Bow Glacier Falls is one of the many spectacular waterfalls on epic drive along the Icefields Parkway. You can see this massive waterfall from the Num-Ti-Jah Lodge on Bow Lake, but to really appreciate it, you need to go on a hike. This is not a long or particularly tough hike; But the views are glorious – both of the surrounding mountains and the 150m cliff that the waterfall drops off.
We visited the area when far-off wildfires had obscured the views with smoke. But this hike is still fab, even if it is smoky, or if the weather is not particularly good.
Bow Glacier Falls Map
It looks like the trail goes through water on this map. The edges of Bow Lake and the river change a lot, but there is a path that allows your feet to stay dry.
Bow Glacier Falls – The basics
Distance: 9-11km (depending how far up the road you need to park.)
Elevation gain: 300m
High Points: 2120m
Time: 2.5-3 hours
Cost: You need to have a discovery pass to enter Canadian National Parks.
Once you have that, it is free.
What to bring:
Water, snacks and your camera!
The 10 essentials. This walk is high in the alpine so you need to stay safe!
Bring bear spray
Facilities: There is a lodge (with a café and restaurant) as well as loos at the trailhead.
Dogs: Dog friendly if they stay on a leash
How hard is it? Easy/intermediate. The start of the trail is mostly flat and easy. The trail can be harder to follow (and rocky) as you get closer to Bow Glacier Falls.
Waterfall Type: Veiling Horsetail
(horsetail waterfalls keep contact with the bedrock behind them)
Bow Glacier Falls is the largest waterfall along the Icefields Parkway, in terms of height and volume. It’s just you have to get up close to appreciate how huge it is.
This gorgeous looking lodge was built by Jimmy Simpson in the 1940s-50s. Jimmy was a mountain guide, famous for his stories and his wife ran professional ice skating tours. You can read about it’s history here. It’s still possible to stay at the lodge, or to eat at their restaurant.
Bow Glacier Falls – Getting Started
Start by the Num-Ti-Jah Lodge at the north End of Bow Lake off the Icefields Parkway. The brown sign for the turn-off says “Num Ti Jah” and “Bow Glacier”. You might be able to park down by the lodge. If not, there is a second car park up by the highway (it’s only an extra 1km to hike down to the lodge.)
Walk along Bow Lake
The trail hugs the north edge of Bow Lake for the first 2 km. This is an easy walk, with incredible mountain (and lake) views.
Bow River Delta
At the far side of the lake, the trail turns southwest along the delta where the Bow River flows into Bow Lake. The trail was underwater in a couple of spots here; But you can climb up onto the gravel banks if the water is high along the delta’s numerous braided channels.
Next the trail climbs up about 30m, then runs along the Bow river. This (below) is the view looking back at Crowfoot Mountain.
This is the direction you’ll be walking. You can see Portal Peak (the pointy peak), linked to Mount Thompson. Bow Glacier Falls is on a ridge to the left of those mountains.
At the end of the gravel flats, you’ll reach a really cool gorge, with some large steps to the right. Climb up those steep steps (it’s about 60m elevation gain.) Half way up, there is a trail that crosses the gorge via a natural bridge made from a huge boulder. Ignore the turn-off, which leads to Bow Hut, and keep right.
This is the view back to the gravel flats from the steps. You can see how the trail is really obvious up to here!
Bow Hut vs Bow Glacier Falls
The trail that turns off left (to Bow Hut) looks amazing for a separate adventure. We chose to visit the waterfall because (as you can probably tell from my photos) it was quite smoky from wildfires. We saved the hike to Bow Hut for a clearer day.
The final kilometer
Now you’ve made it up into the valley, there is only one more kilometer until you reach Bow Glacier Falls. This is a view backwards to show the trail conditions. The trail becomes fainter as you get closer to the waterfall, but it is not hard to follow.
Bow Glacier Falls views
And this is the stunning Bow Glacier Falls with Marc for scale.
Isn’t this spectacular!?
You can hike right up to the base of the falls if you don’t mind getting a bit wet from the spray. Someone had built an inukshuk right next to the waterfall.
How busy is Bow Glacier Falls
This is an easy hike with a fantastic pay-off; So we expected it to be heaving. There were other people on the trail. However, we arrived at 5pm on a Saturday in August, and we had this incredible waterfall all to ourselves.
To return, you just need to retrace your steps back to Num-Ti-Jah lodge.
We may have visited on a terrible day to show off Bow Lake and the surrounding mountains at their best. But even on smoky days, the hike to Bow Glacier Falls was superb. If you can make it on a clear day with blue skies, this scenery will look even more magnificent.
The vistas along the Icefields Parkway are just so wide and expansive, that you can’t quite get the scale of it from my photos. I’ve included some panoramas so you can at least see how the scenery fits together.
Other Waterfalls along the Icefields Parkway
I have a whole post about the hikes and highlights of the Icefields Parkway There are sooo many fabulous waterfalls in this area! We visited Wapta Falls and Bear Creek Falls on the same day as this. I will add more to the map below as I create posts for them. In case you are looking for other waterfall adventures.
Please click on the pins below if you’d like to save the information for later.