Canada is home to some of the world’s most spectacular wild places. Waterton Lakes National Park in southwestern Alberta is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, International Peace Park, and biosphere reserve (a learning place for sustainable development). It is a wonderful destination for a family vacation. What better time to visit than now, when most Canadians are staying close to home?
Built in 1939 in the Tudor style, Crandell Mountain Lodge offers friendly hospitality and a cosy, extremely comfy stay in a quiet location close to the centre of Waterton. At the same time, you are also very close to nature. It’s not uncommon, for example, to spot a mother deer and her fawn while strolling around town.
All COVID-19 measures are in place according to provincial guidelines at Crandell Mountain Lodge, which has 17 rooms in a variety of sizes and configurations, with kitchenette and full kitchen suites, including a three-bedroom family suite. For romantics, the spacious and relaxing Bear’s Den includes an in-room two-person jetted tub, full bathroom, king bed, living room, mini-bar fridge, and adorable bear-themed décor throughout. “Generations of couples come and stay there,” says Lodge manager Caitlin Woof.
“It’s a historic property, and we are trying to keep it historic so that you can enjoy each other and the surroundings. You’re stepping back in time.” (There is Wi-fi, but no telephones in the suite).
Crandell Mountain Lodge features a big deck and patio tables and usually provides barbecues that guests can use while sitting outside and enjoying the scenery. There is also a backyard where children are welcome to play, Woof adds.
Calgarians Elsie Ross and Jim Cunningham stayed in a two-bedroom suite at Crandell to celebrate their wedding anniversary.
“We loved the rustic character,” says Ross. “The second bedroom would be perfect for a family. And with a fridge, stove and microwave, you can do as much meal preparation — or as little— as you want.” The lodge is within easy walking distance of downtown, with its variety of shops and restaurants, she adds.
Crandell Mountain Lodge opens for the 2021 season on May 20th. Crandell Mountain Lodge is a member of the Charming Inns and Small Hotels of Alberta, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2020.
Waterton offers plenty of good dining options. As just one example, Vimy’s Lounge and Grill – located at Waterton Lakes Lodge, about a five-minute walk from Crandell Mountain Lodge – offers hearty breakfast, lunch, and dinner options the option of eating out on the patio. “The staff there are friendly – it goes with the whole experience of having good people around you,” Woof says.
For many visitors, afternoon tea at the Prince of Wales hotel, overlooking Waterton Lake, is one of the highlights of a visit to Waterton Lakes National Park. Choose from a selection of gourmet teas, dainty sandwich squares and pastries.
If you enjoy picnicking, Woof recommends checking out Pass Creek day-use area, an approximately five-minute drive from town off the park entrance road. “It’s a beautiful spot with picnic tables and firepits – it’s absolutely gorgeous”.
There are also picnic areas in town.
In Waterton, “there are some really, really cool things you can do,” Woof says.
Spring is the best time to view wildflowers in Waterton. “Within a short walk, you can see wildflowers such as prairie crocuses and glacier lilies,” says Christopher Waldinsperger, Waterton Lakes National Park Promotions and Non-Personal Media Officer. You can see wildflowers in almost any season, and as summer progresses up the mountains, there are different colours and shapes changes as you move up the mountains see all through the season.
There is no shortage of picture-postcard spots to visit in Waterton. Spectacular Cameron Falls is a great place to stop for photos.
Another great option is hiking, with many hiking trails for visitors of all abilities.
Five simple hikes include Wishbone, Bellevue, Bertha Falls, Cameron Lakeshore and Crandell Lake.
“These are all excellent options,” Waldinsperger says. “At higher elevations, snow can linger through late spring, so make sure you check conditions before you go.”
Bertha Falls is an easy hike with great views. The trailhead is accessed from a parking lot on Evergreen South, 350 metres south of Cameron Falls, on the southwest edge of town.
The Bertha Falls trail climbs very gradually through the forest burned in the 2017 Kenow wildfire. It is regenerating and vivid with wildflowers, offering wonderful views of Upper Waterton Lake before you arrive at Lower Bertha Falls. 5.2 km return, elevation gain, 175 m.
If you feel energetic, continue to stunning Bertha Lake, well worth the extra calories it takes to get there (460 m elevation gain in total, 10.4-km return).
For scenic drives, Red Rock Parkway and Akamina Parkway are “two incredible mountain drives, very scenic, that take you to both corners of the park,” Waldinsperger says.
The Waterton townsite also offers a variety of fun family experiences. Visitors can hike and bike the paved loop trail around town and stop at the newly renovated International Peace Park Plaza. You can walk along the shoreline of Upper Waterton Lakes and admire the views.
When you come to the mountains, trip planning is essential. Waldinsperger emphasizes the importance of planning ahead, having multiple options and being prepared. “Different things happen at different times of the year, especially in early spring. The weather in southern Alberta can change quickly. It’s important to make sure that you are prepared when you come to the park.”
The authors stay was hosted, but all opinions are her own. The destination did not review the article before publication.