Parks Canada reservations to open 3 months earlier than previous years

You can start planning your summer vacation as early as mid-January to Banff, Jasper, Yoho and Waterton. In fact, you might have to.

Alpine Club of Canada also extends its advance-booking window for backcountry huts from 2 months to one year

Campers can book Parks Canada sites for the summer of 2016 starting in January. (iStock)

It's the time of year when many Canadians are musing over which tropical destination would offer the best winter escape.

But Parks Canada wants us to start thinking about next summer. Like, right now.

For visits starting in April all the way through to March, 2017, reservations will open in January — three months earlier than previous years.

"People are trending toward booking further in advance," said Patti Youngberg, an operations coordinator with Banff National Park.

"The campgrounds fill up really fast," she added. "If we open it earlier, people just have a better opportunity to get the dates that they want."

On Jan. 12, visitors can begin to book guided hikes for the 2016 season at the famous Burgess Shale fossil site in Yoho National Park. (John Niddrie/Parks Canada)

Campers can start reserving popular sites in Banff, such as Lake Louise, Tunnel Mountain and Johnston Canyon, on Jan. 14.

Bookings start a day earlier in In Jasper for Pocahontas, Wabasso, Wapiti and Whistlers campgrounds (including oTENTiks).

Reservations for the Burgess Shale guided hikes in Yoho National Park open Jan. 12 and if you've always dreamed of hiking the West Coast Trail, you can book for next summer as early as Jan. 11.

Parks Canada's oTENTiks offer hassle-free camping. (CBC)

In 2015, Parks Canada had a 27 per cent increase in campground reservations over the previous year.

Between April and the end of September of this year, Banff National Park had 2.56 million visitors.

That's up seven per cent from 2014.

"If it's a very specific date or a specific experience that you have in mind, like one of our oTENTik stays or an equipped campsite, we really recommend that you make those plans in advance," said Youngberg.

Alpine huts book a year ahead now 

Parks Canada isn't the only outfit moving in this direction.

The Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) recently extended the advance-booking window for its backcountry mountain huts, too.

As of November, club members can reserve space in an alpine hut a full year ahead of time, up from the previous 60-day window.

Abbot Pass Hut, located on the Alberta-B.C. border, is one of dozens of remote backcountry accommodations operated by the Alpine Club of Canada. (Robson Fletcher/CBC)

The change came in response to growing demand from backcountry users, said ACC marketing manager Keith Haberl.

"It seems pretty clear that people are booking further in advance," he said.

"We deal a lot with mountain guides who are organizing a trip for other people and they're looking to book more than a year in advance and they're somewhat disappointed, sometimes, when they can't."

Individuals looking to book huts for themselves also seem to want to secure their mountain adventures farther and farther ahead of time, Haberl noted.

"There's more people recreating and more pressure on them to get the good bookings and not be missing out, by waiting until the last minute."


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