Frequently asked questions
What is open in the park?
Waterton Lakes National Park is open and ready to welcome visitors in 2018. Parks Canada is committed to providing fun and memorable visitor experiences and there are many recreational opportunities for visitors in the park this year.
Parks Canada has opened additional areas in Waterton Lakes National Park, including the Bertha Falls, Bertha Lake, Crandell Lake Loop, Horseshoe Basin, and Lakeshore trails. The portion of the Red Rock Parkway that is open to non-motorized use (such as hiking and biking) is extended, from Bellevue Trailhead to Coppermine Creek. The Bertha Bay, Bertha Lake (pending snowmelt and assessment) and Boundary Bay backcountry campgrounds have also reopened.
The Entrance Road and adjacent facilities, townsite, Waterton Lakes, and Chief Mountain Highway continue to be open.
Which portions of the park are closed? Why?
The Crandell Mountain Campground and the Bear’s Hump Trail, the entire Akamina Parkway, Cameron Lake Day Use Area, Red Rock Parkway from Coppermine Creek to Red Rock Canyon and recreational opportunities associated with these areas are also closed due to safety hazards and infrastructure damage as a result of the Kenow Wildfire. It is too early to provide a timeline for when these areas will re-open. To ensure safety, please respect all area closures. Entering a closed area can result in a maximum fine of $25,000.
Is Parks Canada offering a Visitor Centre this year?
Parks Canada has a fully operational Visitor Centre in the townsite at the Lion’s Hall on Fountain Avenue. Hours of operation are:
- May 5 to June 22 - 9 am to 5 pm
- June 23 to September 2 - 8 am to 7 pm
- September 3 to October 8 - 9 am to 5 pm
Will the park be busy this year? How can I plan to have the best trip?
Waterton Lakes National Park is a popular destination, and we are planning to welcome many visitors this summer. Parks Canada encourages visitors to plan ahead. Visiting in the spring or fall, weekdays in the summer, or early morning or evening will provide the best opportunity for easier access and less crowding. Visitors can find up-to-date travel information on our social media channels (Facebook and Twitter) and Alberta 511.
If areas are closed, will entry fees be discounted?
Regular entry fees are in effect. A rich variety of visitor activities and experiences continue to be available in Waterton Lakes National Park. Entry and service fee revenues are kept in the park or site where they are collected to support visitor services and facilities. This means that every time you visit a park or site you are investing in its future.
When will other areas of the park, such as the Akamina Parkway, Red Rock for motor vehicles, and additional hiking trails re-open?
Assessments are still taking place. We will reopen areas as soon as we know it is safe to do so and will communicate increased opportunities to experience Waterton as soon as they become available. To ensure safety, please respect all area closures. Entering a closed area can result in a maximum fine of $25,000.
Check our What's open in 2018 page for a full list of what is available, along with information on recreation opportunities.
What work has been completed to this point? What work needs to be done to re-open closed areas and rehabilitate infrastructure impacted by wildfire?
Following the wildfire, Parks Canada secured fire-affected sites, reopened the Entrance Road and townsite after mitigating immediate hazards, and initiated preliminary hazard, ecological, and damage assessments. Parks Canada has assessed and cleared hazard trees and repaired damage in the areas that we are now reopening to the public.
Parks Canada is developing an extensive rehabilitation program that ensures visitor safety, maintains environmental protection and offers quality visitor experiences.
Public safety is of utmost importance to Parks Canada. Assessments regarding slope stability, avalanche hazard, water quality, and hazard trees are ongoing. Parks Canada is making every effort to re-open popular areas, and will do so when it is safe for staff and public.
Are there are any safety or public health issues I should be aware of when visiting?
Areas of the park that are open are safe to visit.
Visitors to national parks need to be aware of the potential for natural hazards. The risk of natural hazards can be reduced by being well-informed and prepared. It is important to know that some areas of the park that are open were recently burned by the Kenow Wildfire.
- Water quality - Wildfire can degrade water quality; however, the overall approach to creating safe drinking water remains the same as in unburned areas. The Kenow Wildfire may have affected water quality in the backcountry. Visitors travelling in the backcountry should treat drinking water collected from burned areas, or pack in potable water. Water turbidity and microbial pathogens (potentially increased due to the wildfire) are examples of contaminants that need to be addressed through treatment. These contaminants can be addressed with two steps: 1) filtering backcountry water with a microbial water filter that meets a third party standard such as P231 and 2) disinfection with chlorine tablets if the filter pore size is 0.02 microns or larger.
- Blowing dust - As conditions dry out this summer, there will be loose ash and dirt in the park. Strong winds will transport this ash and dirt and could cause air quality and visibility issues.
- Reduced shade - In fire-affected areas, reduced shade due to the burning of the forest canopy will make hiking and walking on hot and sunny days more strenuous. Due to the lack of a canopy, hiking trails will become slicker in rainy weather.
- Rock fall, steep slopes and debris - Rock that was once held in place by vegetation is now loose and more unstable. Take care when travelling over steep slopes and rocky areas and reduce your overhead hazard to steep slopes and cliffs where fallen trees or loose rocks may roll downhill. Increased rock or debris fall hazard can be expected during rainy or windy weather.
