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Photograph of canoeing on Lower Waterton Lake in Waterton Park.

The Wilderness experience in Waterton Lakes National Park is one of the best in the world. The spectacular unspoiled wilderness of Waterton Park offers users superb opportunities for solitude, personal and physical challenge, freedom and adventure.

All primitive campgrounds have dry toilets, lake or creek water sources, fishing, hiking and photography potential. Each site has a 12 person and 4 tent maximum (with the exception of Boundary Bay which has a maximum capacity of 9 people and 3 tents). Most have fire grates and some have open kitchen shelters. Locations are on the Park Visitor Guide.

To camp in ANY backcountry area, visitors MUST book a site and purchase a Wilderness pass from the Visitor Reception Centre. The maximum stay in the backcountry is 14 days with no more than 3 consecutive nights at any one campground. Passes must be picked up no earlier than 24 hours in advance at the Visitor Reception Centre, open 10 am to 6 pm during the months of May and September and open from 8 am and 8 pm during July and August.

Reservations may be made in person or by phone, using Visa/MasterCard through the Visitor Reception Centre (403-859-5133) from May to October and through the Warden Office (403-859-5140) during the off-season. Refund requests must be made NO LATER than 24 hours before the scheduled departure date in order to be refunded. We do not give refunds for adverse weather conditions.

  • Parasites carried by humans and some domestic and wild animals can get into any surface water (lakes, streams, rivers) and may contaminate human water supplies that come from these sources. In humans, they sometimes cause severe intestinal illness. When using surface water or water from taps where a caution is posted (i.e.. at picnic areas and Belly River campground), it is recommended that you boil, filter or use iodine tablets in your water before drinking it or using it to brush your teeth.

  • The bear poles are provided at each wilderness campsite for campers to sling their food and garbage; visitors will require 10 m or 25'-30'of rope in order to do so.

  • Pit toilets are provided at each campsite, though campers are reminded to bring their own toilet paper.

  • Campers must place their tents on the tent pads (2.7m2/9'x9') provided. There is a maximum of one tent allowed per pad.

  • The use of gas stoves is recommended. Where open fires are permitted, campers must use the wood provided. Should there be none, campers are permitted to collect drift wood and blown down trees, leaving the live trees for the enjoyment of others.

The Wilderness Pass

A "Wilderness Pass" charging wilderness visitor a nightly fee, was implemented in 1994 in Banff, Jasper, Kootenay and Yoho National Parks. This was extended to include Mount Revelstoke and Glacier National Parks and Waterton Lakes National Park in 1996. This Pass represents an investment in wilderness protection and helps ensure that this quality experience will be available for years to come.

Some important things to know about the Wilderness Pass are:

  • Wilderness Pass revenue will be applied directly to wilderness maintenance and services.

  • Implementation of the Wilderness Pass helps Parks Canada ensure Canadians will continue to benefit from their system of National Parks. The purchase of this Pass partially shifts the financial burden for support and maintenance of the wilderness from the general taxpayer to those users who benefit directly from the services provided.

  •  The Annual Pass is valid for one (1) year from date of purchase. To relieve the burden to families using the wilderness, children 16 years and under will not be charged the fee. It is anticipated that small incremental increases to the cost of the Wilderness Pass will continue for the next few years as Parks strive closer to self-sufficiency.

  • The purpose of the Pass is to partially off-set the cost of trail maintenance, and campground maintenance. Revenue from the Pass is not sufficient to support the cost of trail reconstruction, Park Warden patrols, resource studies, or the variety of other services that are provided.

  • We encourage visitors to plan their trips as many of our popular trails and campsites are full during the summer. A reservation system exists for some of our busiest campgrounds. An additional fee is required for this service but it is a way to avoid disappointment.

  • All commercial operators will contribute to the support and maintenance of the wilderness through separate agreements or through their clients' purchases of the Wilderness Pass.

  • Wilderness users and other stakeholders will continue to be consulted through visitor surveys and personal contact. We appreciate any comments and constructive suggestions with respect to wilderness fees. Survey results show people agree with paying part of the cost of wilderness opportunities.

  • Refunds are available under certain circumstances. For specific information check at park information centers.

  • While visiting you will likely see Park Wardens patrolling. They will also be checking for your Wilderness Pass so please make it available upon request.

  • Wilderness travel, while rewarding, can be strenuous, know your physical limits. Remember, your safety is your personal responsibility.

For those visitors who frequent Canada's National Parks, may we suggest:
The Annual Wilderness Pass

The Annual Wilderness Pass is good for one year from date of purchase and is valid in Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Kootenay, Waterton, Mount Revelstoke and Glacier National Parks.

Youth 16 and under - free.

For further information please contact:

Waterton Lakes National Park - (403) 859-2224

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