We stayed two nights in Waterton Lakes National Park, booking accommodations in Waterton at the Bear Mountain Motel. While there is nothing luxurious about it, Bear Mountain is a bargain in the Canadian Rockies.
Like the other Rocky Mountain parks, budget lodging in Waterton is pretty limited unless you plan to camp. However, for a little over $100 a night during high season, the Bear Mountain Motel provides a clean and comfortable place to stay right in the town site. This classic 1960s motel sits along the main road about a block from the marina and the downtown shops, making it a convenient location for exploring the city and park.
The motel is basic, but it covers the basics pretty well. The units are small, but not unbearably so – although our room had a bit more furniture than space. The desk was large enough to be functional, which I appreciated, and wi-fi was available most of the time. The room was very clean and appeared to have been updated recently. There was plenty of hot water (maybe too much) in the miniscule bathroom. We had a TV – not that I watch much TV, but it’s nice to know what is going on nearby and in the world when on the road. There was no air conditioning, but the windows could be opened and fans were available. I found the room comfortable both for sleeping and writing/editing photos.
The small office has an array of travel information. The staff is friendly and Barb provided wonderful (and colorful) advice and directions. In addition, complimentary coffee, tea, and hot chocolate are available during office hours.
Only two cabins have a bit of a lake view – most of the rest look out over the parking-filled courtyard. Despite this, the small table and chair next to each unit (in front of the designated parking spot) gives the place a bit of a north woods feel. And you can see the mountains that tower above town.
What I liked best about Bear Mountain
The motel owners and staff are realistic and upfront about what the hotel is and isn’t. I found this candor refreshing. Before booking, guests are warned “we are a very simple place” and the booking confirmation includes the following:
The Bear Mountain Motel is a classic 1960s motel. Rooms are small compared to today’s standards. Sound proofing was rare in the 1960s. Quiet Time is from 11:00pm to 8:00am and is required for the comfort of all guests. We do have ear plugs at the office.
Staff (or at least Barb) is very friendly and helpful.
The location is very convenient to both downtown and the marina.
You don’t get many chances to stay in an authentic 1960s motel – especially not one that is this well maintained and comfortable.
What I didn’t like so much
Noisy neighbors can be a problem. TV noise through the wall and folks out in the parking area can be a problem at night.
A number of guests apparently had difficulty understanding where and how to park their (perhaps too-large) vehicles in the parking lot, which sometimes made it difficult to get in and out of the lot or to park in our designated spot. This isn’t entirely the motel’s fault, as the lot is fully marked and signed, but a little instruction at check-in (and maybe a ban on vehicles over a certain size) would go a long ways.
Ice wasn’t always available, as guests were sometimes filling big coolers. There’s not much motel staff can do about greedy guests, but it was irritating to be unable to get ice for beverages or our little day cooler.
We had one too many chairs in our room for the space available. It was always in our way and there was nowhere to move it to!
Planning a Trip to Waterton Lakes-Glacier International Park
Waterton Lakes National Park
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