If you’re visiting Glacier National Park in Montana, and you decide to drive up into Alberta to see Canada’s Waterton Lakes National Park, you’ll be taking the Chief Mountain Highway. It’s a relatively short highway, but packed with scenery, including its namesake Chief Mountain.
It makes a whole lot of sense to drive up to visit Waterton Lakes, if you’re already in the area, visiting Glacier National Park. A couple of years earlier, I drove down from Calgary to visit Waterton, but the truth is, it’s somewhat out-of-the-way, since it’s so far south from everything else in Alberta.
On the American side of the border, you’ll be treated to frequent views of Chief Mountain. This distinctive peak is easy to recognize. I’ll talk more about the Montana side of this drive on a separate page.
Crossing the international border will be relatively simple for most people. You’ll need a passport or a NEXUS pass. If you’re headed north, your first and only stop is at the Canadian checkpoint (pictured above — this photo looks south, back into the USA). You’ll be asked a few questions about your stay, and that’s that. On the return, you do the same thing, at the American checkpoint, answering questions about whether you’re smuggling beer or fresh fruit into the country.
Just beyond the checkpoints, a sign welcomes you to the Glacier/Waterton International Peace Park.
Once you’re in Alberta, it feels like you’re headed downhill for the rest of the way into Waterton Lakes National Park. There are a few good opportunities to look over into the park…
… and straight down the highway, into the valley.
A few miles south of the park entrance, you’ll cross a small river. From the bridge, you get an excellent view of the mountains, looking towards Waterton.
This is one spot where barricades may be put in place. The entire Chief Mountain Highway (and the border crossing) closes during the winter months.
North of the park entrance, Highway 6 continues on to Pincher Creek, with endless views of the mountains. This picture looks south, towards the park. If you’re driving on to Pincher Creek, most of the best views will be in your rear-view mirror.
The Bottom Line
Chief Mountain Highway is a great scenic drive, and because it’s the shortest distance between Glacier and Waterton, it also serves as an important link between these two great parks. Take your time and enjoy the journey.
Chief Mountain Highway is known as Montana 17 in the USA, and Alberta 6 in Canada. From Glacier National Park USA, exit the east side of the park, then take US 89 north towards the border. At Babb, turn left onto Montana 17, and follow the road across the border and on to Waterton Lakes National Park.
Check out this time-lapse, dash-cam video of the drive north to Waterton Lakes…
… and the drive south, from Waterton Lakes into the U.S.: