Here’s how to have a wonderful winter weekend in Waterton
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“Every time I drive into the park it's so breathtaking,” Pat Morris tells me on a sunny afternoon in Waterton Lakes National Park. Morris, has lived here for 18 months and is still in awe of the awesome landscape. I couldn’t agree more. In Alberta’s southernmost mountain park, jagged peaks rise dramatically from the prairies, wildlife wanders the streets, and recreational opportunities abound.
A mecca for hikers, Waterton had record numbers of visitors last summer. Winter, however, is a quiet time. “People who come love the solitude … and some come for the weekend and never leave their rooms,” says Morris, general Manager of Waterton Glacier Suites. After all, it’s easy to enjoy hygge (Danish for warm, cozy feeling) with a fireplace and jacuzzi tub in your room.
Wildlife Viewing: You don’t have to go far to spot wildlife in Waterton. Deer and bighorn sheep frequent the townsite year round. Look for elk in the meadows past Hay Barn Day Use Area (closer to Alpine Stables) or Maskinonge Lookout. Spy swans in the water near the park gates or Maskinonge Lake (below Maskinonge Lookout). What about the bison? They were safely relocated during the fire and will be back in the Bison Paddock this summer.
Snowshoeing / Hiking: Check the Waterton Trail Reports for current conditions.
Prince of Wales hill offers breathtaking views of Upper Waterton Lake, the surrounding peaks, and the majestic hotel itself.
Linnet Lake Loop is a good, short trail for a windy day as it’s tucked behind Prince of Wales Hill.
The lakeshore section of the Townsite Trail is beautiful any time of year. Start at Emerald Bay and make your way to the red chairs and Waterton Avenue cook shelters. Extension: Continue across the bridge to Cameron Bay Day Use and take Evergreen Avenue to Cameron Falls.
Wishbone Trail (see description above) is a good option for fat biking as snowshoers pack the wide, fairly flat trail.
If there isn’t too much snow, bike the Kootenai Brown Trail from the Operations Compound to the Park Gates (6.7 km one way).
Red Rock Parkway is closed to vehicles from November to May, but the first three km are currently open to cyclists and hikers. Good add-on to the Kootenai Brown Trail.
Winter Picnic: Enjoy lunch and s’mores in a cozy cook shelter at Waterton Avenue, Cameron Bay, or Maskinonge Lookout. Bring your own firewood.
Attend an interpretive program or take a guided hike: Fun, free drop-in programs are available on weekends. Learn more or book a guided, interpretive walk at Parks Canada - Waterton Tours and Programs.
Stargazing: Waterton Lakes and Glacier National Parks have been recognized for its dark skies and named the first International Dark Sky Park. Cameron Bay, at the south end of Evergreen Avenue, is an excellent stargazing spot.
Mention: You can cross-country ski if you don’t mind breaking trail. Rentals available from Waterton Lakes Lodge Resort.
Red Rock Cafe at Waterton Glacier Suites Lodge opened in September 2017 to rave reviews. Enjoy classics with a twist - prime rib burger or truffle mac and cheese - or more exotic dishes like Mumbai Butter Chicken or Garlic Chile Edamame.
Vimy’s Lounge & Grill offers casual and cosy atmosphere and service upscale fare. Get their signature eggs benny for breakfast and steak sandwich for lunch.
Where to Stay
Two Waterton hotels are open year-round:
Planning your weekend
Waterton Lakes National Park is located in southwest Alberta, only 1.5 hours from Lethbridge and 3 hours from Calgary.
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