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Hiking Waterton National Park - Bear's Hump Hike

By Eric - Posted on 29 July 2010

Hiking Waterton National Park - Bear's Hump Hike

Top-Rated Hikes in Alberta - Hiking Waterton National Park

The Bear's Hump hike is one of the most popular and scenic hikes in all of the national parks in Alberta. It's a short hike but one of the steepest. It's an outdoor adventure that takes you to the top of the world, surrounded by a picture-perfect mountain-scape that's classically Canadian. Hiking Waterton National Park is an unforgetable Rocky Mountain experience!

Rating - Moderate to difficult (but well worth it)!
Distance - Approximately 1.5 kilometers
Elevation Gain - 240 meters (787 feet) ... oh yeah, this is steep!
Number of Switchbacks - 18
Duration - 20 minutes - 50 minutes one way (depending on the number of breaks you take).

The hike is short but steep and most people in fair condition can make it up in 40 minutes (even my Pekingese dog made it to the top).

There are lots of switchbacks and rough but sturdy steps to assist along the path as you climb Mount Crandell. The dirt and gravel path can be a bit slippery when wet, so hiking boots with good ankle support is recommended.

The hike starts from behind the Waterton Lakes National Park Visitor's Centre, located at the entrance of the town (there's only one road in & out of Waterton).

Driving directions to Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta.

View Hiking Waterton National Park - The Bear's Hump Hike in a larger map

The path starts out easy through a pine forest which remains thick until the top of the Bear's Hump.

At the top, is a large, rocky outcrop reminiscent of a grizzly bear's hump (hence the name). The panoramic views of the Waterton valley are classic Canadian photos! Hiking Waterton National Park is one of the most memorable Canadian mountain experiences.

From the Bears Hump, you'll look down the mountainous Waterton Valley, all the way into Glacier National Park in Montana. The picturesque town of Waterton lies below as if it were a small, toy-like town.

On another side, you'll peer down at the famous Prince of Wales Hotel perched along the lakeshore.

Behind you, to the north, the contrasting flat Alberta prairies looks out of place in these towering Rocky Mountain peaks. The breathtaking sight shows you why Waterton Lakes National Park is described as "where the mountains meet the prairies".

Caution along the Bear's Hump Hike

  • The path is steep but you don't need to be in peak physical condition to make to the top. Take frequent breaks to catch your breath.
  • Weather changes quickly in the mountains and high winds may be present up top. Dress appropriately and don't get blown off!
  • This is a family hike and small kids can make this hike (6+) but keep them and their curiosity away from the edge.
  • Thunderstorms, high elevation and humans don't mix. Clear the upper lookout when lightning is present.
  • This hike is open year-round and the views change according to the season. In the spring, watch for slippery and muddy conditions as the spring-runoff comes down Mount Crandell.
  • Watch for loose gravel. I've done this hike in running shoes but hiking boots are recommended for better ankle support.
  • Coming down is harder on the knees than going up. Go slow and watch your footing.
  • Waterton in the winter is beautiful and memorable. Be careful of slippery conditions on the trail.
  • Like most hiking in Canada, people need to be bear smart. Learn how to avoid a bear attack or, on the rare occasion, how to survive a bear attack.

Waterton Lakes National Park is located in the southwest corner of Alberta, about 275 kilometers (3 hours) from Calgary.

Other Hikes & Things to Do in Waterton

If you'd like a drive along the scenic foothills with grand views of the Rocky Mountains, this is a perfect daytrip and day-hike. Hiking Waterton National Park will make you feel like you're standing on top of the world!

Get more insider tips on Canadian Adventures at Scenic Travel Canada.

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