Rugged, windswept mountains rise abruptly out of gentle prairie grassland in spectacular Waterton Lakes National Park. Here, several different ecological regions meet and interact in a landscape shaped by wind, fire, flooding, and abundant plants and wildlife. The park helps protect the unique and unusually diverse physical, biological and cultural resources found in the Crown of the Continent: one of the narrowest places in the Rocky Mountains.
Key Access Points to this National Park or Protected Area
Waterton Lakes National Parks is easily reached in less than a day from anywhere in the Crown. The park is an easy drive from several points along the Crowsnest Pass's main artery, Alberta Provincial Highway 3.
Visitors starting from Montana can access the park via Chief Mountain International Highway 17, which branches from Montana Highway 89 north of St. Mary. This border crossing is open from May 15 to September 30. Other times of year, access is via the Carway/Peigan border crossing south of Cardston, Alberta, where Montana Highway 89 expires and Alberta Provincial Highway 2 begins.
Highlights of this National Park or Protected Area
Top 10 Things to do in Waterton Park- Summer:
1. Drive the Bison Paddock loop and walk up to the viewing area for a spectacular view of Waterton.
2. Take an easy walk through a pretty forest to Blakiston Falls.
3. Canoe on Cameron Lake on an early morning / quiet evening.
4. Watch the waves crash against the Prince of Wales hill on a windy day.
5. Go flower 'watching' along Bertha Trail.
6. Enjoy a picnic and do some birdwatching at the Maskinonge.
7. Go on a hot summer's mid-day jaunt to Crandell Lake for a dip.
8. Cycle the Kootenai Brown Trail and Red Rock Parkway.
9. Hike the Alderson-Carthew trail from Cameron to townsite.
10. Have fun at the Knapweed Rodeo - and help us wrangle this Waterton weed!
Others: Attend a summer event; Take a picnic lunch into Crandell Lake; Watch the stars on Red Rock Parkway; Take an evening walk to the Peace Park Pavilion and find a seat in the nearby park to view the top of Vimy light up as the sun sets; Take the Waterton Geocaching Challenge; For more hardy folks - hike to the ridge above Lineham Lakes along the Rowe/Tamarack Trail; Kayak on any of the lakes, but especially wildlife watching from a boat on Cameron Lake; Kite-flying on the Prince of Wales hill.
Top 10 Things to do in Waterton Park- Winter:
1. Snowshoe into Crandell Lake and picnic in the shelter.
2. Go for a ski or walk on a full moon night - and hope the coyotes howl!
3. Cross-country ski the Dipper and Cameron trails to Cameron Lake and have a hot chocolate at Little Prairie picnic area.
4. Sit around a fire at the Community Kitchen and watch the big waves hit the beach.
5. Watch the sunrise from Lower Waterton Lake pull-out on the Entrance Parkway.
6. Snowshoe up and over the Akamina Pass and have a picnic on the continental divide.
7. Walk along the river between the Marquis Hole and the Hay Barn (be prepared for muddy or icy conditions).
8. Bring your skates (as once in a while the ice on the lake turns into a spectacular skating rink. Always call the warden office for ice conditions before venturing out).
9. Walk around the community on the Townsite Trail on a squeaky cold, clear and calm day; and watch for dippers below Cameron Falls.
10. Go walking or snowshoeing along the Red Rock Parkway, Marquis Hole or Hay Barn Road and look for animal tracks in the snow.
*These are personal recommendations made by residents of Waterton and Parks Canada staff in Waterton Lakes National Park.
In the community,there are eight hotels, several restaurants and lounges, a variety of church services, one fuel station, camping supplies, groceries, pool and spa facilities, bank machines, gift shops, tennis courts, playgrounds, a post office, launderette and theatre. Interpretive guides, bicycle rentals, golf course, horse stables, boat tours on Upper Waterton Lake and canoe or rowboat rentals at Cameron Lake are also available.
Best Seasons or Dates to Visit
Spring is the best time for wildflowers in Waterton. Within a short walk from your car you can find 20 or 30 different species. Wildflowers can be seen in the park at almost any season as summer weather progresses up the mountains.
The most popular time to visit Waterton is July and August. The weather is generally warmer, dryer and more dependable, and summertime offers the most opportunities. If you are planning a trip to Waterton during these months, be sure to book your accommodation in advance.
Late summer and fall are particularly good wildlife viewing times, especially for black bear, elk and deer. The grasslands of the lower mountainsides provide important food for wildlife, as well as open views which make them more visible. Ungulates such as deer, elk and bighorn sheep mate in the fall, so they are looking their best. The most spectacular birding time is in late fall when large numbers of waterfowl migrate through the park.
Winter is a time of quiet retreat. Facilities and businesses are limited and include some accommodation, restaurants and gift shops. Enjoy a variety of winter activities, such as snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, ice climbing and wildlife viewing, but be prepared for conditions ranging from warm and windy to extreme cold and deep snow. Strong winds can create poor visibility, icy conditions, and drifting snow on roads.
Driving Directions to Key Access Points
From Calgary follow Provincial Highway 2 south to Fort Macleod, then west on Provincial Highway 3 to Pincher Creek, then south again on Provincial Highway 6. A more scenic and enjoyable route from Calgary is south on Provincial Highway 22, the Cowboy Trail, then west on Provincial Highway 3 to Pincher Creek, and finally south on Provincial Highway 6 to the park.
From Lethbridge, drive south to Cardston on Provincial Highway 2, then west to the park on Provincial Highway 5.
From British Columbia, travel east on Highway 3 to Pincher Creek and then south on Highway 6.
From Glacier National Park, Montana, take the Chief Mountain International Highway in summer or go north through Cardston on Montana Highway 89 to Alberta Highway 2 then west on Highway 5 any time of year.