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 high-quality visitor experiences and there are many recreation opportunities for visitors in the park this year.
The Entrance Road and adjacent facilities, the townsite, Waterton Lakes, and Chief Mountain Highway are available in 2018. The Red Rock Parkway is available for non-motorized use (hiking and biking) from the Entrance Road to the Bellevue Prairie Trail. Visitors should be aware that operational vehicle traffic will be present on the parkway and that public access may change depending on construction schedules. Please see the updated park map and the full list of what is available.
Which portions of the park are closed? Why?
Visitor safety is a top priority for Parks Canada. A number of areas of the park remain closed due to hazards following the Kenow Wildfire. The entire Akamina Parkway and the Red Rock Parkway from the Bellevue Prairie Trail to Red Rock Canyon - along with associated recreational opportunities like picnicking, hiking, canoeing, camping, and backpacking in these areas - will remain closed in 2018.
Is Parks Canada operating a temporary Visitor Centre this year? What is happening with the former Visitor Centre site?
Parks Canada will operate a temporary Visitor Centre in the townsite at the Lion’s Hall on Fountain Avenue. The opening date and hours of operation are still to be determined.
At the site of the former visitor centre, Parks Canada is cleaning up burnt debris and soils, and returning the area to a natural state.
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 and Red Rock parkways and hiking trails re-open?
Assessments are still taking place. It is too early to provide a timeframe for when additional areas will re-open. We will reopen areas as soon as we know it is safe to do so and will communicate the information to our visitors. To ensure safety, please respect all area closures.
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 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 currently were burned by the wildfire (e.g.: Bellevue Trail, the Eskerine area, Entrance Road and Kootenai Brown Trail, Pass Creek Day-Use Area, Maskinonge Day-Use Area, and portions of the Wishbone Trail).
- Water quality - Visitors should not drink water from any source other than the townsite supply. Personal water purification technologies such as handheld filters and chemical tablets are not adequate to ensure drinking water is safe after the effects of the Kenow Wildfire.
- 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).
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 20,000 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 will not be open during the 2018 season and is closed until further notice due to safety hazards and infrastructure damage from wildfire activity. The campground requires significant reconstruction before it can reopen. It is too early to provide a time-frame for this.
Camping continues to be available at the Townsite and Belly River campgrounds in 2018.
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 is cleaning 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. Once the cleanup work is complete, the operators will be able to install temporary structures at the site and provide a modified service in 2018. Parks Canada is developing a long-term solution for the site and is committed to maintaining a quality horse riding experience in Waterton Lakes National Park.
Will Canyon Camp be open in 2018?
Canyon Camp is closed until further notice and will not be open during the 2018 season due to safety hazards and infrastructure damage from wildfire activity. The camp requires significant reconstruction before it can be reopened. Assessments are still taking place and it is too early to provide a time-frame to reopening.
Are invasive plants a concern 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 sources of invasive species in Waterton Lakes also. Visitors are encouraged to be diligent and respect signs and visitor information posted to the Waterton Lakes Website regarding non-native species.
Parks Canada staff are ready to monitor and control non-native plants that may colonize the newly disturbed areas. Visitors can play a key role 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.
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 (burned wooden planks) and the grassland in the Bison Paddock burned. We are assessing how to fix the handling facility and are planning to eventually bring the bison back. It is too early to provide a time frame on the return of the bison as this depends on the natural recovery of the native grassland that make up their habitat.
Please contact us if you have any additional questions.