International Peace Park Hike – Waterton, Alberta

Waterton Park, Alberta

The first thing we did upon arriving in Waterton Park was to visit the park’s information center for hiking maps.  The volunteer there told us about a ranger led hike the next day beginning at 10:00 AM.  The hike would go along the west bank of Waterton Lake for about nine miles, ending at Goat Haunt, a tiny ranger station at the south end of the lake.  Since Goat Haunt is in the U.S. they suggested you bring your passport.  The return trip would be on one of the cruise boats on the lake. The hike would be jointly led by a interpretive guide from Parks Canada and a NPS ranger from the US.  That sounded good to us, so we signed up and headed to the boat dock to buy tickets for the return.  There is no charge for the hike but it is $27 for the boat.

The next day was sunny and warm, a great day for a hike and we arrived at the trailhead a few minutes before 10:00 .

The group gathers to begin the hike

Great views of the mountains and Waterton Lake were frequent along the trail

Since it was along the lake, the trail was generally flat, but it did have some “ups” and then “downs” along the way.

The rangers took turns leading the group, stopping along the way to give some great information about the “flora and fauna” we passed.  Below shows our Canadian guide, David, telling us about the range of travel for bears in the area and how the parks track the bears.  Note the barbed wire wrapped around the tree in front of him.  They now track bears by DNA.  Bears like to rub against trees, so when they rub against the tree with the barbed wire some of their fur is left on the wire, providing the sample needed to identify that bear.

Across the trail from where David gave his talk was a motion-sensing wildlife camera used by the parks to monitor movement of wildlife (and, incidentally, hikers) in the area.

About half way down the lake you come to the Canada-US border, marked by two obelisks that recognize border treaties between the two countries.

An American stands in Canada

A tradition on this hike is to preform a ceremony called “Hands Across the Border” to recognize the friendly relationship between Canada and the U.S.

Hands Across the Border

Looking across the lake at the border you can clearly see a line going up the mountain.  Yes, that is the border.

In 1925, the International Boundary Commission was established as a permanent organization responsible for surveying and mapping the boundary, maintaining boundary monuments (like the obelisks), as well as keeping the boundary clear of brush and vegetation for 20 feet.  This “border vista” extends for 9.8 ft on each side of the line.

At one point the trail led over a fixed bridge crossing a stream with rapids.

At another spot it crossed a wider, slow moving river on a wobbly suspension bridge.  Since only one person was allowed on the bridge at one time it took a while for the thirty people in our group to cross, but nobody fell into the river.

At the end of the hike we rounded a curve in the trail and the Goat Haunt Ranger/Customs hut came into view next to a picnic pavilion.

If you came down the lake on the boat and wanted to do a little hiking, you had to first clear customs, as the boat trip began in Canada and Goat Haunt is in the U.S.  Apparently there must be illegals who take the boat to this point, then hike the 20+ miles through the wilderness to enter the U.S. illegally, so it is definitely worth the expense of posting 2-3 customs agents there every day!

Looking back north from Goat Haunt

We arrived just a few minutes before the last boat departed back into Canada so we were able to board and get comfortable for the return trip without delay.  The U.S. customs guys rode the boat back with us, so if anyone hid in the bushes along the lake they were free to stay in the U.S. (hope they had their bear spray!).

Arriving back at Waterton Park tired and hungry we looked for somewhere to have a healthy, nourishing meal.  Someone on the hike recommended the health food establishment pictured below, so in we went!

Nothing like a foot long hot dog and fries to rejuvenate the soul and body!

Hiking with guides who know the area is always a great activity.  Our guides were very informative and taught us a great deal about the area, especially the variety of plant life along the trail.  We had a great time!


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31 Responses to International Peace Park Hike – Waterton, Alberta

  1. What a neat adventure, two countries, a boat ride, knowledgeable guides…cool!

  2. Ingrid says:

    Looks like a fabulous adventure followed by a ‘nutritious’ meal 🙂

  3. pmbweaver says:

    What a neat idea Hands Across the Border is.

    Egads…I would just about lose it, hiking all that way and then coming to the swinging bridge. I would be last! No one can walk over it with me…that includes Paul.

    What a perfect way to end a hike. Hot dogs are my favorite. Where is the coffee?

    • placestheygo says:

      Sorry, Marsha, no coffee this day…food instead!!

      They did warn you about the swinging bridge and how high it would be when you signed up for the hike. I guess they didn’t need someone getting to the end and refusing to cross so they could get the boat!!!

