Bow Glacier Falls
Banff National Park
Time: 1.5 hours
Distance: 3 km (return)
Elevation Gain: 155 m
How To Get There: After driving 37 km north on the Icefields Parkway highway, turn at the signs for Num-Ti-Jah Lodge. Park behind the lodge. The trail starts there.
My mom is by far one of my most favourite hiking partners. She’s always so excited to get started and eager to learn. It's always a blast going out with her!
This time she picked a hike from my “Don’t Waste Your Time in the Canadian Rockies” book, which just so happened to be Bow Glacier Falls. Mom likes doing more laid back hikes so it was the perfect selection for us. The weather forecast wasn't looking great (which became a common theme in July) but we decided to try going anyway. Because this hike was only a few hours long, and we were travelling all the way to the Icefields Parkway highway to do it, we also decided to check out Peyto Lake after wards (you can read the blog about that hike here).
Once we drove the two hours from Calgary to the trail head (which is situated at the parking lot that sits right behind Num-Ti-Jah Lodge right beside Bow Lake), we put on our packs and started our hike.
The lake didn’t look as blue as usual because of the grey overcast.
The trail crosses over a bridge and follows along the lake, giving ample opportunity to look at Crowfoot Mountain along the way.
The trail remains mostly flat, continuing around the lake, every now and again walking through the forest that sits off to your right.
After about a kilometer into the hike, the lake turns into the river that feeds into it.
Once you go over a small incline of loose dirt and rock you then reach reach the first rock bed.
It’s not always easy to tell where the trail continues in this area so just make sure to keep your eye out for the many cairns that have been set up by fellow hikers.
After you reach the second rock bed, you get your first look at the infamous stairs where you gain most of the elevation.
Beside the stairs is the beginning of a beautiful and narrow gorge. Mom and I took a detour and checked out the gorge before we climbed up the stairs (aka mom was trying to procrastinate the inevitable).
Once we began making our way up the stairs, we took one more pit stop near the top so we could catch our breathes and take a few more pictures.
At close to the top of the climb, there is a giant boulder sitting off the left that creates a nature-made bridge across the gorge. This is where you turn off if you want to head towards the ACC Hut.
Not too long after this, we finally reached the crest of the glacial moraine where we were given our first view of the beautiful Bow Glacier waterfall. It was a stunning sight.
To reach the actual waterfalls, you have to descend into the rock bed that surrounds the waterfall itself. We picked around 800 m of out wash (following the cairns along the way) until we reached the base of the waterfall.
Because it was a weekday and the weather hadn’t looked promising, we had almost the entire place to ourselves, save for a few other hikers. I imagine because this hike is easy to access, on a warm weekend, this place is usually packed. But we had gotten lucky and once we got closer to the falls, the grey clouds completely dispersed, leaving us with nothing but sunshine. Mom and I spent quite a while at the waterfalls, taking tons of pictures and eating our lunch. I climbed up the rocks to get a closer view of the waterfall but didn't go too high, as the rocks were quite slippery. It was a very relaxing moment that I got to share with my mom and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
It really is a beautiful and wonderful hike for the whole family. It’s not too hard on the body and the pay out is absolutely worth it. I would definitely recommend it for people of all ages and capabilities!