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Red Rock Parkway, Waterton Lakes

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There are two scenic drives in Waterton Lakes National Park (not counting the road that takes you into the park, which is also very scenic): Akamina Parkway and Red Rock Parkway.  In my opinion, Red Rock Parkway is the prettier of the two.  Unlike the name suggests, you won’t be seeing red rocks the entire way — the name comes from the destination, Red Rock Canyon.  But, you’ll enjoy great views of numerous mountain peaks throughout the drive.

My Visit

I enjoyed Red Rock Parkway so much, I traveled it twice — the first evening I arrived at Waterton Lakes National Park, and the next morning, before my admission fee expired, and I headed back into the U.S.  The first trip was somewhat rainy, and the second trip turned stormy near the end of the road, as well, but both drives still provided some great views.

What you see above is a pretty good summary of the road.  It’s two lanes, but narrow.  There are occasional places to pull off.  And you’ll want to pull off, repeatedly, to take those dreamy road-into-the-mountains photos.

One of those mountains up ahead is probably Mt. Blakiston, which tops out at 2,910 meters, or 9,547 feet for us American folks.  It’s a far cry from the 14’ers you’ll find in Colorado, but these are still some very impressive peaks.

I’m pretty sure this sharply-angled peak is Anderson Peak, and you’ll get to stare at it for a good bit of the drive up the Red Rock Parkway.  Anderson Peak is 2,652 meters (8,701 feet).

One great place to view Anderson Peak and the other mountains is along the edge of the road, about two-thirds of the way out to the end.  Here, the road runs alongside (what I think is) Red Rock Creek.  Most of the creekbed is dry, so you can walk around and find the photo that suits you.

I’d guess that this is a rather high day for the creek, since there was so much rain and snow, just a few days before my visit.

While you’re walking around the creekbed, you can also look back to the southeast.  This might be the backside of Mt. Crandell – the recognizable mountain that looms directly over Waterton townsite.

When you get to the end of the road, you have some good hiking options.  You can take a very easy, short hike …

… around Red Rock Canyon.  The pathway is well-maintained and only slightly uphill, and the trail starts at the edge of the parking area, so this is a good trail for everyone.  I also hiked a bit further, to Blakiston Falls — I’ll tell you all about that on a separate page.  The much longer Snowshoe and Goat Lake trails start from here, too (16 and 12 kilometers round-trip, respectively).

Heading back to civilization, the road skirts the feet of Mt. Galwey and Bellevue Hill, before exiting into the Waterton valley.

It was around in this area that I came upon a bunch of cars and tourists, alongside the edge of the road.  When you’re in a park, that usually means one thing — there’s some kind of wildlife nearby, and everyone wants to gawk at it.  I, too, enjoy a good gawking, so I pulled off and grabbed my long lens.  All the fuss was caused by these two bears, lumbering around in the forest below the road.

These were the only bears I saw in the park, and it was nice that they were at a safe distance.  Still, it’s a good reminder that they are out there, and you should take precautions.

The final kilometer or two of Red Rock Parkway has some nice straight stretches, that seem to run directly to the mountains on the far side of the valley.

I think that’s Vimy Peak in the distance — a mountain you’ll see plenty of, from town.  It’s directly across the lake from Waterton.

 

The Bottom Line

As I mentioned, Red Rock Parkway is my favorite of the two scenic roads through Waterton Lakes National Park.  You’ll enjoy great views of the mountains, maybe see some wildlife, and you can hike some trails at the end.  If you’re visiting in the summer months, make sure you drive out it, at least once.

Location

Waterton Lakes National Park is located in southern Alberta, along the US/Canadian border, and the border with British Columbia to the west.  The park centers around Waterton townsite, at the western end of Alberta Route 5.

Red Rock Parkway exits Route 5, a few kilometers before you arrive in the town.  It’s 14 kilometers to the end of the road, which dead-ends at Red Rock Canyon.

Red Rock Parkway is closed in winter.

Drivelapse Video

Check out this time-lapse, dash-cam video of the drive over the Red Rock Parkway in Waterton Lakes National Park:

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