Wateron Lakes National Park
Distance: 12.5 miles Time: 8 hours Type: One way
The Carthew-Alderson Trail is listed as one of the premier hikes in Waterton - a one-way trek that starts close to the US-Canadian border and ends back at Waterton Park. The real highlight of the walk is the Carthew Ridge, which affords extensive views south across the border into Montana. It takes a full day to complete the hike and there are no services en route, so be sure to take food, water and appropriate all-weather gear.
The hike starts from the north end of Cameron Lake at the end of the Akamina Parkway. The best way to tackle the trail is to take the hiker's shuttle bus that leaves from Waterton town centre to the starting point of the trail. The lake is on the US-Canada border: it's possible to rent a rowing boat and spend some time here but most people are keen to get walking and head off shortly after the bus drop-off.
After a series of switchbacks through the forest the trail leads to Summit Lake, a small calm body of water backed by numerous peaks (and infested with mosquitoes when we were there). The trail then continues to climb until it reaches Carthew Ridge. Just before reaching the top a humming bird whizzed past my head and put on a short display before disappearing. The views from here are astounding: you look south into Montana, with a line of peaks on the horizon and a sea of pines continuing into the distance. Straight across from the ridge is Lake Wurdeman, nestled under Chapman Peak in Glacier National Park. We met a friendly American couple who were taking some silly 'superman' photographs: the wife was lying on her front over a small rock platform that jutted out and pretending to fly over the mountains. We got involved and snapped a few ourselves.
From the ridge the trail begins to descend slowly, past the Carthew and Alderson Lakes nestled between the peaks of the same name. There was a snow field at one end of the Upper Carthew Lake when we hiked. Judging from photos, Alderson Lake is quite beautiful in the sunshine but at it was overcast when we passed the lighting not conducive to great photography. We did pass a marmot, however, which I had never seen before (in fact I had no idea what it was until I did some googling later on).
At this point the real highlights of the walk are behind you: the trail continues its long journey through the valley before reaching the township.
With expansive views and plenty of isolation, this is definitely a hike with a sense of the epic.