Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada (or, a bear’s playground)

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This content was most recently updated on March 7th, 2018

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waterton lakes national park canada

Who would have thought! Bears, of all things, in the Canadian Rockies. Black bears, brown bears, grizzly bears, mama bears, papa bears, baby bears; they all live where I love to hike and camp. They roam wild and free. I have a healthy fear of bears, one that keeps me aware of my surroundings but a fear not so overwhelming that I give up that thing I love; the great outdoors.

bears in the canadian rockies

Waterton Lakes National Park

Specifically, I’m referring to Waterton Lakes National Park. Situated in Southern Alberta and connected to Glacier National Park on the Montana border. It’s is one of the most beautiful places I’ve found in Canada. I love being there and so do the bears! It’s abundance of bears make it almost impossible to visit the area without seeing one. I don’t think most people who visit Canada understand the risk associated with wild animals though. They really are wild. No, you should not leave your vehicle to get a better photo!

bears in waterton national park

bears in waterton lakes national park

It’s the hiking and biking trails, horseback riding, canoe and kayak rentals that keep me coming back. The beauty and serenity you find in the forests, mountains and lakes are unmatched. Most visitors to Alberta tend to visit the much closer Banff National Park instead of making the 3.5 hour drive to Waterton Lakes National Park. They have missed out on an extraordinary beauty.waterfall waterton lakes national park

biking waterton lakes national park

Camping in Waterton Lakes National Park

One of the best ways to stay in the park is to camp in one of its 3 main campgrounds. My favorite is Crandell Mountain campground. At the base of Crandell Mountain, this campground offers a fantastic view of the mountain and has easy access to hiking trails. I will admit, I’m a little fearful of falling asleep in bear country while only being surrounded by the thin walls of a tent. During my first camping trip in Waterton, I woke up just after sunrise to a rustling noise outside my tent. A distinct sniffing noise sent my mind racing, “OMG! That’s a bear. Did I leave food out?” No, I reassured myself, I put it in the food locker the night before. I laid still awhile longer as to not attract attention to my location, after all, a tent is no protection against a hungry bear. Finally, I forced bravery on myself and peeked outside the tent. I met a pair of eyes. I breathed a sigh of relief, I was looking at a deer.

deer waterton lakes national park

camping waterton parks national park

Hiking in Waterton Lakes National Park

I highly recommend hiking in the area. I always hike in groups of at least 4 people for safety and have never encountered a bear on the trails. We always try to make a lot of noise to scare away any bears in the area. If you’re traveling alone, be sure to stop by the tourist office and ask which trails would be the safest for solo hiking. Bear’s Hump is one of the busiest trails I know of in the area. The trail starts beside the tourist office and has a short but steep climb to a beautiful view of the town. 

Check out these amazing hikes in Waterton Lakes National Park!

bears hump waterton lakes national park

Be Bear Aware!

If you are visiting the area, or any area with bears, please prepare yourself by reading up on the local bear aware programs. Yes, bear aware is a thing, Google it prior to arriving at your destination. Bears are fascinating creatures, but the wild is not a petting zoo. Know what to do if you come face to face with a large and protective mama bear. If you want a better photo of that adorable bear cub, don’t get closer, get a bigger lens for your camera instead. Always keep your distance! Or go to the zoo.

bears waterton lakes national park

bears in zoo

Have you ever been to Waterton Lakes National Park? Tell me about in the comments ↓↓

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waterton lakes national park

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Jill is a dreamer, doer and energetic go-getter. She and her husband, Curtis, live in Calgary, Alberta, Canada and together have founded Chasing Adventure; a travel blog where curiosity has inspired adventurous world travel. Full time travel starts April 2015. Be Kind. Be Silly. Be your own type of awesome.


  1. Syd

    July 5, 2014 at 11:22 AM

    I am also terrified of sleeping in tents in bear country. The other day I was camping in Durango (which isn’t REALLY bear country, but there are some) and I heard what was undeniably a HUGE ANIMAL rustling outside my tent early in the morning. Turns out it was a cow but I almost pissed myself.

