Winter is an excellent time to enjoy the mountain scenery and serenity of Waterton Lakes National Park. It offers good opportunity for activities like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, wildlife viewing, or a walk and a picnic on a beautiful day.

Winter season begins in November and usually stretches into April. During this time most facilities are closed. Heated washrooms and running water are available at the Fire Hall and Cameron Falls in Waterton townsite.

For camping enthusiasts, Pass Creek Day Use Area offers a sheltered winter campground.

Plan ahead to ensure the best possible experience. Check the road reports, avalanche forecast, weather forecast and trail conditions before your arrival.

We encourage you to get outdoors and have some fun!


Snowshoeing

A group snowshoeing in Waterton Lakes National Park
Strap on a pair of snowshoes and explore Waterton Lakes National Park

Snowshoeing is one of winter’s most accessible activities, and it is a great way to discover the wonders of Waterton Lakes National Park.

Snowshoers are welcome on any of the park's trails. If snowshoeing in the Cameron Lake area, help preserve the groomed ski trails by snowshoeing beside the tracks, not on them. Learn about trail etiquette

Be aware that most trails in the park traverse avalanche terrain.

Where can visitors recreate in Waterton that is not in avalanche terrain?

There are many great winter experiences in Waterton Lakes National Park for all visitors! While some areas of the park are in avalanche terrain, many are safe and accessible to those with little avalanche training. Belleview trail, Wishbone trail (to Vimy junction), Townsite Loop trail and Prince of Wales hill area can be good places to hike and snowshoe to avoid avalanche terrain.

Snowshoes are available to rent in Waterton townsite. Stop by the Parks Canada visitor centre for more information.

Cross-country skiing

Two adult cross-country skiers near Cameron Lake in Waterton Lakes National Park
Cross-country skiing is an amazing way to explore Waterton Lakes National Park

Cross-country skiing is a great way to enjoy Waterton Lakes National Park in winter.

During the winter season, Akamina Parkway is open to vehicles from Waterton Townsite to Little Prairie, where visitors have an expanded parking area to stage winter recreation.

Parks Canada sets skiing tracks on the Akamina Parkway between Little Prairie Day Use Area and Cameron Lake, as conditions allow.

Cameron Ski Trail: Distance (Little Prairie to Cameron Lake) 5 km round trip.

Red Rock Parkway and its trail network is also open for cross-country skiing in winter. Parking is available at the parkway entrance. This road is closed to vehicles from November to May.

Other potential locations to cross-country ski in the park include Chief Mountain Highway and Wishbone trail.

Our neighbouring provincial parks also offer groomed cross-country ski trails:

Winter walking

Two young adults enjoy a winter walk in Waterton townsite
Lace up your boots and enjoy one of Waterton's many winter walking trails

Whether you are interested in taking a short stroll around the community or accessing more remote locations, Waterton Lakes National Park can be a great place for winter walking and hiking.

Wildlife viewing along the Entrance Road and walking to Cameron Falls in the townsite are excellent winter-time adventures.

Belleview trail, Wishbone trail (to Vimy junction), Townsite Loop trail and Prince of Wales hill area can be good places to walk to avoid avalanche terrain.

Cycling and fat biking

Two cyclists ride fat bikes
Waterton Lakes National Park is an all-season biking destination

Fat biking has become a popular winter activity in the past few years.

Fat bikes are designed specifically for snow (although it’s not just a winter activity), with oversized tires and low tire pressure that provide both traction and float on snowy surfaces. Think snow tires for bikes.

Load up your bike (winter bike rentals are not available in Waterton Lakes National Park) and pedal one of our trails.

Trails suitable for fat biking:

  • Akamina Parkway has various fat bike-friendly trails. Little Prairie Day Use Area to Cameron Lake (Cameron ski trail - see trail etiquette), Akamina Pass trail and Crandell Lake trail.
  • Red Rock Parkway is closed to motor vehicle access from November to May each year. Bike the entire parkway, and add Snowshoe trail to the trip to make your ride a full-day experience
  • Kootenai Brown trail, Wishbone trail, Chief Mountain Highway

Weather permitting, the Red Rock Parkway, Kootenai Brown trail and Wishbone trail are all accessible for standard cycling. Chinook winds often free much of the Waterton valley and east side of the park from snow.

Backcountry ski touring

A skier in Waterton Lakes National Park
Backcountry skiing near Cameron Lake in Waterton Lakes National Park

Depending on snow conditions, opportunities for ski touring exist on or off the trail system in Waterton Lakes National Park.

Cameron Lake Cabin, operated by the Alpine Club of Canada, provides an excellent base for ski touring options. The cabin is located next to the Akamina Parkway, near Cameron Lake. In winter, the Akamina Parkway is open to vehicles as far as Little Prairie Day Use Area. From there, visitors are able to cross-country ski or snowshoe to Cameron Lake Cabin (about two kilometres).

Backcountry safety

Backcountry travel always comes with inherent risks and backcountry travellers are responsible for their own decisions and safety.

