Best time to visit
Waterton Lakes National Park gets busy in summer.
During the peak summer season - especially in July and August - Parks Canada encourages visitors to plan ahead, be patient and consider visiting on weekdays.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, visiting Waterton Lakes National Park in 2021 will be different than it has been in the past. Your cooperation is required to ensure a safe experience for yourself and others.
Here are some things you can do to make the most of your visit. We look forward to seeing you!
When is Waterton Lakes National Park busiest?
The park is busiest on weekends in July and August (peak hours are between 10 am and 4 pm), and especially long weekends.
If you choose to visit the park during peak hours, be prepared for wait times at the park gate, traffic delays, limited parking, busy trails and limited or no campsite availability.
Parks Canada’s goal is to provide the safest possible experience for visitors, wildlife and staff. When traffic volumes affect the ability of the park to operate safely, Parks Canada will temporarily divert traffic.
What are the best days and times to visit?
Travel during the week to avoid the weekend rush. If you are planning a weekend trip, enjoy popular areas 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 mobile device. Consult the Alberta 511 road report.
On weekends during the peak summer months, follow Waterton Lakes National Park (@WatertonLakesNP) on Twitter to get park traffic updates, using the hashtags #WatertonRoads and #ABRoads.
Consult our list of current construction projects for potential impacts to your trip.
Check our social media channels for information, or to find out answers to any questions you might have:
Park entrances and parking
In July and August, the park gate is busy and parking lots in the village, Red Rock Canyon, Cameron Lake, Crandell Lake and Bear’s Hump can fill up by 11 am.
If there is no parking at your chosen destination, consider visiting Waterton village and then go to your destination at a later time.
There are over 600 parking stalls in the village. Visitors can park anywhere in town and be a short walk away from attractions and services.
Please be patient. Safety is our top priority so be sure to follow all instructions when entering the park.
When a parking lot is full, please remember:
- No parking outside designated parking stalls
- No parking illegally along roadway shoulders or off road
- Do not wait for spots to open - move on and try again later
- Leave enough room for RVs and buses to manoeuvre
- Parking for oversized vehicles (RVs, trailers) is limited
- Do not overcrowd parking lots. Consider visiting another area of the park
- Follow instructions from Parks Canada and traffic control staff
Red Rock Canyon Day Use Area has been especially popular at peak periods on weekends. Please follow directions of traffic control staff. If the parking lot is full, visit later after exploring other areas of the park.
On the roads
- Akamina Parkway is open to vehicles to Little Prairie day use area.
- Red Rock Parkway is closed for the season. Seasonal closure to motor vehicle use October 31 to May 1 (weather dependent)
- The Bison Paddock Loop Road is closed for the season. Seasonal closure October 31 to May 1 (weather dependent)
- Chief Mountain Highway is open as far as Belly River Bridge. Chief Mountain border crossing is closed until further notice
- Motor vehicle access is restricted on Waterton Avenue until further notice to provide additional space for physical distancing in Waterton village
- When driving, please obey all posted speed limits, signage and closures
On the trails
- Bear's Hump trail is now open for hiking. The trail and parking lot are crowded at peak periods.
- Bertha Falls/Lake, Crandell Lake, Blakiston Falls and Townsite Loop trails can also be crowded.
- With over 200 km of trails in Waterton Lakes National Park, consider taking a less popular trail to get away from the crowds.
- Consider hiking earlier or later in the day for a more tranquil experience.
- Maintaining physical distance on trails is your responsibility, consider wearing a mask if you’re in a popular destination or a narrow trail.
On the water
- All non-motorized watercraft must undergo a mandatory inspection before launching in park waters.
- Clean, Drain, Dry. Help to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species such as quagga and zebra mussels, Eurasian milfoil and whirling disease.
- Reserve a place to stay. From late June through mid-September, most reservable campsites are booked well in advance. See our camping section for detailed information.
- Belly River Campground will remain closed until further notice.
- Crandell Mountain Campground remains closed due to damage sustained in the Kenow Wildfire and will remain so for 2021.
- Camping is available nearby at Castle Provincial Park and Beauvais Lake Provincial Park (Alberta Parks).
- We recommend booking your hotel or B&B well in advance. There are also private campgrounds and other accommodation 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 the weather forecast, current trail conditions, warnings and closures or visit a Parks Canada visitor centre (make a note of our visitor centre location and 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
- Visit our COVID-19 and your visit to Waterton Lakes National Park page for an up-to-date list of open areas.
- Our Things to do section can help you plan the best experience.
- See our lists of travel tips and ideas for making the most of your visit in each season.
- Visit a quieter destination - many people find that quieter places in the park make the best memories.
If visitor levels are too high, consider visiting another attraction nearby, such as:
- Alberta Parks
- Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump
- Bar U Ranch National Historic Site
- Find more suggestions on the Alberta SouthWest website
Master your trip planning with these Parks Canada tools, including: Parks Canada website, Parks Canada newsletter, Parks Canada app, Parks Canada brochure, Regional Vacation Planners (Western Canada), social media.