How to get to Waterton Lakes National Park
Waterton Lakes National Park is about a thirty minute drive south of Pincher Creek, Alberta via highway #6, or about an hour and fifteen minutes south-west of Lethbridge, Alberta via Highway #5.
If you're coming from the US, the closest border crossing is the Chief Mountain one. They are open daily from June 1 to October 31, 7:00 am to 10:00 pm. Alternatively, the Coutts and Del Bonita crossings are open year-round.
If you are travelling by bus and are staying at the Kilmorey Lodge or Aspen Village Inn, the hotel will pick you up at the bus stop in Pincher Creek.
What to do in & around Waterton
"Waterton Lakes National Park"
Hi There! Be sure to check out the tips section at the bottom of the page for more detailed info on things to do and places to stay in the park, as well as the albums which also contain additional info on hikes and the like. Thanks for stopping by and thanks in advance for rating my tips!
The Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton serves high tea every day. I've never tried the high tea service, but have had people say it was a pleasant experience, if you're into that sort of thing (we go to Waterton for the hiking and camping). The Prince of Wales Hotel is phenomenal as an architectural landmark and I think the experience of seeing the inside of the hotel in itself would be worth the trip there for high tea or a drink in the lounge.
Waterton is a quiet park, by national park standards. You don't have to go far to get away from people here!
From the US, you would access Waterton by going north from St Mary's to the Chief Mountain border crossing. Once you clear customs, the park is about a half hour drive. That border crossing is a small one, and with a passport you should be able to clear in a matter of a few minutes, less than fifteen would be my best estimate.
Waterton is beautiful, scenic and uncrowded. There are a lot of shops downtown to stroll through. There are several gift shops, an art gallery, a chocolate shop and a small museum. As well, lots of the buildings in Waterton are very old, so if you are into architecture, it is interesting to just stroll or drive around the townsite and check out some of the beautiful old buildings.
You can check out Cameron Falls which is right in the townsite. An easy walk up a short path allows you to see the falls from the top for a different perspective.
There is the shoreline cruise which takes you on an approximately two hour trip down Upper Waterton Lake. You get to disembark at the Goat Haunt Ranger Station at the extreme south shore. The ranger station is in Montana and is the only place you can cross the Canada/US border without clearing customs. After about a half hour stop, the boat heads back up the lake to the townsite. A friend of mine actually witnessed avalanches on the trip spring 2005 after a late spring snow storm. And there is plenty of opportunties for wildlife sightings as well.
The Akamina Parkway has many picnic areas en route. At the end of the road is Cameron Lake. You can rent a canoe and go out on the lake. Grizzlies are often spotted fishing on the south shore of the lake, so I generally avoid the hiking trails around the lake. But it is quite something to witness from the safety of your canoe in the middle of the lake!
The other scenic drive in the park goes to the Red Rock Canyon. From here, you can do an easy hike to Blakiston Falls, about a mile one way. The Red Rock Canyon road is a great spot for grizzly sightings, from the safety of your car.
If you're up for an amazing hike, there is always the Crypt Lake trail, rated the #1 hike in Canada many years in a row. I have completed this hike and it is phenomenal, but not for the casual walker. It is 5 1/2 miles one way and goes up 2200' in elevation. I would definitely recommend it if you are an experienced hiker and in good physical condition.
Pat's of Waterton has bike and surrey rentals. The golf course is a Stanley Thompson design, and there is also a movie theatre and horse back riding available in the park.
While you're in Waterton, make sure you have dinner at least once at the Kilmorey Lodge. The food is exceptional and their wine list is impressive. Reserve ahead of time in the summer for lunch or dinner. Zum's is a great choice for casual fare, and any teenagers in your group would definitely appreciate Pizza of Waterton - they make great pizzas and calzones.
For places to stay, I would recommend the Northland Lodge, Crandall Mountain Lodge, or the Aspen Village Inn. There are lots of hotels in town, and none are really awful, it's just that some are really overpriced, in my mind.
If you want to explore areas around Waterton, the historic Crowsnest Pass is about an hour north. From there, you can witness the Frank Slide and tour the interpretive center. It is truly a humbling experience. There is an underground mine tour in Bellevue and several self-guided walking tours of old coal mining sites in the Pass area.
Alternatively, if you drive about an hour and a half east (near Fort Macleod) you can tour the Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump, which is a Unesco world heritage site. It is really well done. From the buffalo jump, you are about a fifteen minute drive to Fort Macleod where you can tour the restored fort.
"Quite Downtown Streets"
This picture was taken on a Sunday afternoon in July. This should give you an idea of how quiet and uncrowded this park is.