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Red Rock Canyon & Tamarack Trail
Backpacking in Waterton Lakes National Park

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Located in south western Alberta, Waterton Lakes National Park has been part of the world's first International Peace Park since 1932. In 1995 this area was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site and is where the prairies meet the mountains. Historically this area was a bison hunting ground for aboriginal people and the oldest campsite, in Red Rock Canyon, dates back 8400 years. Today the bison are found only in protected areas but backcountry camping still remains.

Combining the trail from Red Rock Canyon to Twin Lakes with the Tamarack Trail makes a great multi-day hike for the experienced backpacker. The journey is about 32 kilometers long and it is recommended that you take at least two days to complete it. You will need to arrange transportation back to the trailhead. My suggestion would be to use the services of the Tamarack Hiker Shuttle which has been in operation for 80 years.

The hike takes you from the spectacular and unusual Red Rock Canyon along the Bauerman Creek to the campsite at Snowshoe. You then travel from Snowshoe to Twin Lakes. There is another campsite at Upper Twin Lake. A low ridge separates the two lakes. You will continue along the trail and see the Kishinena Peak to your right. Beautiful alpine meadows encircle a small lake. As you travel toward Lone Lake you will see the aftermath of broken timbers left by an avalanche. Lone Lake has a campsite with a pole for hanging your food out of the reach of hungry bears. There are several stream crossings along the route and many breathtaking vistas. You will parallel Rowe Creek and eventually reach the end of the trail but only after you take in the awesome view of Mt. Linehan.

The Tamarack Trail is spectacular in late September and early October, not only because of the stunning topography, but also because of the tree it is named for. Tamaracks, also referred to as the Alpine Larch, are a deciduous tree that shows bright hues of yellow during the fall. This tree sheds its needles; a strange occurrence for a conifer.

Waterton is biologically diverse and boasts over 900 species of wildflowers. One such species is Bear Grass which does not grow anywhere else in Canada. Wildlife is abundant but special care must be taken as this regions hosts mountain lions, black bears and grizzlies. The long toed salamander is also a resident of the park. Fish are prevalent in Waterton's lakes including the Bull Trout, an endangered species.

You will see alpine meadows, glades, moraines, crags and cliffs. You will travel through forest and along scree slopes. The varied geology and abundant wildlife make this an interesting trip. A camping permit is required and if you plan to fish you must purchase a special license.

More information is available through the Waterton Lakes National Park of Canada website.

Written by Laurie March

masthead photo courtesy




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