Waterton Lakes National Park is “the most stunning of the Rocky Mountain Parks” according to Frommers Travel Guide. Waterton Lakes protects 124,800 acres along the U.S.-Canada border in southern Alberta, Canada, adjacent to Glacier National Park in northern Montana. Together these two parks were designated as the world’s first International Peace Park.
The Prince of Wales Hotel was built in 1926 to attract tourists to the area. It sits atop a hill on the northern end of Upper Waterton Lake.
The wildflowers were just starting to bloom. Slightly pungent white flowers filled the fields along the road to our campground, which sits at the base of the massive 7,730-foot Mount Crandell shown in this photo.
Our campground was nestled in the forest at left along this fast-flowing creek. It was surrounded by mountains including Ruby Ridge (left) and Mount Blakiston, which at 9,344-feet elevation is the largest mountain in Waterton Lakes National Park.
Our first hike was to Bertha Falls, which cut through hard rock about 1.2 billion years old.
We were delighted to discover that unlike U.S. national parks, Canadian national parks allow dogs on the hiking trails. The dogs were especially happy about this news. After we visited Bertha Falls, we continued on the steep trail up to what was supposed to be a beautiful alpine lake. Unfortunately, even though it was mid-May, and this was a very low snow year, the trail quickly became covered in a couple feet of packed snow.
We weren’t too happy about hiking along a sheer mountainside in deep snow, but the dogs were ecstatic! There was nobody around, and the trail was getting too treacherous to keep them on a leash, so we let them run free. The dogs ran around like crazy in the snow, with Darby chasing Shadow up and down the hills. At one point Darby slid about 30 feet down a big open hill like she was on a sled.
We gave it our best shot, but eventually the snow became too deep and the hillside too sheer that we had to turn back about 1/3 mile from the lake. We didn’t want our first hike in Canada to require a rescue mission.
Cameron Falls is located in Waterton Village and requires only a short walk to view the rushing waters. Every so often a spectacular phenomena occurs, and the falls turn blood red after an exceptionally heavy rain washes sediment from Red Rock Canyon (see below) into the creek that feeds the falls. To give you an idea of the size of this waterfall, can you see the people standing on the viewing platform above to the right of the falls?
Waterton Lakes National Park has a series of three large, connected lakes flowing south-north through the center of the park. This is the 10-mile-long Upper Waterton Lake taken from the northern shore and looking south into Glacier National Park in the United States.
We had terrific weather on our first hike in Canada. Here you can see Upper Waterton Lake, half of which is in Canada and half in the United States.
There were lots of bighorn sheep grazing on the hillside right in Waterton Village. For the most part, they seemed unfazed by all the tourists.
This is the 370-acre Lower Waterton Lake.
This field was blooming with tiny white flowers and big yellow daisies.
Wildflowers make for happy hikers.
The butterflies were especially happy with all the flowers.
We hiked out of a dense forest into an open valley with a spectacular backdrop of 7,523-foot Mount Galwey.
We drove up to Cameron Lake which still had about 10 feet of snow on the ground.
Cameron Lake was still frozen solid, though there were a few areas that were starting to thaw.
Red Rock Canyon certainly lived up to its name with ruby red banks made of argillite, derived from iron rich muds laid down on the bottom of an ancient sea.
Waterton Lakes National Park is certainly deserving of its title as the most stunning park in the Canadian Rockies. Click on the photo above for a large panorama of the park from the bison paddock. And yes, there is one bison (and a few people) in this photo. See if you can spot them.