Backcountry camping

Waterton Lakes National Park

Backcountry camping is a great way to experience the rugged and untamed wilderness of Waterton Lakes National Park.

There are 10 backcountry campgrounds in the park:

  • Alderson Lake
  • Bertha Bay
  • Bertha Lake
  • Boundary Bay
  • Crandell Lake
  • Goat Lake
  • Lineham Lakes Note: No campground facilities at this location
  • Lone Lake
  • Snowshoe
  • Twin Lakes

With the exception of Lineham Lakes, all are designated campgrounds with outhouses, tent pads, food storage bins and picnic tables.

Fires are only allowed at Bertha Bay, Boundary Bay, Crandell Lake, Lone Lake and Snowshoe, and must be in the metal fire rings.

Our backcountry campgrounds are not accessible by road. They are accessed by using the park's hiking trails. Bertha Bay and Boundary Bay campgrounds are also accessible by personal watercraft.

Map: Check the park map for their locations.

The information below is designed to help you plan a safe and enjoyable visit of Waterton Lakes National Park's backcountry, while keeping the natural environment as healthy as possible.

Fees and reservations

Fees and reservations

Complete list of camping and registration fees

A backcountry use permit is required for overnight stays in the backcountry. Permits are available from the Waterton Lakes National Park visitor centre.

Reservations for backcountry campsites may be made no sooner than three calendar months in advance.

Call the visitor centre at (403) 859-5133 to reserve your backcountry campsite.

All camping and reservation fees must be paid for at the time of booking by credit or debit card (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, JCB or UnionPay). Before calling, please have the following information:

  • dates of trip
  • campgrounds preferred
  • number of adults and children in party
  • credit card information
  • contact address and phone number
  • model and licence plate of vehicle

Permits must be picked up at the visitor centre no sooner than 24 hours in advance of the start date of the trip.



Requests for refunds must be made prior to commencing your trip. If you cancel a reservation at least 48 hours prior to your scheduled day of arrival, you will receive a full refund less the original non-refundable reservation fee and the cancellation fee.

If you cancel a reservation less than 48 hours prior to your scheduled day of arrival, you will receive a full refund less the original non-refundable reservation fee and the fees for the first night of camping.

Reservation fees are non-refundable. Once you have started your trip, refunds are not given for inclement weather. Trips that are cancelled due to park management actions, such as trail or campground closures, will receive a full refund including the reservation fee.

Random camping

Non-designated or random camping in Waterton Lakes National Park is allowed during winter only. All wilderness camping regulations and fees apply year round.

Information and camping permits can be obtained at the Visitor Centre on Cameron Falls Drive in Waterton townsite, or by telephone at 403-859-5133.

Backcountry camping regulations

  • Backcountry camping is permitted at designated campgrounds only. Tents must be placed on tent pads provided at each site. Tent pads measure 2.7 m x 2.7 m (9 ft. x 9 ft.).
  • There is a limit of one tent per tent pad. The maximum number of people per tent pad is three. Most backcountry campgrounds have four tent pads.
  • Gas stoves are required for cooking at backcountry campsites, but certain sites allow fires in designated fire pits. If you do choose to have a fire, it should be kept small and extinguished completely. Gather only small pieces of dead and down wood. All fires may be prohibited when the fire hazard is extreme.
  • Water sources are available at each campground. Water should be treated or boiled before use. Food must be cooked and consumed at the designated cooking area away from the tent pads. Don't eat or store food near your tent as this could attract wildlife. Store food, cooking gear, garbage and toiletries in the food storage bins provided at each site.
  • Pit toilets are located at each campground. Urination around your campsite attracts wildlife and leads to vegetation damage. Remember to bring toilet paper.
  • Don't wash yourself, clothes or cooking gear in lakes or streams. Remove all food scraps from grey water and scatter at least 50 m from campsite or water source. Pack out all food remnants along with all your garbage.

Backpackers' checklist

Before heading out for an overnight stay in Waterton's backcountry, consider the items you will need to take to make your trip safe and enjoyable.

You need to bring:

  • backcountry permit
  • tent, groundsheet, sleeping bag, sleeping pad
  • adequate clothing, rain gear, hiking boots or sturdy shoes
  • backpack
  • adequate food, gas stove, fuel and matches, cooking and eating utensils
  • garbage bags to pack out all food and personal trash
  • water bottle / water treatment or filter
  • first aid kit
  • basic toiletries and toilet paper
  • rope, minimum 10 m (30 ft.)
  • bear spray

You may want to bring:

  • hat, sunglasses, sun screen
  • insect repellent
  • camera
  • extra socks
  • gloves
  • headlamp or flashlight
  • whistle
  • topographic map, compass, GPS
  • pocket knife or multi-tool
  • Trekking poles

Backcountry camping with horses

When booking your backcountry camping permit, specify that you are camping with horses. This will help to avoid overcrowding and availability of the corrals.

Backcountry camping with horses is allowed only at Lone Lake and Snowshoe Cabin, where corrals are provided. A maximum of eight horses are allowed in the corrals. Prior permission from Parks Canada is required to use the corrals. Contact Parks Canada at 403-859-5133 for more information.

Store all food, garbage, horse feed and other attractants in the storage lockers provided. Pack out all garbage, unused food and horse feed.

Horses are restricted in some areas of the park. Visit our Important Bulletins, visitor guidelines and horseback riding pages for more information.

Things to keep in mind
  • Select a trip which best suits your group's abilities, experience, equipment and the time you have available.
  • Inform friends or family of your itinerary.
  • Respect your surroundings. Leave no trace and pack out what you pack in.
  • Check trail conditions and weather updates.
  • Warnings, restrictions and closures could happen at any time. See our Important Bulletins page for a current listing
  • Cell phone reception is unreliable and even non-existent in the backcountry.
  • Be considerate of other users. At campsites, let nature's sounds prevail. Keep loud voices and noises to a minimum.
  • All visitors are responsible for their own safety.

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