Waterton Lakes National Park
Flora and fauna
There is a good chance of seeing black and grizzly bears in the park, also if you are lucky badger. Birds in the area include osprey, bald eagle and a number of waders.
Waterton Lakes is located at the end of Highway 5, about an hour and a half from Lethbridge and 3 hours from Calgary. If driving from Calgary, take Highway 2 south out of town to Cardston and then follow Highway 5 west to the park.
There is no bus service into the park. The nearest Greyhound station is in Pincher Creek, 30 minutes north on Highway 6. Some cab companies will drive to the park from Pincher Creek if booked in advance.
There is no fee to enter the park if you are just driving through along Highway 6. However, if you want to do any activities, visit the townsite or stay overnight, a daily fee will apply. The fee is paid at the gatehouse on Highway 5, on the road to Waterton townsite, just after its junction with Highway 6.
If staying for a week or more, the annual park pass is a good value, though it can only be used in Waterton. An annual Discovery pass can also be purchased for a higher fee and be used in Waterton and at the nearby Banff National Park and Jasper National Park as well as many other national parks and historic sites.
|Daily Pass||Annual Pass|
Special rates are also available for commercial and school groups. The annual park pass is NOT good for Banff or Jasper, however the annual discovery pass is valid at all mountain parks.
The townsite is small and can be easily travelled on foot. However, if you want to see some of the lakes, hikes and other features of the park, a car or bike will be necessary. The regular annual pass for Waterton is NOT good for any other parks such as Banff or Jasper. A shuttle bus services has started.
- Waterton Lake. Long lake that stretches across the Candian/US border, set below spectacular mountain scene. There is a pleasant stroll along the shoreline in the town.
- Buffalo Paddock, Highway 6 (entrance to paddock is off Hwy 6, just inside the park's north boundary). The Buffalo Paddock is a fenced-off area of prairie grassland that is home to the park's buffalo herd. The single road loops through the enclosure and offers a good opportunity to see these animals in their natural environment.
- Red Rock Canyon, Red Rock Parkway (follow Red Rock Parkway until it ends). A pretty spot, which, true to its name, features a canyon and river bed with a striking shade of red. There is a short trail (15-30 minutes) that follows both sides of the canyon. Very popular in warm weather with people paddling in the cold rocky stream that flows through the canyon.
- Bear's hump (From car park next to the Park Visitor Centre on the edge of town.). A short but very steep walk up to a ridge above the town provides a spectacular view of the whole valley.
- Cameron Lake. Beautiful glacial lake, with opportunity for canoe rentals
- Waterton Shoreline Cruise, Waterton Marina (near Waterton Ave and Mountview Rd), ☎ +1 403 859-2362. Two cruises per day (one morning, one afternoon) May to early Oct. Additional cruises available June to mid-Sept. A two hour scenic cruise on Upper Waterton Lake that provides fantastic views of the lake and mountains on a sunny day and good opportunities to see eagles, moose, deer and other wildlife. The boat itself is interesting as it was built in the 1920s, in conjunction with the Prince of Wales Hotel, to wine and dine the rich visitors to the park of the time. $34/$17 (adult/child).
- Fantastic Four of Waterton Glacier: the Peace Park Challenge. 4 days. An international challenge for hikers, featuring 2 of Waterton's most beloved trails, Crypt Lake (9 km) and Carthew-Alderson (16 km), in addition to 2 of Glacier National Park's favourites Siyeh Pass (16.5 km)and the Garden Wall (18.5 km). Make sure you remember to pack a passport. (60 km total) free.
- The Triple Crown of Waterton (.). 3 days. A challenge for hikers, three local favourite trails: Crypt Lake (9 km), Carthew-Alderson (16 km) and Akamina Pass (20 km). (45 km total) free.
- Summit Lake. Hike of about one hour uphill from Cameron Lake car park to a small like in a mountain pass. Note some years the path is clear by June others it can be under snow in July.
There are a number of souvenir shops, a small supermarket, a liquor store and a fuel station in Waterton town. Expect to pay a premium for good, so best to stock up with supplies before entering the park.
- Caribou Clothing, 114 Waterton Ave, ☎ +1 403-859-2346. 10AM-10PM, May to early Oct. Sells a variety of sheepskin and leather clothing. The mitts, hats and slippers are their own brand, manufactured locally in Alberta.
There are several restaurants in the town-site, they tend to be a little pricey and of medium quality as they have a captive customer base.
- Bel Lago Ristorante, 110 Waterton Ave, ☎ +1 403-859-2213. Italian dining in an upscale atmosphere. $15-$32 for mains.
- Pearl's, 305 Windflower Ave, ☎ +1 403-859-2284. Spacious coffee shop with a good selection of breakfast and lunch wraps and baked goods. Awards a t-shirt to hikers on completion of the Triple Crown of Waterton (three hikes) or Fantastic Four of Waterton Glacier (four hikes). A public computer is free to use with purchase of food or drink and two hours of wi-fi is available for clients (ask at the counter for the access code). $3 and under for bagels and baked goods, $7-10 for wraps and salads.
- Trappers Mountain Grill, 106A Waterton Ave, ☎ +1 403-859-2445. Family-run restaurant with a lumberjack/rustic décor. It has a number of dishes with local ingredients like buffalo and Saskatoon berries. Good quality food but a little expensive. $15-30 for mains.
- Zums Eatery, 116B Waterton Ave, ☎ +1 403-859-2388. Family diner-style restaurant, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Interesting décor of vehicle license plates, good service, food is of medium quality. $5-12 for breakfast, $10-25 for dinner.
