Bow Glacier Falls - Banff NP - Hiking Alberta

 

Bow Glacier Falls along Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park, Alberta. 

 

Bow Glacier Falls, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.

 

Historic Num-Ti-Jah Lodge, at the north end of Bow Lake, is located on the Icefields Parkway (Hwy 93) about 39 KM (24 miles) north of Lake Louise, in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.

 

Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefield Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Num-Ti-Jah Lodge at Bow Lake along the Icefields Parkway i Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

The beginning of Bow Glacier Falls Trail is clearly signed behind Num-Ti-Jah Lodge but it is worth the time to hike the short detour from the main parking area to skirt the shore for breathtaking views of mountain-surrounded Bow Lake and the magnificent Bow Glacier.

 

Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada The view south from Bow Lake along the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Spectacular Crowfoot Mountain across Bow Lake along the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefield Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada A view east to Bow Glacier across Bow Lake along the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Bow Glacier Falls above Bow Lake along the, Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Bow Glacier Falls Trail is accessed from the shore of Bow Lake via a series of wooden bridges over running water from drainages off Cirque Peak on the east side of the Icefields Parkway.  Mountain views from the bridges are breathtaking in the morning sun. 

The official Parks Canada trail sign to Bow Glacier Falls shows a distance of 4.6 KM (2⅞ miles) one-way.  Net elevation gain is about 180 m (600 feet) to a maximum elevation near 2,100 m (6,890 ft).  Gross elevation gain is higher but much of the trail is relatively flat. 

Quality hiking boots are important.  Parts of the trail, particularly over alluvial plains and the final approach to Bow Glacier Falls are on uneven rocky surfaces.  That said, there were people on the trail in running shoes and sandals.  Some may not have made it all the way.

 

Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Mountain views at Bow Lake bridges near Num-Ti-Jah Lodge along the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Mountain Views at Bow Lake bridges near Num-Ti-Jah Lodge along the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada The Bow Glacier Falls Trailhead sign at Bow Lake along the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Streams under bridges feeding Bow Lake along the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Trail quality deteriorates beside the Bow Lake shoreline in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Water pouring into Bow Lake from Bow Glacier Falls is a rich emerald color.  When sun strikes the inflow at the right angle, the water is nearly a fluorescent green from reflection from dense glacial silt.  This is the headwater of the mighty Bow River which runs through the middle of the City of Calgary.  There is a broad alluvial plain between the trail and Crowfoot Mountain.  Runoff water is encroaching and eventually consumes the trail.

 

Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Emerald water from Bow Glacier Falls flowing into Bow Lake along the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Crowfoot Mountain across the alluvial plain created by outflow from Bow Glacier Falls into Bow Lake along the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada A glance back to Num-Ti-Jah Lodge across the alluvial plain from Bow Glacier Falls into Bow Lake along the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Bow Glacier Falls Trail hugs the alluvial plain at Bow Lake along the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Water flow from Bow Glacier Falls into Bow Lake is getting close to the trail.

 

Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada The trail disappears into water from Bow Glacier Falls into Bow Lake along Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

For a short distance it is necessary to walk the edge using veggie belays and occasional stepping stones in the newly-formed creek.  The trail gets more rustic and takes short forays through forest until transitioning to a rock crossing over still water, onto a cairn guided walk beside the soothing sound of running water.  Tight turns and close proximity to white water is refreshing as a lead-in to straight trail over round rock approaching the steps leading up to and over ancient terminal moraines on the final approach to Bow Glacier Falls.

 

Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada The edge of the trail is used to avoid getting wet feet on the trail to Bow Glacier Falls near Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada The trail to Bow Glacier Falls returns to dry land with forest sections at Bow Lake along the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada A transition over shallow water on the trail to Bow Glacier Falls in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Defined creek on the route to Bow Glacier Falls at Bow Lake along the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Large, round rock cairns guide the way beside fast-running white water near Bow Glacier Falls and, Bow Lake along the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

The approach to the big steps creates an opportunity to swing left a short distance for the view of roaring white water cascading through a narrow canyon.  The reverberating sound and power of frothing water is exhilarating.  Then, the climb up the big steps begins. Halfway up the big steps, a trail to the left takes off, over a chock stone in the narrow canyon, to the 3.8 KM (2⅜ mile one-way) scramble to Bow Hut which will be a project for another day.

