Located 130 mi/210 km south of Calgary, Waterton Lakes National Park is the lesser-known half of the world's first international peace park—a title that alludes to the fact that Waterton is linked with Glacier National Park in the U.S.: The two parks adjoin one another along the Alberta-Montana border. Together, they make a superb outdoor destination, and one that hasn't become as crowded as other national parks in the region. The land rises from prairie to rugged, beautiful mountain scenery with numerous lakes, valleys and waterfalls.
Waterton's biggest draws are Cameron Lake, where you can rent a canoe or hike part of the way around a glaciated valley, and Red Rock Canyon, where a short interpretive trail leads you past rusting iron deposits that give the gorge its burnished, ruddy color. Don't miss Cameron Falls, a spectacular sight right in the town of Waterton.
The unique mountain-meets-prairie environment in Waterton creates an unusual combination of
habitats and species, and nearly 55% of Alberta's wildflower species can be found there.
The indigenous wildlife includes waterfowl, mule deer, elk, moose, coyotes, bighorn sheep, cougars (abundant but rarely seen), black bears and grizzly bears. In fact, a lot of important research into grizzly bear behavior has taken place in Waterton and in Glacier National Park. Check with park officials on arrival to get the latest word on bear activity and appropriate precautions.
In 2017, the Kenow Wildfire wreaked havoc in the region, burning 135 sq mi/350 sq km of land, including 76 sq mi/193 sq km within the park. About 80% of the trail system was affected and multiple buildings burned, including the visitor's center. For up-to-date information on which areas of the park are open and which remain closed, visit https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/ab/waterton/visit/ouvert-open.