Top 6 Things to Do in Waterton Lakes National Park 2024: Don’t Miss Out!

Annabel Petty



Waterton Lakes Park attractions

This guide is for anyone looking to experience breathtaking landscapes, adrenaline-pumping activities, and those unforgettable “I can’t believe I did that!” moments.

Welcome to my exciting journey through the best things to do in Waterton Lakes National Park.

Imagine towering mountains, pristine lakes, and an abundance of wildlife that feels like stepping into a nature documentary. Add to that a list of activities that are as enjoyable as they are worthy of sharing on social media, and that’s Waterton Lakes National Park for you – a place where adventure meets awe.

So, I’m lacing up my hiking boots, fueling my adventurous spirit, and bringing along my curiosity as we set off on what promises to be an unforgettable adventure!

Hiking, Camping, you name it! Waterton Lakes is waiting for your outdoor adventure!

1. Explore the Waterton Park Townsite Campground

Waterton Lakes sightseeing

The highlight of this campground for me was its location; an easy and scenic walk along the lake leads directly into town, offering numerous options for eating and drinking. Wildlife, including deer and chipmunks, were frequent visitors, and I enjoyed watching eagles soar above from the comfort of my RV.

The campsite boasts beautiful mountain views and is conveniently located near several hiking trails. I was impressed with the shower block, which had been recently updated and was always clean, reflecting the overall excellent maintenance of the site.

Although they don’t accept reservations for September, securing a spot for our RV wasn’t an issue.

Despite ongoing construction in town and updates within half of the campground, it didn’t disrupt our stay.

The campground tended to be busier over the weekend but was quieter during the week. Despite its openness and the lack of trees, the site never felt overly noisy or crowded, maintaining a sense of privacy.

List of restaurants close to Townsite Campground in Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada:

  • Wieners of Waterton – 0.3 miles away. Fast Food, Canadian cuisine, known for great hotdogs.
  • Red Rock Trattoria – 0.3 miles away. Offers Italian and Contemporary cuisine.

2. Hike the Crypt Lake Trail

I hiked Crypt Lake in mid-July 2021, and the temperature was around +29°C. The boat trip to Crypt Lake was smooth, thanks to the well-organized staff who were also very informative. While the Crypt Lake trail initially felt crowded, it soon quieted down as hikers spread out. The views throughout the hike were breathtaking.

Being fairly fit, I managed the trail well, taking occasional breaks and staying hydrated. The real challenges, such as a ladder, a tunnel, and a cable section, are encountered just before reaching Crypt Lake. I have a moderate to high fear of heights, which stopped me from crossing the ledge to the tunnel, but my husband completed it without any issues.

Instead, I had a peaceful lunch by a stream, enjoying the stunning scenery. My husband mentioned that the tunnel narrowed in the middle, requiring him to crouch, but he found the cable and ladder manageable since heights don’t bother him.

On our return, we took the Hell Roaring Falls Loop, which was incredibly beautiful, offering scenic views alongside the falls. The trail was challenging, perhaps because we were already tired. We started at 9 am and returned to the dock by 3 pm, including a 45-minute lunch break.

It’s crucial to bring plenty of water, especially on hot days. We carried 5 liters between us and ended up sharing some with a hiker who had run out, finishing just enough for ourselves. Overall, I absolutely loved this hike! I would rated with a PURE 5!

3. Visit the Prince of Wales Hotel

Waterton Lakes outdoor activities

I stayed at a historic National Park hotel for second time I came here, which, while typically overpriced, offered an unbeatable location with stunning views.

It was just a short ten-minute walk to the charming town of Waterton, which boasts lovely shops and restaurants.

The hotel was also conveniently located for easy drives to several alpine lakes and enjoyable hikes, all with fewer crowds than you’d find in the Banff area.

The only downside was a persistent sewage smell in our room that maintenance couldn’t fix.

We managed to mitigate the issue ourselves by placing towels around the base of the toilet and blocking the shower drain, which thankfully solved the problem.

Average price for one night is around 270$!

4. Visiting the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park

Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park

Exploring this vast and stunning park was an adventure, offering hikes that cater to every age group and fitness level. Over three days, we managed to cover about 16 miles, focusing on the easier trails that suited us best. It’s wise to secure your Going to the Sun Road tickets early on.

With those tickets in hand, the Red Bus Tours become optional unless you’re keen on a historical overview of the park. The small shops and deli at the park’s entrance were convenient for grabbing delicious, though slightly pricey, sandwiches. It’s a good idea to pack your lunch to save some money.

