Waterton Lakes National Park sits on the US-Canada border, and is connected to Glacier National Park in Montana. Consequently, it has some truly premiere hiking opportunities which David and I took advantage of by hiking one of the area’s more famous trails: the Akamina Ridge trail.
Waterton Lakes was not in our original grand Canadian Rockies tour itinerary, but the gosh darn fire smoke in British Columbia thwarted our Jasper National Park plans, and we decided to take a gamble and make the 8-hour drive south from Jasper National Park to Waterton Lakes National Park. As you will see from the smoke-free pictures, our gamble paid off… THIS TIME.
The Akamina ridge trail, shockingly, crosses Akamina ridge, which is so close to the US border that all of the southern views on the ridge are actually looking into Glacier National Park. And they are spectacular! This hike is approximately 11 miles long with over 3000 feet of gain, but it’s well worth it!
The trail starts out in the woods next to a scary sign telling you that bear encounters are likely. Armed with bear spray and CONSTANT VIGILANCE, we headed out. The first mile or so is fairly gentle and there are several trail junctions, so I would recommend reading a trail description or grabbing a GPX track so you know where to go! After passing Forum Lake, eventually you ascend out of the scary bear woods and the trail gets a good deal steeper. The steepest sections before you attain the ridge involve the mildest of scrambling (I just had to use my hands a few times) and then you’ve done the hard part!
After you attain the ridge, there is the option to climb Forum Peak, which is a mile away but several hundred feet of up and down away. We said “meh” (more accurate: I said “meh”) and continued on the Akamina ridge trail, which is obvious and easy to follow. To the north are views of the red peaks of Waterton Lakes, and to the south are views into Glacier National Park. The scenery is magnificent and also quite diverse. The ridge itself is easy walking with a few hundred feet of gentle up and down, and can be accomplished quickly if you aren’t busy taking pictures every 5 seconds.
We probably spent over 2 hours on the ridge taking in the scenery before starting down towards Wall Lake. The hike down to Wall Lake is much easier than the hike up from Forum Lake, so I would definitely recommend going up past Forum and down past Wall. This seems to be the standard direction of the loop, though we did see two people ascending on our descent to Wall Lake. Besides the two hikers ascending from the Wall Lake side, we saw very few people until we hit Wall Lake itself, which was packed full of families and fishermen. My concerns about being eaten by a Grizzly were greatly diminished due to the hoards traveling to and from Wall Lake, and we strolled back to the trailhead, mission accomplished.