I visited this park a few years ago and still dream of going back, unfortunately with the wildfires that raged there this past summer, much of the scenery that I witnessed has been forever changed. Some roads are closed until further work is done to improve them, and some campgrounds will be unavailable next season. However, 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 will be closed next summer 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 Reception Area 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 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. This trail is named for the Grizzly Bears that are common in this area, and which we did spot…from afar. Even from a distance these animals are massive and the rangers are always on the lookout to keep both these bears, as well as the visitors, safe. This trail is well-marked with lots to look at on the way to the top.
Once you’ve reached the viewpoint you can see for miles. You will be able to see the Upper Waterton Lake 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.
After you’ve done the hike head over to 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 townsite from the back lawn area.
While you are in the park, take a drive to Cameron Lake. There are lots of picnic areas here and you can also enjoy the water by canoeing, kayaking, and paddle-boating.
Later in the day we visited the townsite and found cute cafes and a variety of souvenir stores to wander through. We also walked to Cameron Falls, a short distance from the townsite.
The rock exposed by these falls is some of the oldest in the Canadian Rocky 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.
This group hike was led by a Glacier Park Ranger and a Waterton Park Interpreter. The trail would take us along the 13 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.
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!
After our short time here we headed into Glacier National Park in Montana, which I will write about in a future blog.
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