Located in both Canada and northern Montana in the United States, Waterton Lakes is a hidden gem of a park with beautiful views of nature, perfectly clear waters, and an offering of various exciting outdoor activities.
In 1932, Waterton Lakes and Glacier National Park joined together, making it the first International Peace Park in history. The unification makes sense since many visitors opt to visit both parks while traveling as they are so close to each other.
Both parks also share great views, a large variety of terrain, and wildlife spotting opportunities.
Waterton Lakes boasts over 195 square miles of nature and is home to more than 60 species of mammals, 250 species of birds, 24 species of fish, and 10 species of reptiles and amphibians.
There are also plenty of hiking and biking trails at the park. With lush green grasslands and picturesque mountain views, it is definitely worth taking the trip.
It’s an easy journey from Montana as visitors can enter the park directly. You’ll want to take Mont. 17 north to the Chief Mountain border crossing and then head onto Alberta on Highway 6. From Glacier National Park, it’s about a two-hour drive.
For the truly adventurous, you can also hike from Glacier National Park to Waterton Lakes. You’ll trek through the area “Goat Haunt” to get across the Canadian border and enter the park.
Regardless of which way you choose to get there, make sure not to forget your passport, as you will be crossing into Canada.
Things To Do At Waterton Lake
Waterton Lake has plenty to offer to tourists, especially when it comes to wildlife sightings and hikes.
You’ll find it’s hard to get bored here, as there is so much to see and do, such as viewing one of the many breathtaking waterfalls or spotting some of the famous bighorn sheep or red squirrels.
Scenic Views and Wildlife Sightings
Waterton lakes offer some truly amazing views for visitors, making it an ideal location for photographers and outdoor enthusiasts.
For those looking for great views without having to trek far, consider taking the popular Bear’s Hump hike where you can get a glimpse of mountain peaks and the crystal clear lake at the top.
Although certainly though walk in the park, it’s a relatively short hike and most people can complete it with relatively no difficulty.
You can also get some great views simply by enjoying the lake. Some of the views at the lakeshore are arguably as good as the ones in the mountains, so visitors need not worry about having to take a long hike to get picturesque views.
There are even ferry tours specifically for both photography and wildlife sightings offered at the lake by Waterton Shoreline Cruise Company.
For wildlife sightings, you’ll want to consider what time you’ll visit the park. Late summer and fall are generally considered the best times to visit for those looking to spot wildlife.
You’ll likely spot bighorn sheep, elk, and deer. You’ll likely also see a variety of birds, including ducks, geese, and swans.
Hiking at Waterton Lake
Most hikers would agree that Waterton Lakes is an excellent place to visit if you’re looking for trails with pristine views and just the right amount of challenge.
With 120 miles of hiking trails, there is something for everyone at the park. The best times to hike are generally through July to mid-September, as before then there is likely to be snow on the trails.
For those looking for a short hike, there are plenty of options at Waterton Lake. Blakiston Fall, for example, is a 1.2-mile hike that takes you to a beautiful waterfall. You can also experience beautiful prairie views without exercising yourself too much at Bellevue.
This two-and-a-half-hour hike with minimal elevation gain is about 4.6 miles and takes you through a sea of wildflowers. It’s truly great to experience the unique views and nature that Waterton Lakes has to offer visitors.
But if you’re looking for more of a challenge, there are also plenty of longer and steeper hikes at Waterton. After taking a fifteen-minute boat ride across Upper Waterton Lake, you can venture through the famous Crypt trail. This steep hike is 10.7 miles and usually takes about 6 hours.
Along the way, you’ll get views of the mountains, waterfalls, and wildlife. With steep slopes and a trek through a tight tunnel for a part of the hike, you’ll definitely be in for an adventure.
It’s no easy venture, but most hikers agree that the unforgettable views along the way make the hike more than worth it.
Fishing at the Lake
Fishing at the lake is allowed but you’ll need a national permit park fishing permit.
Permits can be purchased at the Visitor Centre, Townsite Campground, and at various businesses in Waterton. Daily fishing permits are about $10.25 and annual ones are $35.75.
There are a variety of fish at the park you can catch. Waterton Lakes has 24 species of fish, including Mountain Whitefish and Lake Trout. You should note that you are not allowed to catch Bull Trout here as they are protected.
Overall, fishing is a great experience at Waterton Lakes. There are many types of fish you can catch and the great views also make for a relaxing experience.
Can You Swim at the Lakes?
You can swim at the lake here, and most would agree that it’s a great way to cool off in the summer.
Upper Waterton Lake is a popular place with swimmers, as it is a bit warmer and perfectly clear waters. It’s also a great spot for those who would like to canoe or paddleboard.
Emerald Bay at Upper Waterton Lake is also excellent for scuba divers, as it is deep and has good visibility. There’s also Driftwood Beach by Middle Waterton Lake which is popular with many visitors, as the winds push piles of driftwood onto the shore.
Regardless of where you choose to swim, be aware that all lakes are quite cold, so you might want to consider wearing a wetsuit in addition to your swimsuit.
Camping, Cabin Rentals, and Hotels Near Waterton Lakes
There are a variety of places to stay at Waterton Lakes, including campgrounds and hotels. Townsite Campground offers reservations and allows both RV and tent camping. There is also Belly River Campground which is first-come, first-serve.
Rates vary but you can expect to spend anywhere from $16 to $45 USD a night. There are also ten backcountry campgrounds by several of the lakes.
There are several great hotels to stay at near Waterton Lakes, including the famous Prince of Wales hotel. This historic hotel offers great views of the park and fantastic amenities such as afternoon tea.
A costlier hotel it’ll run you $300 a night. For those looking for a cheaper hotel, there is also Aspen Village which runs around $200 a night during peak season.
For those looking for a cozier experience, there are a couple of cabin rentals available also. Dungarvan Creek Vacation Rentals offers a bed and breakfast experience in cabins that sleep up to four people. Prices are typically around $200 a night.
Regardless of whatever accommodations you choose you can be sure you’ll enjoy the beautiful lakes nearby!