Ten spectacular hikes in Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada.
Note: The Kenow Fire in August 2017 destroyed vast tracts of forest primarily on the west side of Waterton Lakes National Park. Check status for trails before you visit.
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 Park. Glacier National Park in Montana, USA makes up the significantly 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
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 experience will be an indelibly memorable lifetime achievement.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Should 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.
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.
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.
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, mid-afternoon 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 a weather forecast 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.