Hellroaring Falls - Waterton - Hiking Alberta

 

The Hellroaring Falls trail is an alternative approach or retreat on the hike to Crypt Lake.

 

 

The hike to Crypt Lake, from the east shore of Upper Waterton Lake, in Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada, provides a trail option about 0.4 KM (¼ mile) from the beginning of the Crypt Landing trail-head.  The options are the main Crypt Lake trail or the hike through Hellroaring Creek Canyon

The main trail is a 2.6 KM (1.6 mile) option.  The alternative Hellroaring Creek Canyon trail is the 1.8 KM (1.1 mile) trail past Hellroaring Falls.  The decision is a no-brainer, right?  Take the shorter trail with the waterfalls on it.  Wrong!

 

Hellroaring Falls - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada A view looking down into the Hellroaring Creek Canyon from the Crypt Lake Trail.

 

The Crypt Lake Trail is good quality and gains elevation on well-graded switchbacks.  The Hellroaring Falls Trail, through the dramatic Hellroaring Creek Canyon from the lower elevation junction, initially loses elevation then proceeds to the upper elevation junction on rugged, poorly maintained trail, without switchbacks to buffer the climb. 

The Hellroaring Falls Trail is not a good option for the hike up but may be a consideration for the return hike, depending on your mental and physical state towards the end of the moderately challenging Crypt Lake hike. 

 

Hellroaring Falls - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada The top trail junction to Hellroaring Falls from the Crypt Lake Trail to Crypt Landing.

 

Hellroaring Falls - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Upper Waterton Lake peeks out from the descent on the Hellroaring Falls Trail

 

Hellroaring Falls - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada The Hellroaring Falls Trail is steep and rugged.

 

Hellroaring Falls - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Views are limited but periodically there is a glimpse of cascading water

 

Hellroaring Falls - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Sound reverberates against the sheer rock walls of Hellroaring Creek Canyon

 

Hellroaring Falls - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Pools of emerald water fill rock bowls created by the cascading water in Hellroaring Creek Canyon.

 

Hellroaring Falls - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Ideal light is available for a few minutes each day. Late today, contrast is too high.

 

Hellroaring Falls - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Excellent views over Upper Waterton Lake appear at the top of Hellroaring Falls.

 

There is a viewpoint at the top of a waterfall which could have been investigated further with more time, more water and more strength.  The Crypt Lake hike took its toll over the eight + hours. 

There are some days when hitting the switch creates nothing happening and this was the most compromised hiking day since Balu Pass, so towards the end of this Crypt Lake hike a fair amount of energy is used to maintain a positive attitude.  Additionally, heat and exhaustion is taking its toll.

 

Hellroaring Falls - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada The trail turn towards Crypt Landing offers a view of the Hellroaring Creek outlet into Upper Waterton Lake.

 

Hellroaring Falls - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada A nice view over Upper Waterton Lake towards Waterton Townsite as we make the final approach to Crypt Landing.

 

Mount Crandell is a welcome vision looming over Waterton Village and the Prince of Wales Hotel on the final approach to Crypt Landing.   

The Hellroaring Falls hike has more to offer given appropriate energy and time.  I believe there are huge opportunities to extend the exploration, to do some off trail, and be in the right place at the right time for photographs in a deep canyon.  The recommendation is to use the boat shuttle to Crypt Landing from Waterton Marina and optimize the time spent hiking the Hellroaring Creek Canyon as a full-day, single-objective mission. 

There might be enough time to explore part of the Wishbone Trail for views across Upper Waterton Lake and Vimy Peak features. A long-day alternative would be to bike the Wishbone Trail south from Maskinonge Lake as far as possible along the south shore of Middle Waterton Lake, then hike the Wishbone Trail further south to Crypt Landing.  This would allow a mid-day exploration of the Hellroaring Falls Trail in both directions with off trail excursions before returning the same way.  There would be a goldmine of fabulous views from the Wishbone Trail

And then, there is the Vimy Ridge to Vimy Peak hike off the Wishbone Trail.  Alas, so much to do and so little time.   Waterton Lakes National Park has a lot to offer.

 

 

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Comments

Thank you for your kind words and comment, Karen. Crypt Lake is an aggressive, classic and incredibly beautiful hike and is one of the Waterton Lakes National Park Triple Crown. It is in the category of lifetime memories. I urge you to have a lengthy discussion with the Park Visitor Center before embarking on the boat ride to the trailhead. There may be a good chance Crypt Lake, in June, may still be snow bound. Partway is still an option but you can look for lower elevation alternatives and decide for yourself. Good luck. Enjoy your visit. Stay safe.

Hi Barry! I really enjoyed reading your post on Hellroaring Falls and the Crypt Lake Trail. It gives me a good idea of what to expect if I decide to head out on that trail...I'll be staying out in Waterton early June and Crypt Lake Trail was one of the trails I was thinking of going on ;) Great pictures by the way!

Thank you for your comment, Randey. I have been on many challenging hikes over the last 5 decades. Most are fabulous experiences right away. Some are character builders and it takes a length of time to fully realize the benefit of the profoundly positive experience. When my son and I ascended the North Kaibab Trail from Phantom Ranch to the North Rim through the Bright Angel Fault with a side trip into Ribbon Falls below the Cottonwood Campground, there was a time in the climb through brutal heat above Roaring Springs when either of us would have paid anyone good money to shoot us. It took us a while to realize the positive moments largely outweighed the pain and suffering. More than a decade later we still review that mission, our millennium project, with raising voices, powerful, positive memories and pride in the fact we were able to overcome significant adversity to get the job done. It is a lot like life. My son and I have a hiking motto, "Too stubborn to quit: too stupid to fall down." We continue to have a lot of fun with it and we are absolutely certain at the first step, the hike will likely be different that what we expect and at the last step we will rejoice in the fact we saw incredible sights and finished the mission. I appreciate your confirmation of the experience. Crypt Lake is a phenomenal hike. We did not need to scramble on wet rock or to navigate the wall above the tunnel in powerful winds. In hindsight, I would have, and should have, carried a water filter with me. We booked the earliest boat shuttle to Crypt Landing and the latest shuttle back to Waterton Village but we still had a time constraint. I still believe Hellroaring Canyon and Falls has more to offer than we were able to experience.

Hi Barry. Glad to see I wasn't the only one... I did the Crypt Lake hike with a side trip through Hell Roaring Falls last Saturday, August 13th, and found I felt the same way. As amazing and worthwhile as the Crypt Lake hike was, it is also very taxing mentally and physically due to the summer heat. Unfortunately, Crypt Lake is registered in my memory now as one of those hikes where the sun punishes you both getting there and back. Luckily, I carried three litres of water just in case [it was barely enough and I was completely out by the time I reached the dock]. I also found I had a hard time that day viewing the side trip back to the dock via the unmaintained Hellroaring Falls trail as anything other than a bit annoying and lacklustre -- especially so close to the end of the day and so near the finish. Thanks for the great blog. It's an excellent source of hiking information and inspiration.

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