Updated: Jul 19
One family's experience in this beautiful National Park filled with curious wildlife, a cozy town, and some of the most amazing hiking in North America.
I never used to consider myself an 'outdoorsy' person. That was until I took my kids to Waterton National Park last summer. We explored Red Rock Canyon and the majesty and beauty of the area won me over!
Waterton, Alberta is a beautiful park located where the rolling hills of the prairies meet the captivating Rocky Mountains. From the base of the hike, one is instantly in awe of the beauty. Then once you reach the summit and walk out over toward the cliff edge, you are swept away by the splendor of the lakes and mountains.
There are several trails to explore, each varying in difficulty and duration. The National Park website or the AllTrails app are excellent resources.
When you drive into town, you are surrounded by beautiful homes, resorts, and shops. Walking along main street, there are wonderful local restaurants, cafes, and ice cream shops to explore. At the marina, you can dip your toes in the water and watch the boats on the lake, or go for a cruise along the shoreline. Keep an eye out for the Parks Canada Red Chairs! (Hint: there's a second set by one of the trails as well)
Explore a part of history (and take some amazing photos) when you stop by the Prince of Wales Hotel.
There is so much to do in this gorgeous little town. We made a day-trip and were there for about four hours and it was just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much left for us to explore during our next visit.
Some Important Things to Know Before You Go
Arrive Early & Expect Crowds During Peak Times
We arrived early, around 10 a.m., on a weekday morning. We planned on going early so that the trails wouldn't be as busy and we would be able to find parking. The park can get incredibly busy during the summer, especially during peak hours, so parking can be a challenge. Just expect to get some extra steps in. You're there to walk anyway, right?!
Waterton has become more popular over the years and the tourists flock there during the summer. The hiking trails are busier, the streets are lined, parking is a challenge, and the restaurants are packed. If you're not a fan of crowds, I recommend visiting in June or during the week. If you do end up going during the summer or on a weekend, it is best to arrive early and be patient. Spend some time enjoying the fresh mountain air and take in the beauty around you.
Wipe Your Feet
When we started our walk up the Cameron Trail, we swept our shoes on the cleaners to help from contaminating the area with anything foreign that could be attached to our soles. Out of respect for the park and nature, we didn't want to contaminate the vegetation with anything we may have dragged in.
Don't Feed the Wildlife
We met a very friendly little chipmunk during a rest on a bench. We stopped to have a drink of water and a snack, and the little guy was quite interested in my bag of mixed nuts. However, I feel it is important to not feed the wildlife. We are visitors in their home and we try our best not to disturb the balance.
Once we reached the summit, this very persistent little guy climbed up into my lap, and tried to get into my pack. Using his little teeth and paws, he tugged at the zipper. To no avail, he gave up and moved on to a more helpful hiker. The movie Failure to Launch came to mind, as the young man next to us gave the chipmunk a piece of his energy bar. I had visions of a savage chipmunk attack and bandaged fingers. (If you've seen the movie, you know what I'm talking about)
Bring Cash or a Debit Card
After our hike, we went into town to explore and to get some ice cream. We learned that it is important to carry cash as some of the stores do not have debit. And important piece of information to know since we were hiking and I had only brought what was necessary since I didn't want to carry around any extra weight or a wallet. (I blame the tiny girl pockets! Men don't know how lucky they are) I didn't have my debit card or cash! I have my card on an app on my phone and use tap for everything. Luckily, a very kind customer at Pat's gas station lent me cash. After paying at the ice cream shop, I returned to cover the next person's bike rental to pay it forward. Don't be like me... bring a little cash with you.