 

Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Narrow canyon walls constrict outflow from Bow Glacier Falls at Bow Lake along the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Narrow canyon walls constrict outflow from Bow Glacier Falls at Bow Lake along the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada The big steps on the trail to Bow Glacier Falls in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada The Bow Glacier Falls trail junction to Bow Hut in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Amazing views of Bow Glacier Falls begin to form up past Bow Lake along the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

 

Several ancient moraines must be negotiated on trail which winds through them in the path of least resistance.  Then gravel trail morphs into stone.  Bow Glacier Falls is straight ahead.  There is the occasional cairn but the route is now free form and self-determined.  Running water helps to make some decisions more easily. 

Surrounding cliff faces host several ribbons of falling water from early summer runoff.  The sound and sight of undisciplined, tumbling Bow Glacier Falls above steep and cascading rapids is impressive.  The roar of the water combined with an abundance of negative ionization is a unique, satisfying and mood-enhancing experience.  It would be easy to spend several hours here enjoying the ambiance.

 

Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Moraines at Bow Glacier Falls above Bow Lake along Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

The view of Bow Glacier Falls can be improved by a hike/scramble to slopes on the right for a better view of a waterfall section tucked behind a crease in he rock face.

 

Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

The view back from Bow Glacier Falls to Num-Ti-Jah Lodge across the north end of Bow Lake is expansive.  The return route is retracing original steps with an enhancement or two from lessons learned on the way in.  As usual, the opposite direction is like a new hike.  Many new and equally spectacular views unfold and general descent speeds progress.

 

Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Looking back from Bow Glacier Falls to Bow Lake along the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Return hike from Bow Glacier Falls to Bow Lake along the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Return hike from Bow Glacier Falls to Bow Lake along the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Negotiating moraines on the return hike from Bow Glacier Falls to Bow Lake along the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Descending the big steps on the return hike from Bow Glacier Falls to Bow Lake along the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

The hike back along the river, past the broad alluvial plain and around Bow Lake, is swift and pleasant.

 

Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Outflow from Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Num-Ti-Jah Lodge across the alluvial plain and Bow Lake along Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Heavy weather is beginning to form up over Bow Lake but return to the parking area will be achieved before the rain begins.   A breeze has come up and reflections on the water are less disciplined.

 

Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Heavy weather forming up at Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Ripples on the surface of Bow Lake beneath Crowfoot Mountain along the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada A final long lens view of Bow Glacier Falls and Bow Glacier across Bow Lake along the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

The next hike on this day is in Yoho National Park following a late lunch at Crowfoot Glacier, located above emerald water at the south end of Bow Lake, after a short drive south on the Icefields Parkway from Num-Ti-Jah Lodge.  The hike to Bow Glacier Falls has been an excellent experience, following the brief visit to Herbert Lake earlier in the day.

 

Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada The Crowfoot Glacier, suspended above the south end of Bow Lake on the side of Crowfoot Mountain along Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Bow Glacier Falls, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada The Crowfoot Glacier, suspended above the south end of Bow Lake on the side of Crowfoot Mountain along Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Heavy rain falls on the drive from Banff National Park, Alberta to Field in Yoho National Park, British Columbia.

Photos for this post were taken on June 24, 2014This is a very good hike.

 

 

 

 

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Comments

Simply stunning vista's. Amazing blue sky to start the day. How fortunate you were.

Hello! Firstly, I love your page. I use it to help me out nearly all of my hikes. I'm an intermediate hiker and take my pup (a husky Shepard cross) with me on all the trails. We are new to hiking though. Would this trail be accessible now (November) and would snow shoes be required? It looks like this trail is dog friendly (he will remain on leash)? Thanks so much for your feedback.

Thank you.  I do not know if Bow Falls Trail is open from Icefields Parkway in November.  Trail conditions are available on the Park Canada Website for Banff National Park.  Also, you would be well advised to check in with the Parks Canada Visitor Services in Lake Louise.  Often the Icefields Parkway is closed due to excessive snow and avalanche risk.  I believe the route would require snowshoe access in November and I would be recommend avalanche training and gear be part of the mission.  Personally, I would recommend leaving this one for late summer when snow melt flow from Bow Glacier into Bow Lake has diminished.  Also, the dog could be an issue.

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