Waterton Lakes - Alberta is Awesome!
Waterton Lakes National Park Travel Blog› entry 21 of 21 › view all entries
Every year my wife, my dog, and I go somewhere and camp. Most years we spend 2-3 weeks on the road trying our hardest to be the biggest dirtbag campers we can be. This year however we have far too many other things going on to extend our camping trip that long. So with the lack of time (5 days) we decided to go somewhere relatively close. We decided Waterton Lakes National Park was that place. We've been going to Jasper and Banff a dozen times a year and decided to try something different - well slightly different.
The morning of the big trip we finished prepping our gear, loaded our coolers with ice, did a double check of what we had and tried our hardest to make that inevitable item we forget not be something we couldn't live without.
As we passed through Calgary my wife had the great idea to stop at a little restaurant we seen on TV called "Fat City Franks" where we tried one of their many quality hot dogs. I went with the Mexican Chili while my wife went with the Ukranian - both were awesome. Back on the road we got south of Calgary and that is when we got to see the real amazing grassland area's of Alberta. Rolling grassy hills as far as the eye can see. Massive multi-million dollar mansions were the only occasional break in the rolling green. Eventually we made it to an area I would classify as the true Alberta. It was another wind farm that seemed to go on for miles and miles.
Finally, we arrived at Waterton and stopped at the entrance gates. The campsite we decided to stay in was first come, first served, so no reservations. Once it was our turn at the gate we noticed that the sign said ALL CAMPSITES FULL. Great, 6 hours of driving and nowhere to sleep. Needless to say, we were a little ticked but quickly realized there is no point being upset at things out of our control.
The guy at the gate mentioned a private campground towards Pincher Creek. I know Pincher Creek is more than an hour away - "what an absolute piss off" I was thinking.
We pulled into our site and not a person was around. We were only 20 seconds walk to the bathrooms which were well maintained for a large campground like this. We quickly setup, after years of tenting we have a routine that is unbeatable. Our tent was up, our air mattress was blown up, the bed was made, the fire was started, and our dog was fed all within maybe 30 minutes of arriving. We cracked that first beer hoping to get a few down before the weatherman predicted rain and thunderstorm arrived.
The next morning after a great sleep we woke up to the usual sweltering tent. We should have replaced our tent a few years ago for one that has better air flow but we have been delaying it every year under the impression that we are getting a travel trailer. So by 9am the heat in the tent was too unbearable for us to continue sleeping. We got up and did our morning thing, my wife made some tomato sandwiches and I had a shower under our small water jug full of icy water. Hangover was nowhere to be seen and energy was at a high point so we decided to make the most of the early wake-up and go on a great hike.
We entered the park and made a quick stop in town to buy more ice, then we made our way up the Akamina Parkway where we stopped at Lineham trail. The review in the guide said a gradual incline of 350m over 4.2km (oneway) to a 400 foot waterfall. Awesome we thought. 350m didn't seem like a lot we thought. 3 hours return, perfect.
We loaded our bag up with water, we put our bear bell on our crazy dog, and we hit the trail. It started out with a nice forested and slight incline for the first few hundred meters, than once we got just above the tree line the trail went crazy. The incline was about 30% and we were walking in a narrow single track with a steep hill up to our right and a sharp drop to our left. The temperature was around 32 celcius and we were in direct sun with no chance of shade.
Finally after 4.2km and realizing that 350m is apparently a lot we made it to the end. There it was, a beautiful 400 foot waterfall and we were surrounded by massive mountains in every direction. It took me about 10 minutes to catch my breath and cool down before I could actually enjoy it, but I did finally get to that point and was in awe at the sheer size of the mountains and the amazing multitude of colors from the wild flowers.
We began our walk back and were out in no time. We estimated it was probably a 2.5 hour in and 0.5 hour out hike - since it was all downhill on the way out of course. We got back to our truck in time to go have a late lunch in Emerald Bay on the edge of Waterton Village. Our lunch consisted of some amazing homemade chicken salad, a boiled egg, chocolate chip cookies, and some beers. We sat their relaxing after a very difficult but rewarding hike. My legs were still feeling like Jello, but I made it and that was enough to make me forget how my legs felt. We spent the next hour playing fetch with our dog in the lake.
