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Fantastic Fernie and Waterton with Daytrip to Glacier NP in USA

Fantastic Fernie and Waterton with Daytrip to Glacier NP in USA

Old Oct 28th, 2023, 08:10 PM
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Fantastic Fernie and Waterton with Daytrip to Glacier NP in USA

There are not very many reports on Fernie, Waterton National Park and even Glacier National Park, so Iím providing a little write up of my experience.

Living in Texas with daily temps reaching over 100 each day for a couple of months, I needed an escape to a cooler place. What better choice than Canada? Iíve been to Banff National Park twice and thought about it, but with the crowds and prices, I thought of trying somewhere new. Thanks to the Fodors forum (special thanks to BC_Robyn) and some other searching, I concluded Fernie and Waterton would make great destinations and they proved to be fantastic.

I had been worried about the fires in the region and in the weeks leading up to my departure, there were days with poor air quality, but I lucked out with my dates (September 7-14) having good air and skies.

Air travel:

IAH to Calgary via West Jet. First time flying them and they were good.

Calgary to IAH via United.

Car Rental: Alamo (always get good vehicles)

Accommodation:

Fernie Best Western. Great location, attractive exterior and lounge. Bed was awful though.

Bear Mountain Motel, Waterton. Excellent location in the village, walking distance to trails, shops and restaurants. Old school motel from the 1950s, no frills but a good value and friendly atmosphere. Iíd stay again.

September 7- Flew into Calgary, picked up rental car from Alamo. I was upgraded to a jeep which was great. The drive to Fernie was uneventful and not particularly scenic until the approach to Fernie. We did make a stop to see Lundbreck Falls. This is an easy, 15 minute stop along the way.

Fernie is an attractive small town with a charming downtown, lovely walking paths and many opportunities for hiking. In the summer and fall, itís a hiking and mountain biking town. In the winter, itís known as a great skiing and winter sport destination. It has two grocery stores and fast food chains are located at one end of town near the Best Western (Starbucks and Hortonís fan rejoice).

I had been hoping to see bears in this area but all I saw was the evidence they existed in the form of scat on the trails. Thereís a small lake (more like a pond), called Maiden Lake just by the hotel. On the trail circling the lake, there were multiple piles. Iím pretty sure it was Grizzly scat.

Maiden Lake is very pretty with the mountains in the background. I walked around it each day. From the lake, you can connect to the riverwalk which is very pleasant and scenic. For anyone with small kids, thereís a nice little playground along the route.

Downtown Fernie has a number of nice shops and several restaurants. The courthouse is a very attractive building and the Catholic church is very pretty with the mountains in the background.

For dining, we ate at the Bridge Bistro twice which has a nice patio overlooking the mountains. Food was pretty good. Lunch one day was at Big Bang Bagels, a cute little shop. Bagels tasted more like rolls though. Another dinner was at the golf course restaurant. Fernie has a gorgeous golf course. I was obsessed with it! If I lived in the area, Iíd be taking up golf!

Some of the hikes we took included: Fairie Falls, Island Lake Lodge lake walk (beautiful even with a lot of algae in water), Double Creek at the Alpine Resort (just through forest, no sign of a creek) and the hike to Montane Hut where we encountered a moose with her calf of the trail. That was exciting and my friend nearly ran right into them. They were just off trail when I observed them and alerted her to stop.

The views from the Montane hut are wonderful and thereís a bench and picnic tables for resting. I will say that Fernie doesnít do a good job of marking trails. I had read that in a travel book in advance, but it was frustrating.

The rating system for trails doesnít match my own rating system. There were trails labeled easy but I would only rate a trail easy if it is relatively flat and without much uneven terrain. I trained on my treadmill in advance of the trip but my machine only goes to a 10% incline so I was huffing and puffing on many trails. I also live at sea level so the elevationís thinner air maybe made some trails seems harder.

The weather was really great during my trip. There was one morning in Fernie in which it rained for an hour at 8 am but then totally cleared up.

