Townsite Loop – Waterton Lakes

Townsite Loop – Waterton Lakes

The Townsite Loop is the easiest hike in Waterton Lakes National Park. This mellow trail will take you along the shores of Upper Waterton Lake, through the town as well as to the lovely Cameron Falls. We added on a second teeny loop around the Prince of Wales Hotel; Although this is not part of the original trail, it’s well worth the extra steps.

We did this trail after the Bear’s Hump trail and waffles for breakfast. It was a great way to have one last look around Waterton Park before heading out on the next part of our road trip.

Townsite Loop – the basics

Distance: 3.5 km for the main trail. (+3 km around the Prince of Wales)
Elevation gain: Minimal – less than 100m.
Time: 1.5-2 hours
What to bring: Money if you want to buy anything in town.
Facilities: Shops, cafes and restaurants. There are loos at the campsite, at the marina and at the Prince of Wales.
Dogs: Dogs are allowed (on leash)
How hard is it? Easy-peasy paved path

Townsite Loop – Getting Started

Most people start this loop at the Marina, or from Cameron Falls (as there is parking at both.) But as it is a loop, it doesn’t really matter where you begin. We started at the Townsite Campground, as that is where we were camped.

Waterton Lake Beaches

If you start near the tent-camping area of the campground, follow the paved trail down to Upper Waterton Lake. From there, you can either walk along the beach, or find the trail under the trees. It is a fabulously calm location.

Waterton Park

As you go north you’ll start to see the back of some of the hotels as well as lovely patios/restaurants that look out to the beaches. If you need to go into the town for food/drinks, this is the easiest place to pop in.

Waterton Glacier International Peace Park

Did you know that the USA and Canada have the worlds longest undefended border? Upper Waterton Lake is on the border, so the two National Parks (Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada and Glacier National Park in the USA) were set up as the worlds first International Peace Park. This is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. There are signs with more information about this near the Marina. You can wave to the USA from here.

Marina and Emerald bay

The townsite loop goes along the edge of the Marina, so you’ll see plenty of leisure boats as well as children making the most of the shallow beaches to swim. There are great views of the Prince of Wales hotel and the Bear’s Hump.

Continue over to the Prince of Wales?

If you have time, it’s worth adding on a few extra kilometers to visit the Prince of Wales and see the views. Follow the trail along the edge of the lake, then go uphill through the trees.

If you look backwards, there is a gorgeous view of the Bear’s Hump (part of Mount Crandell.) There is an easy to follow, but steep hike up to there. Read about it here.

The Prince of Wales

Prince of Wales Hotel is a Canadian National Historic site, built in 1927 as part of chain of lodges in Glacier National Park. I have heard this is a great spot for afternoon tea. But, even if you don’t stay or eat here, it’s worth having a look, as the views are incredible!

This is the view back towards Waterton Park from the hotel. The peaks are Mount Crandell (far right) Mount Bertha (middle) and Mount Richards (left).

If you keep going beyond the hotel you’ll reach the dark green Linnet lake. From there you can see over to Middle Waterton Lake.

There is a lovely path along the beaches between Middle and Upper Waterton Lakes.

Driftwood beach

Next, the trail turns back towards Mount Crandell and Driftwood beach. We stopped off to explore one of the rocky beaches and found a cute little garter snake.

Once you make it back to the road, follow Evergreen avenue along to Cameron Falls

Cameron Falls

This is a beautiful waterfall, and possibly the busiest location along the whole route (as so many tourist buses stop here, even if they don’t spend much time in the town.) Cameron falls has interesting bedrock that juts up at an angle, allowing the water to take different paths over the rock face, even crossing itself. To me it looks like a capital H.

Will Cameron Falls be pink?

Occasionally if there is heavy rainfall and a landslide higher up Cameron Creek, the waters can turn pink with all the argillite sediments. Just don’t get your hopes up as it is very rare. Even if the waters are clear, it’s still fun to hike up above the waterfall to see the impressive canyon.

Once you’ve finished at Cameron Falls, continue along the path you started on, back into the Townsite Campground.

Finish with a swim?

If you explored Waterton Park on the hot day, continue straight through the Townsite Campground back to Upper Waterton Lake. The best possible way to finish this loop is to cool off with a swim.

I’ll finish with the view of Waterton Park from up on the Bear’s Hump. The trail I just described follows a loop around the entire townsite. From up high, you can really see how the campground takes up almost half the town!

Other easy hikes in Waterton Lakes National Park

This is such a short trail, that it can work well as a mini hike for a day when you’re doing another adventure. I’ve added some links to other easy/intermediate hikes in the area.

Map of Hikes near Waterton Lakes

This map shows all of our adventures in BC and Alberta. You can zoom in to the area around Waterton Lakes to see all the hikes mentioned above.

The Townsite Loop is a great way to get to know Waterton Park. It would also be good for days when you did a middle-sized adventure, when you still have some energy left, but don’t fancy lots of elevation gain. Or for non-hikers that fancy stretching their legs a teeny bit.

What do you think? Do you like the look of this easy trail to get to know the area?

20 thoughts on “Townsite Loop – Waterton Lakes

    1. Yeah we were very lucky with the weather on that day (we did get some gloom earlier in the week… but it was never too bad for us!)

    1. It’s a big lake, but surprisingly it wasn’t super cold. On hot days in the summer it was cool, but not completely freezing like glacial lakes higher in the alpine.

      It’s a truly great area to camp!

  1. Wow! The Prince of Wales hotel looks perfect for a romantic getaway. Imagine the views from the rooms. Adding this to my bucket list.

    1. Right? It’s not cheap, but I bet it is an amaaaazing place to stay! Next time We’ll have to take a break from hiking and go for afternoon tea!

  2. This hike looks perfect! Thanks for the tip to add the extra loop around The Prince of Wales Hotel, what a great addition. Do you know if this area is accessible in the winter too?

    1. Yes. Lots of the town closes down over winter, but this loop is still possible (you might need snow shoes!) You can even go up the Bear’s hump in winter too!

  3. This hike looks great – lovely scenery! I also love the fact that its the “easiest hike” in the area (great for someone who hasn’t hiked for a good while!!)

    1. Yeah this one might even count as a walk/stroll rather than a hike. The views are pretty amazing for so little effort though right!?

  4. Beautiful pictures and a great hike! I am a sucker for cool/unique hotels so the Prince of Wales hotel is calling my name.

  5. This looks absolutely stunning – and what good weather you had! Can’t wait to visit this part of the world! And really interesting about the international peace park

    1. Yeah we were soo lucky with the weather that day (we had a good thunderstorm the previous night, so I guess that blew away all the clouds!)

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