Looking to do a hike that our daughter would enjoy… one that lacked the “spicy-ness” of our regular adventures… we settled on Bow Glacier Falls. And what a gem it was! It lies across the valley from Helen Lake & Cirque Peak, at the turn out to Num Ti Jah Lodge.
Bow Glacier melts into the small Iceberg Lake and then tumbles over the cliff through Bow Glacier Falls. Its incredible volume of water is the source of the mighty Bow River that heads to Banff, Canmore, Calgary and beyond, and it’s a beauty!
This is a hike with the right blend of everything for a wonderful day:
a relatively flat shore line walk along a lake that’s as beautifully coloured as Lake Louise,
only 160m elevation gain (that’s “flat” as far as mountain hikes go!!),
a decent distance (about 10km to the falls, return),
a few fun & easy optional stream crossings on a gorgeous, gravel strewn delta,
a gurgling stream to follow with ice cold glacial meltwater in it,
a magnificent canyon, sculpted & dramatic & breathtakingly beautiful,
a set of stairs (rather then a slippery slog) that take you safely up the canyon’s side,
a fantastic natural feature (a boulder suspended over the canyon that makes a natural bridge),
a glacially scoured landscape complete with moraine piles to walk along and sculpted cliffs to scramble (only if you’re so inclined),
and at the end of it all, a most spectacular waterfall, with fun rock slabs that make the best natural chairs, loungers and picnic tables going, at its base!
Yup this trail has it all… the right blend of everything! It’s terrific for out-of-town guests, for seniors’ hiking groups (we met a few groups on the way out), and for anyone wanting a gentle hike in our magnificent mountains. It has everything except strenuous ups, crazy distances and hardy fitness level requirements. It’s only down-side is that it’s missing adequate exiting of the trailhead parking area… more on that later. For now, come be inspired by the beauty of the place.
Imagine the force of the water over time that has found and widened a crack in the rocky cliff band, creating this magnificent canyon feature in the landscape! In places like this, and Johnston Canyon and Maligne Canyon, I stand in reverent awe! (Well, if truth be told I’m that way in every canyon actually… that’s why we love canyoning so much!)
The volume of water coming through the falls is tremendous… have a listen!
A little trail beta: This was a perfect weather, hot summer day at the very end of July. We’d timed our hike to get up to the falls for a noon picnic, and as we arrived, there was only one group of people ahead of us. As we were leaving, people were really streaming into the valley, so if you want your choice of picnic spots, I’d get there early.
One more thing: parking is definitely an issue here. Overnight parkers, the people heading up to Bow Hut, can use a fair number of the spots in the trailhead access parking lot. The road in is narrow and long… and people park on both sides of it when the parking lot is full, leaving room only for the passage of one car… tricky, when you can’t see what’s coming, and have tourists in unfamiliar rental vehicles nervous about backing up.
Getting out, after your hike, can be a real issue. I had to get out of the car, and with one other wonderfully helpful person, head up the road on foot, helping to guide people (a.k.a. aggressively park them), in order for us to be able to leave. So… either park up the road yourself and walk in so that you can easily leave at the end of the day, start your hike late in the afternoon, or stick around for a bit and swim in the (cold) lake and wait it out.
*** A little shout out: There’s awesome washrooms at the parking lot to use… clean and plentiful and not smelly. Someone’s doing an awesome maintenance job there!
Click here for more terrific hikes in Banff National Park. And check out more hikes from Canada and our adventures around the world here.
Trekking up a mountain’s shoulder, hiking through a flowering alpine meadow, snowshoeing through a dense pine forest, or taking in the 360 degree views from a ridge top vantage point make me feel alive. The experiences in these places give me a profound sense of space and place.
Travel does a similar thing, pushing me out of my comfort zone, exposing me to new experiences, new people and new ways of thinking; it also gives me that sense of space and place in this world.
I believe that life is lived in the contrasts: when you experience simplicity and complexity and life's ups and downs, whether they be physically in this world or mentally in your own personal inner landscape, you know that you are truly living.
The bigger they are, the more there is to explore!