After three nights in Fernie, it was time to head to Waterton Lakes National Park. Canadian national parks are a lot more expensive than the national parks in the US, but what are you going to do?
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Old Oct 28th, 2023, 08:27 PM
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Lundbreck falls


Fairy creek

Fernie golf course

Fernie

Maiden Lake, Fernie

Fernie courthouse

Catholic Church, Fernie

Island Lake Lodge

Island Lake Lodge


Fernie provincial park

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Old Oct 28th, 2023, 08:42 PM
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As we approached the park, the mountains and lakes stood out gloriously. Getting close to the village, there were two male big horn sheep on the side of the road. We pulled into a parking lot and got out to photograph them. These guys were pretty funny. Theyíd smack heads, then eat companionably, smack heads again and resume the snacking. Some folks driving stopped along the road but park rangers made them drive on.

It was late enough to go to our motel and check in. The guy manning the desk was very nice and told us about his wildlife photography that was on the wall. He said if you are on the trails enough, youíll eventually see a wide array of animals. Most amazingly, he had photos of cougar and lynx. Itís not often you catch them during daylight hours.

The motel is very old school but was perfectly adequate. The office does provide coffee, tea and hot chocolate. I enjoyed having a hot chocolate daily and enjoyed a Ďbedtimeí tea each night. The location was perfect for walking to restaurants and shops. The only bummer about the place was the thin walls. My neighbor had a new baby in the room and the crying throughout the night would wake me up, even with ear plugs. Between the lousy bed in Fernie and the unhappy baby in Waterton, I did not have a restful vacation. At least the sights made up for that!

We walked into the village to forage for a snack. I got fries from Wieners of Waterton.

We had noticed earlier there was a trail leading to the 100+ year old landmark hotel, the Prince of Wales. This iconic lodge has a gorgeous perch above Waterton Lake. The trail was a lot more work than I expected and my lungs were feeling it! The trek is worth it. Lots of people were up there taking in the views.

The lobby of the hotel looks pretty much like the lodges you typically see in a national park and was very nice.

On the way back down the trail, we encountered a deer with her baby. While waiting for her to move on, we met a couple coming from the opposite direction who said they had just seen a huge bear in town in someoneís yard, right around the corner from Wienerís where we had been a little bit earlier.. We hustled to the car and drove up and down the area and did not see the bear. There was a ranger driving around too, clearly looking for this bear. Bummer!

Dinner was at the Lakeside Chophouse which is probably the nicest restaurant in town and situated prettily on the lake. We ate outside and enjoyed a great meal and had a charming, energetic waitress who added to the evening.

I did an evening drive by myself to continue to look for bears, without luck I went all the way along the Red Rock Parkway which is said to be a good area for seeing them, but no.
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Old Oct 28th, 2023, 08:53 PM
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Big horn sheep


Prince of Wales hotel


Waterton

Waterton

Inside PoW hotel

Waterton lake




Dessert at Lakeside Chophouse





Waterton village

PoW hotel
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Old Oct 31st, 2023, 08:47 PM
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September 11-

I got up early to drive the Akamina Parkway to Cameron Lake, an area alleged to have bear sightings. No such luck. It’s a nice drive and the lake is beautiful. I was the only one there as I walked the perimeter of the lake.

I headed back to get ready for the day and to meet up with my friend. We had decided to take the boat cruise to Goat Haunt in Montana. The roundtrip journey is just over two hours. It was a gorgeous journey to the Montana ranger station where you can get off the boat to stretch your legs. Anyone wishing to go past the station must adhere to border crossing regulations.

I was able to sit on the top level of the boat on the first half of the trip but they wouldn’t allow anyone up there on the return trip saying that because they picked up some unexpected backpackers (maybe 4), they didn’t have enough crew to allow it. I don’t get that and I found it very disappointing as the experience downstairs wasn’t great. The journey was expensive at $89 and I probably would have taken a different excursion had I known they would close the top deck for the return.

They said they routinely see bears on the shore during the cruise, but, alas, there were none to be seen. A sharp-eyed fellow passenger did spot a bald eagle high up in a tree so that was a nice sight.

We puttered around town after we returned from the cruise and then in the afternoon, we headed to Cameron Lake (round two for me) in hopes of seeing wildlife. It was a beautiful afternoon at the lake and we saw some sweet deer, but no other critters.

