Photographs courtesy of Travel Alberta. Lead photo: Amanda Dias.
Located in the southwest corner of Alberta, Waterton Lakes National Park is a hop, skip, and jump from the US/Canada border. In fact, in 1931, Waterton Lakes and Montana’s Glacier National Park formed the world’s first international peace park and World Heritage Site: the Waterton Glacier International Peace Park, where hikers often find themselves crossing international boundaries while enjoying cedar-filled forests, alpine lakes, and glacial-fed rivers.
The meeting of mountains and prairie form Waterton’s unique landscape, which is located on Treaty 7 and the traditional territory of the Niitsitapi (Blackfoot), Nakoda (Stoney), and Tsuut’ina tribes, who have called the area home for more than 10,000 years. Visitors enjoy mountain views featuring some of the oldest exposed sedimentary rock in the Rocky Mountains, a variety of prairie, alpine, and coastal plant species, and chilling blue lakes. Skeletal trees make up much of the view due to the Kenow Wildfire, which burned 38 percent of the park in 2017.
Where to Camp
Conveniently situated within the community of Waterton, the Townsite Campground offers the most amenities and is open seasonally between April 1 and October 1. Another option is the Belly River Campground, located along the Chief Mountain Highway, 26 kilometers from the Waterton townsite.
Waterton is essentially closed during the winter season, but the Pass Creek Day Use Area is available for free camping between November 1 and April 1. The site is plowed and maintained during the winter and has indoor non-flush toilets, a generous supply of firewood, fire rings, and an enclosed picnic shelter with a wood-burning stove.
What to Do
If you visit in the summer, the park offers numerous activities to keep you busy. Two hundred kilometers of hiking trails offer something for everyone. Bear’s Hump is a 2.8 kilometer (1.8 mile) hike with great views that is easily accessible from town. Divers should check out the remains of the Emerald Bay Shipwreck, while cyclists can ride to Red Rock Canyon via the Red Rock Parkway or to Cameron Lake via the Akamina Parkway.
Winter pursuits include snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, skating on the frozen Linnet Lake, and hiking a few of the local trails, depending on snow conditions.
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