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what to do on my first trip to Waterton Lakes NP

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Melbourne, Australia
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what to do on my first trip to Waterton Lakes NP

Hello everyone, I will my first trip to the Park with a three night stay in July 08.

I'm travelling with my 11 year old daughter and want to know what things are "must sees" while we're there that kids of that age will enjoy and not say "I'm bored" all the time! so a mixture of scenery and wildlife and other interesting things to do is what I'm looking for.

As we will have a car I'd like to knowIs it worth driving to and round the Going to the Sun Road and how long will it take to drive there and round and back to Watertaon Lakes NP (we will be staying just on the edge of town).

Is the boat trip from WLNP worth while?

We aren't great hikers, but enjoy short walks with lovely scenery and wildlife. What can you recommend?

Where would be the best places to eat with an 11 year old (and somewhat picky) child?

any other travel hints would be really appreciated. I love Tripadvisor, as everyone has some fantastic ideas.

thanks in advance

Calgary, Canada
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1. Re: what to do on my first trip to Waterton Lakes NP

Hi cazzascorp,

I think it would be a really big disappointment if you get as close as you will be to the GTTS road and don't drive it. I would allow about 40 minutes to cross the US border & get to St Mary, which is the starting spot for the GTTS road. Allow at least 2 hours to drive the road, more if you stop to explore anywhere. The visitor centre at Logan Pass makes a nice stop, if you can find a parking spot. I like to get onto the road early in the day (before 10 am) to beat the crowds a bit. From the west side of the road (West Glacier) it is about an hour's drive back to East Glacier, and then about half an hour's drive north to St Mary. So you can easily spend the day in GNP.

The boat trip at WLNP is very worthwhile, in my opinion. It is approx 2 hours in length and you get some great commentary on the tour.

One of the shortest hikes you can do at Waterton is Bear's Hump. The trailhead is right behind the visitor centre. The visitor centre is a great place to get info on hiking in the park. They have trail maps available and can recommend hikes that are well-suited to your interests and abilities.

If your daughter gets bored with all the scenery and wildlife in Waterton, you might want to make a half day trip to the Crowsnest Pass, about a 40 minute drive north of Waterton. (You go north on hwy #6 to Pincher Creek, then west on hwy #3 about 15 miles.) The #3 hwy goes right through the area of the Frank Slide and the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre is very well done. It would be an interesting way to spend a couple of hours learning a bit about our coal-mining history. Also in the Crowsnest Pass you can tour the Bellevue Underground Mine, if that interests you.

I have some info on the Crowsnest Pass - pictures and things to do - on my webpage, here is the link to the CNP:

members.virtualtourist.com/m/adecc/de341/

Please feel free to also have a look at my Waterton travel page, on that site.

As for good places to eat in Waterton, I know that my son always loves Pizza of Waterton. It is in a renovated house, just around the corner from the Post Office. Zum's is also a favorite eating spot for our whole family. Frank's Cafe makes great Chinese food. Also a short drive north of the park is the Twin Butte General Store, where you can get a pretty good Mexican meal, if that interests you.

I hope that helps you start planning your visit to Waterton. If you have any other questions, please just ask.

- CG

Calgary, Canada
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2. Re: what to do on my first trip to Waterton Lakes NP

Red Rock Canyon is a must for anyone interested in geology; the red rocks there are from iron oxides (rust) created at the dawn of earth history. It's also very pretty, and if I remember right (please correct me, CG) there is a short interpretive walk or two.

Calgary, Canada
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3. Re: what to do on my first trip to Waterton Lakes NP

Yes, CW, you can take a short walk along one side of the canyon, cross over to the other side via a bridge, and walk back on the other side. The hike to Blakiston Falls also starts here. It is a very moderate hike of about 2 km one way.

Melbourne, Australia
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4. Re: what to do on my first trip to Waterton Lakes NP

thanks Camping Girl and Country wife - both of you obviously know the area really well. I really appreciate your comments. It sounds like a beautiful place. I have booked into Crandell Lodge for our stay - do you have any comments on that accommodation - the Tripadvisor reviews were very positive which is why I chose it.

re the GTTS Road, are we better off driving it ourselves or getting on those special tour buses I read about- and where does one pick them up from?

at that time of year (second week of July 2008) will the roads on the GTTS road be very congested?

CAmping Girl : I'll have a look at your webpage you mentioned - and come back if I have any more questions.

we are driving down from Calgary to WLNP - is the Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump worth a visit en route?

thanks again guys, talk again soon.

Calgary, Canada
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for Waterton Lakes National Park, Nelson
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5. Re: what to do on my first trip to Waterton Lakes NP

Hi again,

In response to your questions, here's what I think:

1. I have stayed at the Crandell Mtn Lodge several times and have always been very happy there. Having said that, the manager that I am familiar with there has been transferred to another hotel in Waterton, so I can't assure you that you will have the same impeccable service I have had there. Having said THAT, it is still owned by the same group, so I can't imagine that the overall standards will have deteriorated significantly.

2. Since you will have a rental car with you, I would opt to drive the GTTS road myself. That will allow you to travel at your own pace, and stop as often as you want to.

3. Yes, in July the GTTS road will be very congested. The traffic travels slowly on this road anyway, so don't let the volume of traffic dissuade you from making the drive. Just remember - in case you are not familiar with mountain driving - when you are going down a steep grade, shift your car into the lowest gear. This will allow the engine to slow the car down, so you don't have to be on your brakes constantly, and they won't heat up on you.

