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The Canadian Rockies’ Southern Jewel: Waterton Lakes National Park

By Afton Aikens & Olivia Grecu

From the Trans-Canada Hwy between Calgary and Canmore, drive south through rolling hills on Alberta’s Cowboy Trail (Hwy 22) to Waterton Lakes National Park.

While smaller than Banff and Jasper national parks, Waterton’s beauty is just as impressive. Explore the park with these locals’ suggestions:


Scenic Drives

  • The Bison Paddock Loop Road is just inside the park boundary off Hwy 6. Watch for these majestic animals from a viewing platfom near the paddock.
  • At the Red Rock Parkway, prairie and mountain landscapes meet. See colourful rocks at Red Rock Canyon and take a shady forest walk to thundering Blakiston Falls.

Aquatic Adventures

  • Canoe or kayak Cameron Lake at sunrise or sunset (rentals available from 9 am to 5 pm). Bring binoculars to spot wildlife on the slopes above the lake or admire the spectacular night sky.
  • Go tubing down the Waterton River on a hot afternoon.
  • Cruise Upper Waterton Lake across the Montana border aboard the M.V. International, in service since 1927. Bring your camera as this guided boat tour stops for photos!

Walking, Hiking & Cycling

  • Walk to the International Peace Park Pavilion, and sit and watch the top of Vimy Peak light up as the sun sets.
  • Hike a short but steep trail (1.4-km/.9-mi one way) to the Bears Hump for expansive views of the village and valley, middle and lower Waterton lakes, and Mount Cleveland—the highest summit in Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park (the park stretches across the U.S. border into Montana).
  • For a full day adventure, hike the Carthew-Alderson Trail (18 km/11 mi one way) from Cameron Lake to the village, or take a boat ride to the Crypt Lake trailhead (9 km/6 mi one way).
  • Cycle the paved Kootenai Brown Trail (7 km/4 mi one way), which runs from the park gates along the lakeshore and through lush meadows into town.

Flora & Fauna

  • Go wildflower ‘watching’ along Bertha Trail. Waterton is home to over 50 per cent of Alberta’s wildflower species (including 160 rare species and 41 ‘nationally rare’).
  • Join butterfly experts for the annual Butterfly Count (July 21); or try other free family activities like geocaching.
  • Take a guided horseback ride through pastures with mountain views. Overnight rides are also offered.


Historic Highlights

  • Visit the Prince of Wales Hotel National Historic Site, built in 1926-27. Watch the waves crash against Prince of Wales Hill on a windy day, or try kite flying.
  • Play a round of golf at the Waterton Lakes Golf Course—a Stanley Thompson course and one of Canada’s oldest, constructed from 1929-39.

>> For more Canadian Rockies activities, shops, restaurants and entertainment, read our digital magazine.

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