I like to refer to Waterton as Alberta’s Hidden Gem, because I find it to be a place that’s not as well-known as Banff, Lake Louise or Jasper. I visited Waterton for the first time only five years ago and have been back every summer since, as the hiking is limitless. Located right on the Alberta-Montana border, it’s a lot smaller, quieter, and has a great vibe to it. I find Waterton to be a lot more lush with greenery, full of wildflowers, waterfalls and little backcountry lakes. With its red rock colours, it’s especially unique compared to other mountain ranges.
There are a number of campgrounds in the area, one of which is right in town, called Townsite Campground. The campground gets very busy, especially in the peak of summertime, though is it convenient as you can walk to any restaurant and local business. If the site gets full, there are plenty of other options just a few minutes out of the town itself but still in the park, including Waterton Springs, Crandall Mountain and Belly River Campground, which all operate on a first-come, first-serve basis.
I have stayed at a couple of those campgrounds listed above, though on my most recent trip down to Waterton, I stayed 20 minutes outside at a cute little campground called Payne Lake Campground, which we stumbled upon after finding out every other campground was full during a peak summer weekend. It also runs on a first-come, first-serve basis at $24.00 CDN a night. I went with my friend Lyndsay – and of course, Timber came along! – on a very last minute trip. For a couple of days we camped out, hiked, relaxed and toured some of the sights in and around the town.
Like I said earlier, there are tons of things to do in Waterton. Whether you are looking to relax, and enjoy the views, hang out at some of the cute coffee shops or restaurants, or get into the backcountry for some camping or hiking, Waterton is the place for you. We did three hikes in the two days while we were there, and they were all breathtaking. Here are some of the trails we visited:
Bears Hump - A short, strenuous and rewarding climb that can be accessed right in town. Being 2.8km round-trip and only 225m of elevation gain, a great family hike allows new hikers to experience some unreal views of Waterton Lakes!
Crypt Lake - I have now done this hike three times and would continue to do it over and over again. You do have to take a ferry across the lake to get to the trailhead (which is easy to book the day before or morning of), or you can kayak your way across! This hike is 8.7kms one-way and has 700m of elevation gain. Along the way you pass a couple waterfalls, have to climb a steel ladder to make your way into a natural 60ft tunnel, and make a short maneuver around a cliff before arriving at the lake. It offers beautiful views throughout the valley and a very rewarding lake view at the end, if you are daring enough take a dip in Crypt Lake itself! Such a great feeling after a long, sweaty hike.
Bertha Lake - A slow and steady hike up to a lake, 6kms one-way, and then an option to continue the 4km around the lake. Trailhead is right in down, just past Cameron Falls (another popular attraction in town) with a waterfall 3kms into the hike that most people chose to turn back at this landmark. Again, it felt great to take a dip in the water once we got to the lake. I find this a great way to rinse and cool off; especially if there are no shower facilities at your campground of choice, (there wasn’t where we stayed). Did I mention the wildflowers? I just love the colour they lend the hike and views.
There are many other things you can do in the area, and it’s quite easy to find information online or ask anyone in the park for recommendations on hikes, lakes, sites and more. We found everyone to be super friendly and helpful. I would advise you check out Cameron Lake and Red Rock Canyon if you have the time, too!
Below is a list of some of the items we brought with us camping:
Tent - We took with us my Coleman Prairie Trail Cabin 8 person Tent, which was great for the two of us and Timber, providing plenty of extra room and space as we were setting up for two nights. The fast pitched, pre-attached poles make for a quick, easy set up. The wheeled carry bag it comes with also makes for an easy time packing up and transporting after.
Air mattress - When I base camp, I LOVE bringing the Coleman SupportRest Elite PillowStop Double High Airbed with me! It’s quick to inflate with a built-in 120V pump, so I can easily plug it into my car to inflate. After a long day of hiking, it’s so nice to come back to a comfy bed!
Stove - The Coleman HyperFlame FyreSergeant 2-Burner Grill Stove also comes with me whenever I am base camping, as it’s super light and stores well in the back on my vehicle. From boiling water to grilling any food with its removable pan and cook top, it’s great to have when camping. I also love how it has matchless lighting! It operates as a full-size grill, grill/stove, or a two-burner stove.
Cooler - It’s great always having the Coleman 62 QT Wheeled Xtreme Cooler with me when I am on the road for a couple days at a time. It’s easy to transport and fits more than enough for myself and whoever else I am off adventuring with. Its two-way handles are also easy to grip in tight spaces, and it keeps ice frozen for up to five days!
Seating - After many hours on my feet, I LOVE coming back to camp and relaxing, and what better way to relax than around a fire or just enjoying any views the campsites have to offer?. The Coleman XL Quad Chair has a built-in mesh cup holder, perfect for your coffee in the morning or cold beverage at the end of a long day. Its carry bag also makes for easy carrying and storing.