- Hazard trees - Any trails that are open have been fully assessed for hazard trees and the risks appropriately mitigated. Travel quickly and spread your group out to reduce exposure time. Avoid burnt forests during windy conditions with rain or snow. Travel off trail carries increased risk of injury from falling trees.
- Wildlife – Following the wildfire, animals may behave unpredictably, including entering the townsite in search of food. For your safety and the safety of the animals, never approach, feed, or entice wildlife. Dispose of garbage only in the bear-proof bins located throughout the townsite in order to avoid attracting wildlife. Report all wildlife observations / encounters by calling 1-888-WARDENS (1-888-927-3367).
- Rock climbing and scrambling - Boulders and cliffs were exposed to extreme temperatures during the wildfire, causing some rock surfaces to become brittle. Rocks and climbing areas that were once solid may now have increased rockfall hazard and insecure hand and foot holds. All rock climbing anchors and bolts need to be treated with extreme caution. Trees should no longer be considered as secure anchor options.
Parks Canada is undertaking the necessary assessments, analysis, and planning to develop a long-term approach for Waterton. We are working to restore the National Park experience in a manner that is safe for our many hundreds of thousands of annual visitors and fully consistent with the ecological objectives for the park.
How much is it costing to rehabilitate the park after the Kenow Wildfire?
It is too early to provide a cost estimate. Parks Canada is still determining costs and impacts associated with infrastructure damage and rehabilitation. A significant amount of work is required to rebuild lost infrastructure and stabilize areas of the landscape impacted by the fire. Parks Canada is budgeting for costs and ensuring all work is completed in an efficient and fiscally responsible manner while also adhering to all required environmental standards.
The impact of the Kenow Wildfire on the park was significant. The wildfire burned 19,303 hectares or 38% of Waterton Lakes National Park. Over 30 assets throughout the park were destroyed or significantly impacted. For Parks Canada and Waterton Lakes National Park, managing the reconstruction program will be unprecedented and complex.
Why is Crandell Mountain Campground not operating this year? When will the campground reopen?
The Crandell Mountain Campground is closed due to extensive infrastructure damage from the Kenow Wildfire. The campground requires significant reconstruction before it can reopen. It is too early to provide a timeframe for this.
Camping continues to be available at the Townsite and Belly River campgrounds in 2018.
Why is the Bear’s Hump trail closed?
The Bear’s Hump Trail was destroyed by the Kenow Wildfire. Metal spikes remain in place of the many wooden steps along the trail. Parks Canada is assessing and mitigating hazards along the trail. Parks Canada is working quickly to rebuild the trail in an efficient, sustainable and economically responsible manner.
Why is the Akamina Parkway closed?
Visitor safety is of utmost importance to Parks Canada. The Akamina Parkway and associated trailheads are closed until further notice due to safety hazards and infrastructure damage. We continue to assess and mitigate hazards.
Will the golf course be open in 2018?
Yes. The golf course will be open this summer. Parks Canada is working closely with the operators to return this recreational opportunity to the park as soon as possible.
What is happening at the Alpine Stables site? Will the stables be operating in 2018?
Parks Canada cleaned up burnt debris and soils to remediate the Alpine Stables site this spring.
Parks Canada is working closely with the Alpine Stables operators to provide a horse riding experience in the park this summer. The operators are using temporary structures at the site and are providing a modified service in 2018. Parks Canada is committed to maintaining a quality horse riding experience in Waterton Lakes National Park, and is completing a redevelopment plan for the site.
Will Canyon Camp be open in 2018?
Canyon Camp is closed until further notice. The camp suffered extensive damage as a result of the Kenow Wildfire. Assessments are still taking place and it is too early to provide a timeframe to reopening.
Are non-native plant species a concern in Waterton Lakes and in areas affected by wildfire?
There are fire related impacts that will require on-going monitoring and potentially pro-active management actions, including the risk of non-native species expanding their presence in the park. There are other potential sources of invasive species in Waterton Lakes also. Visitors are encouraged to be diligent of non-native species to help protect the park.
Visitors can assist Parks Canada in this important work by reporting invasive species they see and by reducing the spread of non-native species by ensuring gear such as hiking boots, watercraft, bicycles, and vehicles are clean. Parks Canada recommends brushing boots and clothing prior to and after hiking to limit the spread of weeds and seeds, and is planning to install boot cleaning equipment at trailheads.
Parks Canada is limiting horse use by the general public in 2018 to areas unburned by the Kenow Wildfire. This temporary protective measure will help vegetation to recover in burned areas, and reduce the risk of further spread of non-native species.
Why is the Bison Paddock closed? Will the bison herd return?
Parks Canada relocated the bison herd before the Kenow Wildfire reached Waterton Lakes National Park to keep the animals safe. The bison handling facilities in Waterton sustained some damage (burnt wooden planks), and the grassland in the Bison Paddock burned. The return of the Bison herd is contingent on the recovery speed of the native grassland in the paddock.
Please contact us if you have any additional questions.