The Canadian national parks in the Rocky Mountains are very popular (and for good reasons). Banff National Park had 3.3 million visitors in 2012-2013, and Jasper National Park had almost 2 million (Source). Although only a fraction of those visit backcountry campsites, a fraction of >5 million is still a very large number, and therefore reservations are required.

Those statistics are not specified by season. I suspect that visitors are highly concentrated in the summer. I enjoy backcountry hiking, but I seek solitude. As I don't mind cold or waking up with half a decimetre of fresh snow, one alternative could be to go very late in the season. How late in the season, if ever, do backcountry campsites in Banff, Jasper, Kootenay, and Yoho national park, and the adjecent provincial parks, grow quiet? By quiet, I mean an expectation value of less than one tent per backcountry campsite, or, in other words, that I would have a 50% chance to be alone at any given backcountry campsite. Does this happen within the season that hiking (as opposed to skiing or snowshoeing) is possible at all?

  • Your question refers to the backcountry, and yet you seem to be assuming that there are well-defined campsites...? Why not just hike half a mile or a mile away from the trail and look for someplace with some solitude?
    – user2169
    Commented Apr 11, 2014 at 17:23
  • @BenCrowell If I understand correctly, that's not permitted. In Jasper National Park, backcountry camping is only permitted on designated backcountry campsites, as I understand it...
    – gerrit
    Commented Apr 11, 2014 at 17:56
  • 1
    @BenCrowell I asked a related question.
    – gerrit
    Commented Apr 11, 2014 at 18:06
  • I think there is a decrease between the summer season and the winter season. The opening hours of the visitors centers might also be a good indicator. Some centers might just be open for the week end (= Less people).
    – Amine
    Commented Apr 15, 2014 at 12:59
  • @Amine I'm sure there is such a decrease, and I'd also expect the backcountry to be more crowded in summer than in winter. The information centre is closed only 1 November to 4 December, but that's a bad time for backcountry hiking. One person (who had a bad experience in Banff during the peak season, due to the crowds) told me that it should get less crowded after Labor Day (as schools are starting), which makes sense, but maybe more so for the frontcountry (more families?) than the backcountry...
    – gerrit
    Commented Apr 15, 2014 at 14:07

1 Answer 1


I live in Banff National Park and go backcountry camping on a regular basis.

Peak season for Banff, Kootenay, Jasper, Glacier, Yoho, and Revelstoke (and really, pretty much any Canadian National Park) are July and August. That said, it's also usually the best time to camp, as the weather is mild, the trails are at their best, and there is less chance of rain.

Before I answer your question, It's worth pointing out that of the 3 million that visit Banff, 80% don't leave the town. Most of the rest camp at the major campgrounds and visit the major sites. Not a lot of people do any backcountry camping and you can usually book your site without any problem 48 hrs in advance, usually on a first come, first serve basis.

To answer your question, the best quiet time is shoulder-season, especially after Labour Day (first Monday in September). Tourists will all be back at work/school with the exception of seniors and families with small children, neither of which are prime backcountry campers.

The advantages of September:

  • no crowds
  • still relatively warm temperatures in the day, but not excessively hot.
  • excellent trail conditions
  • Chance to see the larches change colour at higher altitudes

The disadvantages of September:

  • cooler evenings in the rockies means you'll need a warmer sleeping bag.
  • risk of snowfall (I've had 10 cm of snow on Sept 3rd, and then 27c on Sept 24th)

June would be my second choice for shoulder-season backcountry camping, but it has several additional disadvantages:

  • it's more likely to rain (we call it Monsoon June here in Banff)
  • trails are more likely to be muddy because of May/June rain
  • Often trails on southern aspects will still have snowcover on them
  • Higher altitude routes might still have significant snow cover, obscuring trails/routes.
  • Washed out bridges won't have been maintained yet.

Having said all that, the best time for conditions, at least for Banff/Jasper is the last 2-3 weeks of August. It's when all the alpine flowers are blooming, it's warm at day and at night, and precipitation levels are at their lowest.

  • 1
    I should mention that sometimes it's good to have people. Certain routes will have minimum group size travel restrictions in aug/sept/oct because of bear frequencies. Usually you'll have to be in a group of 4 or more. This is vigilantly enforced.
    – furtive
    Commented Apr 26, 2014 at 16:45
  • Thanks for the answer. Oh, interesting. I was not aware of minimum group sizes and didn't read about those in the Jasper Backcountry Guide (PDF, 5 MiB). I have asked a question about those.
    – gerrit
    Commented Apr 26, 2014 at 19:10
  • September is when I love to go into Algonquin, which is super crowded in the summer (eg spotting portages by the line of canoes headed to them). Pretty much everyone you meet there in September has grey hair :-) Commented Apr 27, 2014 at 15:38

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