The Kenow Wildfire has expanded the terrain available for backcountry skiing in the park, but has introduced new hazards. Fallen logs and sharp branches can be hidden under the snow surface. Ski with caution in the burnt forest. The wildfire has also opened up areas previously sheltered from the wind, and changed the snowpack. Consider what may have been familiar terrain with a fresh perspective.

If the terrain you plan on visiting involves avalanche hazard you will need:

  • Training to recognize avalanche terrain and understand the avalanche hazard.
  • Avalanche rescue equipment: avalanche transceiver, probe and shovel and the knowledge of how use them for companion rescue.

Many of the trails in Waterton Lakes National Park are classified with Avalanche Terrain Ratings based on the Avalanche Terrain Exposure Scale (ATES) to help visitors determine suitable, planned objectives.

Avalanche Terrain Ratings should be used in conjunction with the current Avalanche Bulletin, issued twice a week for Waterton Lakes National Park during the winter season.

Wildlife viewing

A bighorn sheep
Waterton townsite and the Prince of Wales hill are good places to see bighorn sheep

Winter can be a great time for watching wildlife in Waterton Lakes National Park. Depending on winds and snow, you might spot elk, deer, bighorn sheep, moose, river otters, red squirrels, snowshoe hares and marten in the park.

During fall and winter, elk move through in large herds. Look out for them while driving into the park from the north or east. A rare highlight would be seeing one of the park’s wild cats - cougar or lynx – or their tracks.

Sledding / tobogganing

A girl tubing in Waterton Lakes National Park
Any snow-covered hill around the Waterton townsite can be used for tobogganing

Bring a sled or inflatable tube and take advantage of the slopes and drifts in Waterton Lakes National Park. Be careful to stay off avalanche paths. Favourite spots are on the Prince of Wales hill and around the townsite.

Picnicking

Mom and daughter at day use area
Enjoy a winter picnic at one of the park's day use areas

Bundle up and come for a picnic! Kitchen shelters with stoves are available but you must supply your own wood and bring your own supplies (no grocery store is open in the Waterton townsite in the winter). Most picnic areas include a vault toilet. Water and barrier-free washrooms are available at the Fire Hall and at Cameron Falls.
More information about day use area facilities in the park.

Winter camping

A winter camper pours a hot drink
Waterton Lakes National Park is spectacular in all seasons

Pass Creek Day Use Area, located on the park's entrance road (Highway 5), about four kilometers from the entrance gate, offers a sheltered winter campground. Facilities include a kitchen shelter, wood stove and toilets. Water from the creek may be used if treated or boiled before use. Heated washrooms and running water are available at the Fire Hall and Cameron Falls in the community.

The Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) operate a backcountry cabin in Waterton Lakes National Park, Cameron Lake Cabin,  providing overnight accommodation in the winter.

Winter birding

Two visitors looking through binoculars
Winter birdwatching

There may be fewer birds around in winter, but with no leaves on the trees, they are easier to see. Some are very colourful such as the Steller’s jay. Chickadees, grouse and woodpeckers roam wooded areas, while ravens and eagles soar above, and dippers and goldeneye are in open waters.

Annual Christmas Bird Count

Photography

A photographer taking a picture of the landscape
Capturing a beautiful winter scene from the Maskinonge lookout

From wildlife watching to stunning landscapes, winter in Waterton Lakes National Park offers many opportunities for photographers. When the ground is enveloped in a blanket of snow, the park's surroundings can take on an entirely different perspective.

Ice climbing

A climber ascends a frozen waterfall
Ice climbing frozen Lineham Falls. Photo: Eric Carter

There are a number of locations in Waterton Lakes National Park suitable for ice climbing. Popular climbs include the Compound Gullies, Quick and Dirty, Experts Choice, Lineham Falls and Sullivan Falls.

Boulders and cliffs were exposed to extreme temperatures during the Kenow Wildfire, causing some rock surfaces to become brittle. Rocks and climbing areas that were once solid may now have increased rockfall hazard. All anchors and bolts need to be treated with extreme caution. Trees should no longer be considered as secure anchor options.

Winter climbing in the Canadian Rockies presents significant hazards that are unique to this area. Before leaving home, ensure you have the right training and equipment for the terrain you are entering. Climbers must be informed, prepared, aware of their options and respectful of the conditions at all times.

Ice skating

Linnet Lake, located next to the entrance road by the Prince of Wales hill, can be a good place to skate in Waterton Lakes National Park, if conditions are right.

Because of their size and depth, it is not recommended that visitors skate on the main lakes in the park - Upper, Middle and Lower and the Maskinonge.

Be aware that temperatures can rise dramatically in short periods of time in Waterton. Parks Canada does not monitor natural ice surfaces for safety or mark potential hazards.

Skating on natural ice in the Canadian Rockies involves some serious risks. Please review the ice safety information from the Canadian Red Cross.

Winter travel tips
  • Visitors should prepare for winter driving conditions and check 511 Alberta for the latest road conditions and closures
  • Visitors should also fuel up on the way as there are no gas stations open in the park
  • The Parks Canada visitor centre in Waterton townsite is open seven days a week for information and park pass sales
  • For information on winter accommodation and amenities in the Waterton townsite, visit Waterton Lakes Chamber of Commerce

Winter safety references