After two weeks exploring Montana and Yellowstone with me, it was time for Pat to head back to Connecticut. Fortunately, I had a bit more vacation time and was able to stick around Montana for an extra week and squeeze in a little more adventuring. And so my mom and I loaded up the car and headed off to Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta.
Located right across the border from Montana and Glacier National Park, Waterton is often overlooked, as it falls in the shadow of the larger and much more famous Banff and Jasper National Parks. And while I’ve been to both and can’t deny their beauty, I maintain that Waterton has just as much to offer. I’d been there twice before, but this was by far our most thorough exploration. In our three days in the park, we drove all the roads and hiked 26 miles (42 km)!
Our first stop was Cameron and Akamina Lakes, located at the end of the Akamina Parkway. Cameron Lake is easily accessible from the parking lot (and beautiful) while Akamina lake is just a short 5-minute walk off to the east (and somewhat underwhelming).
After consulting our map and realizing that British Columbia was only 1 mile (1.6 km) away via the Akamina Pass trail, we decided we obviously had to hike there. It was a fairly quick and easy walk, so much so that we didn’t realize until we arrived that we were actually on top of the Continental Divide.
Across the border in BC is Akamina-Kishenina Provincial Park, which I’d never heard of but which has now been added to my travel to-do list. Since we were already in the park and Forum Falls was only another few minutes down the trail, we figured we might as well go take a look.
If we’d had more time and weren’t trying to save our legs for our Crypt Lake hike the next day, we would’ve continued onto Forum Lake. Saving that for next time, I guess.
As it turned out, we weren’t overly successful at saving our legs. As you’ve probably all realized by now, my mom and I tend to be a little over enthusiastic when we travel, always on a mission to see absolutely as much as possible wherever we are.
The consequence of this was a last-minute decision to hike to Crandell Lake from the Akamina Parkway (it can also be accessed from the Red Rock Parkway and both trails are approximately equidistant). It was only 1.5 miles (2.4 km), but there were a lot of ups and downs, and by the end we were regretting our decision. Only for the sake of our legs, though – the lake is beautiful.
Back in the town of Waterton, we took an accidental wrong turn on our way to our campsite and ended up at the very unique Cameron Falls.
Day 2 was our Crypt Lake hike, to which I’ll be devoting an entire post next week. So for now, I’ll skip on ahead to day 3.
The aftermath of hiking to Crypt Lake left us with a very little leg strength and an excess of sore muscles, so we ended up taking it pretty easy. We stopped for the obligatory photo op at the iconic Prince of Wales lodge that sits on the hill overlooking Upper Waterton Lake and the Waterton townsite. Linnett Lake is at the base of the hill and just a short walk from the trailhead parking lot, so we stopped there as well.
That left just the Red Rock Parkway that we hadn’t explored, so we drove the few miles up towards the northwest part of the park. The road ends in a parking lot from which trails to Red Rock Canyon and Blakiston Falls depart, and I believe they continue back to some lakes as well.
Red Rock Canyon is aptly named, and walking up the canyon in the creek bed is a popular activity, despite the numerous signs asking you to stay on the trail. The trail follows both rims of the canyon, eventually crossing over and allowing the hike to be completed as a half mile (0.7 km) loop, which is what we did.
The Blakiston Falls trail splits off at a 90-degree angle from the start of the Red Rock Canyon trail and winds through the woods up to overlooks of the 35 foot (11 m) falls.
Definitely worth the short hike, and it was a peaceful destination for our final hike at Waterton Lakes.
The Important Stuff:
- Getting there: located at the junction of AB Highways 5 and 6, approximately 1 hour southwest of Lethbridge, Alberta
- Fees & passes: $7.80 CAD/person/day or $19.60 CAD/car; Parks Canada Annual Pass accepted
- Camping: Townsite Campground is located on the shore of Upper Waterton Lake – 237 sites, $27-$38 CAD per night (includes free showers), reservations necessary
- Hiking: Akamina Pass/Forum Falls (1 mi/1.6 km), easy; Crandell Lake (1.5 mi/2.4 km), moderate; Red Rock Canyon (0.5 mi/0.7 km loop), easy; Blakiston Falls (1.2 mi/2 km), easy
- Other: make sure you have the proper document(s) to cross into Canada!