STARS: 4 out of 5
BOW VALLEY CAMPGROUND, ALBERTA, CANADA, NEAR CANMORE: GPS 51.0849° N, 115.0915° W
I rated this a 4 because of it’s convenient location, prettiness, and privacy. However, there were downsides, too, that will be described in this review.
This campsite is near the town of Canmore (cute and largish town about 20 mins away) and not too far from Calgary (about an hour). It was a good launching spot for us to take care of some errands and get acquainted with those two towns. It was very hot while we were there, though, and the river was flowing too hard to take advantage of the water. We googled to find somewhere to swim, and all that came up were Quarry Lake and one who's name I can't remember; the former being very crowded with locals, but having a separate swimming area for dogs, and the latter being less crowded, but with steep rocky and dirt embankments and clay like soil in the water that our water shoes got stuck in. The water (to me) was unappealing because of the clay bottom, but it didn’t seem to bother many people. We discovered (and aren’t sure why it didn’t show up in searches) Spray Lake, which is an amazing secret! Go enjoy it! The surrounding are beautiful, the water is clear as can be, the bottom is gentle rocks and sand. It is certainly cold, but I waded in and even dunked under, and I’m a bit of a wimp. Even if the weather is not swimming weather, you should check this lake out. It is about an hour drive (only because part of it is on dirt roads), but well worth it. We also did the drive down the 17 (??) and looped up the dirt road back to the town of Canmore, which is how we discovered Spray Lake.
The campground itself was challenging to navigate and really challenging to park (back in to). There was a sharp turn to get down to the water sights, which we nearly didn’t make. Instead of following the signs, you could follow the map and take the turn prior to the turn to the water sights, but it was still a tad narrow and sharp in that direction too. But I do think it may have been more doable. We had a site down by the water (A33), which was beautiful once we got in, but we actually had to enlist the assistance of a professional truck driver to get us in. It was beyond tight, with trees straddling each side of the site. The site opened up around the picnic table, but getting in was a true squeeze. In fact, opening our slide was a questionable decision due to low branches.
The campground was packed, but never felt noisy. The sites had a lot of greenery between them, so they also felt pretty private. There was a path along the river that cut through our “backyard,” which decreased the privacy, but it was worth it to have the pretty setting.
Luckily, getting out of the spot was not nearly as tough as we thought it would be. We followed the trucker’s directions and hugged the driver’s side and turned to the passenger side, once we were as clear of trees as possible. Luckily, in this area, the road was fairly wide and the turn was manageable.
We did have both AT&T and Verizon service there.