Waterton Lakes National Park

Alberta, Canada
  |  Gorp.com

Situated on the Canadian side of the U.S.-Canada border just above Montana's Glacier National Park, western Alberta's Waterton Lakes National Park is a natural extension of the region's vast beauty: rugged snow-topped peaks that stretch upward from open prairies, glacier-fed lakes, and a bounty of wildlife that includes grizzly and black bears, bighorn sheep, mountain goat, and moose. The 124,788-acre park boasts some of the finest scenery in the Canadian Rockies and is even home to Waterton Park hamlet, where you'll find several worthwhile shops, restaurants, and hotels. Together with Glacier National Park, Waterton is part of both a World Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site known as Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.

Hiking and Backpacking
Waterton features 191 miles of hiking and multi-use trails suitable for everything from casual walks to hard-core multi-day treks. One of the park's must-do trails is the 10.7-mile out-and-back to Crypt Lake, which begins with a boat taxi across Waterton Lake and includes both an impressive waterfall and a natural mountain tunnel. The full-day hike has an elevation gain of nearly 2,300 feet. The round-trip Akamina Ridge hike and one-way Alderson-Carthew trails are also quite scenic, as is the Red Rock Canyon area, where you'll find trails ranging from the easy 0.5-mile Red Rock Canyon Trail to the more moderate 7.8-mile Goat Lake Trail. For overnight treks, many backpackers combine trails from both Waterton Lakes and nearby Glacier.

Snowshoeing and Cross-Country Skiing
For most visitors, Waterton is a summer destination, though the year-round park offers a quiet retreat for winter-sports enthusiasts. Both snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are popular pastimes. Suggested routes include cross-country skiing along the park's Dipper and Cameron trails, and snowshoeing along the Red Rock Parkway, into Crandell Lake or up and over Akamina Pass.

Within Waterton you'll find several lodging options ranging from budget to historic. The most picturesque of the bunch is the Prince of Wales Hotel, a 1920s property built by America's Great Northern Railway and overlooking Upper Waterton Lake. For something more modern, Waterton Lakes Lodge Resort offers chalet-style accommodations—some with fireplaces, others with kitchenettes. The property also has a pool and a 21-guest budget hostel. Additional lodgings include the charming Crandell Mountain Lodge and Northland Lodge, Waterton's only B&B.

Waterton hosts three drive-in campgrounds, each of them seasonal (typically sometime in May to September). These include the 100+ site Townsite Campground, which has electricity, showers, and flush toilets; Crandell Mountain Campground, featuring 129 unserviced sites, flush toilets, and five six-person tipis (tipi guests are required to bring their own bedding and cooking equipment); and the more primitive Belly River Campground, complete with 24 unserviced sites.

Backcountry campsites exist in nine spots throughout Waterton Lakes National Park, each requiring a wilderness permit for overnight stays. Purchase the permit at the visitor center. Privately owned Waterton Springs and Crooked Creek campgrounds are both located outside park boundaries.

Published: 20 Jun 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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