hikes in Waterton Lakes National Park
Waterton Lakes National Park is arguably the best-kept secret of the Canadian Rockies – a picture-perfect, tranquil Rocky Mountain setting, complete with sparkling lakes and tall peaks. This beautiful part of Canada has everything you’ll need for the perfect adventure holiday out in the wild, yet it remains relatively unknown to tourists, who flock to the more famous parks such as Banff and Jasper. If you’re looking for a little peace and quiet, and a different side of the Canadian Rockies, Waterton Lakes National Park is the place for you.
Waterton Lakes National Park covers 525 square kilometers in the southwest corner of Alberta. The mountains rise quickly above the treeline, offering a remarkable vista of the rugged peaks, with views extending into Montana’s Glacier National Park. Waterton is known for its fabulous diversity of flora and fauna, supporting populations of grizzly bear, elk, cougar, deer, and over 800 species of wildflowers. Unfortunately, the 2017 Kenow wildfire devastated the park, destroying around 80% of the trail network. Nevertheless, Waterton is slowly recovering, and many of the best hiking trails are now once again accessible.
At the heart of the park lies the alpine town of Waterton, nestled in a lovely lakeside setting, with the iconic and picturesque Prince of Wales hotel perched above the townsite. The town has everything you’ll need for an adventure holiday in the Rockies, but feels more low-key and calm compared to the busy resorts of Banff. This is an ideal destination for families, with hiking, backpacking, cycling and all kinds of watersports on offer, to keep the kids occupied and happy.
Whatever your age, we’re sure you’ll love discovering this lesser-known corner of the Canadian Rockies. To give you a little inspiration, we’ve put together a list of all our favorite hikes in Waterton Lakes National Park!
Top 10 Hikes In Waterton Lakes National Park
Waterton Lakes National Park boasts over 193.1km of beautiful hiking trails, with plenty of variety to suit all visitors! If you’re looking for family-friendly routes with little elevation gain and plenty to see and do, you’re in luck. You’ll find tranquil, picturesque lakes, pretty waterfalls, and plenty of opportunities for wildlife spotting. If, on the other hand, you’re in search of a little adventure, head for the higher peaks and spend the day gazing on the jaw-dropping views and scenery of the Canadian Rockies. Whatever your tastes, fitness levels or hiking abilities, there’s a trail here for you.
- Carthew – Alderson Hike: Along with Akamina Ridge and Crypt Lake, Carthew to Alderson is one of Waterton’s Triple Crown hikes, a famous local hiking challenge that takes you through some of the finest scenery in the Rockies. This one-way hike begins at the lakeshore, passing by lush meadows and forests before arriving at the striking red talus slopes. The views from here on out are simply stunning, and we think that this is one of the best hikes in Waterton Lakes National Park.
- Red Rock Canyon/Blakiston Falls Hike: This spectacular hike is one of the easiest on the list, but is also one of our favorite hikes in Waterton Lakes National Park! The layered red walls of the canyon are an incredible sight, and the trail meanders gradually to the impressive Blakiston Falls. It’s a wonderful place to bring the kids, with plenty of opportunities to splash in the cool water and explore the canyon.
- Lineham Ridge Hike: This fantastic route is one of the best ridge hikes in the Canadian Rockies, offering incredible panoramic views over Rowe Valley, Rowe Lakes and Lineham Lakes. It’s also tremendously varied, beginning by the side of a peaceful creek, passing through forests and pretty meadows, and continuing to the top of the ridge where you can enjoy the incredible vista unfold before you.
- Bear’s Hump Hike: This short, steep, challenging hike will take you up to the top of Bear’s Hump for spectacular views over Waterton Lakes and the town itself. It’s a tough ascent, but mercifully short, and there are plenty of places to stop along the way if you need a breather! The view from the top is incredible, taking in the famous Prince of Wales Hotel, Vimy Ridge, and mountain peaks that extend all the way into Montana’s Glacier National Park.
- Crypt Lake Hike: The hike to Crypt Lake is one of the most diverse and dramatic hikes in Waterton Lakes National Park. This is a trail that really has it all – including a short boat ride to the trailhead, four beautiful waterfalls, and a ladder, tunnels and chains to help you traverse a tall cliff. You’ll need a head for heights, but this is one of the best hikes in Waterton Lakes National Park for those looking for adventure.
- Crandell Lake Hike: The beautiful Crandell Lake is the ideal spot for a family-friendly adventure in Waterton Lakes National Park. This gorgeous emerald green lake is surrounded by picturesque peaks, craggy rocks and lush forests, and there are plenty of places to explore. Complete the full circuit of the lake, scrambling over the rocks and boulders, or simply sit back, dip your toes in the water and enjoy the view.
