Backcountry camping

Waterton Lakes National Park

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

Parks Canada Reservation Service

Townsite Campground and all backcountry campgrounds reservations are now avaliable

  Reserve your campsite!  

Need to make changes to your reservation?

Parks Canada backcountry camping policies

There are nine backcountry campgrounds in the park:

  • Alderson Lake
  • Bertha Bay
  • Bertha Lake
  • Boundary Bay
  • Crandell Lake
  • Goat Lake
  • Lone Lake
  • Snowshoe
  • Twin Lakes

Backcountry campgrounds are equipped 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.

Reserve a backcountry campsite

Advance reservations are required.

Backcountry reservations available via Parks Canada Reservation System

  • Bertha Bay, Boundary Bay, Crandell Lake: Victoria Day long weekend to Thanksgiving long weekend, inclusive
  • All other backcountry campgrounds: June 20 to after Thanksgiving long weekend, inclusive

To book a backcountry campsite outside of these times, please call the visitor centre at 403-859-5133.

Reservation period opening dates

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

Complete list of camping and registration fees

A backcountry use permit is required for overnight stays in the backcountry.
Permits must be picked up at the visitor centre no sooner than 24 hours in advance of the start date of the trip.

Lineham Lakes wilderness camping

No campground facilities are available at Lineham Lakes.
Call the visitor centre at 403-859-5133 to reserve. Reservations can be made up to 90 days in advance.

Random camping

Non-designated backcountry camping is only permitted during winter, at backcountry campground locations in Waterton Lakes National Park. 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.
  • Leave your drone at home. Drones disturb wildlife and other park visitors.
  • Rocks, fossils, horns, antlers, wildflowers, nests and all other natural or historical objects in a national park are protected by law. Leave them as you found them for others to enjoy.

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.

Wildlife and people

Waterton Lakes National Park is home to wildlife including elk, wolves, cougars, grizzly bears and black bears. To successfully raise their young and sustain a healthy population, wildlife need access to as much quality habitat with as few human surprises as possible. Be aware of possible encounters with wildlife in all areas of the park, including paved trails and roads.

  • Never forget that park animals are wild and can be dangerous. Any animal can become aggressive if it feels threatened, so keep your distance - 30 meters from most animals and 100 meters from large carnivores.
  • Wild animals see dogs as either prey or predator. This can provoke confrontations with wildlife and affect your safety. That is why dogs must be kept on a leash while in a national park.

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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