4. I have some info on the Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump on my website as well, on my Waterton page. In my opinion, it is well worth a 2 or 3 hour visit. It is very well done. But, if I could offer one suggestion, I would recommend that you plan to eat elsewhere, either before or after you visit the buffalo jump. The cafeteria there has really mediocre food and the prices are outrageous.

Western Canada
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6. Re: what to do on my first trip to Waterton Lakes NP

The information you have received is right on!

Make sure you declare at the rental counter that you will be taking the car in to the USA.

Dean in Canada

Sydney, Australia
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7. Re: what to do on my first trip to Waterton Lakes NP

We'll also be making our first trip to Waterton but will only have one full day there. We'll be driving from Banff on Saturday May 31 and have booked 2 nights there before returning to Banff.

I like the idea of doing the drive to the Going To The Sun Road and have read Camping Girl's response to cazzascorp in this thread so it sounds as though we'll use the full day for this trip.

I've read on the nps.gov Glacier NP website at www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/hours.htm

"Plowing on the Going-to-the-Sun Road begins in April and the entire length of the road is generally open in late May or early June. Other park roads generally open in May. Ten miles of the Going-to-the-Sun Road (from park headquarters at West Glacier to Lake McDonald Lodge) are maintained throughout the winter providing access to winter recreation opportunities at the head of the lake."

and also at www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/gttsrfaq.htm

"While portions of this scenic route remain open year-round, for the next 8-10 years, weather permitting, the entire Going-to-the-Sun Road will be open for public vehicle access from mid-June to mid-September. Before and after this core summer season, accelerated road work will be allowed and sections of the road will be closed."

Reading this it seems as though we may be able to do the drive on June 1, depending on road works so we'll have to check when we arrive in Waterton. If there are some sections open and others closed is it still worth the trip for the day?

I hope we would be able to fit in the 2 hour boat trip at Waterton on the afternoon we arrive or the morning we leave to head back to Banff.

We will drive from Banff on Hwy #1 through Canmore and turn south on Hwy #22 through Bragg Creek, Turner Valley & Black Diamond to Longview and since Hwy #40 is closed until June 15 we will continue south on Hwy #22. Looking at the map I gather that this is the best way to travel to and from Waterton and since we will probably stop and take photos on the first day travelling south we should be able to spend less time stopping on the return trip and so possibly do the boat trip before we leave. I am interested in any suggestions on an alternative route to drive back to Banff. Would it be worth travelling back on Hwy #2 even though it appears to be a longer journey?

Thanks for any advice you can offer.

Ken

Calgary, Canada
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8. Re: what to do on my first trip to Waterton Lakes NP

Ken2222, it sounds like you've done your homework!

>>Reading this it seems as though we may be able to do the drive on June 1, depending on road works so we'll have to check when we arrive in Waterton. If there are some sections open and others closed is it still worth the trip for the day?<<

I read that as the road will likely be closed until around June 15, but I'm sure it depends on the weather more than anything. Regardless, whether it's worth doing or not depends on which parts of the road are open--the most scenic spots are around Logan Pass. It also depends on what you would be doing instead. If you like hiking, you could have an enjoyable day in Waterton, although conditions in early June probably won't be ideal.

>>I am interested in any suggestions on an alternative route to drive back to Banff. Would it be worth travelling back on Hwy #2 even though it appears to be a longer journey?<<

Highway 2 is not especially scenic as it crosses mostly flat prairie, with the mountains far in the distance. It is probably a bit faster than highway 22, and less scenic. You may consider taking #2 if you are interested in stopping at Head-smashed-in buffalo jump (mentioned above), which is NW of the junction of #2 and #3.

Another option would be to cross into BC on highway #3 and take #93 north and through Kootenay NP to Banff.

Calgary, Canada
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9. Re: what to do on my first trip to Waterton Lakes NP

Hi,

1. The GTTS road will not be open at higher elevations when you are planning to be there, due to the rehabilitative construction work that is being planned for the next few years on the road. You will be able to drive from St Mary's on the east side only a short distance west at that time of year. With the small amount of time that you have available, I personally don't think it would be worthwhile to spend half a day making the trip to/from East Glacier when you won't see any of the really spectacular portions of the road anyway.

2. I would advise that you reserve a spot on the Shoreline Cruise in advance, given your limited time in the park. This will assure that you get on the sailing you want so it doesn't delay any other plans you might have for the day. This is especially important for the first morning sailing as it tends to be the busiest.

3. #22 highway is a lovely drive. Unless you want to stop at Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump, I would advise against #2 highway as it is quite unremarkable and takes you quite a bit out of your way for a return trip to Banff. If you want a different route back, I would second the suggestion to take #3 highway west to Cranbrook and #93 north to Radium Hot Springs. This is a very nice drive and would provide a nice change of scenery for the return trip.

4. If you do decide on the #3/93 return route, you might want to look into stopping at the hot springs at Radium on your way back, provided it's not too hot out! Or, if you prefer an undeveloped hot spring, you might want to investigate Lussier Hot Springs in Whiteswan Prov Park. This is south of Radium off the #93 highway and might be an interesting stop for the family.

Enjoy your vacation!

- CG

Western Canada
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10. Re: what to do on my first trip to Waterton Lakes NP

The GTTS Road is subject to weather ( Snow for example) and soime years has not opened until the July long weekend. This seems to be a snowy year so it may be late opening.

Highway 22 is a jewel of a road and shaves about 20 minutes off your trip as you are not going slower in the towns.

Dean in Canada