Glacier-Waterton Trip, Part III: Waterton Lakes National Park (Jul 15-18)

[continued from Part II]

We checked out of the Many Glacier Hotel and headed east out of Glacier National Park to drive north to the Chief Mountain Border crossing into Canada. This is such a small crossing that it's closed overnight.

On the border...

We came through the border at just before 11am and took the obligatory park entrance photo. 

Mike after crossing into Canada (sneaking Petey Pika in without his passport :-)

Panorama looking to the west where we would spend the next few days

Waterton Lakes National Park is somewhat smaller and easier to get around in than Glacier National Park. As we drove in, we elected to first go to the Bison Paddock, just outside and to the north of the park entrance gate. We were very pleased to see so many wildflowers on this short auto loop but surprisingly saw only one bison. But not before Susan spotted a Golden Eagle on the ground.

Golden Eagle

Wildflowers at the bison paddock (note lone bison in the distance)

This big guy was the only one we saw this day

Susan loved seeing these bushy hollyhocks growing everywhere

We drove on in, stopping at the entrance gate to pay for a 4 day pass (our US Parks Pass didn't work here), and decided we were hungry enough to have a light lunch at the Prince of Wales Hotel, overlooking Upper Waterton Lake. This historic alpine-themed hotel, built in 1927, was beautifully situated, high above the lake with incredible views. Like several other grand hotels and lodges in this area, it was built by the American Great Northern Railway.

The Prince of Wales Hotel

View from the tea room off the great room and lobby

We stopped by to check in at Northland Lodge in Waterton townsite and then left to drive more of the roads inside the Park. We were curious about Red Rock Canyon and a waterfall there, so we headed there. 

The little stream in the red rock canyon made for a great place to cool off

We decided to do the short hike to Blakiston Falls and it was well worth our time and effort. 

Along the trail to Blakiston Falls

Blakiston Falls, named for an early explorer

On the way out of the Red Rock Canyon we saw a bear just off the road. This road was noted for its wildlife and we would be back. 

A black bear plays peek-a-boo while chomping down on some berries

We also drove out to Cameron Lake, passing several trailheads for hikes we were considering here. 

The boat dock at Cameron Lake

On the drive back we stopped at a small pullout to enjoy the views. Susan was looking down at a small waterfall, far below, and was lucky enough to observe a Common Merganser go over the edge of the little falls. She was thrilled to discover she had actually snapped the picture just in time!

The small waterfall

The merganser going over the edge

The merganser after the falls

We talked to a Canadian mom and her sons, taking each others' pictures and we were reminded of how friendly Canadians can be!

A little farther down the road we found another pullout full of people and cars, so we pulled over and kept getting glimpses of a bear in the trees. It was pretty humorous to watch the entire group (including us) move together to try to keep the bear in sight.

We headed back into town to get dinner and enjoy the late day light, although we were beginning to see some smoke coming in from large fires around Banff and Washington state. 

Upper Waterton Lake

While walking around Waterton we noticed a crowd of people, some of whom had binoculars and big cameras, so we stopped and learned that there was a family of Great Horned Owls with three owlets which had just fledged. We got to seem them fly at one point. Pretty cool!

Two of three owlets at left with a parent at far right

The local "Mountie" office with an owlet on the left chimney

We got back to our cozy basement room at Northland Lodge, and enjoyed the cooler temps and good internet access.

The next morning we went upstairs for coffee, juice and yummy donut muffins and bran muffins. Susan had noticed our sheets and pillowcases were ironed and as we finished breakfast, she saw how it was done. Susan had seen the mangle used as a child and this was the first time she'd seen one as an adult. Stacey, the innkeeper told us she had five more of these antiques stored so she could keep one running.

Sheets being ironed by "the Mangle", the Simplex Ironer

We had planned a light day so we decided to do the short but very steep hike up to Bear's Hump, which provides a fantastic overlook of Waterton townsite and lakes. It was less than a mile up, but had a gain of almost 750 feet. 

Panorama from the Bear's Hump; Prince of Wales Hotel at far left; Waterton townsite center foreground

After this hike we drove out to look for wildlife, first revisiting the Bison Paddock. It was a very productive afternoon! Unlike our visit the day before, we saw almost all of the small bison herd, including 3 calves. And they were very close to the car and easy to photograph.

American Bison

Easy to understand why you're required to stay in your car :-)

And on the way out of the paddock, we saw a badger cross the road and then later a beaver.

American Badger

And I guess we didn't get our fill of Red Rock Canyon, so we drove back down there so Mike could shoot some pictures of the red rock walls with the little creek running through.  

Red Rock Creek

Red Rock Creek

Mike "at work" in Red Rock Canyon

We ended up having another late dinner, and went back to our room to pack up for our hike to Crypt Lake. This may have been the most carefully considered hike we've ever done. 

Satellite view of the Crypt Lake hike; the southern edge of the lake is practically in the U.S.

First you have to take a 15 minute boat ride across Upper Waterton Lake to the trailhead. Then there's the 5.5 miles, each way, to the lake. Plus the 2,300 feet of gain. But the real challenge is that just before the lake, you have to walk a narrow, rocky and exposed trail to a metal ladder, climb up, then go through a 60-foot rock tunnel and then when you exit the tunnel, cling to a metal cable to avoid falling off a steep ledge.

If you can do all that, you can claim that you did the hike many consider to be the best hike in Canada. Oh, and you have to get back down to the trailhead before the last boat to Waterton at 5:30pm or spend the night there with the mosquitos. We did the hike. Safely. And we made the boat, too. :-)

The Miss Waterton had just dropped us off at the Crypt Lake Trailhead

Hikers at the trailhead

Mike poses with some Indian Paintbrush along the trail (note bear spray on belt)

Pano looking back from the trail at Upper Waterton Lake

Susan was happy to find these Mountain Lady's Slippers along the trail

Mountain Lady's Slipper

Susan approaching the ladder and tunnel

Another hiker ascends the ladder to the 60 foot rock tunnel

Coming out of the tunnel to the cable portion of the trail

Here's a short video showing what it looks like coming out of the tunnel. It's challenging inside the tunnel, as it isn't high enough to stand upright, so I had to remove my pack and hunch down until I came out the other side. 

Susan near the top of the cable section of the trail

Pano of Crypt Lake

We had also been wanting to take a boat trip to Goat Haunt, south of Waterton, and back across the border in the US. But there was still so much smoke in the air we decided not to. Maybe next time?

Smoky air quality looking towards the Prince of Wales Hotel

After a very long day hiking to Crypt Lake, we had another late dinner on our last night in Waterton. And then we realized on the way back to our room that we hadn't yet stopped to photograph Cameron Falls, a beautiful and energetic waterfall just a few hundred feet down the street from Northland Lodge. So we did. :-)

Cameron Falls in Waterton townsite

The next morning we slept in as best we could, tanked up on muffins, and headed for the border, planning to take the long way home, back through Glacier and Going-to-the-Sun Road, and then Yellowstone. 

But that's for Part IV. :-)

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