Waterton Lakes National Park is one of my favourite spots to explore in Alberta. That’s because there’s so much to do and see. So if you’re planning a visit, hiking at Red Rock Canyon and Blakiston Falls is a great choice if you enjoy the great outdoors. Red Rock is a popular place for family picnics and afternoon walks.
Have you ever visited Waterton Lakes National Park? My first visit to Waterton was after the 2017 Kenow Wildfire. While the fire brought much destruction, it’s incredible to see how life follows the blaze. Red Rock Canyon and Blakiston Falls are full of Waterton’s natural beauty and resilience.
While you’re driving along Red Rock Canyon Parkway, you’ll definitely see signs of the wildfire. This particular fire burnt 35,000 hectares, including over 19,300 hectares in Waterton Park. Wildfires often occur naturally to bring necessary ecological change and usually the benefits outweigh the destruction. However, over 80 percent of hiking trails and many pieces of park infrastructure were impacted by this fire.
About Red Rock Canyon and Blakiston Falls
Location: Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta
Distance: 3 km out and back
Elevation: 70 m elevation gain
Time: 1 – 2 hours
Dog-friendly: Yes, but dogs must remain on-leash.
Features: Red Rock Canyon and Blakiston Falls have well-groomed trails with minimal elevation gain. Therefore, these short hikes provide interesting and diverse landscape with relatively minimal effort. Solo adventurers or larger groups will enjoy exploring the area, but keep an eye out for bears. You might also see woodpeckers and American Dippers from the trail.
Finding the Trailhead
Red Rock Canyon is very easy to find. Once you arrive in Waterton, follow the Red Rock Canyon Parkway for 15 km through the Blakiston Valley over rolling grasslands. Remember, there are often black bears near this road, so drive slowly and watch for wildlife. Further, you’ll also see burnt trees standing as signs of the Kenow Wildfire along this stretch. Prepare to take about 30 minutes to reach the canyon from Waterton town. And don’t forget your Parks Canada Discovery Pass or day pass for parking.
You might also appreciate knowing that there are toilets available at the Red Rock Canyon parking area. However, these outhouses do not have indoor plumbing to conserve water for vulnerable aquatic species—like the bull trout. As the sign reads: “This no-flush latrine saves up to 60,000 litres of water per day.” Yes, please!
Hiking at Red Rock Canyon
There’s something for everyone in Waterton Lakes National Park. Did you know that Waterton is one of Alberta’s five spectacular national parks? And you really can’t visit Waterton without visiting Red Rock Canyon! It’s worth adding to any itinerary. Walking around the canyon and then hiking to Blakiston Falls are easily combined in a morning or afternoon.
I quite enjoyed the jaunt around Red Rock Canyon, but the short loop above the canyon is hardly a “hike.” The scenic walk is under 1 km and takes 15 minutes or so. Needless to say, I was thrilled to find more trails nearby. We spent some time inside the canyon and then continued on to Blakiston Falls.
Blakiston Falls Hike
Blakiston Falls is less frequented than the nearby Red Rocky Canyon. The trail starts after the footbridge near the parking area. Turn left to find the nicely groomed path. You’ll then cross one more bridge before starting the 2-km out and back trail to the falls. Once you approach the waterfall, the gravel trail turns into boardwalk. Two viewing platforms allow visitors to gain a closer look. I loved the roar of the waterfall and the cascading waters upstream. I’d recommend checking out both platforms for different views of the area.
The Blakiston Falls hike is short and easy, perfect for those wanting more time in the area. It’s also a great escape from the canyon crowd. The entire hike will likely take about an hour.
Aside from Cameron Falls in town, Blakiston Falls is probably the most accessible waterfall in Waterton. The highly-groomed and smooth trails provide a good option for families with young children and adults who cannot walk long distances.
Respect Wildlife and Natural Area
Waterton Park is full of stunning landscapes and wonderful wildlife. Black bears, for instance, frequent the hills along Red Rock Canyon Parkway, so keep your eyes peeled to catch a glimpse from your vehicle. Red Rock Canyon and Blakiston Falls are in bear country, so bring bear spray and keep it accessible. These may be popular trails with lots of foot traffic, but it’s still possible to encounter bears.
I wouldn’t call myself an avid birdwatcher, but I do enjoy sightings now and again. We saw a woodpecker in the forest and an diving American Dipper in stream near Red Rock Canyon. They’re fun to watch for a few minutes. If you’re into “birding” (did I say that right?), I’d bring some binoculars along for the ride.
I love exploring Canada’s national and provincial parks, especially observing wild animals in their natural habitat. And I keep learning more about how to do that without causing unintentional harm. Always leave no trace, never feed wildlife (even the scavengers…), and give wild animals the space they need. Let’s keep wild things wild.
Map of Red Rock Canyon and Blakiston Falls
Have you visiting Red Rock Canyon and Blakiston Falls? What’s your favourite outdoor thing to do in Waterton Park? Leave a comment below.
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