Five ways to find your Zen in Waterton
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A ZenSeekers' road trip isn't complete unless the destinations include outdoor adventures, and culinary, learning and cultural experiences. During summer 2018, create your #BucketlistAB itinerary in Southern Alberta and come and stay a night and see a sight.
Written and photographed by Chris Istace
The mighty Canadian Rockies thrust themselves upward abruptly from the soft rolling landscape of the Alberta prairies as we turned into the Waterton Lakes National Park driving from Lethbridge. Honestly, the anticipation of rounding the corner and laying first sight on the iconic Prince of Wales hotel.
My imagination was spot on; it was as stunning as I had pictured it. I could feel myself getting into a state of relaxation as the final glimmers of daylight set behind Mt Crandell. We took in the final view of Upper Waterton Lake and the townsite tucked along the shores where we would spend the next few days.
The cruise on Upper Waterton Lake comes with spectacular mountain views.
With eagles soaring overhead and massive mountains towering above as with the emerald waters below, a ride with Waterton Shoreline Cruise Co allowed us to relax and enjoy the area from a unique perspective.
2. Saddle up
After a nice lunch snack downtown in the Townsite at Weiner’s of Waterton where I enjoyed my vegetarian hummus tzatziki topped falafel hotdog, we made our way to Alpine Stables. Our guide for the afternoon would be Shelby Barrus and with her stock of dependable and gentle horses, we stepped back in time to experience the region like the first visitors would have. The rhythmic pace as the horses clip-clopped down the trails had a relaxing effect and soon I could just let my horse do what he did best while I enjoyed the sights and sounds. Being away from the roads and onto the meadows and hills, we could see the wildflowers in bloom, tall grasses renewing the landscape and distant elk.
Slow down the pace and go for a horseback ride to enjoy the views and wildflowers.
After our horseback ride, we headed towards the townsite but first we couldn’t pass up the chance to take in the views of Waterton Lake from the grounds of the Prince of Wales hotel. This stunning marvel of craftsmanship comprised entirely of wood was built in 1927 and declared a national historic site in 1995. There is a charm and regalness about it, perched on its throne overlooking the lake and valley extending south from its towering glass windows.
3. Two kinds of seats with a view
But it was time for our tour of the town by bike with rentals from Pat’s Waterton. The fun and funky “Surrey” bikes are a unique Waterton attraction, a throwback to the door-less horse-drawn carriages of the 19th century. Seating two to three people, this is a fun way to get around the townsite and main street.
Quickly becoming well known across the country, the Parks Canada “Red Chairs” are a perfect Instagram photo opp location They are also typically in stunning locations where you can sit back and relax. Waterton National Park has two sets of chairs, one at the south end of the townsite looking down Upper Waterton Lake and one set looking north east towards Middle Waterton Lake.
Find a Parks Canada 'Red Chair' and sit awhile to enjoy the lake views.
4. Break the supper rules with a sweet treat
Rounding out a perfect day in Waterton, I was ready to dig into a treat for supper at Waffleton. I savoured each bite of my Belgian waffle with its heart-stopping blanket of Nutella and bananas. There no supper rules when you’re on holiday, right? Relax and indulge yourself.
5. Gaze at the stars in Dark Sky Preserve
As the sky began to darken, we met up with Keith Robinson of Dark Sky Guides. I’m not sure what was more remarkable, the size of their telescopes or the passion the Robinson brothers have for Waterton. Keith lives in Waterton year-round and can’t wait to share his backyard with visitors.
Keith along with his brothers turned their passion into a mission, to work with Parks Canada to have Waterton recognized as an International Dark Sky Park. Now with Dark Sky status, they offer visitors a chance to explore somewhere new, the night sky above.
“We hope to foster a desire to connect with nature; to sit back and just appreciate everything around us,” Keith said. “We hope that people will realize and understand how relaxing and soothing it can be to just stop and look up.”
As my few days in Waterton came to an end, I was left with a deep sense of natural calm. It was equally matched with a strong desire to return. There’s something about the Canadian Rockies that draws you in and you just want to stay there in a state of Zen.
If You Go
Waterton Lakes National Park is about a three-hour drive south of Calgary.
Travel Alberta also has lots of great information about things to do and places to see in Waterton Lakes National Park.