Planning a trip to Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta and wondering how to get there? In this detailed travel guide, we will share transportation options from Edmonton to Waterton with road trip stops, sightseeing ideas, etc. so that you can make an informed decision!
Edmonton to Waterton: Road Trip and Transportation Options
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Waterton Lakes National Park is a breathtaking natural wonder located in Alberta. It is the fourth oldest national park in Canada and has been declared an International Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.
You can enjoy a variety of activities such as camping, hiking, biking, horseback riding, and fishing in the pristine lakes and streams. Waterton Lakes is home to an incredible variety of wildlife including bears, bison, cougars, elk, and deer.
The iconic Prince of Wales Hotel sits proudly atop a hill overlooking the beautiful scenery below. At night the park offers a breath-taking view of the stars as they come out to light up the sky.
Waterton Lakes National Park is truly a remarkable place for visitors to explore and experience Canada’s natural beauty.
Getting To Waterton Lakes National Park
Waterton Lakes National Park is located in the Canadian Province of Alberta. The park shares a border with Glacier National Park, Montana United States of America.
From the western Canada side, the closest international airport to Waterton is in Calgary, a 272 km (169 miles) drive away.
When flying to Alberta’s capital city, you can craft a full-day road trip starting from Edmonton, with a stop in Calgary to Waterton Lakes National Park.
Edmonton → Waterton Lakes National Park
The driving distance from Edmonton to Waterton is 563 km (350 miles). Travel time is 5 hours and 50 minutes via Highway 2 S.
Here are the best ways to get to Waterton from Edmonton:
Edmonton To Waterton Lakes National Park – By Rental Car: Self-Drive
The fastest way to travel from Edmonton to Waterton Lakes National Park is by driving.
If you are arriving at the Edmonton International Airport you can pick up car rental and then drive to Waterton.
It will take a minimum of 5 hours and 50 minutes to get there, without stopping along the way. With rest stops and sightseeing, you can easily set aside one day of driving to get to Waterton from Edmonton.
Road conditions are good and routes are open all year round. As always, in the winter you have to be careful when driving.
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We drove from Edmonton and stopped at Red Deer before hitting Calgary. Then drove another 3+ hours with stops at Nanton, Pincher Creek, and later at Red Rock Canyon Park for sunset.
We started pretty early and it took us about 10 hours with stops.
More details on the stops below – these towns and parks can be added to your southern Alberta road trip itinerary.
Now, we have traveled and explored Calgary a zillion times so we didn’t stop for sightseeing there. But if you have never been to Calgary, it is worth staying here overnight.
In doing so, you can choose one of the following routes to travel from Calgary to Waterton, the next day,
There are 2 ways to get to Waterton Lakes National Park from Calgary. They are listed below,
- Option 1: Driving from Calgary to Waterton Via Hwy 2 S (fastest at 2 hours and 30 minutes)
- Option 2: Driving from Calgary to Waterton Via AB-23 S (3 hours and 30 minutes)
- It is possible to do a day trip from Calgary to Waterton as well
If not Calgary, you can also stay in a nearby town like Cochrane and then take Hwy 7 west to Hwy 22 – Cowboy Trail – Longview to Pincher Creek (we did this route with our friends and it was slightly longer with stops. Bar U Ranch National Historic Site, located south of Longview is a great stop here).
Find your Rental Car in Canada
Discover Cars partners with 380 car rental companies worldwide and gives you very competitive prices. You will surely find a vehicle that meets your needs.
Alternatively, you can drive from Edmonton for an hour, arriving in Wetaskiwin. From here get to Red Deer in another hour.
You can break for brunch here, before arriving at CrossIron Mills for a quick coffee drink.
Next, travel from CrossIron Mills to High River (driving time is one hour). Then stop at Claresholm for another break before arriving in Waterton, after 1 hour and 30 minutes of driving.
We recommend reserving a vehicle via Discover Cars online and picking it up from the airport.
Edmonton To Waterton Lakes National Park – By Bus
There are no direct bus routes or shuttle rides available between Edmonton and Waterton town. You can, however, take public transportation (buses) to get to Calgary from Edmonton, and then ride the Waterton Shuttle Service.
So, take the bus
- From Edmonton to Calgary via RedArrow. You can take the bus from Edmonton Downtown – Holiday Inn Express Plaza to Calgary International Airport Ave.
- Arrive in Calgary (preferably stay overnight. Lots of hotels in the airport area with free shuttles),
- The next day take a shuttle – Waterton Shuttle Service. This operates shuttles from Calgary and Lethbridge then to Waterton. You can confirm the bus schedule by calling 403-431-1696 or 403-627-9451. Set aside 6+ hours to complete the ride.
