Waterton Lakes National Park Canada

Published: July 8th 2015
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First Impressions and Townsite Campground

We hadn’t heard much about Waterton Lakes Park in Alberta, Canada, other than it was smaller and less impressive than Banff or Jasper to the north or its International Peace Park partner, Glacier in the US, to the south. We reserved two days in the townsite campground, which is basically downtown in a very flat open communal park and initially unimpressive.

However, this charming park really grew on us! The landscape is less treed so the vistas are quite broad. One of the centerpieces is the Prince of Wales hotel on a bluff overlooking Middle Waterton Lake and its setting is really spectacular. Our camp neighbors, from around the world, from Chile to Belgium, were very friendly. We met a fabulous professional Canadian wildlife photographer who advised us all on where and when to get the best photos of bears, which was accurate as we’ll record! He shared his portfolio which was jaw-dropping. When I asked if he used a tripod, he said hardly ever, and his former website was called “One Wet Knee” as he usually stabilized his camera and gigantic zoom lens on one knee.

Bears Hump Hike, actual Bears and Overlook

After visiting the Parks Canada visitor information center, we were planning to take a drive then return to the Bears Hump hike next to the center. Other visitors walked in and said there were two adolescent bears about half a kilometer (I'll be using kms instead of miles in blogs set in Canadian parks - we heard locals call them "clicks") up the path, one in a tree and one in the woods, both close to the path. We debated whether to go on the hike then to see the bears but decided against it because they were described as aggressive towards hikers. When we returned later and did take the hike, we learned the Park personnel and had chased them away.

The Bears Hump hike was a relentless 4 clicks uphill hike to fantastic 360 degree views around the park, the townsite (including our campground) and the Prince of Wales hotel. We took all kinds of photos and soaked in the magnificent vistas. The hike back was all steep downhill and hard on toes and knees!

Bertha Falls Hike

A simple side hike from our campsite was to Lower Bertha Falls (1.4 km one way). It was a surprisingly pretty bridal cascade and great for photos. We didn’t continue the next 2.8 km to Bertha Lake because we wanted to squeeze in a really enticing bike ride.

Kootenai Brown Bike Path

This was quite simply, a blast. The Kootenai Brown bike path is a very open paved 16 kilometers, separate from cars, little danger of colliding directly with wildlife and enough variation in pitch to keep it interesting. With spectacular scenery from the entrance, along Lower Waterton Lake and then great views of Middle Waterton Lake and the Prince of Wales hotel, it was completely exhilarating even though we’d completed two hikes earlier.

Early morning bear hunt on departure day

We set the alarm for dawn the next morning and quietly left our tent to catch glimpses of animals on the road to Lake Cameron. Our sleepy drive was rewarded with close viewings of 3 separate bears (2 definitely black, one either brown (grizzly) or cinnamon stage of black) along the road munching flower bulbs and unconcerned by our slowly passing vehicle. We got out of our truck to photograph early reflections on Lake Cameron but it was unnerving to be the only people that early at the far endpoint of the road.

Summary of Waterton Lakes

We had a really memorable time in Waterton Lakes and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it as part of a trip from Glacier through the Canadian Rockies! It’s a small, friendly gem.

Additional photos below
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8th July 2015

Hey Becky- your photos are, as usual, beautiful, and it sounds like you're having the adventure you set out for. So glad you're enjoying your explorations, and am just as glad that I get to be a little voyeur to them! Safe travels...
29th July 2015

Thanks, Julie! It's been a great journey so far with so many beautiful sights and it's great to share it with wonderful friends like you!

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