I have spent months of my life over the last 3 years exploring Waterton and want to share with you my top 5 Must Do Hikes
In continuation of my previous post 4 Reasons to Visit Waterton National Park I wanted to discuss with you the best hikes Waterton has to offer* in order from my honourable mentions to my number one recommended must do hike.
5. Bears Hump
200 Metre (656 Feet) Elevation Gain
Distance: 2.8 Kilometres (1.7 Miles) Return
Although Bears Hump is relatively short it is straight up for just a little over
1 kilometre, Bears Hump provides rewarding views at the top, giving you a direct overlook of Watertons Townsite village as well as the seemingly never ending Waterton Lake it is well worth the effort!
The trailhead for Bears Hump is located at Watertons Visitor Center and starts directly behind the centre. This trail is friendly for kids to seniors, as always be sure to dress for the conditions, bring water and listen to your body!
4. Crypt Lake
700 Meteres (2300 Feet)
Distance: 17.2 Kilometeres (10.7 Miles) Return
Crypt Lake is one of Watertons “Triple Crown” feature hikes, this unique hike requires a 20 minute boat ride to the trailhead! In order to utilize your time and to ensure you will not be left behind it is best to take the earliest boat possible. Prices and schedule can be found here.
This hike is not for those who are afraid of heights and exposure.
Crypt Lake is an exceptionally varied hike which will give you views of many creeks, waterfalls, heavily forested areas, exposed rock face along with a shuffle along a narrow exposed edge, a climb through a small tunnel, back onto an exposed face with some mild scrambling (chains have been installed into the side of the
mountain to hold onto – for peace of mind) after all of that, you finally arrive at Crypt Lake! A beautiful high alpine lake that borders the USA/Canada border.
This hike is a full day hike and is typically for those who have prior experience with longer hikes as well as exposure. Although this hike can be completed with little to no experience of hiking, due to the varied terrain including mild scrambling, cliff traversing and exposure it is important to know your limits.
That being said, I had first completed this hike with my mother who has had a limited amount of experience hiking. With encouragement and ample time we were able to complete this hike without any problems!
3. Bertha Lake
500 Metre (1640 Feet) Elevation Gain
Distance: 11.4 Kilometre (7.1 Miles) Return
Bertha Lake is a wonderfully graded hike with many stops along the way. If you are not wanting to complete the full hike to Bertha Lake, Lower and Upper Bertha Falls are optional turning points along the way.
The trail is well defined and climbs through chest high bushes, sometimes overtaking the trail entirely!
The trail to Bertha Lake is a gentle ascent to a beautifully large, quiet lake.
This hike is considered a half day hike and is for all age and experience levels. The varied landscape including both waterfalls, the chest high alpine meadows with dense forested sections make this hike a memorable experience for everyone.
This is a popular hike as it is relatively short with many pit stops, there will be many people on this trail, especially on weekends during the peak season.
The trailhead can be found in Waterton Townsite on the far end of the campground nearest the mountains. Bears are fairly common in the area, so be prepared for any encounters. I highly discourage the use of bear bells, but feel that carrying bear spray as well as bear bangers and having overall common sense when it comes to wildlife will be more than adequate for any encounters.
2. Akamina Ridge
1300 Metres (4,270 Feet) Elevation Gain
Distance: 20 Kilometres (12.4 Miles) Return
Akamina Ridge is another of Watertons “Triple Crown” feature hikes and crosses into British Columbias Akamina-Kishinena Provincial Park. It is the longest of the three triple crown hikes but also one of the most rewarding. This hike takes you through two provinces, two large lakes, waterfalls, a long ridge walk with year round snow patches. There is not much Akamina Ridge leaves out – which makes for a very exciting, long day of hiking!
Akamina Ridge can be approached from either Wall Lake or Forum Lake – in my past experience and from prior discussions with those who have completed Akamina Ridge it is best approached from Forum Lake. Do not be surprised to see bears, moose or often mountain goats sharing the ridge with you as you make the scramble past Forum lake, above Wall Lake.
After a long hike on an exposed windy ridge you make your way down to the other side of Wall Lake where you descend, follow the path of the lake and eventually meet up on the path you had taken in originally.
This hike takes anywhere from 8 to 11 hours in which you are exposed to all different types of conditions in the backcountry (sun, extreme wind, potential snow crossing) as stated before it is extremely important to bring ample amounts of food, clothing, water and survival supplies in the off chance of disaster. It is a long day but is by far one of the most exciting hikes offered in the Waterton Park area.
650 Metre (2132 Feet) Elevation Gain
Distance: 18 Kilometres (11 Miles) One Way – Requires transportation (shuttle bus) to trailhead as this hike is a through hike, not a loop.
This hike is yet another feature hike of the “Triple Crown” and by far my favourite hike in Waterton, It is an exceptionally varied hike with moderate difficulty. Although Carthew-Alderson makes for a long day it is an extremely special hike that should be one of the first hikes on your list in the area. I promise you it is worth the effort!
Carthew-Alderson holds a very special place in my heart and is my all time favourite hike in Waterton. It requires a shuttle (or two+ people with vehicles) to be dropped off at the trailhead in Cameron Lakeshore and to arrive in Waterton Townsite. This is a one way hike and is to be completed as a day hike.
This hike starts at Cameron Lake and climbs steadily past Cameron Lakeshore to the nearby Summit Lake. This is the first lake of five you will see during this exceptional excursion and one of which to stop at for a short rest before continuing on.
Past Summit Lake and some densely forested area brings you to your first exposed face which includes walking alongside a narrow path on scree (broken up, loose rock) up to the ridge.
What makes this hike so unique is the difference in terrain up high; on one side you have the lush, heavily forested area with several lakes hiding below, and on the other side it is barren and features red rock as far as the eye can see. It felt like being in two places at once!
After coming down off of the ridge there are three lakes in a row featuring the most beautiful meadows and friendly rock marmots I have ever seen! The trickling miniature waterfalls, wildflowers and deep lakes make this hike a unforgettable experience. After walking alongside the Carthew Lakes, you reach a beautiful high alpine bowl full of wildflowers, surrounding mountains and high alpine trees. Continuing down to Waterton Townsite you will approach yet another lake called Alderson Lake which is the last of the five lakes you will see before you make your way back through a long section of densely forested area back to your vehicle (or a shuttle!)
Thanks for reading, be sure to share this blog post around if it has helped you decide on your next hike in Waterton!
*All reviews and opinions on each hike are from my own experience. Difficulty level, time of completion may be different for each person.