10 fall experiences in Waterton Lakes National Park

Waterton Lakes National Park

There's lots to enjoy in Waterton Lakes National Park during this colourful time of year. Head out on the trails, take to the water, watch wildlife, go on a scenic drive or enjoy some stargazing.

Drive the Akamina Parkway

A road surrounded by burnt trees with a mountain in the background.
The Akamina Parkway is one of the top scenic driving experiences in Waterton Lakes National Park

Go for a scenic drive along the Akamina Parkway. The parkway is a winding mountain road following the Cameron Valley to Cameron Lake, and includes the First Oil Well in Western Canada National Historic Site and access to some great fall hiking experiences. Lineham Trail is a popular fall hike. It is a moderate out-and-back trail (8.4 km return) through forests and meadows to the 250-metre high Lineham Falls waterfall.

Watch and photograph wildlife

A whet owl looks directly at the viewer slightly obscured by tree leaves
Many animals start growing thick coats for the winter in the fall

Calling all photography enthusiasts! Fall is an excellent time for wildlife photography in Waterton Lakes National Park. Bring your telephoto lens and capture some prize-winning shots! Fall is the mating season for the hoofed animals of the park which means there are some excellent photo opportunities. Many different migratory birds make a stop here in Waterton Lakes National Park this time in the year. Treat all wildlife with respect, give them the space they deserve. Early and late in the day is usually the best time for photography and nature watching. Give wildlife plenty of space.

Visit the bison paddock

Two bison and a baby bison stand in a field of grass
Driving the Bison Paddock Loop Road is a popular visitor experience.

Drive the Bison Paddock Loop Road before the road closes and bison wanders out of sight into the winter paddock. When viewing the bison, remember they are wild animals. The best way to stay safe is to remain in your vehicle and drive slowly. Pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists are not permitted on the Bison Paddock Loop Road.

Explore the park on two wheels

Two mountain bikers descend a path with a mountain in the background.
Cycling is a great way to explore the park in fall

Waterton Lakes National Park has some great opportunities for a fall bike ride. Cycle the Kootenai Brown Trail, a paved pathway that provides a link from the townsite to facilities in the Waterton Valley. It offers breathtaking views and rest spots along the way. Head up the Red Rock Parkway and enjoy the scenery (the road is closed to motor vehicles October 31 to May 1). If you make it to Red Rock Canyon (14.1 km), carry on to the Snowshoe Trail, once a fire road and suitable for cycling. Chief Mountain Highway is another good fall cycling route. Enjoy the road while it is quiet - and before the snow flies!

Get starstruck!

A person looks into a telescope under the back drop of a star filled night
Waterton Lakes National Park and Glacier National Park (USA) are recognized as an International Dark Sky Park

Get away from the city lights and spend some time under the stars of the Waterton-Glacier International Dark Sky Park. Cozy up as the sun goes down and watch the night sky appear. See the Milky Way, planets and maybe even a meteor or two! Cameron Bay, Bison Overlook, pullouts on the Entrance Parkway, Red Rock Parkway and Chief Mountain Highway, and Cameron Lake are good stargazing destinations.

Watch the elk rut

An Elk with a large set of horns stands in a grassland in front of a backdrop of trees.
Bulls grow a new set of antlers each spring and then cast them the following winter

Autumn is mating season for elk. Watch these ungulates congregate on the Blakiston Fan and listen for their bugling to attract cows (females). Males can be aggressive during fall mating season so watch from a safe distance (30 metres, or 3 bus lengths, away). Elk are one of the many animal species that move about freely with in the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, crossing back and forth over the Canada-USA boundary, as well as onto lands outside the park.

Hiking season is not over yet!

A hiker on a mountain side looks of into a valley of mountains.
Fall hiking in the Rocky Mountains offers crisp air and beautiful colours

What better way to spend a fall day than to get outside and take a hike in Waterton Lakes National Park? Fall brings crisp, refreshing air, changing colours, quieter trails and no mosquitos - perfect for hiking! During autumn, Waterton’s larch and aspen groves turn brilliant shades of yellow and gold. Horseshoe and Wishbone are also popular trails for fall hiking.

See the larches in Rowe valley

A bird’s eye view of a dense larch forest with lakes on the sides and mountains in the background.
Larches lose their needles as a way to recycle nutrients

Is there any fall feature as fantastic as fall foliage? The western larch (Larix occidentalis) turn their beautiful shade of golden yellow each fall, and the Rowe-Tamarack trail is a great place to spot them. Visit Upper Rowe Lake (moderate difficulty, 12.8 km return) for one of the best larch-viewing locations in Waterton Lakes.

Explore the community of Waterton

Two people walk along a rocky beach on front of a lake in a valley of mountains.
Wander through the community of Waterton on a quiet fall day

Stroll around the community and enjoy a picnic at one of the camp kitchens or day use areas. Snap a photo at any of the red chairs locations and enjoy fall in the Rocky Mountains. Explore the Peace Park Plaza near the marina, celebrating the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park World Heritage Site. Take a break from the elements and discover the Visitor Centre, and attend an interpretive program!

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