  2. Jessica @ Independent Travel Cats

    July 5, 2014 at 7:16 PM

    I love to see wildlife while hiking although we mainly see deers, lizards, birds, and an occasional coyote — a bear would liven things up a bit. Haha, good advice to not get to close but get a better lens or better binoculars instead:) We are actually looking for both to observe wildlife in Africa as we’d love to get close but not too close:)

  3. Elizabeth

    July 5, 2014 at 8:10 PM

    Wow. That looks like an amazing place to hike and see wildlife (from a distance hopefully)! I’ll have to add that to my list for places I want to hike.

  4. Rachel

    July 6, 2014 at 3:14 AM

    This looks so gorgeous – maybe it’s a good thing that most people can’t be bothered to drive there, it keeps it special for those who do visit!

  5. Chaitanya Shah

    July 6, 2014 at 4:20 AM

    I’ve never camped in the wild. There’s hardly any place to do that near my city of Bombay. I think I’ll be tempted to join such a camping trek next time!

  6. Mandie @ RamblingMandie

    July 6, 2014 at 6:21 AM

    Wow, gorgeous!! I don’t mind bears, although one did chase me home once when I was a kid. Lol

  7. Corinne

    July 6, 2014 at 6:51 AM

    What gorgeous photos! I love all the bears! The sleeping grizzly is cute, but I wouldn’t want to wake her!

  8. Bianca @itsallbee

    July 6, 2014 at 8:31 AM

    Looks like an adventure that would be right up my alley but those bears look scary! As long as I prepared well and stay well clear of the cubs I would so be up for such a trip.

    A walk through blue and green Istria via @frankaboutcro

  9. Bianca @itsallbee

    July 6, 2014 at 8:33 AM

    silly me…trying to do tweets at the same time…I have added the link in the wrong place.

  10. Lauren

    July 6, 2014 at 10:43 AM

    Oh, those bears are so cute! But fantastic tips as we should remember that they are wild animals and to keep our distance! Gorgeous scenery. I hope to visit this part of Canada someday!

  11. Travelling Penster

    July 6, 2014 at 11:18 AM

    That looks amazing! I took a road trip through the Canadian Rockies early last year and saw loads of wildlife but no bears. A highlight was watching 2 big horn sheep play fighting, knocking their horns up against each other!

  12. Taylor

    July 6, 2014 at 11:52 AM

    I’m so jealous this is your playground. I love parks and am planning a huge trip around the US to go to almost all of the national parks. Waterton lakes NP is one of my planned stops along with Banff and Jasper NP. The pictures are beautiful and when I get there, I’ll be sure to watch out for bears! don’t want to ruin my trip by being eaten by one :p

  13. Marissa

    July 6, 2014 at 1:27 PM

    These are fantastic photos! I love biking or hiking and having to work a bit in order to be rewarded with an amazing view.

  14. SJ @ Chasing the Donkey

    July 6, 2014 at 4:20 PM

    No chance I’d sleep in a tent there. YIKES. But what beautiful photos and a greta read Jill. Thanks for sharing.

  15. Alli

    July 6, 2014 at 5:03 PM

    Looks fabulous! I like that shot of the deer looking straight back at you – hehe! The colours of the water are so pretty, too! Thanks for sharing – I actually hadn’t even heard of this park yet!

  16. Megan

    July 6, 2014 at 9:01 PM

    I think The PacNW and Canada have some of the best backpacking and camping, but I never slept a wink when I went out there…lotsa critters and things that go bump in the night. The scenery is completely worth a few sleepless nights, though!

  17. TammyOnTheMove

    July 7, 2014 at 9:55 AM

    Wow, this place looks amazing. I would love to visit Canada one day. It looks like the outdoor enthusiast`s dream!

  18. Ashley

    July 7, 2014 at 11:28 AM

    Wow, Canada is so beautiful. I can’t wait to visit it (it’s on the list, and has been for a long time)

  19. Chamisa

    July 7, 2014 at 3:01 PM

    I love hearing bear stories from my Canadian friends. I just don’t ever want to live one :).

  20. antonette - we12travel

    July 8, 2014 at 12:07 AM

    This is one of the places I didn’t get to when in the Rockies but still love to go to one day. We had a bear encounter in Yellowstone and even though it was a black one only it scared the shit out of us… Great pictures btw!

