Waterton Village is the focal point of Waterton Lakes National Park in the southwest corner of Alberta, Canada. It is the Canadian component of the unique International Peace Park formed in 1932 to permanently acknowledge the friendship between Canada and the United States. Our relatively small, spectacular, natural wonder rests on top of Glacier National Park in Montana, USA. At only 505 square kilometres (195 sq. miles), the size of Waterton Lakes National Park may pale in comparison, but our little park competes favourably in the category of natural wonder. Glacier National Park in Montana is not to be confused with the much smaller, more rugged wilderness, and massive glacial névés of Canada‘s Glacier National Park at Rogers Pass between Revelstoke and Golden in British Columbia. They are very different and they are both absolutely spectacular!
The sun feels good on my face in the cool, brisk temperature of early morning as I wander, with my camera and a fresh cup of complementary coffee from Bear Mountain Motel, past the Marina to the end of the short pier protecting Emerald Bay. Mount Crandell glows golden with Bear’s Hump prominent on photo left.
The short walk on the stony shoreline of Upper Waterton Lake provides spectacular views of peaks along the mountain-bound lake extending south from Canada into the United States.
A right turn from the beach and through the small park adjacent to the Waterton National History Association leads directly to the historic location of Waterton’s RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) detachment, constructed in 1926.
It is common to see deer roaming through town.
My timing is coordinated to arrive at Zum’s Eatery for the 8:00 AM breakfast opening. As usual, I am first in line and take my usual table in the uniquely decorated dining area. There is a hearty breakfast available here. Staff is friendly and service is good, in my experience.
Following breakfast, I walk across Waterton Avenue to the Waterton Natural History Association which contains a wealth of historical information and a good library of books relevant to the area. It also offers a variety of unique gifts. The quaint, old building is named, on its exterior, as Waterton Heritage Centre du Patrimoine.
A walk north on Waterton Avenue, with Mount Crandell providing a bold background, delivers me back to the short pier at Emerald Bay for morning-light views of the Prince of Wales Hotel on the other side.
It is my final day of this hiking trip. After packing up and checking out of the Bear Mountain Motel, I bid a fond farewell to Waterton Village, until next time.
The Bear Mountain Motel is my kind of place. It is unpretentious, fundamental and focussed on providing clean, comfortable and affordable accommodation. I have stayed at the centrally located motel, adjacent to Tamarack Outdoor Outfitters, many times and it has always been a positive experience. Sure, the rooms are tiny. Only the fundamentals are provided. The water faucets can be tricky but it is a short learning curve. The bathroom is so compact, I need to leave the room to change my mind. The shower is very small. Washing feet requires a series of yoga manoeuvres with balance provided by one arm positioned strategically against a shower wall. It is important to avoid getting confused and accidentally leaning on the shower curtain which could result in rapid exit from the shower stall to end up draped over the toilet in a humiliating position, not that I can speak to this from personal experience.
Waterton Village is the hub for Waterton Lakes National Park. It is one of my very favourite places, but I have one ongoing criticism. This park is a mecca for hikers. Waterton is a town that likes to start late. I am aware of a couple of places in town that open at 7 AM. My experience using them has been unsatisfactory. What is needed are several facilities opening at 6 AM for an early breakfast. This could be combined with an excellent coffee service and a hikers lunch service. I could be out to lunch here, no pun intended. If the right facility is available, advertising would be good. I wait to stand corrected. It’s a hiking town with incredible potential as current efforts will extend the season to keep the town busy year round.
The drive north on the Park Entrance Road passes the Waterton Lakes Golf Course. There are several turnouts along the entrance road which provide interpretive plaques of notable pioneers in the park’s history, as well as outstanding views of Middle Waterton Lake, Lower Waterton Lake and Maskinonge Lake. One turnout hosts a short trail to the gravesite of John George ‘Kootenai’ Brown. At the T junction, I turn left onto Highway 6 and drive north past the entrance to the 3.5 KM (2.2 mile) Bison Paddock Drive.
Hwy 6 north provides me with the opportunity to stop at a viewpoint overlooking the Waterton Park Front for magnificent views of the Rocky Mountains behind rolling farm and ranch land. Beyond Twin Butte and Pincher Creek, I turn left at the intersection with Hwy 3.
At Hwy. 3, I am driving west on the Cowboy Trail.