For our final adventure of the day, we went to Red Rock Canyon. Again, this drive is supposedly known for bears, but no, none for us, other than the fake bear cut out along the parkway. Red Rock Canyon had the most crowds of place time during my stay in Waterton. It’s neat but I found the hike to Blakiston Falls way cooler and hardly anyone was out there.

Dinner was solo in our respective rooms. I went back out as dusk approached to look for bears. Jackpot! There was a big bear in the brush near the road by Linnette Lake and the park operations building. He came out and casually walked up the path towards the parks building. I joked that Yogi was being summoned home for the evening by Ranger Smith. I didn’t get good photos because I could not control the zoom on my camera with the wind and my excitement. I was elated to finally have seen a bear on the trip and went on to the Red Rock parkway to try for more. A couple of minutes along the road, I saw a wildlife tour bus pulled over, so naturally, I pulled over as well. In the distance, there were two bears on what I believe was the golf course. Yay! I couldn’t see them well, but I was pleased nonetheless.
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Old Oct 31st, 2023, 09:01 PM
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Cameron Lake

Cameron Lake

On the boat cruise

On the cruise to goat haunt

On the cruise to Goat Haunt

Goat Haunt station, Montana

At Goat Haunt

Boat docked at Goat Haunt


Fellow trail user at Cameron Lake



Trail near Blakiston Falls



Blakiston Falls
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Old Oct 31st, 2023, 09:07 PM
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Fuzzy bear picture. I should have used cell phone camera.
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Old Nov 7th, 2023, 07:27 PM
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September 12: Being so close to Glacier National Park in the US and having an America the Beautiful park pass that was still good, we decided to have a day trip to the park. It being ďafter seasonĒ meant limited border hours at the closest crossing (9 am-6 pm). We got to the border at 8:45 am and there was already a queue.

Upon arrival to the park, we stopped in the St. Mary visitor center to use the loo. The parking lot was packed. I canít imagine the scene in the summer. They really need to expand the parking here.

Onward to the Road to the Sun! I was very excited to do this drive and it didnít disappoint. We pulled over at the many lookout spots and didnít have any trouble getting a spot.

We encountered a surprise at Loganís Pass, the parking lot was closed! Too many people! We continued on. We checked out other sites along the way and then proceeded with the hope of doing the Trail of the Cedars and Avalanche Lake trail. Sadly, there was no parking spot to be found. We circled and circled. Parking is totally inadequate. They donít have stiped parking spots and that made the situation worse. Cars were parked in an irregular fashion. If they had spots striped, more cars would have been able to park. I was very disappointed to be thwarted. We had limited time and had just wanted to do a couple of hikes.

I wish I knew the name of one of our stops, but it had beautiful clear turquoise waters and rocks you could scramble down to get to the water. Some folks decided to strip down to their undies and get in. They got out very quickly because the water was quite cold!

We stopped at the lodge at Lake McDonald to stretch our legs and walk along the lake and then hit the road back east. We tried again to find parking at Trail of the Cedars, no luck.

At Loganís Pass, the parking lot had been reopened. We had to circle several times but finally scored a spot.

We proceeded to do the trail to Hidden Lake overlook. I was eager to see wildlife. While there were no bears, we did get to see two marmots, three mountain goats and a very chubby chipmunk. I was thrilled! The scenery did not disappoint either.

This trail was a lot more cardio intensive than I had been expecting. When you hear that a good part of it is a boardwalk, you might think that it is easy, but it was not. It is worth it though!

Some say the Road to the Sun is a scary drive, but I did not find it to be so at all. I loved it!

We stopped in the gift shop after the hike, but found the restrooms were closed ďfor the seasonĒ. If the gift shop is open, why arenít the restrooms open? It doesnít make sense. There are thousands of visitors in Glacier throughout the month of September. Itís ridiculous they closed the restrooms. Those needing facilities were stuck with the nasty pit toilets. We crossed fingers that St. Mary visitor center would still be open by the time we got there. While the visitor center was closed, the restrooms were still open, hooray!

