Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Awesome Things to do with Kids in Waterton Lakes National Park

I've been writing about Waterton Lakes National Park for three years now and it seems like I always have a new photo to share, a new family-friendly activity to promote, or something awesome I want to tell you all about. This year is no different.

Biking the Kootenai Brown Trail in Waterton

Hiking in Waterton Lakes National Park

Below are the top things we've found to be awesome for families in Waterton, and the activities we go back every year to do:

Hike the Red Rock Canyon

We always take a trip out to hike and play in the Red Rock Canyon.  If you get an early start you'll avoid the worst of the tourist traffic and you'll often see bears along the road on the Red Rock Canyon Parkway while driving out.

Traveling around deep water in the canyon

Hike later in the season if you really want to play in the canyon when the water isn't as deep.  And wear good waterproof sandals with grip (Keen Sandals for example are the awesome.)  For more photos of hiking in the canyon, read the story I wrote last year:  Camping in Waterton Lakes National Park.

Always fun hiking in the canyon


Swim and Paddle in Cameron or Emerald Bay on Upper Waterton Lake


Cameron and Emerald Bay are both protected areas popular with families wanting to swim or play around in the glacial cold water of Upper Waterton Lake in town.  Despite the water temperature, you will always see lots of people playing around in it.  For more on paddling and playing in the Waterton Lakes, read my story on Paddling in Waterton Lakes National Park.

 "All non-motorized watercraft from outside of the park are prohibited from entering water bodies in Waterton Lakes National Park."

Hot day in Cameron Bay

Play in the Waterton River at the Hay Barn Day Use Area

Fact, all kids love to play in rivers.  And the Waterton River has an easy access point at the Hay Barn Day Use area just outside of town.  Bring a picnic lunch and head out there for the day to get away from crowds in town.

Playing in the river at the Hay Barn Day Use Area 

Canoe or paddle on Cameron Lake

The Waterton Lakes can get very windy and extreme caution is required when paddling on them.  Cameron Lake however is a safer bet for families and you can even rent a canoe or paddle boat here.

Family Paddling on Cameron Lake

Head out to Cameron Lake along the Akamina Parkway for the day and if you're lucky you'll see a bear on your drive out.  Last time we were at the lake we saw a bear right in the parking lot too! For more photos of paddling on Cameron Lake, read my recent story, Paddling in Waterton Lakes National Park.

Kayaking on Cameron Lake

Hike to Crandell Lake

This beautiful lake is reached from the Crandell Campground and the hike is 4km return.  It can also be reached via a trailhead on the Akamina Parkway and then it is 2.4km return.  Both ways are scenic and an easy hike for young children.  With a car shuttle you could do the hike one-way starting from the Parkway for less height gain.

Hiking to Crandell Lake from the Crandell Campground
Hugging Bear Grass at Crandell Lake

We did the hike for the first time this year and we would happily do it again.   We might even camp here in the future at the backcountry campground.  For more information on hiking in Waterton, visit the Waterton Lakes NP Website.

Crandell Lake
Playing at Crandell Lake

Hike the Bear's Hump

This is a classic hike in Waterton and gives you the best views of the park in a short family-friendly distance.  It is 2.8km return with 200 metres of height gain.  The trail is quite steep so I recommend starting early in the morning when it's cooler outside.  You'll also have better luck at finding a parking space in the small lot outside the visitor centre as well if you go early.

Bear's Hump Hike in Waterton

For more information on hiking in the park, visit the Waterton Lakes NP website

Looking down on Upper Waterton Lake from the top of the Bear's Hump

Bike the Kootenai Brown Trail

The Kootenai Brown Trail is the only paved bike trail in Waterton so it's the ideal choice for families who want to do a short bike tour through this beautiful park.

Biking the Kootenai Brown Bike Path

The bike path starts at the park gates outside the Waterton townsite and parking can be found at the closest day use area to the gates.  From there, it's a 6.9km ride to the edge of town near the Waterton Lakes Info. Centre and Prince of Whales Hotel.  Either bike the trail out and back or send an adult back for the vehicle while you play near the boat dock on Middle Waterton Lake.

Biking in Waterton

The trail is hilly and children may have to walk some of the bigger hills.   Other than that, it's an easy ride and you are well separated from the nearby highway. To continue past the end of the trail into town just follow the big hill down past the Visitor Info Centre and bike on the sidewalk if riding with kids.  The sidewalk is narrow though so you may have to walk your bikes if it is busy with pedestrian traffic.

For more information on biking in Waterton, visit the Waterton Lakes NP Website

Biking in Waterton on the Kootenai Brown Trail

Bike or Walk the Townsite Trail

The Townsite trail is a 3.2km loop with little elevation gain to speak of.  Much of the loop parallels the Upper Waterton Lakeshore and it's easy to take a quick detour on main street for ice-cream.  Watch out for pedestrian traffic but other than that, bike trails don't get easier than this.

Biking on the Townsite Trail
This trail is lovely for a walk after dinner as well if staying in town and children will enjoy playing in the cold lake.

Playing in Upper Waterton Lake beside the Townsite Trail
Biking the Townsite Trail

Visit the Town Playground and Splash Park

Waterton is one of the few mountain towns I can think of that has a splash park.   Maybe the only one in a National Park.   It sits beside an awesome playground and on a hot day the kids will likely be happier here than on any of the hiking trails in the area.

The Waterton Splash Park
Part of the playground in downtown Waterton

For more fun suggestions for things to do and see in Waterton, check out a previous story I wrote called Family Fun in Waterton Lakes National Park.  There is always something awesome to do in Waterton and you could stay a week without running out of places to visit.  We still find new things to do every year we visit.

Hiking around beautiful Waterton Lakes National Park


  1. Would 5 nights be too long to stay? Have you Ever stayed at the Glacier Suites? We have the option of end of July or mid August, would there be a benefit to either?

    1. No, 5 nights would not be too long. Yes, we have stayed at the Glacier Suites I think. It was sufficient for accommodations. Usually when we go in summer we camp, so I don't really have experience with summer hotels. We stayed there in winter once in a hotel. Either time would be fine. My only suggestion is to check on which trails will be open. Things are still recovering from a bad forest fire in the summer of 2017. Many parts of the park were closed last summer.