Bow Glacier Falls Trail: A Spectacular Hike Near Banff

Nestled within the breathtaking landscape of Banff National Park lies a hidden gem waiting to be discovered: Bow Glacier Falls Trail. I hiked to this stunning waterfall on my first journey through the Canadian Rockies, and it remains one of my favourite hikes on the Icefields Parkway. In this guide, I will take you through everything you need to know to experience the magic on the Bow Glacier Falls hike.

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Bow Glacier Falls Trail

Length

9 km return

Level

Moderate

Trailhead

Bow Lake

Gain

250 m

Time

3-4 hours

Children

No

Where

Banff, AB

Dogs

on a leash

  • Level of Difficulty: The trail is considered moderate and suitable for hikers of various skill levels. However, some sections are steep and rocky, requiring sturdy footwear and reasonable fitness levels.
  • Trail Conditions: The trail is a mix of gravel paths, forested areas, and rocky terrain following the riverbed from Bow Lake to Bow Glacier Falls.
  • AllTrails map of the Bow Glacier Falls Hike
  • The trail is within Banff National Park’s boundaries. Hikers must purchase a day pass or the Discovery Pass from Parks Canada.

Trail Tips

  • Stay Hydrated: Bring an adequate water supply, especially during warmer months when temperatures can rise. You should bring a minimum of 1 litre per person, more on a hot day.
  • Dress in Layers: Weather in the mountains can be unpredictable. Wear layers and pack a waterproof jacket in case of rain.
  • Bear Safety: Bow Glacier Falls is located in bear country. Carry bear spray, make noise while hiking, and be aware of your surroundings.
  • Leave No Trace: Respect the environment by packing out all trash and leaving the trail as you find it.
  • Stay on the Trail: Help preserve the fragile ecosystem by staying on designated paths and avoiding trampling vegetation.

Getting to The Trailhead

The trailhead for Bow Glacier Falls is located near the Bow Lake parking lot along the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park. 

From Calgary or Banff, drive East on the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 1) until you reach the turnoff for the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93). Follow the signs for Bow Lake, where you’ll find parking and the trailhead nearby.

From Golden, drive West on the Trans-Canada Highway and take Highway 93 (Icefields Parkway) going North. Follow the signs for Bow Lake, where you’ll find parking and the trailhead nearby.

shallow river flowing in valley surrounded by mountains on the Bow Glacier Falls trail

Trail Description

As you hike to Bow Glacier Falls, prepare to be mesmerized by the beauty surrounding you. Along the trail, you’ll encounter panoramic mountain views, towering forests and the crystal-clear waters of Bow Lake. 

The trail begins to the right of the parking lot, adjacent to the lake, and passes the charming Simpson’s Num-Ti-Jah Lodge, easily recognizable by its red roof and rustic appearance. For the initial two kilometres, hikers will stroll along the serene shoreline before veering away from the lake and heading towards the distant mountain range.

A dirt narrow trail follows the shore of Bow Lake with the mountains on the distance on the Bow Glacier Falls Hike.

Following the treeline that skirts the valley, hikers may encounter sections where they might need to wade through water, depending on the water level. Eventually, the trail leads to a point where the river transforms into lively rapids flowing through a canyon. Here, hikers will traverse over the canyon, which marks the steepest segment of the trail.

hiking by the river in the valley surrounded by mountains
view of the river winding in the valley surrounded by mountains

Afterwards, the terrain evens out, offering breathtaking vistas of the surrounding mountains. Throughout most of the hike, the majestic Bow Glacier Falls remain in view as a constant guide for hikers.

As you approach the falls, the sound of rushing water grows louder, building anticipation for the breathtaking sight that awaits.

Bow Glacier Falls cascading down the face of the rock wall at the end of the hike

Upon reaching Bow Glacier Falls, you’ll be treated to a display of nature’s power as water cascades over ancient rock formations, creating an awe-inspiring spectacle. Take time to savour the moment, snap photos, and soak in the beauty of one of Banff National Park’s iconic landmarks.

Conclusion

A journey to Bow Glacier Falls is not just a hike; it’s an immersive experience that connects you with the raw beauty of the Canadian Rockies. From the tranquil shores of Bow Lake to the thundering majesty of the falls, every step of the journey reminds us of the incredible natural wonders that await those willing to explore.

So lace up your hiking boots, pack your camera, and prepare for an adventure you’ll never forget. Bow Glacier Falls beckons, inviting you to discover the magic beyond the trailhead.

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FAQ about the Bow Glacier Falls Hike

How long does it take to hike to Bow Glacier Falls?

The round-trip hike to Bow Glacier Falls typically takes about 3 to 4 hours, depending on your pace and how much time you spend enjoying the scenery.

What is the distance of the Bow Glacier Falls Hike?

The trail to Bow Glacier Falls is approximately 9.6 kilometres (6 miles) long.

Is the Bow Glacier Falls Hike suitable for beginners?

While the trail is considered moderate, it may be challenging for beginners due to some steep and rocky sections. Hikers should be prepared with appropriate footwear and intermediate fitness levels.

When is the best time to hike to Bow Glacier Falls?

The Bow Glacier Falls Hike is typically accessible from late spring to early fall when the trail is free from snow and ice. The best time to hike is during the summer, from June to September, when weather conditions are most favourable.

Are there any safety considerations for hiking to Bow Glacier Falls?

Hikers should be aware of wildlife in the area, including bears, and take necessary precautions, such as carrying bear spray and making noise while hiking. Staying on the designated trail is essential to avoid getting lost or damaging the fragile ecosystem.

What should I bring with me on the Bow Glacier Falls Hike?

It’s recommended to bring plenty of water, snacks, sunscreen, a hat, and layers of clothing to account for changing weather conditions. Hiking boots with good traction are essential, especially on rocky terrain.

Can I swim in Bow Lake or near Bow Glacier Falls?

Swimming in Bow Lake or near Bow Glacier Falls is not recommended due to cold water temperatures and potential safety hazards, including strong currents.

Are there any facilities along the trail to Bow Glacier Falls?

There are facilities at the trailhead but no restroom or amenities once on the trail, so hikers should be prepared to pack out all trash and practice the Leave No Trace principle.

Is camping allowed near Bow Glacier Falls?

Camping is prohibited along the trail to Bow Glacier Falls or in the immediate vicinity. Hikers should plan day trips and return to designated campgrounds if staying overnight in the park.

Are dogs allowed on the Bow Glacier Falls Hike?

Dogs are permitted on the Bow Glacier Falls Hike but must be kept on a leash and cleaned up afterward. Respecting park regulations and other hikers’ experiences while enjoying the trail is essential.

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