Brace yourselves, folks, what I’m about to do here may be sacrilege to some of you. I’m about to write a review of Whistlers campground in Jasper National Park despite having never actually camped there. Now before you click away to watch kitten videos in hopes of calming your indignation, let me assure you that there is method to my seeming madness.
While we did not camp at Whistlers campground, we did camp at Wapiti campground. These two campgrounds are located a short two kilometers from each other, just south of the Jasper town site. In many ways, you could consider these two entities as one giant campground split by a highway. And yet, Whistlers is so damn big it really is an entity unto itself.
I encourage you to click this link to read my Wapiti campground review as it will provide lots of information relevant to Whistlers as well. What follows here is Whistlers campground specific commentary that I accumulated during an exploratory bike trip to Whistlers my family made while we were staying at Wapiti this past August.
Whistlers campground is huge. I kid you not. There are sixty-seven loops comprised of seven hundred eighty one campsites. Yes, you read that right. This is a mammoth campground, by far the biggest we’ve ever been to. Not only is it big, it is aerially expansive. The same large, treed sites at Wapiti are all over the place at Whistlers with the only notable exceptions being some pull-through sites and some sites with water service. As a result, you will find a few larger RVs at Whistlers compared to the majority found at Wapiti.
With the greater size and the additional variety of site styles, I suppose it’s not surprising that there were a lot more families with kids camping at Whistlers. Accordingly, Whistlers also has several amenities catering to families and kids. Playgrounds are spotted around the campground in convenient locations connected by an extensive trail system. We visited two during our sightseeing adventure.
The first is located by the central shower facility. This is a huge, modern playground with many climbing options that will keep the kids entertained for hours. Children from all around the campground gather here so they are sure to make new friends. A large field for ball play is located adjacent to the playground and an amphitheater is situated there as well. Park programs are provided to campers with supervised childrens’ activities starting at 7:00 each night and a documentary movie, usually related to the park, is shown in the amphitheater at 9:00. We didn’t participate in either of these activities but did watch a bit of the Saturday night kids’ games. They were simple, fun games, suitable for all ages, with a wilderness theme such as “hunting” wildlife pictures using a bowling style game. My kids were too shy to participate but the other children appeared to be enjoying themselves. These programs are supervised and conducted by young park employees.
The second playground we visited was a small, pioneer themed park with a wood lodge and large pieces of timber with which to build a lean-to. There is also an elevated wood walking course upon which a group of kids improvised a tag-like game. This style of playground is very rustic compared to their modern counterparts, but the kids seemed to enjoy it and hey, it was something unique.
There is a wonderful trail system winding through the heart of the campground enabling all 67 loops to hook-up with each other as well as the main facilities, like the playgrounds and shower house. The trails are wide (you could likely fit a golf cart on them) and groomed, providing a wonderful place to stroll or bike. Trails along the highway also provide an option to walk or bike into town as well.
Two additional services available only at Whistlers, are comfort camping and group camping. The former is what you are accustomed to, canvas cabins with interior sleeping and cooking amenities. The latter is a little different than your typical group camping site. Attached to the campground at one end, this appears to be a large area for club outings such as Scouts. It appears too large for a group of, say, ten campers like you find at other government run campgrounds. In fact, while we were there several coach buses were parked there with the accompanying passengers playing and camping in the fields.
The saddest observation about this campground is the devastation caused by the mountain pine beetle. Hinted at in Wapiti, the destruction at Whistlers is very noticeable. For starters, the lodgepole pines are much bigger than those in Wapiti. It is amazing the difference a few hundred meters can make, but there were some girthy pine trees here. Sadly, most of them are dead or soon will be. The predominance of dead trees is truly staggering in this campground. If their corpses were all to be removed, the campground would be nearly barren. I have no idea what they will do with all these dead trees. Presumably some are cut for the firewood at the park but ultimately they will have to be dealt with and it will take a long time for replacements to grow.
Everything else is pretty much as you’d expect in one of Canada’s premier national parks. Services are the same as at Wapiti, again read that review for more details. I give Whistlers Campground in Jasper National Park a 4 Baby Dill Pickles out of 5 rating, with an asterisk due to our not staying there. By all accounts, it is a bigger, busier sibling of Wapiti Campground. I really liked what I saw of this campground. Those without kids might prefer Wapiti just for the slower/quieter pace, but for families this is the spot to be, unless the lure of the river is too strong. I’m sure my kids would have preferred being near the many playgrounds and other children that Whistlers provides. The location of these amenities and the trail system linking them would have enabled us to loosen their leash more too. When we return to Jasper in the future, and I have no doubt that we will, I suspect Whistlers will be at the top of our destination list. The only drawback is the damage to the surrounding forest those damn beetles have wrought. It has truly changed the aesthetics of the campground and I lament it is not for the better. Still, a worthy spot to camp if you’re headed Jasper way.