Bear’s Hump

April 4, 2021. Waterton’s best short hike.

  • Region: Waterton Lakes National Park. Traditional Territory of the Blackfoot, Tsuu T’ina, and Ktunaxa First Nations
  • Distance: 1.4 km one-way
  • Total Ascent: 230 m
  • Elevation of Objective: 1540 m
  • Time: 30-45 minute ascent (depending on how much boulder climbing you/your kids stop to do)
  • Safety and Disclaimer
Topo map of the route. It’s a short, steep ascent. The track is a little inaccurate, because it shows a descent at the end of the trail. There isn’t one so there’s something wrong with the map or the track.

Bear’s Hump is unquestionably one of the best short hikes in the Canadian Rockies. The trailhead is accessible from Waterton’s main access road, it does not take long to climb, and the view from the top is iconic. The “featured image” for this post shows off the view on an idilic summer day in 2016, before the fires of 2017 burned the forest away.

Before the fire, the Parks Canada information building used to sit adjacent to the trailhead. That building burned down and was not rebuilt since there were already plans in place to relocate information services to another site. Luckily, the large parking area was retained and improved. The trail has been cleared and reinforced and numerous benches have been placed along the switchbacks. Bear’s Hump is once again open for business.

The trailhead is easy to find. The parking area is right on the park access road, about 7.5 km from the gate. Click here to see the Google Map. Toilet facilities are no longer available on site, so if someone needs to use the facilities before hiking, it’s a good idea to carry on to Cameron Falls where there are well-maintained flush toilet facilities. Note that as of this writing it’s been a long time since Google updated Street View in the area. Rest assured there is a big obvious washroom facility across the street from the falls.

There’s not too much to say about the trail – it’s a series of reasonably steep switchbacks. There are lots of places to rest if needed, and now that the trees have burned away there are actually decent views all the way along. There are also some boulders and rocky outcrops right along the trail which now lie exposed and act like a magnet for little climbers.

The trail is largely sheltered from Waterton’s famous winds. As soon as you reach the end of the trail you will be fully exposed, though. The view from the top is excellent, giving an unobstructed look south across Upper Waterton Lake toward Mount Cleveland in Glacier National Park. Vimy Peak and Mount Boswell are across the lake to the east. Closer by, on the west side of the lake, are Bertha Peak and Mount Richards. Down an adjacent valley Mount Alderson is visible to the southwest. The Prince of Wales hotel, the townsite, and the marina are nearby. On a summer day you get a bird’s eye view of a busy world far below.

The top of the trail is the starting point for the difficult scrambling route up Mount Crandell. I’ve never tried ascending that, but I have climbed a short distance beyond the end of the trail on what is a safe and fun area of rock.

This trail can be climbed any time of the year, but depending on the conditions snowshoes or microspikes may be needed.

Click on the pictures in the gallery below to access full-sized images.

Route overview looking north. Like I mention above with the topo map, this gives the impression that there’s a descent before the end of the trail – there isn’t.
Route overview looking south.
The parking area and trailhead. The objective is the rocky bump on the left.
This is Bear’s Hump as seen from the town campsite -it’s the rocky bump on the right. Mount Crandell is the mountain that Bear’s Hump is part of. According to Waterton’s official website, the Blackfoot name for this mountain translates to Bear Mountain.
The trail starts out with a gentle incline, but does become more steep. You can see how the lower parts of the trail would once have had pretty limited views because of the forest all around. This was my first visit since the fire and I was amazed to see how much interesting scenery had been uncovered.
A little further along, looking at the interesting rock scenery.
Things do get steeper. On this trip we had the added challenge of dealing with areas of slick, packed snow.
This is what the trail looked like in the summer of 2016. Different shrubs will move in to cover the ground, but the trees won’t be like this again for decades.
Nearing the top, passing one of the many new benches installed along the route.
End of the trail. There’s a sign up here reminding people not to throw stuff over the edge.
The summit panorama. From left to right: Vimy Peak, Mount Boswell, Mount Cleveland, Stoney Indian Peaks, Mount Richards, and the slope of Bertha Peak. The winding road at the bottom right is the Akamina Parkway. The marina and Emerald Bay are on the lower left.
The same view from summer 2016.
Mount Alderson down the valley to the southwest.
The same view in summer 2016.
Looking down at the Prince of Wales hotel. Vimy Peak is across the lake.
A similar view in the summer of 2016.

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