Crossing the Canadian Border with an Airstream and a Dog

When planning our trip to Canada, the border crossing was the biggest question mark for us. We didn’t know what to expect, but it turned out to be nothing to worry about and took less than five minutes.

We crossed at the Sweetgrass, Montana crossing, which is listed as Montana’s busiest border crossing and the only one that’s open 24 hours for commercial vehicles. There are six lanes, with one reserved for people holding a NEXUS card and two reserved for commercial purposes. There were two cars ahead of us when we pulled up, but they moved through very quickly.

When we pulled up to the window, the agent asked for our passports immediately and then asked the following questions:

Where are you headed?

How long will you be in Canada?

What’s the purpose of your visit?

Do you have any alcohol? How much?

Do you have any tobacco products?

Do you have any cannabis products?

Do you have any weapons?

Do you have a taser or pepper spray?

Do you have more than $10,000 cash with you?

Will you be selling any goods while you’re in Canada?

Americans crossing into Canada are each allowed to have 1.5 liters of wine -or- 1.14 liters (40 ounces) of liquor -or- 24 cans of beer, as well as 1 carton (200) of cigarettes, up to 50 cigars, and 200g of loose tobacco. For more information about the items you can and can’t cross with and the possible duties imposed, visit www.ezbordercrossing.com. There were also signs posted that stated “All cannabis items must be declared,” but we have no idea what the rules are for that.

He then asked to see Max’s rabies vaccination record. After that, he handed everything back to us, and we were on our way!

Approaching the border from Sweetgrass, MT…
Waiting for our turn…
And we’re through!

The city on the Canadian side of the border is Coutts, which is where we spent the night before driving up to Cochrane, just west of Calgary, the next day. There is a duty free shop in both Sweetgrass and Coutts, so you can buy all the alcohol and tobacco your heart desires without having to pay a duty fee. If we were to cross the border via this route again, we would keep driving past Coutts to Lethbridge, about 100km (60mi) north. Coutts is a tiny, dusty, agricultural city without many amenities while Lethbridge is the third largest city in Alberta, offering food and recreation options.

After spending five nights in Cochrane, AB and three nights each at Lake Louise Campground and Tunnel Mountain Campground in Banff, we spent one night in Cranbrook, BC as we made our way back towards the border.

We crossed back into the U.S. at the Roosville, BC border crossing. It was much busier than when we crossed in Sweetgrass — maybe because it was a Friday instead of a Thursday, and there were only two lanes as opposed to three. The border agent gave us a hard-to-explain uneasy feeling, but again we had no issues crossing once answering his questions:

How long were you in Canada?

Do you have any fresh produce or plants?

Did you buy any items to declare?

This time, there was a gauntlet of cameras and devices to drive through before reaching the border agent’s window.

From there, it was less than a 2-hour drive to our destination of West Glacier. Be prepared and be honest when crossing the border, and you should have no issues. We recently read of a fellow Airstreamer forgetting to declare a couple pieces of produce at the same border crossing and were fined $300 and had their passports held until they paid it.

Bow RiversEdge Campground in Cochrane, AB with a bit of Calgary

We spent five nights at the beautiful Bow RiversEdge Campground in Cochrane, AB, which is 40 minutes west of downtown Calgary. The city of Cochrane is super cute and clean and we really enjoyed our stay at this park. The one drawback we experienced is that they are strict about their check in time — we arrived an hour and a half early and they wouldn’t let us check in. We can appreciate adhering to the rules, except that when we tried to pull into our site at 1:00, the previous person was still there. It was a tad frustrating, but they moved on in about 10 minutes, so we were able to get settled in without any more issues.

Bow RiversEdge Campground

900 Griffin Rd E, Cochrane, AB

www.bowriversedge.com

  • Full Hookups
  • Pull-Thru Sites
  • Fire Pit
  • Picnic Table
  • Laundry
  • Restrooms with Coin Showers
  • Dump Station
  • Playground
  • Basketball
  • Horseshoe Pits
  • Bocce
  • Adjacent to Off-Leash Dog Area
  • Firewood for Sale
  • Recycling

Site 85 is a level pull-thru with a tree for shade, picnic table, a fire pit, and grassy area. The property is very well kept with lush, green grass throughout and hedges between the sites for privacy. We used the tidy laundry facilities, but didn’t step inside the restrooms, which have coin showers.

The campground sits along the edge of the Bow River with an off-leash walking trail in between, which was a great place to walk Max every morning and evening.

During our stay, we drove into downtown Calgary late one afternoon. It’s a 40-minute drive from Cochrane to downtown, or about 20 minutes to the outskirts of the city. Starting at the city limits, there are a number of Light Rail Transit (LRT) stations that connect to the city center, which is a good option to avoid expensive and difficult to find parking in the downtown area. Calgary is a very large city, the third largest in Canada in fact, yet very green and very beautiful. We walked around a bit along 17th Avenue, where you’ll find a lot of shops and restaurants. We also visited Olympic Plaza, the site of the medal ceremonies during the 1988 Winter Olympics where there’s a reflecting pond to enjoy on hot days that becomes a skating rink during winter months. We attempted to visit the Calgary Tower, but it was closed due to elevator repairs.

Back in Cochrane, we visited the Krang Spirits Distillery, which is a small batch distillery that makes gin, vodka, whiskey and fruit liqueurs. We got a tour of their facility and did some free tasting of their spirits. We went home with two bottles of liqueurs – Raspberry Krang Berry Spirit and Krang Krupnik Spiced Honey Spirit. The tour was very interesting and we learned that in order for an alcohol to be considered whiskey in Canada, it has to be in a wood barrel for three years.

We had delicious tacos and drinks at Half Hitch Brewing, which is only a few minutes from the campground.

Located right next door to Bow RiversEdge Campground (within walking distance) is the Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre. They have a fitness center, indoor running track, aquatic centre, outdoor splash park, climbing walls, hockey arena, curling centre, indoor soccer, gymnastics, gym with basketball, and so on. We paid the drop-in rate to be able to use the fitness center. It was $20 for the two of us, but 25% off with a coupon from the campground, making it $15 Canadian, which is a little over $11 American — so, less than $6 per person, which is pretty reasonable.

Bow RiversEdge and Cochrane were beautiful and relaxing, and a great jumping off point for our two weeks in Alberta and British Columbia.