NOTE: Due to the kenow wildfire that ripped through Waterton the Bear's Hump hiking trail is currently closed.
Bear's Hump is a great way to start off your Waterton trip if you have never been. It allows you to get a bird's eye view of the entire village of Waterton and the surrounding area. The trail poses no difficulties so you can bring the whole family and enjoy the outing.
As Canada's 4th national park, Waterton is also Canada's smallest national park in the Canadian Rockies. Waterton did not become a protected national park until 1895. In 1893, a proposal for the preservation of the Waterton Lakes and area was sent in to the federal government by a local rancher from Pincher creek, F. W. Godsal. The federal government made Waterton a national park and protected as a Dominion Forest Park on May 30, 1895. 140 square km was set in the boundary under the government's protection and is now known as Waterton Lakes National Park of Canada.
The town of Waterton derived its name from the chain of lakes named Waterton Lakes. These lakes were discovered and named by a member of the Palliser Expedition, Lieutenant Blakiston in honour of a British naturalist, Squire Charles Waterton.
As with many places in the Canadian Rockies, Waterton was once the site of an oil site. The Cameron Valley well site “Original Discovery No. 1” was the first area where oil was struck in 1902 and first oil site in Western Canada. It produced high grade oil at a flow of 300 barrels per day. It became a National Historic Site in 1968.
Settlement began in Waterton when the Western Coal and Oil Company from Vancouver began drilling for oil near Cameron Falls, the infamous thundering waterfall that can be admired in Waterton town site now. With the company came the beginning of Waterton village with the construction of a stable, engine room, cookhouse, bunkhouse, office and blacksmith shop. The oil site near Cameron Falls only produced one barrel per day unlike the Cameron valley well site.
The first person to settle into the Waterton area was John George Kootenai Brown. In 1911, he became Waterton's first superintendent of the park. He also was the first fisheries inspector and the first game guardian. In 1910, the village had the first lots surveyed and soon after, 150 lots were offered for leaseholds. Lots that had a waterfront were leased out at $15 per annum while back lots for leased out for $10 per annum. The first two businesses that were established in Waterton were a livery stable and the Hazzard Hotel. The Hazzard Hotel is the current Bayshore Inn. By 1931, Waterton had many facilities that towns have nowadays. There was a swimming pool, playground and school for the children of the town. RCMP barrack and a telephone service were installed and built. For everyone else residing of visiting the town had the availability of summer cottages, 5 restaurants, campgrounds, tennis courts, hotels, dance hall, drugstore, post office, 2 butcher shops, a garage, golf course and 2 churches.
The famous Prince of Wales Hotel that can be seen and stayed in with its original structure was opened on July 25, 1927. It became Waterton's second national historic site in 1995. The hotel is infamous for its location on an isolated bluff overlooking the mountains and town site.
A visionary from the United States, James Hill, once wanted to make Glacier and Waterton National Lakes “the playground of the northwest”. James was the president of the Great Northern Railway of the U.S. to attract tourists to the area, he and his son built a chain of hotels, chalets, camps, roads and several boats and trails. His son first arrived in Waterton in 1913 and was the one who decided on building the Prince Wales Hotel on the bluff. The government approved of the construction and granted James Hill's son (Louis Hill) and his company, Canadian Rockies Hotel Co. Ltd., a 42 year lease on February 1, 1926. The hotel was the only Canadian hotel in the chain of hotels that James and his son had built in hopes of bringing tourists to Glacier and Waterton Park. The chalet was built with the atmosphere of a rustic lodge and giant alpine chalet with a magnificent interior.
In the 1920's and 1930's, the railway resort development first promoted by the Hills brought in numerous tourists. For $1000, travelers would come in through railway either by East or West Glacier in Montana and stayed at hotels, chalets or camps. They would end their trip with a trip along the M. V. International on Upper Waterton Lake with an overnight stay at the Prince of Wales Hotel. The next day they would ride back on the boat to the U.S. border. Back in the day, $1000 for a one week trip was only done by affluent travelers.
Glacier National Park, which is at the end of the Waterton Lake and shares the US/Canada border that Waterton Is famous for, was finally accessible by bus service in 1927. The Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park was created in 1932. It was designed to commemorate the positive cooperation and goodwill between Canada and the United States in managing the heritage across borders. It was designated as a world heritage site in 1995. The boat tours that can be taken on Waterton Lake and can be seen from Bear's Hump first began operations in 1928. A year prior, the historic 250 passenger launch named the M.V. International began construction and a year later it finally took visitors across the border to the states and back.
Waterton is also the first Canadian National Park to take part in the UNESCO program for biosphere reserves in 1979. Biosphere Reserves are implemented for the understanding of human relationships with nature and the environment. The program is very reliant on the cooperation and projects shared between government agencies and private landowners. Through these collaborations, information can be easily passed amongst parties and research, education and training can improve land management.
Bear's Hump Trip Log
The trail head is basically the parking lot at the information center. You will see a gap in the trees on the west side that you will want to head up. Shortly after you will come to a board that tells you all about Bear's Hump.
The trail is nice and firm compacted dirt. Once you pass the beginning section there are a lot of switchbacks that help keep the steepness down as you make your way up. Once you reach a flight of stairs you are at the top.
Once you reach the summit of Bear's Hump there are a few picnic tables you can sit and relax on. Or you can wander around and get a great view of the village of Waterton.
Return is the same way.
GPS Plotted Route
Trail goes steady upwards... then steady downwards.
Click here to download the GPS route in GPX format. You may have to right click and select "Save Link As" if your browser does not download it automatically. Be sure to save it as a .gpx file.
What were your experiences hiking Bear's Hump?
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