I am an avid hiker with a focus on easy to moderate trails in natural settings. I occasionally do harder trails.
Bow Glacier Falls Trail in Banff National Park
The Bow Glacier Falls Trail is a trail that I hiked on impulse in early July 2021. I didn't have a plan as I drove the highway between Lake Louise and Jasper except to find a trail that day and, as I hiked the trail, I wasn't sure if I was in Banff National Park or Jasper National Park (I later learned that I was in Banff).
The trailhead for the Bow Glacier Falls Trail can be accessed off of Highway 93, which is the world-famous Icefields Parkway, in Alberta. This is the highway that connects the Banff/Lake Louise area to the town of Jasper. A National Parks Pass is required to use this highway and the trails.
To find the trail, look for signage for Bow Lake or Num-Ti-Jah Lodge. The latter is a red-roofed building on the Icefields Parkway, about 35 kilometers from the entrance to the Icefields Parkway. It's this building that you will want to park near to get close to the trailhead.
There was a lot of parking but the main lot was full on my arrival. I had to park along the road that leads from the highway to the trailhead area. This area was brimming with tourists in early July.
The following video was made upon my arrival to the area. You can see Bow Lake, the surrounding mountains, and just how much of the parking was in use in the area.
Bow Lake Near Num-Ti-Jah Lodge
Bow Lake Glacier Falls Trail Specifications
The sign at the start of the Bow Lake Glacier Falls Trails is behind the Num-Ti-Jah Lodge. It says that the trail is 4.6 kilometers in length. Out and back would mean a length of 9.2 kilometers which is approximately the same distance that AllTrails.com has. They describe the trail as an "8.9 kilometer heavily trafficked out and back trail...that features a lake and is rated as moderate."
In my opinion, this was a perfect example of a moderate trail. There were some flat stretches that lasted for a long time. However, there were also some more difficult sections that required elevation. Furthermore, there was a stretch along a stony river shore where the footing wasn't great.
There were some diversions that could be taken for those that wanted to explore off of the main trail. That wasn't my goal on the particular day that I visited the trail.
There was lots of freshwater along this trail. If you are taking a dog, then you don't really have to worry about bringing water for him/her or a dog dish. In fact, a substantial part of this trail is directly lakeside while other parts are along a stream.
A Lakeside Trail in Banff National Park
A Riverbed Shortcut on the Trail
One criticism that I have of this trail is that it is both narrow and popular. That's actually a really bad combination. Many times while hiking this trail I had to find a spot to step aside to let opposing traffic through. That was a factor in my decision to take a shortcut where the walking area wasn't limited.
I found that most of the trail hikers took a shortcut across a small stream of water. In fact, it seemed that someone had placed rocks in this stream to act as stepping stones for that purpose. You may have to ask yourself at a couple of points in this trail "how wet do I want my socks?"
From the riverbed in the following video, you can see the waterfalls in the distance. They did not show up on my weak camera, which is meant to be lightweight for hiking. There were also other waterfalls in the area, albeit these were not as impressive as the Bow Glacier Falls by any stretch.
A Shortcut on the Bow Glacier Falls Trail
A Dangerous Spot on the Bow Glacier Falls Trail
There was a spot that was both interesting and dangerous on the Bow Glacier Falls Trail. The surge of water that comes from the falls has made a deep canyon that you hike near en route to the viewpoint. There were balancing rocks in the crevices along this canyon. Also, the rush of water was impressive, however, near-certain death awaited the hiker that misstepped. I covered this area in the video that follows this section.
Unfortunately, this trail ended up being a bit of a "trail fail" for me. I didn't make it to the final viewpoint for a couple of reasons. Mainly, I had done a difficult hike at the Enderby Cliffs on the previous day and had not fully recovered from that. I could not take my time at the Bow Glacier Falls Trail because I had a pick-up in Lake Louise on the ridesharing app that I use.
You can get photos of the falls from AllTrails.com. Also, I hope the videos I shared and the details of my experience help you plan your own hike for the first part of the trail. The last part clearly involved elevation.
Danger on the Bow Glacier Falls Trail
See a photo of the falls at AllTrails.com.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Shane Lambert