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

Waterton Lakes National Park

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.

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!

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.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.

Waterton Lakes 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!

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.

Waterton Lakes National Park

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Waterton Lakes National Park

Jill Patterson
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This Post Has 38 Comments

  1. Syd

    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. 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

    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

    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

    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

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

  7. Corinne

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

  8. Bianca @itsallbee

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

  9. Lauren

    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!

  10. Travelling Penster

    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!

  11. Taylor

    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

  12. Marissa

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

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

  14. Alli

    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!

  15. Megan

    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!

  16. TammyOnTheMove

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

  17. Ashley

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

  18. Chamisa

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

  19. 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!

  20. Adelina // PackMeTo

    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!

  21. Paul

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

  22. 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.

  23. Chris Boothman

    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!

  24. Jill

    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.

  25. Jen Seligmann

    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.

  26. 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)!

  27. Els

    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 🙂

  28. 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!

  29. Hannah

    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!

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

  31. 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!

  32. zof

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

  33. christine

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

  34. Bob R

    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. 🙂

  35. 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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