When to visit
- Very Favourable
What to do
- Worth the detour
- Must see
The first International Peace Park in the world (in combination with Glacier National Park in Montana, USA), Waterton Lakes National Park offers spectacular scenery and is a paradise for hikers.
Waterton Lakes National Park is home to more than 1,000 plant and flower species including 175 species of wildflowers listed as rare in Alberta, 20 of which are only found in Waterton!
The park also offers exceptional opportunities for wildlife watching, because wild animals are simply everywhere! There are even frequent bear sightings on the golf course! Keep that in mind if you are looking for a good (safe) spot from which to observe them.
WATERTON LAKES NATIONAL PARK
Season: Open year-round, 24 hours a day.
Some areas of the park remain closed due to damage caused by the Kenow wildfire. For the latest information, visit the park's website.
Park reception: Park information and passes available at the park gate on weekends and holidays.
Visitor Centre: Open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. A temporary Visitor Centre has been set up on Fountain Avenue, in the town of Waterton.
Entry fee: $7.90/day/adult and free for youth 17 and under. An annual Parks Canada Discovery Pass is $69.19/adult.
Crypt Lake hike
Distance (round-trip): 17.2 km
Time (round-trip): 6 hours
Elevation gain: 700 m
Climbing 17.2 km to an elevation of 2,200 metres, this hiking trail in Waterton Lakes National Park is both challenging and rewarding, providing spectacular panoramas that are worth every ounce of effort.
In addition to the views, highlights include a steel ladder bolted to the mountain and a 60-foot tunnel carved through the rock that leads to magnificent Crypt Lake. The hike takes about 6 hours.
Distance (round-trip): 3 km
Time (round-trip): 1 hour
The road to this picturesque alpine lake in the heart of Waterton Lakes National Park is an unforgettable 16 kilometer drive that winds gently through the mountain scenery, revealing one breathtaking vista after another. Along the way, you can even pay a visit to a National Historic Site commemorating Western Canada's first oil well.
Once you reach Cameron Lake, take a walk along the 1.6 km (3 km round-trip) lakeside trail along the lake's western shore and drink in the pristine beauty of your surroundings. (Area affected by the Kenow wildfire)
In September 2017, after an exceptionally hot, dry summer, a wildfire ravaged 19,303 hectares of the park, or about 40% of its area, transforming the landscape.
Wildfires occur naturally and fulfil critical ecosystem functions. The renewal of the park's ecology will take years, but you will see that it has already begun...
Red Rock Canyon
The Red Rock Parkway weaves its way west through the rolling grasslands of Blakiston Creek Valley before climbing about 10 km to reach Red Rock Canyon, where the prairie meets the mountains. At the end of the road, a 2-km (4 km round-trip) self-guided loop trail allows visitors to explore the edge of this vibrant red rock canyon with its sparkling mountain stream.
The wildflowers along the parkway are spectacular in June, and wildlife sightings are common. (Area affected by the Kenow wildfire).
Scenic lake cruise
Join the Waterton Shoreline Cruise Co. for a scenic cruise on Waterton Lake, from Canada to the United States. The cruise is accompanied by an informative and entertaining commentary given by experienced local tour guides. Enjoy some of the most spectacular mountain scenery the Rocky Mountains have to offer! The cruise lasts 2¼ hours, including a 30-minute stop at Goat Haunt – the northern gateway to Glacier National Park.
Don't forget your camera: in addition to the breathtaking scenery, you are sure to see plenty of wildlife! Cruises offered from early May through to the end of October, with daily departures at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Additional departures at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. in high season (please check the schedule before going).
THE BEAR’S HUMP
Distance (round-trip): 2.8 km
Time (round-trip): 1 hour
Elevation gain: 225 m
This short, moderately-difficult hike is a favourite with locals and visitors alike. From a distance, the mountain looks like the outline of a grizzly bear. Benches are located along the way, and a final set of steps leads you up to the flat top of the “hump”. From here you will enjoy superb views of views of the mountain peaks down the valley and the prairies to the north.
Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump
This open-air museum will teach you about the culture of the Blackfoot Nation. Long used for stampeding buffalo, the site is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site that bears witness to the ecological, mythological, archaeological and technological heritage of the area. The site is 18 kilometres (15 minutes) north-west of Fort Macleod.
Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in high season (May 15 to the first Monday in September) and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in low season. Closed December 24 and 25, January 1 and Easter Sunday.
Where to eat
- $ Inexpensive
- $$ Moderate
- $$$ Upscale
- $$$$ Fine dining
Wieners of Waterton ($)
It has been said that the best hot dogs in the world can be found in Waterton! After a busy day of outdoor fun, stop off at Wieners of Waterton and enjoy a good quick meal by the outdoor fire pit. The delicious gourmet hot dogs are served on homemade buns baked fresh in-house every morning.
Open daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Bayshore Lakeside Chophouse ($$)
A cross between a classic steakhouse and an upscale restaurant, the Lakeside Chophouse is without a doubt the best seat in the house when it comes to enjoying the view of Waterton Lake. Also offers an interesting wine list with a good selection of Okanagan Valley wines.
Open daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Dates: June 18-23, 2020
With over 1,000 species of plants, including more than 50 of Canada’s rare flowers, Waterton Lakes National Park is the Wildflower Capital of Canada. The Waterton Wildflower Festival celebrates this diversity with events such as workshops on wildflower photography and art and guided wildflower identification hikes.
Dates: June 19-21, 2020
This craft fair is part of the Wildflower Festival. Come see the nature-inspired local crafts and artworks: jewelry, pottery, paintings, natural body care products, honey, wood crafts and much more.
Dates: end of September 2020
Waterton Lakes National Park is home to a wide diversity of wildlife. Learn all about the region's animals during these 4 days of events and activities.
- Very Favourable