Camping is the easiest way to cut the carbon footprint, but what if you don’t want to sleep on the ground? Parks Canada has earth-friendly ways to stay across the country. To book any of these experiences, call the Parks Canada campground reservation service at 1-877-737-3783 or go to pccamping.ca.
With sturdy walls that withstand not just creeping drafts but howling winds and driving snow, yurts offer the kind of weather guarantee some nature lovers need before committing to the great outdoors – no matter the time of year. This summer, you can stay in fully equipped yurts in four national parks.
Bruce Peninsula and Fathom Five National Marine Park, Ont.: Stay in comfort in a World Biosphere Reserve. New for 2011, 10 yurts will be available as of June 21 within Cypress Lake Campground. ($100 a night)
While you’re there: If you aren’t into diving the 22 shipwrecks here, take a glass-bottomed boat tour to see the iconic Flowerpot Island.
Forillon, Que.: The five yurts at Forillon in beautiful Gaspé have plenty of windows, a kitchen sink and beds for four people. ($129 a night)
While there: Try your hand at geocaching (treasure hunting with GPS).
Riding Mountain, Man.: Some dream of visiting Grey Owl’s cabin, while others may try for a night in the popular park’s only yurt in the Wasagaming Campground. ($56 a night)
While there: Check out the Second World War-era prison camp.
Fundy, N.B.: On a chilly night, curl up in front of the stove and read by solar-powered light. All the yurts here are in the front country (read: easily accessible). Do bring cooking gear and dishes, and bedding or a sleeping bag; don’t bring the dog. ($90 a night)
While there: After being awed by the highest tides in the world, head to the pro shop to rent ... lawn-bowling equipment!
Is it possible to have been a child in Canada without fantasizing about sleeping in a tepee? Make that childhood dream come true this summer in Alberta.
Elk Island, Alta.: After June 24, make like a Plains Cree (sort of) in a tepee in the Sandy Beach Campground, less than an hour from Edmonton. Search for bison, moose, deer and elk before returning to your campsite for a toasty fire. Sleep in a tepee set atop a wooden platform with up to five of your closest family members or best friends. ($55 a night)
While there: Download Elk Island’s Explora app onto your Smartphone or iPhone and take a phone-guided picture, audio and video tour of the park. Available May 22. (No phone? Borrow an Explora device from the park.)
Waterton, Alta.: Head to Crandell Campground in Blakiston Valley for tepee camping, modern-style. The tepees have a synthetic turf floor and are equipped with sleeping mats for comfort. Make sure you reserve in advance ($55 a night), and remember: BYOG (bring your own gear). If you can, plan to be there on Aug. 3 to witness a powwow with the Blackfoot Canadian Cultural Society. (Note: Last year, Explore magazine readers voted Waterton one of Canada’s Top 10 national parks.)
While there: The multiuse Kootenai Brown paved trail opened in October for cyclists, pedestrians, in-line skaters and skateboarders.
Before you go: Check out the photo galleries of wild animals caught on candid camera – sometimes comical, always revealing images of wolves, cougars, bears and moose captured on strategically placed, motion-activated digital cameras ( www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/ab/waterton/ne/ne5.aspx).
Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site, Alta.: Book a tepee stay and learn about the fur trade at this park between Calgary and Edmonton on the north banks of the Saskatchewan River.
Remember the first tent you slept in? Was it made of heavy, musty canvas that never really dried after a rainfall? These are nothing like that. Platformed canvas tents are the first stage of a glamping experience.
Jasper, Alta.: Cottage tents at Jasper National Park – the world’s largest dark-sky preserve – come equipped with beds, seating, electric lights and baseboard heaters, a camp stove, cooking gear and dishes, and that all-important coffee percolator. Sleeps up to four adults and two kids (in a bunk bed!). ($70 a night) A total beginner at camping? Sign up for Camping 101.
While there: Escape for an afternoon of natural spa therapy. Jasper is home to Miette hot springs, the hottest of the natural springs in the Canadian Rockies.
Georgian Bay Islands National Park, Ont.: Eight rustic cabins at Georgian Bay Islands give visitors a chance to experience the great outdoors with creature comforts. Screened porches, bedrooms, dining-room table and chairs, cooking gear and beautiful sunrises and sunsets for $140 a night (two nights minimum, at Cedar Spring) or $160 a night (two nights minimum at Christian Beach).
While there: Pack a picnic and towels, find a sheltered bay and take a dip (just keep your water shoes on to protect your feet from sharp shells or slippery rock).