Special events

Waterton Lakes National Park

Special events in Waterton Lakes National Park require a permit. Parks Canada will consider special event applications on a case-by-case basis. Applications are evaluated to ensure events meet all legal, regulatory and policy obligations.

Request a special event application form by emailing waterton.info@pc.gc.ca. When you do, provide the type of event, proposed date, event purpose, audience, proposed location, anticipated size, timing and organizer contact information so we can perform an initial feasibility review.

Before you submit your request, consider the following:

Is your activity considered a special event?

A special event is defined as a temporary, planned activity that is conducted for recreation, entertainment, education, commemoration or promotional purposes.

If you answer yes to one or more questions below, you will need to apply for a special event permit:

  • Is your event held for fundraising, profit or commercial promotion (including competitive activities, events staged by marketing organizations or commercial operators)?
  • Will the event affect other visitors in the area, requiring partial or exclusive use of park locations and/or amenities, such as waterways, parking lots, day use areas or washroom facilities?
  • Will the event operate on highways, roads or parkways, or affect traffic flow?
  • Does the event have volunteers and/or support teams?
  • Will banners and signage be used for promotion?
  • Will food be provided to participants?
  • Will vendors, sponsors or media be present?
  • Will the event require infrastructure such as tents, generators, portable toilets, stages or amplified sound?
  • Are you intending to repeat the event in the future?
  • Is your event on leasehold land but could have an impact on non-leasehold areas, such as disruption to other visitor experience and or affect normal traffic through an area?
  • Could your event cause environmental impacts to the area or introduce artificial lighting?
  • Does your event invite public participation such as awareness activities, rallies or festivals, or displace other park users from public areas or facilities in the park?
  • Is your event an activity not previously carried out in the park and/or is not covered under a current lease or business licence?

If you answer no to all of the questions above, your planned activity may need:

Other small gatherings or group activities such as church and family gatherings may not require a special event permit or licence. Please contact Parks Canada before planning your activity or event for more information.

Approvals for specific event types

Events that are more likely to be approved

  • Facilitate opportunities for outstanding visitor experiences
  • Respect natural and cultural resource protection goals
  • Promote public understanding and appreciation
  • Value and involve local communities
  • Respect the character of place

Please ensure your application and attached plans clearly demonstrate connections with these elements. The special event application and associated activities must comply with the Canada National Parks Act, and all other applicable statutes, regulations, directives, policies, and guidelines, including the Waterton Lakes National Park Management Plan.

Events that will not be approved:

  • Events that will damage cultural or natural resources as determined through the impact assessment process
  • Events that present a clear and present danger to public health and safety
  • Events that affect Waterton Lakes’ International Dark Sky Park status
  • Events that negatively affect other visitors’ experience
  • Large or complex events that do not provide sufficient advance notice for coordination and mitigation
Planning requirements


June through September are the busiest months of the year. New special events with potentially high impacts to ecological integrity, visitor safety, traffic congestion or are disruptive to other visitors will likely not be approved during this time of year.


Special event permits are required within park boundaries, including special events or activities that occur on the highways that travel through the park.

To manage and mitigate the impact of special events, event in the following areas are unlikely to be approved from May though September:

  • Events that may occur partially or fully on highways and roadways through the park
  • Events occurring within parking lots, day use areas, on the water and select trails.

Prospective events planned for wilderness areas, including trails and backcountry along the Akamina Parkway, Red Rock Parkway and Chief Mountain International Highway are unlikely to be approved year-round.

New requirements for impact assessment

Parks Canada evaluates special events partially on their potential to negatively impact the ecological integrity of the park. Therefore, an impact assessment is occasionally required for events. As part of the application review process, Parks Canada would determine if the Pre-approved Routine Impact Assessment for Special Events (PRIA) is applicable or not, or if a Basic Impact Assessment (BIA) must be conducted.

If the PRIA for special events is applicable, you will receive the PRIA with environmental mitigation measures you must apply, as a condition of the special event permit.

If a Basic Impact Assessment (BIA) is necessary, you may be required to hire a qualified environmental professional to complete the BIA as part of this process. The completed BIA is subject to Parks Canada approval and requires additional timelines.


Effective January 1, 2023, fees may be administered for the special event permit and for services provided by Parks Canada. This will be determined and discussed as part of an initial feasibility review consultation.


Estimated timeline to receive an approved special event permit is minimum four to six weeks. Review and approval timelines may take additional weeks for large or complex events, or if an impact assessment is required.

Plan in advance! Parks Canada may have additional challenges in approving new special event applications submitted from May through September.

Application process

Review of your event application in no way guarantees approval. Parks Canada recommends waiting until the special event is approved, prior to promotions, accepting registrations or seeking sponsors.

Step 1: Feasibility review

Submit your event concept to Parks Canada for a feasibility review by emailing waterton.info@pc.gc.ca. Information requested includes type of event, proposed date, event purpose, audience, proposed location, anticipated size, timing and organizer contact information.

Parks Canada will advise if the event is appropriate and will be considered. If yes, you’ll receive a special event application to fill out.

Step 2: Submit an application

Submit your detailed special event application, with supporting plans, to Parks Canada for consideration. An application may be requested via email.

Return the completed application to waterton.info@pc.gc.ca with subject line “Application for Proposed EVENT NAME and Proposed DDMMYYYY”.

Application does not guarantee approval. It is encouraged to wait to advertise, take registrations or approach event sponsors until approval is received. Final approval of your event is subject to Parks Canada completing a full review of the event application, including additional requested information.

Step 3: Impact assessment, licences, permits and insurance

Parks Canada will review your completed application and advise if the event may proceed.

A decision on impact assessment requirements will be completed based on your application. Parks Canada will review and identify any additional conditions with mitigations or advise you if a basic impact assessment is required.

Parks Canada will then advise you on next steps you must take for all additional required business licences and permits to support your event. Proof of special event liability insurance will also be required.

Step 4: Permit authorization

Once your special event application and supporting plans are approved, you will be issued a special event permit for your signature. Send the signed copy back, and a final special event permit will be authorized by the signature of the Park Superintendent and provided.

Step 5: Event and evaluation

Proceed with event according to the detailed plans and conditions of the permit and conditions and mitigations applied from the impact assessment process.

Parks Canada may monitor and review the event incorporating any comments from participants, visitors and staff. You will also be responsible for any additional fees incurred as a result of services provided by Parks Canada to support visitor experience, resource protection or public safety for the duration of your event, including set up and tear down.

Contact us if you have any questions about special events and processes.

Date modified :