After spending two years isolated by international pandemic travel restrictions, Waterton Lakes National Park can start welcoming American visitors again this summer.
The scenic juxtaposition of mountains and prairies shares the 9-mile-long Waterton Lake with Glacier National Park across the Canadian border, forming the world’s first International Peace Park. The COVID pandemic restricted all but essential commercial travel since 2020. Those rules have relaxed to the point that tourist travelers may now cross the border with appropriate vaccine and infection testing records.
Getting to Waterton this summer requires a traveler’s workaround. The Chief Mountain border crossing remains closed until further notice by Canadian authorities. Motorists heading north need to use the Port of Piegan/Carway crossing on U.S. Highway 89 or the Del Bonita/Coutts crossing at Sweetgrass on Interstate 15.
“The challenges posed by the pandemic are unprecedented,” a Canadian Border Services Agency release stated. “The CBSA is taking a phased approach to gradually reopen sites still affected by the temporary measures put in place, including the closure at Chief Mountain. We will continue to provide updates as constraints are lifted or amended.”
Travelers to Canada must have a passport or other valid ID (such as a USA Passport Card) and have completed their mandatory ArriveCAN submission, including their COVID-19 vaccination information, within 72 hours before arriving at the border.
Many of Waterton’s favorite areas have resumed public access after suffering extensive damage in the 2017 Kenow wildfire. Red Rock Parkway opened after winter closure in May. The Akamina Parkway is drivable to Little Prairie Day Use Area, and those wishing to reach Cameron Lake must go on foot from there. Expect snow and winter-like conditions around Cameron Lake in May.
Waterton Townsite’s campground and the Belly River campground have both opened for the season. So has the new Parks Canada Visitor Centre, which replaces the facility that burned to the foundation in the Kenow fire. The new Visitor Centre has modern interpretative exhibits, programing and visitor information services.
Entry to Waterton requires a separate permit from a Glacier National Park entry pass. It must also be purchased with Canadian currency.
Waterton requires inspections of all watercraft entering the park for potential invasive species contamination. That includes kayaks, canoes, stand-up paddleboards and other nonmotorized craft.