Updated: Jul 25, 2019
Nestled in between the Canadian-USA border, Waterton is a tiny and charming town, whose lakes and mountains are as majestic and breathtaking as one can imagine. Being there is kinda like you were plopped right into a page of a National Geographic magazine.
We ventured to Waterton, Alberta, in the summertime with a mission to conquer the Crypt Lake Trail. After we accomplished said mission, we took a couple days to enjoy the town and the local fares; we were also lucky to have such great weather to enjoy wildflower season and even saw three bears (from a distance).
Dozens of nature lovers flock to Waterton to admire all the beautiful wild flowers. There's a giant field right before entering town, full of gorgeous colorful and jubilant blooms. Learn more about the festival on the Waterton Wildflower Festival 2019 website.
The hiking trails and mountains are also in full bloom. So if you plan a hike, plan to add some extra time so you get a chance to literally stop and smell the roses.
How to Get There
It was just under 3 hours to drive from Calgary to Waterton. The drive is mostly straightforward and typical flat prairies scenery until you reach Pincher Creek / Twin Butte area. Then the foothills start rolling upwards to taller mountains in the horizon where your destination lays.
If you have time, I highly recommend stopping for a good 'ol Albertan AAA steak in Longview and to pick up some delicious beef jerky. Cowboy Trail, is a bit of a longer drive, but in my opinion, far more scenic than the Trans Canada Highway 2.
We were lucky that we were able to secure accommodations a month prior to our trip. Hotels and AirBnbs are often booked up a year in advance because of the popular hikes and trails around the area. So make sure you start looking at accommodations as soon as you decide you want to visit this gorgeous town. Camping is also an option, but you will also need to secure a spot on the campgrounds ahead of time. I would recommend staying at the Prince of Wales Hotel, originally built in 1927 as part of the Great Northern Railway resorts (only one in Canada), and later re-established as a national historical site of Canada. Lots of history, rustic and charming, with magnificent views of the lake and the gorgeous mountains - exactly the way a mountain retreat should be experienced.
What to Pack
Remember this is the Rockies surrounded by lakes, so even in the middle of summer - temperatures can often drop below 10 °C, so pack a hot water bottle and some layers and enjoy the great outdoors!
If you plan on doing one of the many hikes in Waterton, bear spray is a must! This is bear country. We saw three bears in one day, and they are the park's largest predatory resident. Be alert, and respectful, and enjoy the beautiful creatures from a safe distance.
Bears also don't like to be surprised, so make sure you travel in groups of at least four on the trails, and make plenty of noise so the bears have time to move away from the area as they hear you approaching.
Summertime is wildflower festival season in Waterton. Colorful blooms of all types of Alberta's finest and hardiest wildflowers spring up and greet the visitors, residents and fauna of the area. There's a giant open meadow right before you turn into the town center where you can get the best experience of prancing through a field of flowers. But please be gentle - as tempted as you may be - don't pick the flowers, don't trample them, and don't dig them up! The grounds are part of a protected national park, and the flora is an important food source to many of the wildlife.
Where the Wild Things Are
Beware of snakes and bears in this field, there was a mama black bear and her two cubs playing in this meadow about 500 metres from where this shot was taken. Keep a safe distance and please do not disturb them.
Other wildlife you may find - deers, mountain goats, wolves, bobcats, hedgehogs, a variety of bird species, and foxes.
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