We could not use the same border crossing that we had used in the morning because it was an hour after closing. I had researched and already knew we had to go about 25 minutes away to another crossing that was open until 10 pm. It was no big deal.

I was very happy to have had a taste of Glacier and definitely want to return to really see it.

No restaurant dining this evening. We just ate snacks in our rooms.

Last edited by aggiegirl; Nov 7th, 2023 at 07:41 PM.
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Old Nov 7th, 2023, 08:01 PM
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At the border crossing, waiting for US border to open

Stop on the Road to the Sun

Road to the Sun

Jackson Glacier

Along Road to the Sun

Road to Sun

Beautiful stop in Glacier NP

Glacier NP

Beautiful and cold waters along Road to Sun

Have a dip, if you dare!

Lake MacDonald

The gorgeous drive along Road to the Sun

More beauty



Hidden Lake overlook trail

Squirrel friend

Hidden Lake

The boardwalk of the Hidden lake overlook trail

Chubby chipmunk

Chipmunk has been conditioned to beg for snacks. Sorry, Theodore, no snacks for you.

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Old Nov 7th, 2023, 08:11 PM
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Marmot friend

I ❤️ fluffy mountain goats

Fluffy fellow park patron
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Old Nov 8th, 2023, 10:37 AM
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Really enjoyed your report and especially the pictures. After five Banff/Lake Louise/Jasper trips (which we loved) n September 2019 we did a week in Waterton and Glacier. It was a really nice change of pace. Still remember getting to the Chief Mountain border crossing a bit after 8 AM only to find out it didn’t open until 9 AM! At least we were one of the first ones (not the only ones) there.
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Old Nov 12th, 2023, 02:24 PM
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Thanks for reading, Dave!

Here's the last of my report.September 13: Last day in Waterton. After glorious weather every single day, we found dark clouds when we set out. We decided to walk around Linnet Lake first. When we completed the loop, a ranger was pulling up. Always curious when a ranger turns up, I asked her what was up. She said that someone reported a bear in the area. I advised that there was no sign of one during our time there and I was hoping to see one. She moved on.

We had breakfast at the Lakeside Chophouse and it was really good. After that, we decided to try out the Bertha Falls trail. It started to rain and the wind was blowing it straight into our faces. I quit about half a mile in and turned back. My friend continued and went all the way to the lake itself. She said it was a tough hike.

While my friend was hiking, I hopped in the car and drove the Akamina Parkway, again trying to find bears. Alas, no bears.

I returned to town and went shopping in the village. Lunch was Subway because it was cheap and easy. I puttered around for a while and then late in the afternoon, set out on the bear hump hike. This is a short hike, but it is very steep. I had purchased some hiking poles in advance of my trip and I debuted them for this hike and was glad I did so. It took me a while to get up there. Nearly at the top, there were three female mountain sheep just off the trail. That was cool. Finally, I made it to the top and it was so amazing up there. On the way down, the sheep party of three had grown to a party of seven, including a baby. Girls night out! They watched me and continued their snacks at the same time.

I was really glad I had my hiking poles for the walk down. They provided stability.

Dinner was back at the Lakeside Chophouse. We really liked it, as you can tell.

I drove around in the evening looking for bears, but no luck. Around 10 pm, I drove to Cameron Bay to look at the dark skies. It was a little weird out there by myself (friend is not a night owl) with it so dark and quiet, but the sky was amazing! I really wish I had signed up for a dark sky tour to have some company and guidance on what was viewable in the sky. The stars were stunning.

I really enjoyed this part of Canada, both Fernie and Water Lakes National Park. I highly recommend this area for a relaxing and beautiful location. I would definitely go back.
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Old Nov 12th, 2023, 02:37 PM
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Bears Hump!

Some of the steps up to Bear Hump

Lady sheep

Lawn deer in town

Sun starting to come down

Trail friend. Iím never truly alone.

View from Bear Hump


Beautiful skies

Along the Akamina Parkway. Driving around looking for bears is dirty work.

Girls night out, mountain sheep style.
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Old Nov 14th, 2023, 05:58 PM
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Wonderful report, thank you.
Your pictures really capture the different geography of the ares.
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