Alternatively, you can take a bus from
- Edmonton to Calgary via RedArrow
- From Calgary arrive at Okotoks (45 minute bus ride)
- From Okotoks ride another bus to get to Pincher Creek
- From Pincher Creek, you will have to catch a taxi to get to Waterton. It is a 45-minute taxi ride, so it can get expensive ($100+ CAD).
Edmonton To Waterton Lakes National Park – By Taxi
It is possible to get to Waterton Lakes from Edmonton by taxi. But it is not one of the cheapest ways to get there. You will have to shell out $1200 CAD, one way.
Travel time is about 6+ hours, about the same time as someone who is driving.
Although not a cost-effective way to get there, you can surely use this as a last resort.
When you reach Waterton, you can rent a bike, hike, or walk to various sightseeing attractions.
Can you hitchhike from Edmonton to Waterton Lakes National Park?
Although, there is no legislation regarding hitchhiking in Alberta. There are many municipalities including Calgary that have legislation in place that prohibits hitchhiking.
Edmonton To Waterton Lakes National Park – By Flight
One of the easy ways to get to Waterton from Edmonton is by flying. It is one of the fastest ways to get there as well.
You can fly from Edmonton to Lethbridge. The flight time is about 2 hours and 50 minutes with a stop in Calgary. Then from Lethbridge, you can ride a bus to get to Pincher Creek.
You can check out schedules here. The bus frequency is only once a week – we recommend planning for the trip in advance.
From Pincher Creek, you will have to catch a taxi to get to Waterton. It is a 45-minute taxi ride, so it can get expensive ($100+ CAD).
Alternatively, you can also fly to Calgary from Edmonton, and then drive to Waterton Park (3 hour drive). The flight distance between Edmonton and Calgary is 279.10 km (173 miles).
Google Maps: Edmonton to Waterton Lakes
Edmonton to Waterton Road Trip Itinerary
When you are traveling from Edmonton to Waterton, we recommend adding 2 days of travel time (6 to 8+ hours each way with stops). Plus add 2 to 3 days for sightseeing in Waterton Lakes National Park.
Here is what we recommend stopping at when you are road-tripping from Edmonton to Waterton Lakes National Park,
Start in Edmonton, possible stops are
- Red Deer
- CrossIron Mills/Rocky View
- Pincher Creek
- Waterton Lakes National Park.
Edmonton is the capital city of Alberta. There are tons of cultural and natural attractions to explore in the city.
The beautiful Alberta Legislature building is a must-visit on your trip to Edmonton. Enjoy a free guided tour of the rooms, and then sit down for a picnic at the garden complex.
For the outdoor enthusiast, there are plenty of opportunities to explore the area’s spectacular natural beauty.
Take an excursion to Elk Island National Park for some bird watching or hiking in the Canadian wilderness.
Or if you’re feeling adventurous, try a cross-country skiing or snowshoeing trip in the winter.
West Edmonton Mall:
If you’re looking for some urban fun, Edmonton has plenty to offer as well. Explore West Edmonton Mall, the largest shopping mall in the country.
Check out Whyte Avenue, an eclectic mix of shops and restaurants with vibrant nightlife options.
Sports fans will have plenty to cheer about in Edmonton as well. Visit the Rofers Centre to take in an Edmonton Oilers game or pay a visit to Ice District.
If this is your first trip to Calgary spend at least 2 days visiting all the primary attractions,
Calgary Tower is one of Canada’s most iconic landmarks in the city. It is located in downtown Calgary and stands tall at 191 metres. The tower was constructed in 1967 and was originally named Husky Tower.
Visiting the tower is an incredible experience that provides unparalleled views of the city and its surrounding areas. At the top of the tower, you can take in a 360-degree panoramic view of Calgary as well as the surrounding Rocky Mountains.
Additionally, the top of the tower also features a rotating restaurant and lounge called Sky 360, where you can enjoy delicious meals or cocktails while admiring the view.
Onsite at the tower is also an interactive interpretive centre that offers educational activities for families, including a scavenger hunt within the tower’s observation deck.
Stephen Avenue Walk:
Stephen Avenue Walk, a pedestrian-only thoroughfare is also located in the heart of downtown Calgary. It connects many of the city’s iconic buildings and landmarks on foot.
It also features many public artworks that celebrate the city’s history and culture.
