Things to Do in Waterton Lakes National Park

July 9, 2019

Travel, Travel Guides

Of all the places I visited in Alberta, I would say that Waterton Lakes National Park was probably my favorite. This park holds a quaint mountain town surrounded by the most beautiful scenery, and it’s full of things to do! Waterton is definitely a place to add to your bucket list!

We spent one day here, and there was so much more I would’ve liked to do with more time. Everything we did exceeded my expectations. The landscapes were stunning, and I took so many pictures! Here is my fun-filled 1-day itinerary for Waterton Lakes National Park!

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On the Way

Red barn and farm in front of mountains in Alberta, Canada

The drive from where we stayed in Lethbridge to Waterton was so scenic. By the way, if you’re expecting a blog post without pictures, you are in the wrong place. I took almost all of my photos with my Canon Rebel T5 DSLR and my Canon 18-135mm lens. Only the food photos were taken with my phone.

The drive started out as mostly prairies stretching out to the horizon. We saw several beautiful farms and ranches. Then we started to see wind turbines; I had only seen them in movies, so I thought they were cool!

Wind turbines near Waterton Alberta Canada

Then we saw the mountains. Big, beautiful, pine tree-covered mountains that make up Waterton Lakes National Park. Some of the trees were scorched from the huge wildfire in 2018, but most of the national park has recovered.

Mountains near Waterton National Park, Alberta, Canada

This drive was absolutely beautiful, and it was just the beginning of our amazing day!

Prince of Wales Hotel

Prince of Wales Hotel with mountains in Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada

You don’t have to drive far into the park until you spot the Prince of Wales Hotel. And what a beautiful hotel it is! You can go inside and see the beautiful architecture plus giant windows that let you see the view of the park.

But the best place to go is behind the hotel to see Waterton Lake and the town of Waterton.

Waterton Lakes National Park Mountain view Alberta Canada

This is the incredible view that you can see from directly behind the hotel, and it was definitely one of my favorite views of the trip. We didn’t stay overnight in the hotel, but I would love to next time!

The Town of Waterton

The town of Waterton beside the mountains and lake in Alberta, Canada

View of the town from behind the Prince of Wales Hotel

Nestled in the mountains is the adorable town of Waterton. The main road is lined with shops, hotels, and places to eat, but it still has a cute mountain town feel to it. The town and the park of Waterton feel much less touristy and crowded than Banff.

Ice cream cones from the big scoop ice cream parlor in waterton alberta canada

Our main stop in the town was the ice cream parlor called The Big Scoop. It was recommended to us by several locals, so we decided to try it out. This ice cream is so delicious! I suggest paying a little bit extra for the tasty waffle cone as well. This is definitely a great place to stop for a snack!

We wandered around the town with our ice cream and made our way to this gorgeous view of the river.

river and mountains at waterton alberta canada under blue sky

While we stood enjoying the view, a wild deer walked right up in the midst of the tourists and started munching on dandelions. It was almost close enough to touch (although we didn’t pet a wild animal).

Wild deer in Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta Canada

This is another great reason to go to Canada in June. The peak season is July-August, so fewer crowds means the animals are more likely to be out and about.

Waterton Shoreline Cruise Co.

view from boat of mountains and waterton lake in alberta canada

Waterton Shoreline Cruise Co. gives a boat tour on Waterton Lake. It lasts 2 hours with no stops, and they start at 10 am, 1 pm, and 4 pm. We opted for the 4 pm option, and I think this was a great time to go; the sun isn’t beating down on you as much as I think it would at 1 pm.

Anyway, you have 2 seating options: on the first floor inside with windows, or on the second floor completely outside. We tried to get a top floor seat, but everyone beat us to it. However, once the boat gets away from the dock, you are free to walk around. We sat at the entrance to the first floor, so as soon as the boat started moving, we moved to the bow and stayed there the whole trip. This gave us the most incredible views!

Girl standing on a boat lookin at mountains and Waterton lake

My friend Brittney standing on the bow (our favorite spot)

For most of the cruise, you are completely surrounded by mountains. We were so grateful for the beautiful weather, and we took tons of pictures!

Waterton Lake and mountains on cloudy day with blue sky in Alberta Canada

Waterton Lake and mountains in Alberta, Canada

One interesting thing about this cruise is that it crosses the border into Glacier National Park in Montana. You can actually see the border as you cross appearing as a strip of grass cutting through the trees!

