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Booking Banff

Banff Tunnel Mountain Village II Site #72

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 . . .

PRE-BOOKING RESEARCH

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.

The Three Campgrounds

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.

CAMPGROUND RESEARCH

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:

The “Official” Trailer Court Map

 

However, I was able to “reverse engineer” the Trailer Court PDF to expose a more detailed map:

Trailer Court Map “Partially Peeled”

 

Finally, I now had a more detailed map of each campsite in Banff:

Trailer Court Map – Fully Reversed Engineered

 

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:

Google Maps – Village II Campground – Map view

 

Google Maps – Village II Campground – Satellite View

 

Google Maps – Village II Campground – Street View

 

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:

Trailer Court – Prime Sites

 

Sites 141 & 143 – Facing NW

 

Sites 141 & 143 – Facing SW

 

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:

Pointing to HughesNET Gen 5 Satellite from Site 141

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:

Spokane, WA DISH Spotbeam

 

Finally, I mapped the DISH TV and HughesNET satellite locations onto the Trailer Court map:

Trailer Court Map with all the info

 

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:

Not Looking Good for Long Stays

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Wally #

    Pretty good exchange rates these days as well. If you haven’t been, Banff is a spectacular place. While you’re up that way, I’d suggest you continue north to Jasper and south to both Glacier and Waterton Glacier parks. We once rendezvoused with Paul Fouchia in Jasper. If you were interested, I have his contact info.

    January 12, 2019
  2. Grant L Harris #

    Done the very same thing starting last fall. We are going to meet up with our friends from Michigan in mid September. We are staying one week in Banff and 4 days in Jasper. I started on line about 5 minutes after the web site opened to reservations. I did the Banff Trailer Court first (my bad) took almost 1 hour. Then I when to book at Wapiti campground near Jasper. nothing available I could not even do a site jump around completely booked in 1 hour. We did find four continuous nights at Wabasso campground. Whistlers Campground is closed for the 2019 season. At the Trailer Court we have a spot on the north side of the road on the south side of the park, so hope I have some clear sky. Thanks for the write up!!

    January 12, 2019

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