Parks Canada warns Albertans of long waits, no parking for August long weekend
Visitors encouraged to prepare alternative plans in case tourist hotspots too busy
Planning a sunny visit to one of Alberta's national parks over August long?
You may have to get in line — park staff at Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, Waterton Lakes National Park and Banff are bracing for a very busy weekend.
Visits to Alberta's national parks have spiked on weekends this year, and Jed Cochrane, a visitor experience manager for Parks Canada, wants to make sure prospective visitors know what to expect as Heritage Day approaches.
"The weather looks like it's going to be beautiful, so we can expect lots of people to be coming … which is fantastic," Cochrane said.
"But we really just want people to be aware that some of our places are going to be quite busy this weekend, and you will find it very hard to find a parking spot."
Backup plans, less-visited destinations encouraged
Parking for Lake Louise and Moraine Lake has been filling up very early in the morning, Cochrane said.
If drivers see signs on the highway that lake parking is full, they should expect to be waved through the lot — and back onto the highway.
Cochrane is urging visitors to prepare backup plans in case the attractions they want to see are too busy, or consider exploring less frequented destinations instead.
"You want to plan ahead, so we encourage people to check our Parks Canada website. Read up on … maybe some places to visit other than some of the really busy places," Cochrane said.
John Stoesser, communications manager for Waterton Lakes National Park, echoed this sentiment in an emailed statement to CBC.
"To have the best possible trip, visitors should arrive early or later in the day, consider planning a mid-week trip, and be flexible — if your selected destination is full, visit an alternate area," it read in part.
Parks prep COVID-19 safety measures
Visitors should also know to expect a different experience in the mountains because of COVID-19.
At Lake Louise, for instance, there is now a one-way trail from the parking lot to the lake, Cochrane said.
There are also signs to remind visitors to physically distance in areas that are prone to congestion, limited bathroom occupancy, and a recommendation that visitors wear masks in indoor spaces.
Another change park officials have seen this year, Cochrane said, has been more trash on the trails.
Keep parks beautiful, says Parks Canada
"Normally, our visitors are very good at picking up after themselves; we think this might have something to do with COVID-19," he said. "People are maybe not willing to touch the garbage cans to put their garbage away."
Cochrane is requesting that visitors plan ahead in regards to their garbage, too.
If handling trash cans make you uncomfortable, be prepared to take your garbage with you, or bring sanitizer and gloves to handle garbage can lids safely.
"We want to keep our beautiful places beautiful," Cochrane said.
With files from Rick Donkers