Exploring Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada

Waterton Lakes National Park is the Canadian portion of the Waterton Lakes-Glacier International Peace Park. It is easy to visit the park as part of a trip to Glacier National Park to the south.

Located along the Alberta/Montana border where the prairie meets the mountains, Waterton Lakes is a little-known gem that offers a broad range of scenery and a spectacular spring flowers. Like all of the Rocky Mountain parks, there are many hiking trails of varying levels of difficulty, dramatic mountain scenery, and waterfalls galore. Waterton Lakes also features opportunities to cruise its namesake lake, splash in the water at Red Rock Canyon, and enjoy European-style luxury at the Prince of Wales Hotel. Waterton town has a variety of lodging options, restaurants, and shopping. In other words, there is something for everyone.

Exploring Waterton Lakes National Park

Although access to Waterton Lakes park is limited to one road into/out of the park and hiking trails that connect to Glacier, there is plenty to do once you arrive. The park’s geology and climate contribute to a range of landforms and a rich diversity of plant life. It’s a wonderful place to explore.

There are more options for hikers, including:

  • The Bear’s Hump is noted for sweeping views of the surrounding area. Although the hike is short (but steep), we didn’t get to this one on our visit.
  • Crypt Lake is reached via a hike that is noted both for being spectacular and challenging. The hike requires climbing a ladder on a cliff face, crawling through a tunnel, and hiking along a narrow precipice. It sounds stunning, but I am not athletic or adventurous enough for that one.

Getting to the Park

Waterton Lakes adjoins Glacier National Park in the USA. Back county hikers can hike between the parks (bring your passport), but most visitors arrive either from Glacier National Park, Montana (immediately to the south) or from Calgary (three hours to the northeast). There is only one road directly into the park, but visitors from the south have the option of reaching that road via the scenic Chief Mountain International Highway, while visitors from the north can take the spectacular Alberta Highway 40 (the Kananaskis Trail). Both roads offer slow, but incredibly scenic routes that are well worth the additional time.

Timing Your Visit

Most years the spring flowers begin blooming in the valleys during June. Most visitors arrive shortly thereafter, with July and August being the peak tourist season. However, the park sees few enough visitors that it won’t feel too crowded at any time.

While Waterton Lakes National Park is open throughout the year, most businesses (including lodging and restaurants) close between October and April.

Daily Notes and Snapshots

Planning your visit to Waterton Lakes-Glacier International Peace Park
All Canada posts

Share this!

2 thoughts on “Exploring Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada”

  1. I was there a few years ago at the end of a trip to Glacier — we stayed at the Lodge — and I did the hike to Crypt Lake, which was hair-raisingly exciting, especially the little cliff-traverse, where my water bottle fell into the abyss! Saw a small black bear and the famous deer herd in Waterton. Apparently the whole town closes down in winter and heavy shutters go up on the windows.

    1. Oh, I’ll have to see your pictures again – I wasn’t that focused on the details of where you were before, but now I really want to see you Crypt Lake pictures! Good for you for getting there. I wish I were more of a hiker 🙁 The deer do seem to be everywhere in Waterton. . . not sure how anyone has any kind of garden.

Your turn!