Calgary

Lake O'Hara changes its booking system for busing and camping

For years, Lake O'Hara was a paradise inaccessible to thousands, but now changes are coming to how visitors make reservations.

Parks Canada says it's introducing a random draw system for its day-use bus

The changes will affect how visitors make reservations at Lake O'Hara next summer. (Robson Fletcher/CBC)

For years, Lake O'Hara has been a paradise accessible only to a few in order to protect the sensitive alpine environment and maintain a memorable experience for visitors.

And that will remain the case, but a new reservation system is being implemented for 2020 to make the process more fair.

The picturesque lake is in Yoho National Park. It's just west of the Great Divide, which is also the B.C.-Alberta boundary.

Jed Cochrane with Parks Canada says one of the changes being introduced is a random draw system to allocate reservations for seats on the Lake O'Hara day-use bus. 

"That is a very popular offer that does sell out within minutes in the morning when it opens up," he said. "In the past, we have had over 20,000 people on there trying to make a reservation for one of 3,000 seats that are available for the summer."

Hikers make their way up the 11-kilometre road to Lake O'Hara. Overnight camping reservations were previously taken over the phone. Now they'll be available online. (Robson Fletcher/CBC)

Starting Feb. 1, people will now have one month to submit a non-refundable $10 application online with a random draw to follow. 

Those who fail to win a seat on the bus but still want to go can hike along the 11-kilometre access road off the Trans-Canada Highway. Private vehicles are not allowed.

Cochrane says there are also changes coming to the Lake O'Hara campground booking system. Reservations — which were previously made over the phone — will now be available through Parks Canada's online reservation service. 

For the third year in a row, Christian Falkenberg-Anderson was among the unlucky 16,000 who tried — and failed — to secure a ticket. 0:39

Cochrane says that service is first-come, first-served, and opens for the entire season at 8 a.m. MT on Jan. 24.

"We've heard from Canadians and visitors that when booking their site through the phone system, most people would just get a busy signal because someone was already on the line speaking to the one individual who is taking reservations," he said.

"So this will remove the busy signal and folks will know when the campground is full."

With files from Lucie Edwardson

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