I wanted to update this post with some new information since the wildfires that raged through this area in the summer of 2017. Much of the scenery has changed and some trails and campgrounds are still closed. Road work continues to be improved and there is a new visitor centre. Despite the work going on, I would still recommend a visit if you are driving in this area. The views of the glass-like lakes, with the mountains rising up beside them, are truly awe-inspiring.
Waterton Lakes National Park, along with Glacier National Park, forms part of the International Peace Park. These parks came together in 1932 with Waterton Lakes National Park being in Alberta, Canada and Glacier National Park being in Montana, USA. The two parks, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, work together to help manage and sustain the plants and animals on both sides of the border. While we were there we camped in Crandell Mountain Campground, which unfortunately is still closed because of the fire devastation.
Waterton Lakes Park is filled with hiking opportunities for people of all abilities. I would make your first stop the Visitor Centre to pick up some brochures and find out which trails are open. There are also group hikes with park rangers, which is a great way to learn about the area while you are on the trail.
We were only in Waterton Lakes Park for two days, but here are some highlights of what we did while we were there.
Our first day we hiked up Bear’s Hump Trail. The views from the top of this trail are spectacular.
From the top you can see for miles. Upper Waterton Lake is directly in front of you, which is 13km in length and stretches into Glacier National Park in Montana. You can also see the small town of Waterton on the lakeshore below.
You should check out the Prince of Wales Hotel. Built in 1927 by the Great Northern Railway of the U.S., this hotel, now a National Historic Site, was originally used by wealthy visitors travelling on horseback from Glacier National Park. You can stay at the hotel, visit for high tea, or enjoy the view of the town-site from the back lawn area.
While you are in the park, try and visit Cameron Lake. This area was heavily affected by the wildfires and has only recently reopened to vehicle traffic. There are lots of picnic areas here and you can also enjoy the water by canoeing, kayaking, and paddle-boating.
Make sure and visit the townsite where you will find cute cafes and a variety of souvenir stores to wander through. Cameron Falls is also a short distance from the townsite.
The rock exposed by these falls is some of the oldest in the Canadian Rockies Mountain range dating back 1.5 billion years.
The next morning we got up early and headed to the trailhead for the Upper Waterton Lake trail. At this time you can hike along the Lakeshore Trail, however the trail is closed beyond the Canada/U.S. border.
This group hike was led by a Glacier Park Ranger and a Waterton Park Interpreter. The trail would take us along the 14 km lakeshore where we got to cross the Canada/U.S. border and continue into Montana.
The interpreter pointed out different fauna, as well as some different animal tracks including both bear and cougar.
We crossed a few bridges over creeks running into the lake…
…and then finished at the Goat Haunt Ranger Station where we were able to get our passports stamped before catching a boat back to the marina at the Waterton townsite.
This hike was definitely an amazing experience and it made me appreciate what these two countries, working together, have been able to do to preserve and maintain this unique area. I certainly hope that in the future it will once again be accessible for everyone. For more information about Glacier National Park check out my blog here.
Waterton Lakes National Park has a lot to offer. Not only are there numerous hikes, but you can also enjoy fishing, biking, canoeing, and horseback riding in the summer. The park is also open in the winter where visitors can bundle up and be active snow-shoeing or cross-country skiing. Even if you don’t have time for any of the activities I’ve mentioned, the scenery alone is worth the visit! To visit the Waterton Lakes National Park website click here.