Waterton Lakes National Park is a winter wonderland that you have to see to believe. When winter comes to Waterton, the town becomes quieter and fewer restaurants and hotels remain open—but it still has a variety of outdoor options for activities, accommodations, and restaurants for those looking for some snowy fun! The winter season is a great time to visit with your family, when you can enjoy fresh snowfall and crisp, clear days on your doorstep without the crowds.
We’ve put together a mini Waterton Winter Adventure Guide with some of our favourite winter Waterton hospitality spots to inspire your next day trip or weekend getaway.
Family-friendly Waterton activities
Waterton Lakes National Park is open year-round and is a great choice for families who want to enjoy the outdoors with their kids during the long winter months. From Waterton winter hikes to cozy dining experiences, there is lots to do in Waterton with children in the winter time.
- Book a private trip for just your family with Uplift Adventures! Our guides are passionate about getting kids inspired about nature and involved in hands-on activities outside. We can craft tailor-made snowshoeing or hiking experiences that are especially geared for families and kids, with a goal to make the adventure fun and educational. Our private trips are perfect for families with children or anyone who wants to spend quality time taking in nature without having to worry about logistics. By having someone who knows the area lead the way and point out things along the way, kids (and parents) become more engaged in their surroundings and more likely to learn something new.
You can also join our Waterton Winter Wonderland guided snowshoe adventure starting at Little Prairie Day Use Area and storytelling along the way to Cameron Lake, suitable for families and kids (but kids under 5 years old may struggle).
- Set up a base camp at a camp kitchen at Little Prairie, Cameron Lake, or McNeely’s day use area facilities, which are all located up the Akamina Parkway. Have a picnic or cook some food at the camp kitchen and let the family pick different adventures from the base camp. Little Prairie and McNeely’s both have a stove to use in the shelter. At the time of writing (Jan. 21, 2023), washrooms are open at Little Prairie and Cameron Lake, but not at McNeely’s.
- There’s nothing like gliding across an ice-covered lake on a brisk winter day. If the ice is thick enough, go ice skating on Linnet Lake. Never attempt to skate on Upper Waterton Lake, as it isn’t sheltered from the wind and can have thin layers in the ice.
- Go fat biking or cross country skiing on the scenic Red Rock Canyon Parkway. Cross-country skis can be rented in the Waterton townsite, but be ready to bring your own fat bike.
- Snowshoe or cross country ski into Cameron Lake or Forum Lake. The parking is located at the Little Prairie parking area. Your adventure will start before you even lace up your snowshoes or skis, as the Akamina Parkway that leads to Little Prairie is one of the most scenic winter drives you’ll ever take!
Where to eat in Waterton in the winter
Once you’ve had your fill of outdoor adventures, grab something to eat at one of several fantastic restaurants. These Waterton restaurants open in winter are some of our favourite spots for warming up and eating a hearty meal:
Kilmorey Restaurant is the perfect place for some much-needed unwinding after an adventure-packed day in Waterton Park. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the restaurant has lovely lakeside tables with gorgeous views of Emerald Bay on the Upper Waterton Lake and the mountains beyond. Here, you can find dishes like elk meatballs and Kilmorey mussels (and don’t skip out on the Homemade Saskatoon Berry Pie for dessert!). Check their website for opening hours, as they do vary by day of the week.
The restaurant is part of the Kilmorey Lodge (which you can read more about below), so if you’re looking for a hotel and restaurant combo, Kilmorey’s for you! Plus, the hotel, restaurant, and pub were all recently renovated in 2022.
Red Rock Trattoria, open all-year round, is another great pick for winter Waterton dining. Serving Italian-inspired dishes like ricotta gnocchi, bison lasagna, and seafood fettuccine, Red Rock is open for dinner from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. (reservations are recommended, and we advise you to check their website for their most current opening hours). The restaurant was renovated in 2021 and features an inviting dining area with artful black and white photos showcasing Waterton.
The Red Rock Trattoria is the restaurant at Glacier Suites, making it another great restaurant-hotel combo.
Waterton hotels open in winter
Like the restaurants, many (but not all!) of the hotels and accommodations in Waterton close for the off season. If you’re wondering where to stay in Waterton, here are a few hotels that will keep you warm:
- Kilmorey Lodge
Kilmorey Lodge has sophisticated style, but maintains its rustic roots with wood accents and a stone fireplace in its restaurant. With your choice of lakeside or mountain view rooms, you can get spectacular sights of Upper Waterton Lake’s Emerald Bay or Waterton’s South West mountains. Their largest suite—the Double Queen—sleeps up to six guests, with two queen beds in a separate bedroom and a sofa-bed in the living room.
The historic Lodge has some great special offers this winter, which you can check out on their website.
Waterton Glacier Suites’ crisp, clean interior, Canadian artwork adoring the walls, and tasteful decorations create an ambiance you can’t help but feel comfortable in. With guests being able to choose from three spacious types of suites, it really feels like you’re in an upscale mountain home rather than a hotel. And with each suite having its own private balcony or terrace, you really can’t go wrong. Their Deluxe One Bedroom suite sleep four with a pull-out double sofa bed and one separate bedroom with one king bed.
This is your home away from home. Crandell Mountain Lodge is just about as cozy as it gets—think grandma’s quilted blankets and inviting rustic décor. The property is set right at the base of its namesake, Mount Crandell, and the shores of Emerald Bay in Waterton Lakes National Park. They have rooms that can accommodate up to four guests.
Visit their website to see winter offers and specials.
Places to stay on a shoestring
For longer adventures immersed in the outdoors, you can winter camp at the Pass Creek Day Use Area. This area gets very busy in the summer time, but in winter it’s a secluded outdoor paradise, just close enough and far away enough from the Waterton townsite. It sits just off the Entrance Road to Waterton Lakes National Park and features stunning views of Mt. Galwey.
- A sheltered winter campground area is available free of charge (but you still need a National Park entrance pass), as well as a fire ring, firewood, and an enclosed picnic shelter with a wood burning stove. Washrooms are available at Pass Creek, and the nearby Blakiston Creek serves as a natural water source.
Waterton comes alive in winter
The bottom line is that Waterton is a great winter getaway for families looking for some winter fun. So grab your winter gear and get ready to explore this winter wonderland!
Have you already spent some time in Waterton in winter? We’d love to hear what you did in the comments!