Hiking in Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta – Bears Hump Hike

Waterton Lakes National Park is a small, national treasure in the southwestern corner of Alberta. The 505 km2 park borders British Columbia, Alberta and Montana where the Rocky Mountains meet the foothills and prairies. This quiet, uncrowded has spectacular mountain and lake views and an abundant amount of wildlife including buffalo, bears and elk. This windswept park may be a bit off the main path (2.5 hours from Calgary) but the scenery is magnificent! This is a romantic getaway with quaint, lakefront hotels. If you’re looking for a romantic weekend vacation, Waterton is an ideal place to view nature in all its glory.

Foothils & Rocky Mountains Approaching Waterton Lakes National Park

The foothills & Rocky Mountains Approaching Waterton Lakes National Park in Autumn. Snow had already fallen at the higher elevation.

There’s plenty of hiking within the park ranging from over-night backpacking to simple day hikes. The Bears Hump hike, is a short but vertically challenging hike that has some of the best views in all of Alberta. The hiking trail is unknown to most visitors and hence, always empty. It’s one dayhike that should not be missed.

Starting from behind the visitor’s center, the hiking path quickly disappears into a thick, alpine forest… and the ascent begins. The winding switchbacks start as the dirt trail scales Mt. Crandell. The hike only takes 40 minutes one-way but expect to make plenty of stops on the way up to catch your breath in the thin mountain air. The elevation gain is approximately 250 m in just over 1 km.

At the halfway point, Parks Canada has installed large wooden stairs in the path to help gain footing. The path doubles as a creek bed in the spring and gapping holes and loose rocks may litter the trail (watch your footing).

Large, steep steps along the switchbacks on the Bears Hump Trail.

Large, steep steps along the switchbacks on the Bears Hump Trail

From the top, there are commanding views of the Upper Waterton Lake all the way to Glacier National Park in Montana. Looking behind, you’ll see the dry, foothills of southern Alberta with the flat prairies stretching to the horizon. The contrast in geography is amazing. If you peer over the edge, the Prince of Wales Hotel looks like a Lego miniature from this height. This hiking trail is NOT for people who suffer with vertigo.

There are picnic tables at the top for families to enjoy a relaxing lunch after the strenuous hike. Keep children & dogs away from the edge as there are no guard rails. On calm days, you’ll be amazed as small, wispy clouds quietly float up from the valley below and pass directly in front of your face!

Look down below on the town of Waterton, Alberta and down the valley into Montana.

Looking down on the town of Waterton, Alberta. The lake and valley lead into Montana.

Looking back at the foots and prairie.

Looking back at the foothills and prairie of southern Alberta.

Recommendations:

  • To protect your ankles, it is recommended to wear hiking boots. I managed in running shoes but had to be conscientious of my steps.

  • For obvious reasons, attempt this hike when thunderstorms are not in the area.

  • Waterton Park is in windy southern Alberta where winds can reach 115 km/hr . Don’t get blown off the top!

    To find a romantic getaway, inn or hotel in Alberta, check out Heavenly Hideaways.

About Clayton Kessler

In addition to TracksAndTrails, I am proprietor of First Page Solutions, the home of Kelowna's Digital Marketing Agency. It is the base for my team and I to build secure websites with responsive mobile design and help entrepreneurs reach top Search Engine Rankings through SEO. I live in Kelowna, let me buy you a cup of coffee and show you what I do. Just send me a text that says, "lets beat the competition on Google" to 1 (250) 470 - 8704