Best times to visit
Waterton Lakes National Park gets busy during the summer months; and with free admission to Parks Canada places throughout 2017, we expect more visitors than ever before.
To have the best experience, make sure to plan ahead. Here are some things you can do to make the most of your visit to Waterton Lakes National Park in 2017. We look forward to seeing you!
When is Waterton Lakes National Park busiest?
Waterton is busiest in July and August; and in particular around long weekends:
- Victoria Day (May 19-22)
- Canada Day (June 30-July 3)
- Civic Holiday (August 4-7)
- Labour Day (September 1-4)
Expect extremely high visitation this summer. It could result in traffic delays, limited parking, busy trails and limited / no campsite availability.
What are the best days and times to visit?
Try to avoid the weekend rush and travel during the week when things tend to be quieter. If you are planning a weekend trip, try to get here early. Once you've settled into the park, head out early in the day or in the evening, especially if you are heading to the high-use areas like Cameron Lake or Red Rock Canyon. If you are hiking, plan to be at your trailhead early.
Make sure you keep informed!
Check current traffic conditions before you leave home or when you are on your way, using your smartphone or GPS device. Consult the Alberta 511 road report.
Check our social media channels for up-to-date information while you are en route:
Park entrances and parking
In July and August, the park gate is busy and parking lots fill to capacity quickly. There are a limited number of parking spaces at the Visitor Centre parking lot (Bear's Hump trailhead). Additional parking is available at Linnet Lake, Emerald Bay and Parks Canada compound (weekends only).
Please be patient. Safety is our top priority so be sure to follow all instructions when entering the park.
When parking lots are full, please remember:
- No parking outside designated parking stalls
- Do not wait for spots to open; move on and try again later
- Leave enough room for RVs and buses to maneuver
- Parking for oversized vehicles (RVs, trailers) is limited
- Follow instructions from Parks Canada and traffic control staff
- Get your park pass - entry is free in 2017, but visitors still need a pass. Pick up your free Discovery Pass online or from any Parks Canada partner today.
- Reserve a place to stay - from late June through mid-September, campground reservations are essential. Arrive early at first-come, first-served campgrounds, but be prepared to wait for spaces to empty (checkout time is 11 a.m.), and book ahead at reservable campgrounds. We also recommend booking your hotel, hostel or B&B well in advance. There are also private campgrounds just outside the park. If you plan to stay overnight during a long weekend and don't have a reservation, you are likely to be disappointed.
- Check for warnings or closures due to incidents or construction projects
- Make a note of the visitor centre hours
- Brush up on safety tips - natural hazards exist in national parks. Read our tips for drivers, hikers, campers and winter enthusiasts. Cell phone coverage is not reliable.
More tips to help you celebrate Canada 150 in Waterton Lakes National Park
- Our Things to do section can help you plan the best experience.
- Take in an interpretive theatre program, guided hike or family program and have someone reveal the unseen wonder of Waterton Lakes National Park to you. Parks Canada interpreters and guides can turn the beautiful into the magical.
- Visit a quieter destination - many people find that quieter places in the park make the best memories. Quieter locations and activities include:
- Bison Paddock and Overlook
- Maskinonge Day-Use Area - have a picnic near the Waterton River, or paddle Maskinonge Lake and spot as many plants, birds and animals as you can.
- Kootenai Brown Trail
- Hay Barn Day-Use Area - take a picnic, splash in the river and relax at this secluded spot.
- Chief Mountain Overlook on Chief Mountain Highway - take in the spectacular view of "Where the Mountains Meet the Prairie".
- Belly River Campground
- Driftwood beach - explore the natural wonders of Middle Waterton Lake while wandering through the wave-sculpted driftwood on the shoreline.
- Volunteer - this year we are running seed collections, clean-ups, Canada 150 bio-blitzes and more!
- Join in the celebration - it's a special year and a variety of Canada 150 events will take place in Waterton Lakes National Park in 2017.
- Stargaze - delight in Waterton’s night skies. Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park is now recognized by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) as a provisional International Dark Sky Park.
- We recommend - some tips and ideas to help you get the most out of your visit to the park.
If visitor levels are too high, consider visiting another attraction nearby, such as:
- Glacier National Park - U.S. side of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park (entry/exit requirements)
- Alberta Parks
- Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump
- Bar U Ranch National Historic Site
- Remington Carriage Museum
- Frank Slide Interpretive Centre
- Bellevue Mine Tour
- Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village
- Heritage Acres Farm Museum
- Find more suggestions on the Alberta SouthWest website