Waterfall Valley – Winter – Calgary – Hiking Alberta

Waterfall Valley is an easy, urban hike located in Bowmont Natural Environment Park along the north shore of the Bow River in northwest Calgary, Alberta.  This winter hike begins from home in Bowness heading north to a park entrance in the cul-de-sac at the end of 69 Street NW on the west side of the railroad line.  Next is a crossing on the silver Bowmont Bridge, and a second pedestrian bridge over the Bow River.  Each bridge crossing provides interesting views over the partially frozen surface to the CPR Twin Bridges, originally built in 1883 as part of the Transcontinental Railway.

Waterfall Valley, Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Bowness entrance to Bowmont Natural Environment Park in Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Waterfall Valley, Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

The Bowmont Bridge over the Bow River in Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Waterfall Valley, Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

The south CPR Twin Bridge, originally constructed in 1883, spans the predominantly frozen Bow River. As viewed from the Bowmont Bridge in Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Waterfall Valley, Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

The second pedestrian bridge completes the span across the Bow River with an excellent view of the second of the Twin Bridges to the east.

Waterfall Valley, Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

The second Twin Bridge, built originally by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1883, spans the Bow River in Calgary, Alberta, Canada

A picturesque pond along paved trail to the east leads to partially ice and snow-covered dirt trail leading up the steep, south grassy slopes in Bowmont Park.  Hiking up and east past valleys leads to progressively more muddy trail created by sunny thawing.  To the west, snow-covered Rocky Mountains stretch dramatically across the horizon.

Waterfall Valley, Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

A spring fed pond in Bowmont Park is a quiet oasis where ducks frequently assemble.

Waterfall Valley, Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Bluffs along the north shore of the Bow River are largely clear of snow in the presence of increasing sun on south-facing slopes

Waterfall Valley, Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Traversing west-facing slopes across multiple valleys on wet, muddy ground in Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Waterfall Valley, Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

The Rocky Mountains loom large to the west behind me on the traverse towards Waterfall Valley in Bowmont Park, NW Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Boardwalk structures, at the bottom of a major drainage, give away the location of Waterfall Valley.  My approach on muddy trail along the top of a steep ridge above the Bow River is less than ideal.  Fences impede progress on trail deemed less than safe, but the wooden viewing platform, at valley bottom near the confluence with the Bow River, entices me to carefully risk the precarious descent on slippery terrain.  Mud sticking to the soles of my boots adds considerable weight to each leg and eliminates traction.  The winter scenery is breathtakingly beautiful but it is a relief to arrive at the viewing platform.

Waterfall Valley, Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

First view of Waterfall Valley from a muddy ridge high above the Bow River in Bowmont Park, NW Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Waterfall Valley, Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

The steep descent on muddy trail to the viewing platform near the confluence of the Bow River with Waterfall Valley in Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Waterfall Valley, Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Carefully negotiating difficult terrain on unstable muddy ground to the wooden viewing platform with a steep drop to the right  in Bowmont Park, NW Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Waterfall Valley, Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Ancient sedimentary cliffs tower precariously above an open water section of the Bow River in Bowmont Park, NW Calgary, Alberta, Canada

The wooden viewing platform provides wonderful views of the Bow River and the tufa waterfalls on the other side of the drainage.  Although winter water flow at the waterfalls is low, their appearance is enhanced by pillars of surrounding ice.  A ramp of slick ice leads to the waterfalls.  Clinging to the railing assists in the execution of a controlled slide.

Waterfall Valley, Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

The view from the Bow River viewing platform, at the bottom of Waterfall Valley, up to the top of the decaying descent ridge in Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Waterfall Valley, Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

The view of the partially iced Bow River from the viewing platform at the bottom of Waterfall Valley in Bowmont Park, Alberta, Canada

Waterfall Valley, Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

The view west up Bow River from the viewing platform at the bottom of Waterfall Valley in Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Waterfall Valley, Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Tufa waterfalls surrounded by ice across from the iced viewing platform ramp leading to the Waterfall Valley access trail in Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Waterfall Valley, Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

The creek in Waterfall Valley feeding into the Bow River, from the bottom of the ramp to the viewing platform, in Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Waterfall Valley, Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Ice surrounded tufa waterfalls in Waterfall Valley, Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Photographic opportunities are abundant.

