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Waterton Lakes National Park

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Waterton Lakes National Park [18] is a UNESCO World Heritage site in Canada and is the Canadian part of the Waterton Glacier International Peace Park, that is joined with US Glacier National Park.



Waterton Lakes National Park was established in 1895. The park's name derives from the Waterton Lakes, which were named of honour of British naturalist, Squire Charles Waterton. There is a long history of Aboriginal hunting and gathering along Waterton's lakes, in and over its mountains.


Cameron Lake

The park boundaries cover an area of 195 square miles (505 sq km). The park itself is characterized as the array of evergreen forests, wind-swept prairies, steep majestic mountains and deep lakes, where plants and animals from the humid Pacific Northwest mix with those of the prairie and northern forests.

Flora and fauna[edit]

Wildlife is varied and plentiful. Predator species include bald eagle, bobcat, cougar, coyote, black bear, fox, grizzly bear, lynx, timber wolf, and wolverine. Other popular mammals found in the park include beaver, bighorn sheep, bison, elk, marmot, moose, mountain goats, mule deer, otter, snowshoe hare, and white-tailed deer. Try to find tracks from the some wild animals, but don‘t disturb them. Watch them with respect.

The park has two axis of birds migratory corridors with over 250 species there. Birds watched in the area include Steller's Jays, Ducks, Loons, Robins, Canadian Geese, Blue-Winged Teal, Mergansers, Spotted Sandpipers, Great Horned Owls, Hawks and Chickadees.


Bertha Lake in Waterton Lakes National Park

Waterton's mountains intercept the weather from both the east and west, making it one of the wetest and windiest places in Alberta. Area features by the highly variable mountain weather, which can change quickly. Summers are brief and cool and winters are mild and snowy, with frequent warm spells. Wind is the most important climate factor in the park.

Get in[edit]

Waterton Lakes is located at the end of Highway 5, about an hour and a half from Lethbridge. 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 pass is a good value and can be used at the nearby Banff National Park and Jasper National Park.

The entry fees look there[19]]. Special rates are also available for commercial and school groups. The annual pass is NOT good for banff and jasper, you can buy a National Pass that is good at all Parks.

Get around[edit]

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 annual pass for Waterton is NOT good for any other parks such as Banff or Jasper. A shuttle bus services has started.

See[edit][add listing]

Bisons pasture in the park
Waterton Red Rock Canyon
  • Buffalo Paddock, Highway 6 (entrance to paddock is off Hwy 6, just inside the park's north boundary), [1]. 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.  edit
  • Cameron Lake. The lake is beautiful and there is a hike that takes you around the lake. There are other activities, such as boating or just enjoying a picnic or sunbathing on the beach.  edit
  • Red Rock Canyon, Red Rock Parkway (follow Red Rock Parkway until it ends), [2]. 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.  edit
  • Summit Lake. Small and tranquil lake with the guided hiking trails there.  edit
  • Waterton Lake. Two parts mountain lake (Middle Waterton Lake and Upper Waterton) situated on the border of Canada–United States.  edit

Do[edit][add listing]

  • Cycling. There can be realized road and trail cycling.  edit
  • Climbing. The climbing routes are concentrated on the limestone and dolomite cliffs of the Bear's Hump, a stone's throw from Waterton's townsite. Multi-pitch climbs to mid-grade difficulty are found on the south-facing cliff.  edit
  • Fantastic Four of Waterton Glacier: the Peace Park Challenge, [3]. 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 favorites Siyeh Pass (16.5 km)and the Garden Wall (18.5 km). Make sure you remember to pack a passport! Like the Triple Crown, when you complete the hikes, visit Pearls Cafe to register and you'll receive a much coveted Fantastic Four t-shirt and have your name featured on the Glory Board. free. (,60 km total) edit
  • Fishing. Fishing permit is required.  edit
  • The Triple Crown of Waterton, [4]. 3 days. A challenge for hikers, featuring 3 trails that are favourites of the locals. Crypt Lake (9 km), Carthew-Alderson (16 km) and Akamina Pass (20 km.) Upon the completion of all 3 hikes, register with Pearls Cafe to receive a special t-shirt FREE and mention of your name on the Glory Board! free. (,45 km total) edit
  • Water sport. It includes there windsurfing, sailboarding, sailboating and kite surfing.  edit
  • Waterton Shoreline Cruise, Waterton Marina (near Waterton Ave and Mountview Rd), +1 403 859-2362, [5]. 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.  edit
  • Wildlife watching. It includes animals and bird watching.  edit