We returned to our campsite, turned on some music and began cooking some steaks and baked potatoes over the fire. Our firepit meals have yet to be anything short of spectacular. Our tenderloin steaks are so tender you could eat them with a spoon, the seasoning is perfect, and the doneness is nothing less than perfect.
Fortunately for us, this was also the night the previous nights rainstorm decided to meet us. Not more than minutes after going to bed and falling asleep immediately, the loudest most frightening thunder clap went off.
The next morning we were still sore and decided to take it easy. We cooked up some bacon, eggs, and hashbrowns from the left over potatoes the night before.
Cameron Lake is a nice lake surrounded by mountains and is split almost in half by the Canada/USA border.
We decided this would be a perfect opportunity to check out the town and have a late lunch. We went to the Trapper Pub and managed to get a patio table where our dog could lay under our chair. The beer was icy cold and the food was okay. We were nicely shaded and our well behaved dog sitting under our chairs was getting so much attention that we almost had to hide her in order to finish our beers before it got warm.
After dinner we took a short walk around town. My wife went ahead with the dog and us usual she was confronted by another dog lover who wanted to pet her and share her life stories with dogs. I love the attention she gets us, but sometimes too much is too much. The lady was very nice though, so no harm done.
After the brief walk around town we made our way to Bear's Hump. A 1.2km 250m trail that overlooks the village. This gives you beautiful panorama's of all three waterton lakes, the village, and even the stunning Prince of Wales hotel.
After that hike we went back to our campsite for another campfire meal consisting of chicken with our own blend of 7 herbs and spices that puts the Colonels to shame. We had pre-made some Caprese Salad, Broccoli Salad, and Potato salad before going on our trip.
The next morning we woke up early and had a quick breakfast of a muffin and a boiled egg before setting off on our drive across the border into the USA to check out the "Going To The Sun" highway. After a very nice couple hour drive we arrived in St.Mary where the road begins. We went through the gates and began our drive. We were here a few years prior in early May before the campsites were open. We managed to convince one of the park staff to let us stay in the campsite, but the going to the sun highway was closed for obvious reasons. So this was our chance to try it in warm weather.
We were probably less than 3 miles into the drive and our close call accidents were already well into the double digits.
We carried on the drive, stopping at each stopping point and checking out the amazing scenery the lines this road (rated #2 drive in the USA behind the California coast highway). We finally got to a beautiful trail that walked along a decent inclined stream that seemed more like mini waterfalls than a steady stream. We were 10 feet into the trail when park rangers stopped us, we apparently missed the "no dog" sign.
We made it to Logan's pass and stopped on the side of the highway to watch the mountain goats climb a cliff. Unfortunately we parked directly under the route they took and small shale was flying down and hitting my wife and my truck. Fortunately it was so light it didn't hurt either. We continued our drive through the narrow roads with waterfalls that were hitting us as we drove by them.
The road continued on to a small town called Apgar. This is your typical small mountain village that is situated lake-side. We ordered some food from the only restaurant in town and walked over to the lake and ate. I got the burger and my wife went with a wrap.
Sitting lake side my wife decided to go for a swim but had no bathing suit. So she improved the view for me and my dog. Possibly even more than us since the vehicles that were in the lot when we arrived were gone.. Ahh well, nature is great.
After some time relaxing in the sun we began the long drive back through the going to the sun highway. This time we stopped for all of the amazing views we missed on the way out. This truly is a road that must be experienced in both directions.
Another relaxing night fire side for our last night.
The next morning we began our long drive home early with another stop in Calgary for Modern Jelly Donuts where we got Maple Bacon donuts. Un-Fucking-Believable!!!
Sadly we arrived home and our trip was done. Now a few days later and our gear is still scattered throughout our kitchen. Maybe we will get around to putting it away this weekend - I guess we are hanging on to that trip as long as possible in some hopes we will get a chance to return before putting it all away.