I absolutely love visiting National Parks, and this one ranks among my top six favorites. To ensure a spot within the park, on tours, or to secure a GTSR pass—valid for three days—I suggest booking well ahead of time. We successfully got our pass for the first three days without any issue.

The scenery is breathtaking, offering a serene ambiance as you hike. The hike to Avalanche Lake, combined with the Trail of the Cedars, was our most challenging but highly recommended adventure.

This park is unique compared to others I’ve visited, and figuring out bookings and navigating for the first time was a bit tricky. If anyone has questions, I’m more than willing to help. Just make sure to register on before attempting to secure a GTSR three-day pass.

5. Northern Lights & Stargazing

Northern Lights

The last peak was in 2013, meaning the next peak will occur somewhere in middle of this year (2024).

Choosing the right season and timing is crucial for witnessing the Northern Lights, but finding the best location in Glacier National Park is just as important. The perfect spot needs a clear northern view and minimal light pollution, far from the glare of artificial lights and into the park’s quieter areas.

Here are some prime locations for enjoying the Northern Lights.

Lake McDonald

Lake McDonald’s shores offer a prime Northern Lights viewing spot, with its north-facing view and the chance to see the lights reflected in the lake’s calm waters. A short distance from the West Glacier entrance, it also provides daytime activities like kayaking and paddle boarding.

Looking Glass Road (Hwy 49)

Available only in summer, this secluded route offers a fantastic vantage point for the lights. Stretching 10 miles north from East Glacier Village to Highway 89 in Kiowa, it features several lookout points along the way. Wildlife sightings are possible at night, so be cautious.

Bison Paddock Loop, Waterton Lakes National Park

Within the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, this area offers a wide-open space ideal for Aurora viewing, benefiting from minimal light pollution.

Bowman & Kintla Lakes

Heading closer to the Northern Lights’ source improves viewing chances. Bowman and Kintla Lakes, near Polebridge in Flathead County’s North Fork, are secluded spots great for camping and watching the lights from a tent.

Northern Lights Saloon & Café

For a less remote experience, this café in Polebridge offers a cozy spot to watch the Northern Lights, possibly with live music in the background. It’s a more social, yet still intimate, option for aurora viewing.

6. Water Activities on Waterton Lake

Kayaking on Cameron Lake Waterton

The park is a prime spot for engaging in water sports like canoeing, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding, especially on warm, serene summer days.

However, it’s crucial to exercise extreme caution on Waterton lakes due to the common occurrence of high winds and rough waters. The weather and water conditions in Waterton’s mountain valleys can shift rapidly, and the waters are notably cold.

For those with more paddling experience, the southern end of Upper Waterton Lake offers an adventurous route into Glacier National Park by crossing the international boundary.

Kayaking is an excellent way to navigate Waterton’s lakes and rivers. For kayaking on the main lakes, using a spray skirt is advisable to keep water out.

Last summer, I had the chance to kayak on Upper Waterton Lake, and it was an experience I won’t soon forget. Paddling towards the southern end, the serene beauty of the surrounding mountains reflecting off the water was breathtaking.

The tranquility was unparalleled, until we hit a patch of sudden wind that turned our calm journey into a bit of an adventure. We managed to stabilize and continue, laughing about how quickly things can change in the mountains.

Stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) is becoming a favorite activity in Waterton, offering an alternative to canoeing or kayaking on the park’s calmer waters. SUP not only challenges your balance and core strength but also provides unique opportunities, like enjoying a sunrise or engaging in paddleboard yoga.

For boaters aiming to camp overnight at water-accessible backcountry sites like Bertha Bay and Boundary Bay, a backcountry use permit is necessary. Overnight stays or sleeping on boats is prohibited in the park.

When to visit the park?


Each season offers a unique experience, so the best time to visit depends on your interests and the activities you’d like to pursue.

Waterton Lakes National Park Details
Park Availability Open year-round
Entrance Gate Hours Variable (fall and winter)
Park Fees for Adults $10.50 CAD
Park Fees for Families $21 CAD

July and August see the highest number of visitors to the park, often resulting in increased crowd.


Wrapping up my tour of Waterton Lakes National Park, I’m thrilled! Having tackled stunning trails and enjoyed peaceful moments by the lake, this place has truly captivated me.

I’m inspired to keep exploring, and I’m eager to see where my next adventure leads—maybe another hike, a day on the water, or a wildlife encounter.

Here’s to more memorable trips filled with the beauty of Waterton. Until we meet again, happy exploring!