Waterton National Park is located in Alberta, directly east of the Kootenays (but still in the Rockies), hugging the BC provincial border. A trip here is well worth a weekend at least due to its excellent hiking and other outdoor sporting opportunities. Of primary interest to hikers is the Waterton “Triple Crown,” an opportunity to get a t-shirt and bragging rights for completing 3 challenging hikes in one summer: Crypt Lake Trail, Akamina Ridge, and the topic of this post – Alderson-Carthew Trail. For more information on the Triple Crown Challenge check out Pearl’s Cafe.
The Alderson-Carthew Trail takes the high route from Cameron Lake all the way through the mountains to Cameron Falls and the Waterton Townsite. This is a one way hike, so you’ll need to take two vehicles, get dropped off, or take a paid shuttle from the town site to Cameron Lake.
The hike begins with a series of well engineered switchbacks which are a shave off a good amount of the elevation gain without burning out the legs too bad. Your day will include just about as much downhill as it will uphill. Upon reaching Summit Lake – which is good place for a quick snack and to loosed the boot laces for a few minutes – you’ll veer left and climb out of the forest to be greeted by a view of your next hour or two of terrain. The goal is to cross the steep (but well trodden) scree field to attain the ridge. In some places the scree has slid covering bits of trail, but despite this and the steep slopes, the trail is in good shape overall. The wind leading up to and on the ridge here can be VERY gusty, so keeping distance from the ridge edge might be smart depending on the day. From here you can hike over to a view point to the right and/or continue to the left, descending east. The views from this ridge are absolutely unreal, with the serene seeming Carthew Lakes and the geometric Mt. Alderson dominating the landscape.
From here the trail descends for many hours of beautiful hiking, past the Carthew Lakes, under the towering cliffs of Alderson Lake (supposed to be good fishing and backcountry camping here), and down the valley until reaching the real world and potential swarms of people visiting Cameron Falls. This is the end of the journey and the perfect place to soak the feet after a few blistering hours of downhill hiking.
For more information on this trail visit Parks Canada.