Waterfall Valley, Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Tufa waterfall in Waterfall Valley, Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Waterfall Valley, Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Tufa waterfall in Waterfall Valley, Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Waterfall Valley, Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Tufa waterfalls in Waterfall Valley, Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Waterfall Valley, Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

The snow and ice-covered boardwalk at the bottom of Waterfall Valley leading to the top in Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

The boardwalk provides an opportunity to access the creek, which washes some of the mud from my boots before I climb above the tufa waterfalls for photographs of large tufa rock formations and views looking down to the creek.

Waterfall Valley, Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

One of the tufa formations in lower Waterfall Valley, Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Waterfall Valley, Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Colorful plant life thrives in warmer spring-fed water at the top of tufa waterfalls in Waterfall Valley, Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Waterfall Valley, Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

A view down to the creek from the top of a tufa waterfall in Waterfall Valley, Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Waterfall Valley, Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

The view southwest across the viewing platform from near the top of the tufa waterfalls in Waterfall Valley, Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

It is a very picturesque place enhanced by the sound of running and falling water.  The view here would be even more spectacular in spring and fall when brilliant foliage hides the more bland winter ambience.  The boardwalk travels along and over the creek to a series of stairs and bridges along the kilometre-long route to the top of the Bow Valley.  This journey travels through several geological zones dating back more than 10,000 years when glacial ice filled the entire Bow Valley and the City of Calgary was the location of a large glacial lake.  Many fascinating interpretive plaques along the trail tell the story.

Waterfall Valley, Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

The boardwalk at the bottom of Waterfall Valley in Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Waterfall Valley, Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

The boardwalk snakes its way along and over the creek at the bottom of Waterfall Valley in Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Waterfall Valley, Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

A bridge over the interpretive trail at the bottom of Waterfall Valley in Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Waterfall Valley, Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Looking down into Waterfall Valley from one set of wooden stairs aiding access into Waterfall Valley, Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Waterfall Valley, Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

A view into Waterfall Valley from near the top on the approach to the paved Bow River Pathway in Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

When I arrive at the familiar Bow River Pathway, I am intrigued by a partial view of  stop lights at the top of the hill.  Continuing straight up, I arrive at a major city intersection in the Calgary community of Silver Springs.  This would be an excellent place to begin this interesting urban hike into Waterfall Valley.  There is convenient parking near the corner of 54th Ave NW and Silver Springs Boulevard.  Walk past the bus stop and take the trail to Bow River Pathway, hang a right to find the obvious trailhead in the dip.  The hike home will be along paved pathway with spectacular views south across the valley to Calgary Olympic Park.

Waterfall Valley, Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

The Waterfall Valley trailhead is kitty corner to the large shopping plaza in Silver Springs at the junction of Silver Springs Blvd and Silver Springs Gate / Silver Ridge Drive, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Waterfall Valley, Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Waterfall Valley and the Bow River from the top of the trail.

Waterfall Valley, Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Canada Olympic Park on the far side of the Bow River Valley from one of the viewing stations along the Bow River Pathway

Waterfall Valley, Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

A long lens view of Canada Olympic Park from the Bow River Pathway in Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

The familiar route down the paved big hill takes me past the newly developed Bowmont Stormwater Recovery Ponds and past the bridges which will take me to the Bowness roads home.

Waterfall Valley, Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

A gathering of ducks on the ice of the Bow River under the CPR Bridge in Bowmont Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

This is an excellent urban walk on a cool, crisp and sunny winter day.  It is worthy of experiencing in each season and I will return here again.  Many months ago, Sheryl of Flowery Prose, posted a photo of a tufa waterfall in Bowmont Park and I wondered how I could have missed it in my many hiking and cycling trips into and through Bowmont Park.  On a recent post of a foray into Bowmont Park, my colleagues at MMHikes.com commented that Waterfall Valley was directly adjacent to one of my photos.  I had never heard of it before.  In my own defence, I am usually travelling at high speed on a bicycle, down one hill to reduce effort travelling up the other side, on the Bow River Pathway when I pass the trailhead into Waterfall Valley.  It is possible I am the last person in the city to become aware of this intriguing and educational oasis.  Nice walk.  Worth the effort.