During the summer months, there are outdoor performances to enjoy along the walkway for a truly unique experience.
Fort Calgary was originally established by the North West Company for stamping out the whisky trade, mitigating conflicts, and as a supply centre, and post for trappers.
Today, the fort is a National Historic Site and features an Interpretive Centre with interactive displays and exhibits on the area’s history.
You can also explore its original buildings and grounds, which include a blacksmith shop, carpentry workshop, and weaver’s house.
Heritage Park Historical Village is one of the most popular attractions in Calgary. This historical village celebrates Alberta’s rich heritage by immortalizing life in the early 20th century through replicated buildings and costumed staff.
You can stroll down a replica street and watch as costumed staff demonstrate how people lived in the early 1900s, showcasing everything from horse-drawn carriages to vintage automobiles.
Heritage Park also features an amusement park with family-friendly rides like a vintage carousel and a miniature train.
For something more relaxing, visitors can take a stroll around the park’s lake or explore numerous themed gardens.
The Glenbow Museum is located in downtown Calgary. The museum focuses on celebrating Alberta’s culture and history through its permanent art collections and interactive exhibits.
The museum houses various artifacts, photographs, documents, and artworks depicting the history of Alberta from the mid-1800s to the present day.
Glenbow is home to items that represent Indigenous cultures and traditions from across Canada. Additionally, the museum also offers a range of educational programs for adults and children.
Currently, the museum is undergoing renovations and will reopen in 2024 (main building). Temporary exhibits are available for a visit at the Glenbow at The Edison.
The Peace Bridge in Calgary is a stunning pedestrian bridge that spans the Bow River. Built in 2012 and designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, this iconic bridge features an elegant curved design, and is painted in bright red!
This bridge represents more than just modern architecture; it is a symbol of peace and unity between Calgary’s diverse communities. It was designed with the intention of connecting two sides of the city, both geographically and culturally.
The Peace Bridge also serves as an ideal spot for tourists to take in stunning views of downtown Calgary. You can walk or cycle across the bridge and enjoy the stunning views of the city skyline, while also taking in the river below.
WinSport / Canada Olympic Park:
WinSport / Canada Olympic Park in Calgary is a premier destination for skiing, snowboarding, and other winter sports.
Located on the western edge of the city, this recreational park boasts over 100 hectares of skiable areas and terrain parks as well as world-class amenities including a ski school.
The park is home to several ski and snowboard competitions, including events that are part of the World Cup circuit. It also hosts a variety of special events throughout the year.
In addition to its winter activities, WinSport / Canada Olympic Park is also home to summer programs ranging from mountain biking and disc golf to a climbing wall and ziplining.
About 2 hours away from Waterton Lakes is Nanton, a charming town where you can stop to stretch your legs and grab a bite to eat.
Historic Main Street and Antique & Art Walk of Alberta
The cute Main Street of Nanton is beautiful and sprinkled with shops, cafes, and galleries. There are murals and artwork that you can check out – as you hop from one spot to another.
Bomber Command Museum & Visitor Information Centre
Nanton is also home to World War II remnants. WWII Lancaster Bomber is one of the only few left in the world. The museum was built to honor the work and efforts of Canadians during the Bomber Command and the Commonwealth Air Training Plan.
You can check out the Lanc, along with other aircraft, WWII vehicles, displays, and other memorabilia.
Canadian Grain Elevator Discovery Centre
Check out the Grain Discovery centre in Nanton, as you drive by. You will learn about the relationship between the elevator mechanism, the railway, and the families that built the community.
There is an 18-hole championship course where you can spend a few hours. The golf course offers a scenic view of Nanton’s foothills landscape.
Museum of Miniatures
Enjoy your time at the Museum of Miniatures – check out covered wagons, cute native villages, and how locals lived at that time.
If you do not wish to stop in Nanton, you can opt to rest in Claresholm. Claresholm is located about 20+ minutes from Nanton, on Highway 2.
The small town of Claresholm was thrust into historical significance when Base 15 Service Flying Training School opened its doors as part of Britain’s Commonwealth Air Training Plan – June 9, 1941.
For four years this site served to prepare pilots for battles in World War II until its eventual closure in March 1945.
Another military history remnant is located at Centennial Park. This is where you can see the Harvard Memorial which commemorates the pilots who trained here and were stationed in Claresholm in the 1950s as part of the NATO training program.
Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump World Heritage Site:
Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump World Heritage Site is an archaeological and cultural complex located near Fort Macleod, Alberta.
You can spend 1-2 hours here as a stop before driving to Pincher Creek, and finally to Waterton Lakes National Park.