Border of Canada and Montana at Glacier and Waterton Lakes National Parks

We were also lucky enough to see a moose and her baby on this cruise! The calf was only visible for a moment, so I didn’t get a good photo. However, if you look on the left side of the photo below you can see the baby hiding behind a fallen tree! Moose sightings are actually pretty rare, and our tour guide said it was the first moose he had seen that year (it was June)!

Moose standing on shoreline of Waterton Lake with trees in Alberta, Canada

I would definitely recommend this cruise. We had a wonderful time, and I would do it again for sure. You will have to check the website for current prices, but I paid $40 (US dollars) which equaled about $53 in Canadian money. I thought this was a great value for the fun we had!

Prince of Wales Hotel seen from Waterton Lake in Alberta Canada

View of the Prince of Wales Hotel from the water as we returned to the dock

Wildflower fields

Our visit to Waterton was on June 18th, which was the last day of the annual Wildflower Festival. We didn’t take a guided tour of the festival, but we did see the most gorgeous wildflower field! Dozens of varieties of wildflowers covered the ground, which made for a gorgeous place to take pictures!

Girl in Wildflower field with mountains and blue sky in waterton alberta canada

This festival only lasts for a week (2019 dates were June 13-18), but of course, the wildflowers will still be there around that time if you miss the festival.

Cameron Falls

Cameron Falls in Waterton Lakes National Park Alberta Canada

Cameron Falls was one of our last stops in Waterton Lakes National Park. This beautiful waterfall has a stream with a bridge going over it that is a perfect place to pose for a photo!

Bonus photography tip: Seeing Cameron Falls gave me a chance to try out shooting with a long shutter speed. If you shoot in manual mode, you can increase your shutter speed to make the falling water look smooth.

Cameron Falls in Waterton Lakes National Park Alberta Canada Cameron Falls in Waterton Lakes National Park Alberta Canada

The photo on the top was shot with a faster shutter speed of 1/500, and the photo on the bottom has a shutter speed of 1/8. If you use a long shutter speed like this, you will most likely need to steady your camera with a tripod or stationary object (I didn’t have my tripod so I used the rail of the bridge we were standing on).

If you want to see my favorite photography gear, check out this blog post.

Other sights to see

One of the most surprising sights that we saw wandered out of the woods right in front of our car!

black bear cub in waterton national park alberta

Excuse the picture quality, but this little bear cub took us by surprise! He decided to walk only about 20 feet from our car, and then he went back into the woods to find his mom. Bear sightings aren’t exactly rare in Waterton Lakes National Park, but to see one so close was an unexpected treat! I did take this photo with a zoom lens, so he wasn’t dangerously close. However, you should never get too close to a bear and definitely don’t get out of your vehicle if you see one!

We had a day full of fun at Waterton, but we still didn’t even get to see most of the park! We didn’t do any of the scenic hiking trails just because we didn’t have the time. Also, the Red Rock Canyon and Cameron Lake were recommended to us as amazing places to see, but they were both still closed due to wildfire damage.

After we left the national park, we made one more stop before going to get some dinner. This stop was an amazing lookout point along Alberta Highway 6.

Lookout point in Alberta Canada with mountains, green fields, and cloudy blue sky

Lookout point in Alberta Canada with mountains, green fields, and cloudy blue sky

Cloudy mountains in alberta canada

I know I said the view from the Prince of Wales Hotel was good, but these views were just as impressive to me! You can find this lookout point along the highway going north from Waterton to Twin Butte where we ate dinner.

Someone recommended this little general store in Twin Butte as the best Mexican food around. So we decided to try it out. This unassuming little store really impressed us! I got a tacorito (a combination of a taco and burrito), and it was so delicious and filling!

General Store that serves Mexican food in Twin Butte, Alberta, Canada

Tacorito and rice at Twin Butte Country General Store and Mexican Restaurant in Alberta Canada

If you have a craving for Mexican food while out in the mountains, try this general store in the middle of nowhere that serves the best Mexican food. You won’t be disappointed!

After a full day spent in Waterton, we headed home for some much needed rest. I was sorry to leave, but I did get to see the wind turbines again on the way back. The sunset was the perfect ending to an amazing day!

WInd turbines at sunset in Alberta Canada

As you can see, I took about a billion pictures on this trip, and I had to narrow it down quite a lot to fit the best into this blog post! I hope you enjoyed reading about our time in Waterton, and I hope this post helped you discover the many fun activities that are available in Waterton Lakes National Park!

If you have ever been to Waterton, I would love to hear your favorite things to do in the comments!

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Things to do in Waterton Lakes National Park


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