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Grotto Creek Canyon – Bow Valley – Hiking Alberta

Plans to snowshoe at Lake Louise are altered by atrocious winter driving conditions. The flashing lights of emergency vehicles, attending to several cars which have spun off the TransCanada Highway, convince Seija and I to abandon the original mission in favor of an alternative near Canmore. We settle on a trek up Grotto Creek from the trailhead at Grotto Pond on Hwy 1A.  It will be interesting to see the effect of the June 2013 floods.

Grotto Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada

The Grotto Creel Trailhead sign at Grotto Pond along Hwy 1A in the Bow Valley Corridor east of Canmore, Alberta, Canada

Grotto Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada

A view of Pigeon Mountain under heavily overcast skies along the traverse from Grotto Pond on the trail to Grotto Creek Canyon near Canmore, Alberta, Canada

Following a short traverse west on snow-covered, icy trail we pass the noisy Baymag Mineral Processing Facility and turn north at the Grotto Creek trail sign.  Both of us are wearing in-step crampons strapped onto sturdy hiking boots.  The familiar sound of  metal spikes crunching into slippery ice under fresh snow is reassuring.  A short, flat walk through forest brings us to the edge of Grotto Creek.  Raging flood water has widened and flattened the creek bed substantially.

Grotto Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada

The view south to mountains behind Gap Lake and the Bow River from the edge of Grotto Creek near Canmore, Alberta.

Grotto Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada

The small waterfall at the entrance to Grotto Creek Canyon has been eliminated by rock washed over it by flood water.


The beginning of the hike through Grotto Creek Canyon is typical of the past but on the route through the canyon it becomes increasingly apparent the level of the canyon floor is higher.  Additionally the floor through the entire canyon has a new grade which eliminates the ability for water to slow and accumulate.  The infamous Grotto Canyon Ice Walk has been eliminated by the flood event in June of 2013.  The hike is different and the wall to wall ice on the canyon floor no longer exists along the entire length of the canyon to the waterfall ice at the junction hosting His and Hers and Grotto Falls.  The only remaining ice is in narrow channels carved by flood waters or tucked against curves in canyon walls.  It is likely the original experience can be restored with careful reorganization of new rock.

Grotto Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada

Grotto Creek Canyon has a new more evenly graded floor of boulders without wall to wall ice.

Grotto Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada

Ice climbers at His and Hers with Grotto Falls off to right out of view at the junction in Grotto Creek Canyon

Grotto Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada

A view of His and Hers as we hike left into the valley beneath the east end of Grotto Mountain.


After watching a few of the ice climbers practising their sport, Seija and I continue left on snow-covered trail through a short stretch of canyon leading to the open valley where a recently constructed Inukshuk guards the Cave and Hoodoos.

Grotto Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada

Hiking past His and Hers towards the Cave and Hoodoos in the valley at the east end of Grotto Mountain.

Grotto Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada

Inukshuk with a view of the sandy mounds hosting the Cave and Hoodoos.


The formations of sandy conglomerate show little effect from the flooding but surrounding terrain on the valley floor has been noticeably swept clean.  The exterior floor of the shallow cave appears to have suffered from some erosion.  Access to the cave is possible from a ledge along the left-facing side but it is more difficult than it appears.  The surface is unstable so caution is prudent.  This is as far as we will venture this day.

Grotto Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada

Cave at the Hoodoos

Grotto Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada

The Cave in the largest Hoodoo.

Grotto Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada

A view up the valley.  The valley floor at the Hoodoos has been swept flat by the June 2013 flood.

On the return hike through Grotto Canyon, clearing skies provide warmth and sunlight within the winding canyon walls.

Grotto Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada

Returning through Grotto Canyon under clearing skies.

Ancient ochre pictographs on the walls of Grotto Canyon remain in place.  The lowest pictographs may be underneath ice adjacent to the canyon wall or covered by displaced rock.  The canyon floor has been raised by new rock from the valley floor being washed into the canyon.  These historical drawings have survived hundreds of years of weather events and it is likely floodwaters have been through here many times in past years.