- Vimy's Lounge & Grill (at the Waterton Lakes Lodge), 101 Clematis Ave.. Casual fine dining with Rocky Mountain cuisine at its finest. Unique wine selections. Two patios with mountain views. Dining room menu available from 5pm - 10pm. Big screen TVs playing sports and cushy leather lounge chairs to view from. Good quality food but not cheap.
- Thirsty Bear Saloon, Bayshore Inn, ☎ +1 403 859-2211. Casual bar with a dance floor, DJ and pool tables.
- Waterton Bagel & Coffee Co., 309 Windflower (in the old movie theater), ☎ +1 403 859-2466. open at 7 am. A real town favourite, noted by several prominent guide books as having the best coffee in Waterton. Featuring small batch roasted Cuppers Coffee, with a dizzying variety of hot and cold drinks. Offers delicious bagels prepared with imagination, and local baked goods. starts as low as $2.
- Vimy's Lounge and Grill (in the Waterton Lakes Lodge), 101 Clematis Ave, ☎ +1 403 859-2006. A relaxing lounge to enjoy a drink next to a fireplace. Big screen TVs that have sports. 2 patios with great mountain views.Casual fine dining also available.
- Bayshore Inn, 111 Waterton Ave, toll-free: +1-888-527-9555. A mix of rooms and suites on the lakefront with TV, internet and an on-site spa. Open May through early October. $200 and up in high season.
- Crandell Mountain Lodge, 102 Mountview Rd, ☎ +1 403 859-2288, toll-free: +1-866-859-2288. One and two bed rooms with a country-style look and feel. Kitchen and Deluxe rooms cost a bit more but come with gas fireplaces. $145 and up in high season, $99 and up in low season.
- Prince of Wales Hotel, Highway 5 (entrance is across the road from the Visitor Center), toll-free: +1-866-875-8456. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. An old railway hotel built in 1927 to attract tourists to the region. It's not your best value for money since the beds are small (doubles or twins in standard rooms), the hotel's age shows in a few spots and the rooms don't come with many extra amenities (no TV, no minibar, not all rooms have full bathtubs). It does have heaps of character and history though, and the views -- the hotel is built on a hill overlooking the lake and town -- are outstanding. $260-300 (room in high season), $800 for a suite.
- Waterton Lakes Lodge, 101 Clematis Ave, ☎ +1 403 859-2150, toll-free: +1-888-985-6343. Mix of chalet style accommodation and suites of good quality. Different sizes of rooms available. $195 and up during peak season, $120 and up during low season.
- Aspen Village Inn, 11 Windflower Ave, ☎ +1 403 859-8699, fax: +1 403 859-2033, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Open May-October 7 AM-10PM. Big variety of accommodation. Choose from kitchenettes, suites and cottage style rooms. Rooms are available with fireplaces and jetted tubs. $145 and up peak season.
- Bear Mountain Motel. Classic 1960s motel. Basic rooms with comfortable beds. Good wifi connection for guests. Grill available in car park. Probably best value in town if you are not looking for luxury.
There are three drive-in campgrounds available in the park. Some sites have fire pits, a fire permit is an additional $8.80.
- Townsite Campground, at the end of Windflower Rd (the gatehouse is just past the corner of Windflower Rd and Vimy Ave). A fairly open, grassy campground with serviced and unserviced sites. Showers and flush toilets available. Reservations are recommended if staying over a weekend or if you want a serviced site. Open mid-April to mid-Oct. $38.20/$27.40 (serviced/unserviced).
- Crandell Mountain, Red Rock Parkway (on the south side of the road, about 6-7 km from the intersection with Hwy 5). Unserviced sites set in the forest with flush toilets but no showers. Sites are available on a first come, first served basis. Open mid-May to Labour Day. $21.50.
- Belly River, Highway 6. Unserviced sites with dry toilets. Sites are available on a first come, first served basis. Open mid-May to mid-Sept. $15.70.
Backcountry camping is available in a number of spots. The fee is $10/night. If staying for a week or more, a season pass is a good value at $68.70.
There aren't any Internet cafés per se in Waterton, but a couple of the restaurants/coffee shops provide access.
Beware of the VERY strong winds at times in the main town site area.
Hikers should be aware that although it is possible to cross the geographical border (49th parallel) into the USA there are further on ranger control points that you cannot pass unless you have a US passport. Non US citizens must use the main road crossing, where id. checks can be made.
This is bear and cougar country, when hiking make plenty of noise and take the usual precautions for bears.
There are a number of small towns and parks nearby that make good day trips or next stops to move on to.
- Waterton Lakes is joined with Glacier National Park across the border in Montana. It can be accessed by heading south on Highway 6 (The Chief Mountain Highway). The border crossing on the highway is only open between May and October.
- The Remington-Alberta Carriage Centre in Cardston is half an hour east on Highway 5. It has many interesting stories on the horse and carriage era and how the collection was built.
- Head Smashed-in Buffalo Jump, a UNESCO World Heritage Site outside of Fort Macleod is a 1.5 hour drive north-east.
- Bar U Ranch near Longview.
- Crowsnest Pass is an hour north-west on Highway 6 and has several attractions on its coal-mining past and the Frank Slide. It is also the gateway to British Columbia.
- If you're looking for more mountains and alpine lakes, Banff National Park is 4-5 hours north. A scenic way to get there is the Cowboy Trail (Highways 6 and 22) which traverses the foothills while keeping the mountains in sight.