Despite being the smallest (505 sq-km) and least-visited of Alberta’s Big Three Rocky Mountain parks, Waterton is often considered the most beautiful.
Craggy peaks stab out of windswept prairie grasslands; it’s home to the Canadian Rockies’ deepest lake; and the Prince of Wales Hotel, on the shores of Lake Waterton, is iconic Canadiana. Like Banff and Jasper, Waterton offers a multitude of hikes, ranging from stroller-worthy walks to multi-day epics through its unique Crown of the Continent environment.
When You Go
Location: Alberta Rockies
Get There: Accessed via Highways 6 (west), 5 (east) & 22 (north)
For More Info: pc.gc.ca/waterton
Length: 16 km
While still a lengthy jaunt, the Snowshoe Trail to Twin Lakes features only about 150 metres of elevation gain, so while it’ll take the better part of a day, most hikers should be able to manage. Accessed from the Red Rock Canyon trailhead, this route also offers a multitude of short side-trails, giving up vistas of Sage Pass and South Kootenay Pass. If you’d like to overnight along the trail, two backcountry campsites are up for grabs — Goat Lake and Lost Lake ($9.80 per person). Enjoy high-alpine views before heading back down through the Blakiston Valley.
Length: 18 or 25 km
Pack some energy bars and a couple of litres of water before tackling this high-elevation climb. Topping out at 2,363 metres, Vimy Peak offers sensational views of Waterton Lake from its summit. There are two access points for this hike — the first is to paddle (or charter a boat) across the lake and start right from the shoreline (18 km return); the second is via the Wishbone Trail (25 km return), accessed from the Chief Mountain Highway trailhead. Vimy Peak starts as a well-maintained wooded route, and then culminates in a moderate scramble to the summit. Enjoy the view and head right back down, or wander along the ridgeline to extend your hiking pleasure.
Length: 17 km
Often considered Waterton National Park’s “classic” hike, Crypt Lake — accessed from the Crypt Landing trailhead — begins with a short boat-ride across the lake, then ascends 700 metres en route to Crypt Lake, an alpine waterbody just a hair north of the US border. (You’ll pass two waterfalls along the way.) Strap on sturdy boots and maintain your balance — the route features a narrow cliffside section and even shoots through a tunnel. A bear bell or “talking partner” is also a good idea; Waterton has a healthy population of grizzly and black bears.
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