- Bertha Lake and Falls Hike: Looking for a classic Waterton hike with plenty to see along the way? Look no further than this beautiful route to Bertha Lake, where you can enjoy expansive views and a picturesque lakeside setting. It’s also possible to convert this into a family-friendly hike with little elevation gain if you stop at the Lower Bertha Falls. After the falls the trail becomes a little steeper as you rise to Bertha Lake, but you’ll be rewarded with an amazing view over Mount Richards, Mount Alderson and Bertha Peak.
- Lineham Falls Hike: The trail leading to Lineham Falls is a lovely option for a family-friendly hike in Waterton Lakes National Park. You’ll walk next to a gurgling creek and meander in and out of the forest before arriving at a delightful set of waterfalls. Lineham Falls tumbles for 100m, and there’s a beautiful view from the top that takes in Mount Lineham, Mount Blakiston and Ruby Ridge.
- Wall Lake Hike: The hike to Wall Lake is one of the best hikes in Waterton Lakes National Park. The route climbs steadily, crisscrossing the river on wooden bridges and passing into a beautiful forest. The lake itself is surrounded by enormous headwalls that tower high above the peaceful water, making this an incredibly picturesque and beautiful place for a pit stop and a picnic.
- Cameron Lakeshore Hike: The beautiful, scenic hike along the shores of Cameron Lake is the ideal spot for a summer stroll. The views of Mount Custer are simply stunning from every point of the hike, and the trail is well-maintained, flat, and easy to follow. Make sure to keep your eyes open for grizzly bears on the slopes at the opposite side of the lake!
When Is The Best Time To Hike In Waterton Lakes National Park?
Waterton Lakes National Park is open to the public throughout the year, but if you’re planning a hiking trip it’s best to aim for between late-May and the end of September. During these summer months the snows will have cleared from the higher ground and the trails will be in perfect condition for hiking. July and August are the busiest months, as the school holidays bring many families to the Waterton Lakes area. Although this means that trails will be very busy, there are also many activities and events on offer, and the weather is usually sunny and warm. Autumn can be a very pleasant time to visit, with beautiful colors in the forests and cool, sunny weather in the hills. However, we think that the best time to hike in Waterton Lakes National Park is mid-June, when the wildflowers put on a dazzling display. Don’t miss the Waterton Wildflower Festival, which occurs around this time every year.
Other Outdoor Activities In Waterton Lakes National Park
Waterton Lakes National Park is packed with amazing outdoor activities, making this one of our favorite family destinations in the Canadian Rockies. In addition to hiking and backpacking, you’ll also find plenty of opportunities for rock climbing, mountain biking, road biking, horse riding and wildlife watching. Waterton’s biggest attractions, however, are the lakes, and there are many activities to enjoy out on the water. Try your hand at canoeing, kayaking, paddle boarding, sailing, scuba diving, and fishing. Once the snows arrive in the fall, there are also lots of winter sports on offer, including downhill and cross-country skiing, tobogganing, ice skating, ice climbing and snowshoeing.
How To Plan A Trip To Waterton Lakes National Park
If you’re thinking of making Waterton the destination for your next outdoor escape, make sure you check out our guide to planning a trip to Waterton Lakes National Park. We’ve put together all the essential information for an adventure in this beautiful part of the Canadian Rockies, complete with tips on where to stay and eat, the best time to visit, and all the best hikes in the region. Get ready to start dreaming of the trail and your next hiking adventure!
Frequently-Asked-Questions About Waterton Lakes National Park
Are dogs allowed in Waterton Lakes National Park?
Dogs are allowed on most hiking trails in Waterton Lakes National Park, but must be kept on a leash at all times.
Can you swim in Waterton Lakes?
In the peak of summer, you are likely to see many people swimming in Upper Waterton Lake, but be warned – the water is very cold! The beach near the townsite campground can also be used for swimming but this is a windy spot, and remains quite exposed. The most popular spots for swimming are Emerald Bay and the Marquis Hole picnic site along the Waterton River.
What is Waterton Lakes National Park known for?
Waterton Lakes National Park is part of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, created in 1932 as a symbol of friendship between the United States and Canada. It also forms part of the Crown of the Continent ecosystem, a narrow part of the Canadian Rockies known for its diverse natural and cultural resources. It’s best known for its beautiful mountain scenery, deep lakes, and diverse variety of plants.
How many hours drive from Calgary to Waterton?
It takes just under three hours to drive from Calgary to Waterton, at a distance of 272km.Read More
The best hikes in Waterton Lakes National Park
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