With student life comes the desire for travel and adventure. However, the lack of funds that come with the intense financial strain of the school year can quickly darken the possibility for fun. Students, though, are nothing if not resilient, determined, and savvy when it comes to finding ways to fit in travel and new experiences with the tightest of budgets.
Among the many adventures to be had right here in Alberta are our beautiful Rocky Mountains. Although staying in hotels in Canmore, Banff, or even Jasper can be excruciatingly pricey, there are far less costly options.
Camping may not be for everyone, but if you love to be in the great outdoors there is no denying the fun you can have. If you’re looking for amenities, I highly suggest the provincial or national parks. Cheaper than the private campgrounds, they offer all that you might need at a terrific rate. Some are fully equipped with everything from flushing toilets to showers to fun programs to equipment rentals so that you can paddle board or canoe to your heart’s content.
If a cheaper option is required, I highly suggest backcountry camping. This style isn’t for everyone, mainly because if you don’t have a trailer you also don’t have any amenities. If, however, you can handle that then this can be an exciting adventure filled with nature, freedom, and at times absolutely no one in sight for miles. A Google Maps search will allow you to find many mountain roads that can be reached by car for private and free camping. Generally, most areas are allowed as long as you aren’t trespassing on private property, but if you take this route bear spray is a must.
However, if you want to backcountry camp in the national parks there is a section of their website dedicated just for that. Check out pc.gc.ca and choose which national park you’re interested in — for example, Banff or Jasper — and then click backcountry camping. One thing to keep in mind is that if you are camping in the national parks you will require a permit and park pass, which can vary in price depending on the number of people and days that you’re staying.
Once you have found a place to call home, the next step is deciding what to do with your time. There is, of course, nothing wrong with just relaxing around the fire roasting marshmallows and watching the stars, but if you’re into something a little more exciting then I suggest you take a hike or a drive up any mountain road you can find. Be careful, but also get lost in the mountains. Take in all their wonder and beautiful sights. In Jasper, Edith Cavell is a favourite and an easy hike, but by no means the only spot to see. In Lake Louise, the hikes to the Lake Agnes Teahouse or the Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse, which are only open from June through September, are both breathtaking and a great workout. Make sure you bring cash for the delicious desserts you will have earned on the trek up there.
If your choice is to remain outside of the national parks but still in the mountain areas, then Canmore’s Legacy Trails offer you a way to cycle all the way to Banff and back at no cost. There are a plethora of other choices from incredible hiking trails to bike trails and even scenic roads if you just want to drive. In Hinton, about 45 minutes from Jasper, there are incredible trails to drive and explore along with more lakes and the greatest span of wide open spaces you have ever seen.
Another great website to use is allstays.com, which costs $32.95 for an annual membership. It is a great deal of help when planning for all things camping, no matter what you decide or where you choose to go. As long as you have gas money, camping equipment, a great group of people, and an amazing sense of adventure you’re sure to find a whole lot of fun and maybe some relaxation. So, what are you waiting for? Plan a road trip!