Often overlooked given its proximity to Banff National Park, Waterton is just as beautiful, and usually a little less crowded. The surreal natural landscape makes it an obvious choice for an UNESCO World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve. Picture rare wildflowers, plentiful wildlife (bears!), and waterfalls pouring into glacier lakes.
When to go
Plan your visit June through September for the sunniest weather.
Where to hike
With over 200 miles of trails to choose from, it’s hard to suggest only a few. The classic hike visitors head to as soon as touching down in the park is Bears Hump: about 45 minutes (1.5km uphill) from the Visitor Centre to Summit.
For day-long hikes, take the Red Rock Parkway to Red Rock Canyon. Don’t let the 20-minute canyon scenic walking path fool you—a few trail heads lead into the backcountry from here. Twin Lakes (22.8km) and Blakiston Valley (20.2km) are just a couple.
For an extra challenge, try the Triple Crown of Waterton Challenge: Crypt Lake (17.2km), Akamina Ridge (20km), and the Alderson-Carthew Summit (18km). The goal is to complete all three within the same summer. Only a handful of hikers have been able to complete these in the same day.
The challenge is as beautiful as it is difficult: walking past waterfalls, through canyons, and climbing cliff sides with the help of old cables. Plus, turquoise lakes, and beautiful views of where the prairies grow into Rocky Mountains. Expect ladders and a little bit of scrambling, but an unbeatable feeling of accomplishment at the end.
Sign up at the Pearls Café in town if you want your name included on the glory board.
What to eat
Carnivores should indulge at Wieners of Waterton: this small town’s go-to gourmet hot dog shop. If you like fresh baked buns and dogs grilled to order, and large portions that don’t sacrifice quality for quantity, you will leave happy and full.
Who doesn’t love tacos? Another Waterton classic is The Taco Bar. You will find family recipes, including homemade salsa, and friendly staff who cater to dietary restrictions (vegetarian and gluten free).
For desert, the only real option is Welch’s Chocolate Shop. It’s your sweet tooth’s dream.
Where to stay
In-park campgrounds include Waterton Town Site, Belly River, or Crandell Mountain. To beat the crowds, try camping just outside the park’s limits.