  21. Adelina // PackMeTo

    July 9, 2014 at 12:41 PM

    Love the new look Ashley!

    Wow bears! Yikes! Gotta be smart. I haven’t been camping in bear territory before. I think I would be so scared the whole time. Jumping at any noise. I would have been terrified too of those noises outside my tent. Good thing it was just a deer!

  22. Paul

    July 9, 2014 at 2:13 PM

    Amazing photos, the scenery here is so full of colour and vibrancy! I really do need to get myself to Canada

  23. Diana - Life in German.

    July 9, 2014 at 4:14 PM

    stopping by from sundaytraveler, first time visiting your blog!

    I think bears are interesting but I’d probably be afraid to go near one, it’s a good thing that doesn’t stop you from doing what you like.

  24. Chris Boothman

    July 9, 2014 at 7:47 PM

    I have to admit that this looks like a really cool experience! Not only are you getting to explore the Canadian outdoors in a gorgeous national park, but you are also going to experience some of the most fascinating species in the animal kingdom though of course as long as you stay within a safe distance because I wouldn’t want to argue with one!

  25. Jill

    July 9, 2014 at 8:28 PM

    Thanks for all the great comments! I love Waterton Lakes NP and I’m so happy to be able to share my story with all of you. I definitely recommend you visit the park if you’re in the area. If camping isn’t your thing, there is a hotel in Waterton Lakes NP.

  26. Jen Seligmann

    July 10, 2014 at 4:15 AM

    What an absolutely stunning spot. You can really tell from this post how proud you are of your own backyard, it’s so great to see and read you talk about it.

  27. Anu (Country Hopping Couple)

    July 10, 2014 at 5:05 AM

    That seems like a lovely place. I loved the view from Bears Hump trail, it’s breathtaking. I have a secret love towards bears especially the brown and grizzly (not that I am not scared, but I love seeing them)!

  28. Mindi @ 2foodtrippers

    July 10, 2014 at 5:36 AM

    Photo of Bear’s Hump is amazing. Definitely worth the hike for that view!

  29. Els

    July 10, 2014 at 12:57 PM

    The signs keep telling me I really need to visit Canada!! The park looks absolutely amazing! I remember camping in the US in Yosemite NP, we had to put all our stuff into bear boxes. I felt very vulnerable in my little tent and was terrified every time I heard the slightest noise during the night 🙂

  30. Jessica (Barcelona Blonde)

    July 10, 2014 at 1:11 PM

    Wow, you got so close to the wildlife! I’m not much of an outdoors girl, but the countryside there is so nice it might be worth it.

    BTW, you redesigned your site, right? It looks great!

  31. Hannah

    July 10, 2014 at 5:12 PM

    Oh bears…welcome to Canada, Haha! Beautiful park though- I have yet to visit out West but this absolutely looks like the kind of place I’d love to spend a day or two!

  32. Carmen @ CarmensTravelTips

    July 10, 2014 at 7:21 PM

    Bear’s Hump has a gorgeous view. We are heading to Canada in two weeks. I hope we don’t run into any bears.

  33. The Wandering Wanderluster

    July 11, 2014 at 3:04 AM

    What lovely pictures. I love the great outdoors so Waterton sounds like my kind of place! your very lucky to live so close by! I really want to visit Canada soon! All my friends have been I’m the last one!

  34. zof

    July 11, 2014 at 11:12 AM

    Stunning. I love mountains. I hope to come and explore one day.

  35. No-Backpacker

    July 11, 2014 at 3:45 PM

    The bear looks cute when sleeping… 🙂

  36. christine

    July 13, 2014 at 10:46 AM

    I am not far from Canada and I’ve never been! This make me want to go now, beautiful photos!

  37. Bob R

    July 26, 2014 at 1:06 PM

    What a collection of gorgeous spots and shots. So much to check out that large corner of Canada. Bears? I remember the first time I saw one in the wild, an experience you don’t soon forget. 🙂

  38. Dana @ Green Global Travel

    April 18, 2015 at 2:19 PM

    I spent my summers camping in northern Ontario for the longest time and hearing you were surprised by the bears surprised me. I guess I was raised with seeing black bears peacefully walk by me and tying bear hangs at the end of every night without thinking twice. Great camping place. I’m glad you love it too!

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