isn’t for you. Though we pretty much do not plan each and every campground stop, we do plan extended stays and highly desirable campgrounds. Banff is the latter.
Where is Banff?
Depending on which route you take, Banff is about 600 to 750 miles from Seattle. The town of Banff (4500′ elevation) has a population of about 8,000.
The three Banff National Park Tunnel Mountain campgrounds (Village I, Village II, and Trailer Court) are located just a few miles outside of Banff itself.
Since the Trailer Court campground provides full hookups (water, 30A electric, and sewer), it’s the best for our needs.
While we can go about 4 days without a sewer connection to our motorhome, we really can’t go more than a day without an electric hookup. When we used to camp in Wisconsin state parks, we typically had just an electric and maybe a water hookup. But if we stayed longer than about 4 days at one of those non-sewer sites, we would have to make a trip to the park’s dump station to empty our waste tanks. This has become a PITA as we have aged, so we’re always looking for full hookup sites.
For long-term stays like Banff, I typically research the campground where we plan to stay and also the best campground sites.
Since we had already determined that Trailer Court was the best campground because it had full hookups, the next step was to determine the best sites — for us.
Keep in mind that our campsite criteria may not be yours. For example, we prefer not to camp in the woods. We did that for almost a decade in Wisconsin campgrounds. We now prefer the clear sky campgrounds so prevalent in the SouthWest where we’ve lived for several years.
Non-tree campgrounds usually allow us to receive DISH satellite television and HughesNET Gen 5 satellite Internet service. We schlepp around during the day taking in the scenery where we’ve camped, but at night we like our TV and our Internet.
However, any type of satellite service looked to be problematic in Banff. This is tree country, so I needed to check camp sites that may have clear views of the sky . . . in particular the southern sky because that’s where the DISH and HughesNET satellites are located.
STEP 1 – WHERE EXACTLY IS EACH CAMPSITE?
While it’s vital to determine where to point in the sky for DISH TV and HughesNET satellites, it’s just as important to find the location of campground sites. This is necessary to see if there are any obstructions (trees, buildings, mountains, etc) for a clear line of sight.
There are PDF maps of all the campgrounds on the Banff National Park’s website like this one for Trailer Court which is not very precise:
However, I was able to “reverse engineer” the Trailer Court PDF to expose a more detailed map:
Finally, I now had a more detailed map of each campsite in Banff:
STEP 2 – WHAT DO PARK REVIEWERS SAY?
Before I book a campground site, I check RV Park Reviews.
Another good information source are the online RV forums like Escapees, IRV2, RV.net, and RV Forum.
In addition, RV blogger travel sites can be great sources. For example, RV Adventures created a Trailer Court YouTube video in which he visited many of the Trailer Court campsites. Invaluable!
STEP 3 – GOOGLE MAPPING
Once I determined where each campsite was located, the next step was to use Google Maps to investigate the “best” sites. Remember, “best” for us means a site without trees and a clear view of the southern sky.
Using the Google Maps Satellite, Map, and Street views, I investigated Banff’s Village II Campground:
After eliminating most of the tree’d campsites, I located several potential candidates in Trailer Court. The best sites with clear views of the southern skies seemed to be #141 and #143:
STEP 4 – WHERE ARE THE DISH AND HUGHESNET SATELLITES?
This step is easy. The Dish Pointer website gives you a host of information about satellites like the ones used by DISH and HughesNET.
Dish Pointer even shows you where to point your satellite dish from your current location:
As a side note, those of you with DISH know you can get the local TV stations wherever you’re camped. You just contact DISH, tell them where you are, and they’ll reset your DISH receiver to the TV stations near your campground.
However, this could be a problem in Canada. Using Satelliteguys The List, I checked if there were any US TV stations I might receive in Banff.
I think I might be able to receive the local TV stations from Spokane, WA:
Finally, I mapped the DISH TV and HughesNET satellite locations onto the Trailer Court map:
BOOKING THE SITE
After all my research, I tried reserving campsites in Banff a few months ago, but couldn’t because Banff 2019 reservations started on January 9th at 8 am MST.
As soon as I saw not only a date but a specific time, I though “Uh oh”. This reminded me of when I tried to book prime Wisconsin campsites on Reserve America 6 months in advance. As that 6-month day approached, you had to be on your computer, endlessing clicking the Reserve button until you either got the reservation or someone else did. Great fun.
Therefore, I expected that there would be tons of people trying to book Banff at 8 am on January 9th. And, indeed, there were.
Even though I did several test runs reserving my favorite site, at about 7:50 AM on that day, the Banff website slowed and then crashed.
Here’s the movie . . .
Regardless, I was finally able to book what-I-hope-will-be-a-great-site #141 for several days this summer.
Was all this trouble worth it?
Well, here’s what’s available in Trailer Court only 2 days later. I couldn’t find more than 2 consecutive days through September: