10 Great Hikes in Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta

 

Ten spectacular hikes in Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada.

 

 

Located in the south-west corner of Alberta, Canada, Waterton Lakes National Park is an integral and unique part of the world's first International Peace ParkGlacier National Park in Montana, USA makes up the larger component of this wilderness paradise where prairies meet mountains.

 

Click on the red links below for more detailed information about each hike

 


1.   Crypt Lake


 

03_Crypt_Lake

 

The hike to Crypt Lake hike is 8.7 KM (5⅜ miles) one way with an elevation gain of 695 meters (2,300 ft.) to a maximum elevation of 1,981 meters (6,500 ft.).  This incredible hike is one of the most popular in Waterton Lakes National Park and arguably the most famous in the Triple Crown.  The day begins with a reserved boat shuttle from the Waterton Village Marina to the trail-head at Crypt Landing on the far shore of Upper Waterton Lake.  Good weather and a plan are important.  The experince will be an indelibly memorable lifetime achievement.

 

Crypt Lake, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Burnt Rock Falls on the hike to Crypt Lake in Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Crypt Lake, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Crypt Falls and Mount Boswell on the approach to Crypt Lake in Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Crypt Lake, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Crypt Lake, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

 


2.   Bear's Hump


 

This short, moderately strenuous hike to the overlook at the top of Bear’s Hump is a round trip of 2.8 KM (1¾ miles) and an elevation gain of 225 m (738 ft) to a maximum elevation of 1,525 m (5,000 ft).  The hike is a sustained, fairly steep climb on predominantly rocky trail supplemented by short switchbacks and large, wooden beam steps.  Views are spectacular and summer crowds can be avoided with an early morning start to enjoy the rising sun.

 

Bear's Hump, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada View over Waterton Village from Bear's Hump, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Bear's Hump, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada View over Emerald Bay to Middle Waterton Lake at sunrise from Bear's Hump, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

 


3.   Lower Bertha Falls


 

The trail to Lower Bertha Falls is a round trip of 5.2 KM (3.2 miles) with a consistent elevation gain of 175 m (574 ft.) on good trail.  For those who choose to continue the hike on this trail to Bertha Lake, it is a substantially more aggressive adventure with an excellent reward/effort ratio.  From the trail-head, the hike to Bertha Lake consumes a round trip time of about 5 hours with return distance of 10.4 KM (6½ miles) and an elevation gain of 460 m (1,509 ft).  After the wooden bridge, the trail steepens to moderately strenuous.  Good trail over switchbacks eases the more aggressive elevation gains.  Upper Bertha Falls is along the route and Bertha Lake is surrounded by Bertha Peak, Mount Alderson and Mount Richards.  Bertha Lake is an excellent place to fish for rainbow trout and there are campgrounds at each end of the lake.

 

Lower Bertha Falls, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Lower Bertha Falls, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

 


4.   Forum Lake


 

This easy day hike is listed in the My Waterton Visitors Guide as 8.8 KMs (5½ miles) round trip with net elevation gain of 350 m (1,148 ft) and an estimated elapsed time of 3 hours.  The hike can be extended to include the Akamina Ridge Loop which is another of the Waterton Lakes National Park Triple Crown.  There is a signed trail, a very short distance on the right, from the Forum Lake shoreline to, and along, the top of Akamina Ridge.  Not for the faint of heart, this alternative full day, hike/scramble, high above, and over to, Wall Lake offers a substantially more aggressive and spectacular hiking experience.

 

Forum Lake, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Forum Falls on the hike to Forum Lake, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Forum Lake, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Forum Lake, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

 


5.   Wall Lake


 

The popular Wall Lake hike is listed in My Waterton Visitor’s Guide as a 10.4 KM (6½ miles) round trip hike with 110 m (361 ft) of net elevation and an estimated elapsed time of 3.5 hrs.  The hike to Wall Lake is magnificent on excellent trail with a variety of spectacular features and vistas.  Estimated gross elevation is double the published net elevation but this hike is within reach of a broad range of hikers and well worth the time.

 

Wall Lake, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Wall Lake, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Wall Lake, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Wall Lake, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

 


6.   Carthew Alderson Trail


 

The Carthew-Alderson Trail is one of Waterton Lakes National Park’s Triple Crown.  This world-class hike is listed in the ‘My Waterton National Park Visitor Guide‘ as an 8 hour, 20.1 KM (12½ mile) one way trek with altitude gain of 650 m (2,132 ft).  There are large and fascinating features along this spectacular trail.  Not all local residents agree on the three hikes which make up the Waterton Lakes National Park Triple Crown.  At least one, very knowledgeable and influential, resident of Waterton Village suggests Lineham Ridge is a more than worthy candidate.

 

Carthew Alderson Trail, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Carthew Alderson Trail, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Carthew Alderson Trail, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Carthew Alderson Trail, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Carthew Alderson Trail, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Alderson Lake from the Carthew Alderson Trail, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada
 

 


7.   Lower Rowe Lake


 

The hike to Lower Rowe Lake is 4 KM (2½ miles) one way with a gradual and consistent elevation gain of 350 m (1,148 ft) in the first half of the hike.  The Rowe Lakes Trail is interesting, with a wide range of hiking experience on easy trail through a broad range of forest offering frequent openings to outstanding views of the valley between Mount Lineham and Mount Rowe.  Arrival at Lower Rowe Lake is breathtaking.  The still surface repeats the stunningly beautiful surroundings.  The superb view is captivating.  It would be easy to spend the entire day here exploring the circumference of the lake, surrounding rock and forest terrain.

 

Lower Rowe Lake, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Lower Rowe Lake, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Lower Rowe Lake, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada View across Lower Rowe Lake, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

 


8.   Lineham Ridge


 

The hike to Lineham Ridge is a continuation from Lower Rowe Lake.  First is the short 200 m (219 yard) return to the Rowe Lakes Trail, then a left turn and a short 1.3 KM (¾ mile) very beautiful hike through lush forest over Rowe Creek water crossings.  Rowe Meadow is an easily achievable and worthy destination on its own.  If you choose to continue to the top of Lineham Ridge, you will be tackling a return hike from the Akamina Parkway of about 17.6 KM (11 miles) and elevation gain in the range of 850 m (2,780 ft).  It is more than worth the effort.   You have the option to go as far as you choose.  When you have had all the fun you can stand, you can always turn around and go home.  Every section of this hike is mesmerizing.  Every turn begs to be investigated.

 

Lineham Ridge, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Lineham Lakes from Lineham Ridge, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Lineham Ridge, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Bighorn Sheep on the hike to Lineham Ridge, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Lineham Ridge, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Spectacular flora and fauna on the hike to Lineham Ridge, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

 


9.   Cameron Lake


 

Cameron Lake at the end of Akamina Parkway can be tackled on foot by the flat, easy Cameron Lakeshore Trail or by boat along the lake's surface.

There is a short, easy 3 KM (1⅞ mile) hike along the west shore of this beautiful, emerald, alpine lake.  Elevation gain is an imperceptible 10 m (33 ft) to a maximum elevation of 1,670 m (5,475 ft).  It is a relaxing stroll through lush forest, shrubbery and wildflowers along the shoreline with ever-changing views of the lake.  It is truly an amazing walk to a viewing platform. The Cameron Lakeshore Trail stops a distance shy of the avalanche slopes at the south end of the lake which hosts Forum Peak above the 2,708 m (8,883 ft) Mount Custer Headwall laced with multiple waterfalls fed by massive glaciers and snow drifts hanging on sheer rock walls.

The kayak, or canoe, approach allows up close and personal enjoyment of the far end of Cameron Lake.  The roar of falling water enters the sensory mix and increases exponentially in the transition from very shallow, crystal-clear water into deep blue, almost black water, where the shoreline hosts large chunks of ice which have calved from the glacial field above.  Lingering fields of snow occupy areas protected from the sun. There is an excellent boat rental facility at Cameron Lake.  Good upper body workout.

 

Cameron Lake, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Cameron Lake, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Cameron Lake, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Cameron Lake, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

 


10.   Lineham Falls


 

The Waterton Lakes National Park Visitor Centre Guide lists this easy day hike as 8.4 KM (5¼ miles) return with modest elevation gain of 350 m (1,148 ft.).  The Lineham Creek waterfall is sourced by the colorful, pristine, alpine Lineham Lakes from the bowl above, beneath Lineham Ridge.   Those awesome lakes above are accessed by the Rowe Lakes Trail to the top of Lineham Ridge for the indelibly memorable, breathtaking view.

Lineham Falls, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Lineham Falls, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Lineham Falls, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada A subsidiary waterfall along Lineham Creek on the hike to Lineham Falls, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Waterton Lakes National Park is a popular and favorite Canadian National Park.  This magnificent park is a little off the beaten path but with consistently growing popularity the park is competing aggressively considering the limited supply of accommodation.  Advance planning and reservations are important.

A Falcon Guide titled, 'Hiking Glacier and Waterton National Park' by Erik Molvar is an excellent reference and I highly recommend stopping into the Visitor Centre on arrival to acquire the invaluable 'My Waterton Visitors Guide'.

Waterton Lakes National Park is pure magic. When driving south from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, it is worth the time to stop into Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump for a fascinating stroll and a well presented historical background of the area.  Lunch in Pincher Creek will provide a pleasant interlude prior to a convenient, midafternoon arrival in Waterton Lakes National Park.

For any trail you choose to hike, please, carry a map, consult and carry a good hiking guide, and obtain current trail conditions and forecasted weather from the Visitor Centre.  Tell someone where you are going and how long you expect to be there.  On completion, let them know you have completed your day hike to avoid potentially expensive search parties leaving to look for you. Stay safe.  Carry layers and pack everything you may need to enjoy a great day.

 

Climb these summits and get their good tidings.  Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.  The winds will blow their freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. 

John Muir.   

 

From Summit Stones and Adventure Musings by DSD

 

 

 

 

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Comments

Went there last summer with teenagers and have done Bears Hump and Blakiston Falls as well as Red Rock Canyon. We had a day and really enjoyed these trails. We also had time to do Cameron Lakeshore where we saw Grizzly bears on the road driving back. Bears Hump is the one to see the town, the Prince of Wales Hotel and the lake from the top.

You need to check in with Parks Canada when you arrive. They will be able to assess your ability, advise on near-term weather, let you know what trails are available and make specific recommendations. You should prepare for a variety of weather and trail conditions. I would also recommend you check in at Tamarack Outdoor Outfitters for advice. Have a great trip and stay safe. Waterton is an outstanding park.

My partner and I are going to Waterton for the November long weekend this year (Nov 8-10) and we were curious as to which trails would be best for this time of year. We are both beginners, so hopefully nothing too intense!

The good thing about November is that entrance to Waterton Park is free. The bad thing is that many of the trails are too snowy or slippery, and even some of the roads are closed. Still fun to walk around, picnic (just wipe snow of tables), or enjoy the view. I hope you had fun.

No argument from me. Many Glacier offers some fabulous hiking experiences. Great and indelible memories. Much different than Canada's Glacier National Park in British Columbia. As for your brief visit to Waterton, it is nearly impossible to make a specific recommendation without knowing the time you have. There are other variables as well. Weather, trail closures, available gear, etc. Here is what I feel comfortable recommending. As soon as you arrive at the townsite, stop at the Parks Visitor Centre at the bottom of Bear's Hump, which may be a possibility. The Park Ranger on duty will be able to size you up and make a specific recommendation. When you are at the Visitor Centre, pick up an invaluable magazine, My Waterton, which lists all available hike and gives distance and elevation which will help you quality assure your hike. If there is time, stop at Tamarack Outdoor Outfitters, a little further into town. They will be able to quickly get to know you specifically and make quality recommendations and/or quality assure what Parks has provided. Sorry, I cannot be more specific. It becomes much easier when I can stand with you and ask a whole bunch of questions. Good luck. Enjoy Waterton. It is one of my two favorite parks. Yoho is the other. There are many I have not been to which might affect my opinion. Thank you for your comment and kind words.

Thank you for sharing your hiking expertise with all of us hikers! My husband and I will be driving up from Glacier National Park for one day to spend at Waterton Lakes, and due to limited time at border crossings we are not sure what hike to do.( We have to be back at the Chief Mountain border crossing by 6:00pm. We are both fit and experienced hikers and could use your advice. If you had one day only to spend at the park what hike would you recommend? I appreciate your time!!! This will be our 2nd time to hike GNP and you are correct, Many Gacier is the area to hike!!!!!! Thank you Barry and happy hiking.

To make the Lineham ridge even more spectacular, if you don't mind scrambling, at Lower Rowe lake, head straight up the avalanche slope staying to the right of the stream/snowbank. This takes you straight to the top of Mt Lineham. The view is the best in the park (I've been hiking Waterton for 30+ years). The Lineham Lakes are to the North, the Rowe Lakes are below to the South, Forum is visible in B.C, and the view of Cameron Lake with it's glaciers is stunning (and the highway is perfectly cut off). 10:45 AM is the optimum time for photography... Once on top of Mt Lineham, head west, and pick up the Tamarack trail, taking you back to Rowe Meadow for a full circle. Beyond that, a hike to Twin Lakes is a must (return via Blackiston valley for a continuation of beauty). Lower Twin lake is surrounded by larch trees, and is quite beautiful around 12:00 to 1:00 PM in the Sept 20th range. Camp at Twin Lakes (or Snowshoe if you like to have a fire and walk back - 3.3 KM, easy hike), and catch the sunsets over the lake(s) for added adventure...

This is a great list, thank you. My sister and I have been visiting Waterton every summer since we were kids. We are both extremely fit and love to hike. The one thing I would caution is that many of these hikes, such as Crypt Lake, are very challenging. We were not prepared for the level of difficulty when we hiked it two summers ago. If you are scared of heights, not fit, and not an experienced hiker then some of these trails are probably not a good idea.

Thank you for your comment, Di. Waterton is one of my favorite Canadian National Parks. For future reference, Yoho National Park in British Columbia is another. For Glacier National Park in Montana, I would recommend priority be given to the Many Glacier area on the east border.

I just finished reading your top hikes in Waterton and I do appreciate the time you took in putting together this excellent page. My husband and I may be there this coming August (2014) and we'll also be visiting Glacier, Montana. Thanks again for the great information. Di :)

Thank you for your comment, Holly. Much appreciated, but I cannot help you here. At this time of the year, weather can be very volatile and conditions can change rapidly. The right thing for you to do will be to drop into the Visitor Centre on arrival. They will know what is clear and what is not. I am sure you will enjoy Waterton Lakes National Park. It is one of my personal favorites. The 10 outlined in this post are among the very best. Check trail conditions and the weather forecast at the Visitor Centre and choose a hike or two within your scope of fitness and experience. There is an excellent hiking supply store there if you need gear and they will be able to make recommendations as well. Have a wonderful time and stay safe. You are visiting tall mountains in very early season. Waterfalls should be spectacular. Maybe check out Cameron Falls in town and Lower Bertha Falls.

Love your page! Was just wondering if you had any advice for me. I'm going hiking in Waterton next weekend ( June 1-3). What trail do you recommend that won't be too muddy or snowy?

I'm not too experienced or fit of a hiker but have done many hikes in crows nest pass up turtle mountain and crows nest mountain and a few hikes in Watertown and I'm wondering for next weekend based on the trail conditions what would be the best hike. I have done lower Rowe lake with some friends a few years ago and I live only about an hour and fifteen away and am wanting to bring my family only my mom is not a fan of hiking. What time should I leave home and what's a good half day hike? BTW this was an amazing and detailed article that I have read several times :D

Matt,  You are best to check in with the Parks Visitor Center so they can do a visual assessment and recommend a trail based on trail conditions which often change overnight.  There is a publication 'My Waterton" which lists all hikes for physical duration and degree of difficulty.  It will be available at the Visitor Centre as well.

Hey, Looking to go to Waterton Sept long this year for an overnighter. Want to park at red rock canyon, make our way up snowshoe to goat lake for the night. Make our way over to twins lake or somewhere in there to camp again. Then come back down via blakiston valley trail. Will this work? How much scrambling is in this, we have a dog with us, we are aware of the risks. Want to do this in 3 days or so.

The route is aggressive but achievable. Check with Parks for backcountry campsite reservations.  The dog may be an additional level of risk if it is allowed.  Check in with Parks to see if you are able.  Map and guide.  Full kit including emergency, provisions and bear spray.  High due diligence always recommended.  I have not done the entire circuit.  It is on my list but probably not for this year.  I have no way of knowing your experience level, physical capability, experience, gear or whether or not this is a sensible mission for you to tackle.  Good luck, plan carefully and stay safe.

What trails can we mt bike...also good riding on roads you recommend> We plan to hike the shorter hikes but since my daughter is in the end recovery of heel spur surgery/achilles tendon..her foot gets sore from walking alot..so more biking opportunites are better for us. We come up mid July 2015 and are all experienced riders. Many thanks!

Sorry, Stephanie.  This is not an area for which I can offer advice.  I suggest research through Parks Canada.  Certainly the Waterton Lakes National Park Visitor Office will be able to offer some advice when you get there.  You may be able to contact a Calgary Bicycle Club who can provide some experienced advice.  Good luck.  I hope your visit is a huge success.

This is such a lovely link! Thank you very much for sharing with all of us. I would really love to hike Crypt Lake trail but cannot get anyone to do it with me... I heard that it's a pretty busy trail, so is it safe to assume that I can hike solo in July (still be safe from bear encounters)?

Many (almost everybody) use(s) the boat shuttle to the trail-head so groups of people start out on the trail at the same time.  There are many people who hike the trail solo because they prefer to hike alone.  It is likely you can hike in close proximity to others.  Find a group with similar pace.  In the summer, the trail is likely very busy particularly on the weekends. Get your boat reservations a couple of days ahead of time. Choose a fair weather day to reduce risk on the top third of the hike.  Talk to the Parks staff at the visitor centre about risk from bears.  Research the hike.  You should have some hiking experience and decent conditioning before tackling this project.  There is no shame in turning about if an impasse is reached. The creation of some indelible memories often require a bit of suffering.  Good luck, Stay safe. Avoid the Hellroaring Creek trail option. Parks will likely confirm the bear risk is negligible.  If there is a risk they will close the trail until the risk is reduced and acceptable. 

Thank you very much for all the tips and advice! Like you said, I'll research the hike before hand just to be safe. Thanks again and hope you have a wonderful summer!

Planning 6 days in Waterton Lakes National Park (will be in Glacier for 5 days) end august, begin september 2017...your info/comments are appreciated. Belgium is a "flat" country but we will try Crypt Lake! Been to the USA 11 times, different National Parks, but now it's are 1st in Canada

Thank you for your comment, Jacqueline. You have selected one of my personal favorite Canadian National Parks.  Discuss your plans at the Waterton Visitor Center and be sure to get your boat tickets early for the short and busy cruise from Waterton Townsite to the Crypt Lake trailhead.  Crypt Lake is an amazing hike that will leave a lifelong, indelible impression.  I always recommend taking the first boat over and the latest boat back so there is the least amount of time pressure.  The first ²⁄₃ of the ascent is an excellent, fairly normal hiking experience and the final third contains features less commonly encountered in a hike.  Your experience in Glacier National US will help if you are able to spend some time in the Many Glacier northeast quadrant training up for the elevation differentials.  Best wishes on your adventure.

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