  4. Gay says:

    What a cool hike…alittle of everything.
    That’s very interesting about the barb wire on the tree to get the bears DNA…

    • placestheygo says:

      It was very interesting to see how tracking the bears has changed with science. The ranger shared a map that showed exactly where three grizzly bears had been in the last year. The males traveled is a much bigger area then the the female did.

  5. What a unique hike! We just did a day trip to Waterton while we were at Glacier but it looks like we should have spent more time there.

  6. LuAnn says:

    This was such an interesting post! We typically don’t like to hike with crowds but would have loved to have the interp guides along. Love your header photo and other images…such stunning landscape! Somehow I just knew that your “healthy meal” would not be what you typically eat. But with all that hiking you are doing, no problem. 🙂

    • placestheygo says:

      LuAnn, this was our first group hike. We weren’t sure about this group idea, however, it turned out to be wonderful. Our two guides hiked at our pace. They didn’t wait for anyone. We really moved along even up hill. Before we headed out they encouraged people to stay behind if they were unsure. Everyone made it:) I am sure there were some who didn’t move very quickly the next day!!

      Two different bloggers and my guide book recommended this little place so, of course, we just HAD to try it!!! It has been so long since I have had a hot dog. Besides we were so hungry anything would have been good:)

      Glad you enjoyed the photos:) Thanks!

  7. Jodee Gravel says:

    I thought perhaps you had found clean eating at the laundromat………but alas, wieners it was! Love all the water on this hike – that rushing river pic is awesome. The bears probably love all the scratching posts the rangers have installed for their itchy hides – good humans 🙂

    • placestheygo says:

      Jodee, I can’t tell you the last time I had a hot dog but this place was recommended by two different bloggers. So we just had to try it out. It didn’t disappoint:)

      Yes, I am sure the bears are very grateful for their new scratching posts!

  8. Janna says:

    Oh, my goodness, we are in Pincher Creek tonight (Tuesday) and will be in Waterton tomorrow (Wed.)–where are you guys staying, our plan is to stay in Waterton Townsite Campground.

  9. Sherry says:

    What a great hike. Love hiking there and boating back. I can’t imagine why a Canadian would want to sneak into the US though. They have national health care. LOL But seriously your lake pictures and the stream with rapids are beautiful. I do have to laugh at the border being cleared. Good grief it looks like someone mowed a line up the mountain. I doubt every foot of the border between the two countries is cleared for 20 feet but I suppose it’s possible. Or is it? That’s a pretty long border.

  10. Great hike! Glad the guides kept up a good pace. That is why we usually don’t like those group hikes. Too slow. This one looked fantastic!

    • placestheygo says:

      Linda, we were concerned about the speed of a large group. But with nine miles to cover and seven hours plus discussion along the way, we knew they weren’t going to go too slowly. The boat doesn’t wait around so the rangers were very aware of time.

  11. Laurel says:

    What an interesting hike! Definitely one that we would enjoy with the rangers providing info about the flora and fauna. I would have liked that boat trip back, too. Haha, you fooled me — I thought you had found some cool little natural foods cafe — I’m still gullible, even after reading your blog for these many months….

    • placestheygo says:

      You can never trust anything with John’s humor as he writes the blog, Laurel:)

      You definitely would have enjoyed this hike with the rangers. We did the teaching on the second part of the hike. The ranger taught us one at a time about a new item along the path and we in turn taught those behind us. I was thrilled since there were so many flowers and berries along the way I couldn’t identify. And we still continued to hike right along.

  12. I would love to take this hike. It is unique for you hike two countries in one day, and guided too. I was gullible enough that you ended your day with the most nutritious meal, an exotic salad found only in Canada.

  13. Pam Leonard says:

    Interesting hike, we plan to make a daytrip to Waterton when we get up to Glacier too. (Next yera maybe)

  14. Nice post & pix on the International Peace Park Hike in Waterton. We are going this summer 2015 in late June. Was it necessary to preregister for the hike or do you just show up at the trailhead? We hope to be empty nesters in 2 years and are looking at a class C motorhome for similar adventures.

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks! It was a wonderful hike. Yes, you do have to preregister since there is a limited number of spots. We didn’t sign up til we went to the Visitor Center for information and they told us about the hike. Good luck with your planning:) Let us know if we can help any other way.

  15. Ricardo A. martinez says:

    Place to get a reservation for the hike?

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