Buy[edit][add listing]

  • Caribou Clothing, 114 Waterton Ave, 403-859-2346, [6]. 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.  edit

Eat[edit][add listing]

There are several restaurants in the townsite.

  • The Taco Bar, (corner of Windflower Ave and Cameron Falls Drive, across from the children's playground), +1 403-859-2150 (Waterton Lakes Lodge) ext 2012, [7]. 11am- 9pm mid- May thru September. Fresh, fast and authentic tacos and burritos that emulate the fare and flavor of Mexican street vendors. Real home cooking, made fresh daily, affordable and nutritious. Vegetarian and gluten-free options available. $5-$10.  edit
  • Pearl's cafe, 305 Windflower Ave, +1 403-859-2284, [8]. Spacious coffee shop with a good selection of breakfast and lunch wraps and baked goods.  edit
  • Trappers Mountain Grill, 106A Waterton Ave, +1 403-859-2445. Family-run restaurant with a lumberjack/rustic decor. It has a number of dishes with local ingredients like buffalo and Saskatoon berries.  edit
  • Zums Eatery, 116B Waterton Ave, 403-859-2388, [9]. Family diner-style restaurant that is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  edit
  • Vimy's Lounge & Grill (at the Waterton Lakes Lodge), 101 Clematis Ave., [10]. 7:30. Casual fine dining with Rocky Mountain cuisine at its finest. Extensive wine selections, 2 outdoor patios, lounge and dinner menus offering your favorite pub fare and unique local dishes, flat screen TV's and incredible views  edit
  • Windflower Corner Coffee, 309 Wind Flower Ave, Waterton Park, AB T0K 2M0, [11]. Restaurant  edit

Drink[edit][add listing]

  • Thirsty Bear Saloon, Bayshore Inn, +1 403 859-2211, [12]. Casual bar with a dance floor, DJ and pool tables.  edit

Sleep[edit][add listing]

Waterton Townsite with Prince of Wales Inn in the Background
  • Bayshore Inn, 111 Waterton Ave, 1-888-527-9555 (toll-free), [13]. 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.  edit
  • Crandell Mountain Lodge, 102 Mountview Rd, 1-866-859-2288 (toll-free) or +1 403 859-2288, [14]. 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.  edit
  • Prince of Wales Hotel, Highway 5 (entrance is across the road from the Visitor Center), 1-866-875-8456, [15]. checkin: 3PM; checkout: 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.  edit
  • Waterton Lakes Lodge, 101 Clematis Ave, 1-888-985-6343 (toll-free) or +1 403 859-2150, [16]. Mix of chalet style accommodation and suites. $195 and up during peak season, $120 and up during low season.  edit
  • Aspen Village Inn, 11 Windflower Ave, +1-859-8699 (, fax: +1 403-859-2033), [17]. The biggest variety of accommodations in the park, at a great value. Choose from kitchenettes, suites and cottage style rooms. Rooms are available with fireplaces and jetted tubs.  edit


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.  edit
  • 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.  edit


Backcountry camping is available in a number of spots.


There aren't any Internet cafes per se in Waterton, but most restaurants/hotels have wi-fi and give access codes to their customers. The townsite in general is a free wi-fi hotspot, no password required, but this connection can be quite slow during peak summer months.

  • Pearls has a public computer that is free to use with purchase of food or drink. Free wi-fi is available for customers for two hours. Ask at the counter for the access code.
  • Zums has a couple of computers if you don't have wi-fi. The cost is $1 for 6 minutes 40 seconds.

Stay safe[edit]

Beware of the VERY strong winds at times in the main townsite area.

Get out[edit]

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 Center in Cardston is half and 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.
  • 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.

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