Grotto Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada

Ancient pictographs on the walls of Grotto Canyon

Grotto Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada

Ancient pictographs in Grotto Creek Canyon

Grotto Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada

Blue sky and sunlight infiltrate the narrow corridors of Grotto Canyon as the low sun sweeps across the southern sky.

Most of the canyon walls within the Bow Valley Corridor are popular with rock climbers.  The walls have been bolted and anchored for many years to encourage and aid the development of recreational climbing skills.  The bolts and anchors are considerably closer to the canyon floor than they were previously.

Grotto Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada

One of the Grotto Canyon walls bolted and anchored for year round recreational rock climbing.

Grotto Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada

Standing on ice and holding a rock climbing anchor which would previously have been much higher on the rock wall.

Seija and I exit Grotto Creek Canyon through the narrow entrance into full sunlight with magnificent views south to mountains past Gap Lake and the Bow River.

Grotto Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada

On leaving, the entrance to Grotto Creek Canyon is drenched in sunlight as early day cloud dissipates.

Grotto Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada

The stark, flattened floor of flood ravaged Grotto Creek provides a foreground for the view south to frozen lakes, the Bow River and mountains to the south.


The hike through Grotto Creek Canyon is easy and relatively short with minimal elevation, so Seija and I have time to investigate construction underway in Canmore on the Cougar Creek Restoration Project.  The west side of new construction is fenced off which prevents access to trails into Cougar Creek Canyon as well as traditional trailheads for the east end of the Montane Traverse Trail and for Mount Lady Macdonald.  Across the bridge, on the east side of the Cougar Creek aqueduct, there is an accessible path upstream with outstanding views of Mount Lady MacdonaldSeija and I wander along the path to observe and to enjoy the sun before heading into town to check out the newly constructed and very impressive Elevation Place.

Cougar Creek, Canmore, Alberta, Canada

Mount Lady Macdonald  as a backdrop to the Cougar Creek Bank Restoration Project in Canmore, Alberta, Canada

Cougar Creek, Canmore, Alberta, Canada

Heavy construction equipment along Cougar Creek in Canmore, Alberta, Canada

Cougar Creek, Canmore, Alberta, Canada

View south along Cougar Creek construction towards Mount Lawrence Grassi and Ha Ling Peak in Canmore, Alberta, Canada


Coffee at the Good Earth Café, prior to the return drive to Calgary, completes another excellent day in the mountains.

Photographs for this post were captured on January 26, 2014.

Thanks to Seija for the transportation.

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Autumn in Bowmont and Baker Parks – Calgary, Alberta

It is fair to say an Autumn day in the southern foothills of Canada’s Rocky Mountains is more subtle than the explosion of color enjoyed by our eastern friends in the Maritime Provinces, Québec and Ontario.  We may not be particularly competitive with Manitoba, Saskatchewan, or British Columbia either.  However, combining subtle color with river and mountain scenery guarantees an excellent presentation.  The following photo essay contains images from Bowmont Natural Environment Park in the northwest quadrant of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Bowmont_Baker_01 Bowmont_Baker_02 Bowmont_Baker_05 Bowmont_Baker_08 Bowmont_Baker_10 Bowmont_Baker_12

Throughout the summer and shoulder seasons, it is customary to wander or ride bicycle through nearby city parks.  On this day, with sun low in the sky, there is an opportunity to take a few snapshots of fall colors while riding the paths of Bowmont Park into Baker Park on the north side of the Bow River in northwest Calgary.  The west border of Bowmont Park meets the east border of Baker Park on the north side of the Bow River across from Bowness Park.

Bowmont_Baker_14 Bowmont_Baker_15 Bowmont_Baker_19 Bowmont_Baker_21

There has been restoration progress on the Stoney Trail Pedestrian Bridge in Baker Park from damage done by the June, 2013 floods.  A few images follow from Autumn in Baker Park.

Bowmont_Baker_23 Bowmont_Baker_27 Bowmont_Baker_32 Bowmont_Baker_34 Bowmont_Baker_37 Bowmont_Baker_39 Bowmont_Baker_41 Bowmont_Baker_42

And then, there is the winter with a whole new set of recreational and unique photographic opportunities on shorter days with sun low in the southern sky.

Photographs in this post were captured on October 21, 2013.

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