If I could have one wish for every Canadian it would be that they get the chance to explore Waterton Lakes National Park. It wasn’t until this year that I even found out about this place and now that I’ve had the chance to go there it’s all I can really talk about. It was definitely one of the biggest highlights of 2015!
“Where is Waterton Lakes National Park?”
Waterton Lakes National Park is located in the South West Corner of Alberta, on the BC and USA Border. Not only is it a National Park but it’s an International Peace Park as half of the park is in Canada and the other half is in the United States and is called Glacier National Park. The park is surrounded by rugged Rocky Mountains and a landscape that has been barely touched by tourism or development. Driving through the rolling prairie hills you come around the corner to unexpectedly meet a wall of majestic mountains. As you enter the park you are surrounded by vast fields, rolling hills and majestic mountains.
When we first arrived in Waterton we headed for our campsite. Our campsite was a twenty minute drive off the main road. As we weaved through the fields and the trees we were all overwhelmed with the scenery and the things to look out upon. Our car was full of conversation as we talked about all the animals we may see, the snow-capped mountains, the rivers and what our campsite would look like. I took some video around town to share the experience with you!
We found our campground and quickly found our way to our tipi… what would be our home for the next three days. I had surprised the kids with the Tipi rental and they were excited about the experience. They quickly went in to check out our accommodations and unpacked the car and set up their beds.
We spent three days in Waterton and were overwhelmed with the amount of free activities that were available for us to do through the Xplorer’s Program and Parks Interpretative Programs. The Park Rangers put on a wide variety of activities every day which kept the kids entertained, educated and us all having a good time.
Here’s the top 10 highlights from our trip to Waterton Lakes National Park:
Aboriginal Dance Night – The town has two theaters, one “downtown” and one in the Crandell Mountain Campsite. Every night of the week there are performances, shows and demonstrations. My kids enjoyed the Aboriginal Dance night and seeing both kids and adults perform.
Survivor of the Alpine
We visited the theater another night for “Survivor of the Alpine” We were greeted by a very passionate and outgoing Park Ranger, who entertained the children with a show/performance/game. She integrated entertainment and audience interaction that kept the kids cheering on their “teams” throughout the “show.” They didn’t realize that they were really learning about the alpine animals and their environments, food and survival techniques! It was a great way to end the day before we went back to the tipis for bedtime.
Bear’s Hump Hike
This challenging 45 minute hike is worth every step once you get to the top. A world class view and some unexpected hosts greet you. This was such a memorable experience I had to give it its own post! Read it and check out more pictures here!
The Parks Department partnered with the local Cree People to offer traditional arts and crafts. We were invited into large tipis where a hot fire, blankets and stumps for seats welcomed us to the afternoon. Two passionate women led us in creating traditional head dress crafts. Not only were the crafts of high quality but the passion and stories that were shared were equally engaging. The kids loved their finished products and they display them proudly in our home.
The Park Rangers offer regular hiking tours, however we ran out of time to be able to take advantage of any of those tours. I guess we will just have to go back!
Going to the beach
Waterton Lake is a windy lake, with the weather often changing throughout the day. This however didn’t stop us from visiting the beach one day. We thought we’d do some beachcombing but when we arrived we were excited to find some tipis that were built out of driftwood. The kids spent an hour adding to the building and putting their own personal touch on the creations.
Staying in a Tipi
We were lucky to be able to book this new addition to the park and would highly recommend it! A few tips: You can bring your own bedding or use theirs, for ease of set-up and personal preference I’d recommend you bring your own. Also be sure to bring a tarp, as the opening of the tipi is not covered and if it rains outside, you’ll get rained on inside as well! The tipi was a great way to experience a traditional Aboriginal accommodation as well as an easy place to stay and camp. The price was the best part though, at $50 per night not only did we have great accommodations but we had a fantastic experience!
If you stop and visit Visitor Services you can pick up your Xplorers Book. Children can choose from a variety of hands-on activities in the workbook that will help them learn about the park, the plants and animals native to the area, the animals they may see as well as about conservation and how to be good guests. My kids loved their workbooks and were proud to present finished products back to the park rangers. The Rangers were equally as excited and once they were complete, they issued each child with their own certificate and dog tag, of which was issued after a “formal” swearing-in ceremony.
Taking a tour of the Prince of Wales Hotel
This iconic hotel sits abreast of the town of Waterton. This hotel was a part of the Great Northern Railroad and was built back in 1926. This seven-story chalet boasts many original features (including the fully operational elevator) and many décor and timepieces from almost a century ago. The hotel is only open three months a year and welcomes guests from all around the world. Stop in for afternoon tea or just a quick visit!
Hanging out with the wild life
We were greeted by several of the locals while we were camping including a baby deer, mother deer, a baby bear, and the pesky (yet cute) Richardson Squirrels. We learned a few lessons about wildlife… for example you should stay at least one bus length away from a deer and three from a bear. And your car is the best place to view animals from if they seem to be getting too close!
This crimson red canyon was 20 minutes from our campground and well worth the drive. Here’s a teaser of what greeted us and I did a whole other blog post about our adventures there!
Our National Parks are a Canadian treasure that I really hope everyone gets to explore! Canada’s National Parks really are the new 5 star camping experience! Whether you’re looking to book a site and bring your own gear, or go Glamping in Canada’s National Parks, either experience will bring you an unforgettable adventure for the whole family!
I’m a Family Travel Writer based out of beautiful Vancouver, BC. Our family adventures take take us all over BC, Alberta and the Pacific Northwest. You'll regularly see us hiking, biking, snowboarding, wakeboarding, and camping our way around the province. Our passion is recreation and our mission is to explore and protect this beautiful earth of ours.