It is considered one of the most significant sites in North America and a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site that preserves and interprets over 6,000 years of Plains Buffalo culture.
Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump World Heritage Site offers a variety of interactive exhibits, including the Buffalo Jump Interpretive Centre which offers a detailed look at First Nations hunting techniques and the natural ecology of the area.
There are also walking trails where visitors can explore ancient bison jumps, as well as interpretive tours that offer insight into the spiritual and cultural significance of this special place.
Pincher Creek is perfect to stay overnight when visiting Waterton. It is one of the ‘larger’ towns with all the major services – hotels, shops, restaurants, and gas stations.
When driving from Edmonton, it is a good idea to retire here for the night, and then explore Waterton the next day. Pincher Creek to Waterton is about 45 minutes to an hour’s drive.
In Pincher Creek, you can visit the Beauvais Lake Provincial Park the next day. It is a beautiful park with fewer tourists and amazing mountain and lake views.
Tip: Then, on your way from Pincher Creek we recommend making a short stop at Lundbreck Falls. It is located near the hamlet of Lundbreck, adjacent to the Highway 3A crossing of the Crowsnest River, between Pincher Creek and Crowsnest Pass.
Waterton Lakes National Park:
Waterton Lakes National Park is a beautiful destination known for its stunning scenery, abundant wildlife, and exciting activities.
Located in southern Alberta, this is where truly the Rocky Mountains meet the Prairies.
The park is known for its chain of lakes, including the large Upper and Middle Waterton lakes. As a national park, fees apply as you enter and visit the various natural attractions!
You can pay for a day pass (per person – adult, senior, or child, and/or vehicle access). The passes are valid until 04:00 p.m. the following day. An adult (18 to 64 years) fee is $10.50 CAD for one day (valid until 04:00 p.m. the next day).
You can also get an annual pass. Annual Pass for the Waterton National Park and Discovery Pass are as follows:
- Adult: $52.25 CAD (Annual) | $72.25 (Discovery Pass)
- Senior: $44.50 CAD (Annual) | $61.75 CAD (Discovery Pass)
- Youth (up to 17 years): Free
- Family/group (up to 7 people): $104.50 CAD (Annual) | $145.25 CAD (Discovery Pass)
Here are some of the best things to do in Waterton Lakes National Park:
Enjoy nature walks and hikes:
With over 70 hiking trails, Waterton Lakes National Park is a great hiking destination. With trails ranging from easy to strenuous, there is something for everyone. Whether you are looking for an easy walk through the woods or a challenging hike up one of the park’s highest peaks, there’s an option for you.
When in Waterton town, do not miss the Bear’s Hump Hike to soak in the uninterrupted view of the Prince of Wales Hotel, lakes and the mountains.
Another hike is to Crypt Lake. This is one of the most popular trails in Waterton Lakes National Park. At 11.7 miles round trip, this strenuous hike takes visitors up steep inclines to a crystal-clear mountain lake. Keep your eyes open for wildlife along the way!
Enjoy afternoon tea at the Prince of Wales Hotel:
It is hard to miss the iconic Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton. The hotel was constructed in 1927 by the Great Northern Railway.
Today it welcomes guests to stay in their heritage rooms, and enjoy afternoon tea at their beautiful Royal Stewart Dining Room which overlooks Waterton Lake!
Waterton Lakes National Park is situated along the shores of Upper and Lower Waterton Lakes, making it a popular destination for boaters.
You can explore the park’s coastline and spot local wildlife while out on the lake. Canoeing, kayaking, and motorboat rentals are all available at various locations in the park.
Red Rock Canyon Park:
Red Rock Canyon Park features a stunning landscape of deep red sandstone formations. It is located about 25 minutes away from Waterton townsite.
The park has plenty to offer visitors of all ages, including hiking trails, picnic areas, lookout points, and more.
You can also explore the area by bike or on horseback, taking in the stunning views of the city and surrounding countryside.
Take a scenic drive or go biking:
Waterton Lakes National Park’s Red Rock Parkway is a must-do for any visitor. You can complete the entire route from the comfort of your car or bike and travel to see alpine meadows, red rock formations, and lakes
No matter what you decide to do during your visit to this beautiful national park, make sure that you embrace all that it has to offer.
From easy nature walks to thrilling adventures, Waterton Lakes National Park is guaranteed to provide an unforgettable experience.
We really hope you found our guide on how to travel from Edmonton to Waterton Lakes National Park useful in planning your trip! Have fun exploring!
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