Waterton Lakes is your private park in the winter
Waterton Lakes National Park and I have been best friends for half a century. It was our go-to for camping as kids, our place for summer hikes, epic cross-country ski treks and a pitch or two of ice climbing. But now, it’s my private escape from the hubbub of life. It’s silent. No cars, no planes, has sketchy cell service, and no dang bells from the train station that’s too near my house. I want to listen to my thoughts but they wander as I walk the frozen shoreline. And suddenly I’m hearing the crows in the trees, the ice-crusted pebbles crunching under my boots, the wind in the trees.
The solitude and the untouched nature makes Waterton a great #BucketListAB destination.
Fire a disruptor but also a rejuvenator
Even though the park suffered severe fire damage during the summer of 2017, the town was saved and is accepting visitors. Much of the backcountry trails and campsites have to be inspected for safety but that doesn’t mean you can’t visit. This is your chance to see just how Mother Nature uses fire to start fresh. The spring flowers of 2018 will be outstanding.
Waterton in Winter
Close to 100 per cent of the visits to Waterton Lakes National Park are in the spring to fall months. And who can blame them; spring brings a spectacular showing of wildflowers, summer is hot and fall brings the display of mating antics of the ungulates. In winter, most businesses and services board up the shops but a handful stay open to the delight of anyone wanting a quiet retreat.
A couple of hotels stay open for winter. On this trek I checked into Waterton Glacier Suites right in the heart of the silent town. I could have made my own light meals in my room but it was far more fun to take my magazines and book and cozy up to the fire in the Red Rock Café and enjoy meals there. The other property that stays open in winter is the Waterton Lakes Lodge Resort with its Vimy’s Lounge & Grill.
Fresh snow means fresh tracks and Waterton Lakes National Park does get its share of snow. Trekking on snowshoes I tripped around Linnett Lake. Yeah, my style is rather hilarious. The mountain goats were laughing as I stumbled around the 1-km trail. In the summer there is pavement but in the winter the drifts make it a bit more challenging.
Tossing the snowshoes aside I walked up to the shuttered Prince of Wales Hotel and fought with the prevalent wind to admire the epic view of the lakes and the mountains. Down on the trail to Kootenay Brown’s gravesite, I saw Tundra swans on Waterton River.
I found it surreal walking down the middle of main street. I had to as the sidewalks were choked with snow. I ran into Leigh Low, owner of Wieners of Waterton Lakes National Park and couldn’t convince her to make me one of her classic hot dogs that people line up around the corner for in the summer. The chest high drift at the door was her excuse. Instead, passing dozens of deer who cared less about us, we walked over to Cameron Falls to watch the water fight through the ice to continue its journey.
As the sun started to dip behind Mount Alderson, I saw it as an excuse for a soak in my private hot tub in my room. Gone are the days I’d splash in the frigid lake in the summer or feel the chill of the ice as I hacked my way up a frozen waterfall. Older and wiser? Naw, sometimes a few days of down-time can be busy enough.
Dare to Explore: Click here for more information to plan your trip to Waterton Lakes National Park in winter.
Where to stay
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Waterton Lakes National Park is located in southwest Alberta, only 1.5 hours from Lethbridge and 3 hours from Calgary. Click here to access the map.