Best time to visit
Areas of Waterton Lakes National Park remain closed due to safety hazards and infrastructure damage from the Kenow Wildfire. Visit our What's open in 2018 page for an up-to-date list of open areas.
There is potential for high levels of visitation this summer in Waterton Lakes National Park. Parks Canada encourages visitors to plan their trip ahead of time, and to consider visiting in the spring or fall, weekdays in the summer, or early morning or evening to ensure the best opportunity for easier access and less crowding.
Here are some things you can do to make the most of your visit to Waterton Lakes National Park in 2018. We look forward to seeing you!
When is Waterton Lakes National Park busiest?
Waterton is busiest in the summer months; and in particular around long weekends:
- Victoria Day (May 18-21)
- Canada Day (June 29-July 2)
- Civic Holiday (August 3-6). Traditionally, the August long weekend is the busiest of the season in Waterton.
- Labour Day (September 1-3)
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.
Consider visiting the park in the shoulder seasons. Spring and fall are great times to experience Waterton Lakes National Park.
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. 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
- Reserve a place to stay - from late June through mid-September, campground reservations are essential. Arrive early at the first-come, first-served campground (Belly River), but be prepared to wait for spaces to empty (checkout time is 11 a.m.), and book ahead at reservable campground (Townsite). We also recommend booking your hotel 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 our 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 enjoy your visit to Waterton Lakes National Park
- Areas of Waterton Lakes National Park remain closed due to safety hazards and infrastructure damage from the Kenow Wildfire. Visit our What's open in 2018 page for an up-to-date list of open areas.
- 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:
- Kootenai Brown Trail
- Day-use picnic sites - the following day-use areas (park map) are the least likely to be full on a busy day:
- Hay Barn
- Knight's Lake, on the shore of Lower Waterton Lake
- 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, bio-blitzes and more!
- Join us for one of our special events.
- 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.
If visitor levels are too high, consider visiting another attraction nearby, such as: