Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Waterton Lakes National Park, Canada

Betsy and I were captivated with Glacier National Park (NP) in Montana and just knew we had to pay a visit to the other half of this International Peace Park - our Canadian neighbor called Waterton Lakes NP.  Together these magnificent spectacles of the Rocky Mountains form the first ever International Peace Park and are the inspiration for numerous other Peace Parks around the world.

The view from atop the Bears Hump trail looking south down Upper Waterton Lake towards
the United States (center) and MiddleWaterton Lake (to the left)
In 1901, when the famous American Conservationist George Bird Grinnell (and the founding father of Glacier NP) proclaimed this area to be the “Crown of the Continent,” he was likely referring to the region’s ecological and geographical importance.  Waters from within these parks are considered the headwaters of the continent and reach as far away as Hudson Bay, the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific ocean.  Waterton Lakes NP was established in 1895 and Glacier NP came along a little later in 1910.  The early founders of these parks realized that no man-made boundary or border can separate the waters and wild things that join these two parks.  Conservationists quickly agreed that an international border “in such a place of grandeur” was artificial and unwanted.  After all, wildlife knows no international boundaries and they don’t carry passports.

Our first day in the park was filled with awesome wildlife sightings that included none other than a black bear with two playful cubs.  I couldn't help but think poor ol’ Waterton NP is up against some pretty tough competition as Glacier NP provided some pretty incredible wildlife sightings including black and grizzly bears, moose, bighorn sheep, elk, and mountain goats with kids…just to name a few. 

What is so spectacular about Waterton Lakes NP is how the rugged mountains tower to the sky over the sparkling aqua blue lakes and sharply contrast the rolling prairies.  In comparison to its American counterpart, Waterton Lakes NP is considerably smaller but offers just as much punch.  The mountains are jagged, rough, and foreboding.  A handful of captivating lakes dot the landscape and exhibit a mesmerizing blue color that you can’t believe exists in nature.

One of the most prominent man-made features of the park is the Prince of Wales Hotel.  The iconic hotel sits perched on a windswept bluff looking down Waterton Lake, over the town, and through the mountainous valley. The stately hotel was completed in 1927 and was the sole Canadian link in a chain of resort hotels built by the Great Northern Railroad supplying new adventures for exploring tourists.

The distinctive green roof of the hotel is one of the identifiable characteristics.  Building the hotel was a challenge, especially the high winds that frequent the area and blew the building off center twice.
The soaring roofs, gables and balconies were designed to convey the appearance of an alpine chalet.
The rustic timber framed interior carries out the alpine chalet theme with a cozy atmosphere.
Hiking trails have given us the opportunity to gawk at natural waterfalls, dip our toes in clear streams, marvel at rock formations and smell the balsam scent that permeates the forests.  Summer brings the wildflowers alive and it is as if they are competing for the “best-in-show” award as they sparkle in the summer sun creating a cascading spectrum of colors.  

While the Bears Hump trail is a short 1.8 miles, the 738-foot elevation gain gives you a good workout.  The view makes the pain worth it.

But, one of the best features of Waterton Lakes NP is the abundant wildlife which is so up-close and personal.  Every day we spent in the park we were treated to another “Wild Kingdom” experience and were lucky enough to see bears every day.  And let’s face it, of all the magnificent sights in these parks, we all want to see the charismatic mega fauna.

Bighorn sheep
Young bison
The tiny town of Waterton is located within the park boundary and a bustling hub for tourists seeking all types of activities.  A quick stroll through town provides everything from eateries, shopping, lodging, water sports, scooter rentals, hiking/biking trails and much more.  We opted for window shopping but were tempted by the ice cream parlor.

Once again we found a place that captivated us for our entire visit and we were sad to leave.  But, by leaving we will find more adventure and, I'm sure, other places that we will enjoy just as much.  So far the Canadian Rockies have not disappointed us.  And Spirit seems to be enjoying herself quite well.

One can never be too cautious around a strange cairn.


  1. Your post brought back a fond memory, I took my Mom and Dad to Waterton, many, many years ago and we had lunch in the Prince of Wales Hotel. It is truly a gorgeous area isn't it? Do you have a planned route into Canada--I am sure you have checked out all Canada's provincial parks for camping--awesome places!

    1. The view from the hotel is so peaceful. It reminds me of Jackson Lake Lodge in the Tetons. We are going to spend a bit of time in Banff and Jasper NP's and then head west. We hope to hit some of the provincial parks as well.

  2. Stunningly beautiful park to visit, worth all the "fun" you had at the border. :c)

  3. Love, Waterton & Glacier. With Kathy being Canadian and me American, we kinda of think of this place as home. We visit often and love it every time!! When we first visited we took the tour boat in Waterton up to the USA, I found it so odd that the forest was cut out at the border. Did you take the boat trip? Is there still a line cut in the forest?

    Tobi & Kathy.

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