Waterton Lakes National Park is conserved as much as possible in a natural wilderness state. While natural hazards do exist, the risk of personal injury can be minimized by taking reasonable precautions. Your safety is your personal responsibility. Caution and self-reliance are essential, along with a knowledge of natural hazards, experience in avoiding them and successfully dealing with them when they happen. Pick trips that reflect your level of ability.
If you are planning an activity that may be hazardous (e.g. mountain or rock climbing, or hiking alone), set up a check-in with a reliable friend or family member. Provide them with a detailed trip plan and the time you plan to return. Ensure they know who to contact in the event you don't check in at the designated time. In the case of an emergency call 911.
Steep mountainous terrain
Most accidents involving natural hazards in Waterton occur when people encounter terrain with steep slopes and cliffs. Minimize risk around these areas by staying on designated trails, keeping well back from edges and supervising children closely. Wet or moss covered surfaces can be slippery. Loose rock on scree slopes and near steep drops is especially dangerous.
Your behaviour affects the survival of wildlife and your own safety. Visit our Keep the Wild in Wildlife page to learn how to safely enjoy and help protect wildlife. For additional safety information, go to Bear Safety in the Mountain National Parks.
Lakes and streams
Waterton's lakes and streams present two dangers, drowning and hypothermia in the extremely cold waters. Take precautions when crossing streams, or walking along the edge of streams and lakes.
Insects and ticks
Biting or stinging insects may occur along trails and at backcountry campsites. Bring insect repellent. Avoid wearing scented lotions and perfumes. Rocky Mountain Wood Ticks are common during the spring and early summer. After hiking, check for ticks on your body and clothing. Tick bites can cause serious illness. Tick Fact Sheet (PDF - 64 KB).
Though park waters are generally clean, there is always a chance that harmful bacteria or parasites may exist in untreated surface water. Boil and filter untreated water before using, or carry water from a treated water source.
Pets are permitted on hiking trails but must be on a leash at all times. Dogs and other pets may jeopardize your safety and theirs by provoking and attracting wildlife.
Snow and very cold temperatures can occur any month of the year. Very strong winds are common and will quickly cause hypothermia. Sunburn can be a major problem, particularly at higher elevations. Because mountain weather can change very rapidly and unpredictably, you should carry sun screen, appropriate clothing and proper equipment at all times. Current Weather Forecast
Almost any slope, under the right circumstances, may release its snowy mantle in an avalanche. Even small avalanches can be deadly.
- Drivers should avoid stopping in posted avalanche zones.
- Many of the backcountry trails travel through avalanche-prone terrain and require a skill-set for evaluating avalanche risk. Backcountry skiers, snowboarders, snowshoers and hikers should be well informed about the type of terrain they will encounter when embarking on a backcountry trip in the winter.
- Travel in avalanche prone terrain also requires the use of specialized equipment (avalanche transceiver, probe and shovel). Use of this equipment requires practice, and instruction from a skilled user.
- Avalanche information is updated regularly and can be obtained by reading the Avalanche Bulletin.
- The National Parks backcountry is managed as a natural area, and as such many natural hazards exist. Backcountry travellers are responsible for their own decisions and safety - becoming well informed is a good start.
- New policies have been introduced for custodial groups planning backcountry travel in the mountain National Parks (Banff, Yoho, Kootenay, Jasper, Mt. Revelstoke, Glacier, and Waterton Lakes). These policies are in effect from Nov 15 - Apr 30 each year. Parks Canada has established a new standard of care, and custodial group leaders have new obligations and pre-trip planning considerations they must understand.
Avalanche information in the Mountain National Parks.
Parks Canada Mountain Safety Program
Mountain Safety Programs in the Mountain National Parks are a branch of Parks Canada dedicated solely to the purpose of Visitor Safety.
AdventureSmart is a national program dedicated to encouraging Canadians and visitors to Canada to "get informed and go outdoors".
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