Banff and Jasper are top of mind when it comes to Alberta's Great Outdoors. Travelers flock to Moraine Lake by the busload for postcard-perfect snaps and zip through the province's northern parks on the trail of grizzlies, elk, and moose. Waterton Lakes manages to fly just far enough under the radar that it never feels crowded or bustling, even on a wild Canada Day long weekend, which makes it a wonderful alternative for the "been there, done that" crowd.
For an iconic view of Waterton Village and Upper Waterton Lake, test your mettle against the Bear's Hump, a mile-long trek that begins at the Waterton Visitor Resource Center. The trail opens to a grand rocky plateau atop what was once called Bear Mountain by the Blackfoot people. Begin your trek early in the morning or late in the afternoon to have the mountain to yourself, but be warned that the wind atop the Hump can be ferocious. Knock your hat off and dump you off the mountain ferocious. Still, the views of Waterton Valley and Mount Cleveland are worth the challenge.
[Flash traveled to Alberta courtesy of Travel Alberta.]
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Paddle with your Passport
Upper Waterton Lake stretches from the famous Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton Lakes, Alberta, to the Goat Haunt Ranger Station in Glacier National Park, USA.
While a regular boat services ferries tourists up and down the lake, turning the cross-border experience into a day-long canoe trip is as rewarding of an experience as you'll find in the Alberta Rockies.
Paddling a canoe slows the trip down enough that the mountain scenery becomes easier to focus upon. Boats are few and far between, so paddlers will feel like they have the lake to themselves for the majority of the time spent on the water.
Just don't forget your passport, as you'll be crossing into USA territory after 10km.
Canoes are quite stable and surprisingly fast once first-time paddlers get the hang of things, but it does pay to be careful. Waterton is one of the windiest locations in Canada and waves can get out of control on Upper Waterton Lake. If the weather doesn't look good or if your experience isn't up to the conditions, opt for a paddle on the more sheltered waters of Cameron Lake.