Bow River Trail – Lake Louise

Bow River Trail – Lake Louise

Bow River Loop - Easy hike near Lake LouiseThe Bow River Trail is an easy riverside loop near Lake Louise Village in Banff National Park. If you fancy a quick, non strenuous walk with some mountain views, this is a great option. It’s a fun way to see the river – and it must be the perfect area to walk if you are staying at the Lake Louise Campsite.

We did this walk to stretch our legs before heading out to dinner. It was a moody looking day with plenty of rain, but this route is pretty even on grey days when the mountains are hiding in the clouds.

Bow River Trail (Lake Louise) Map

Bow River Trail – The basics

Distance: 4 km
Elevation gain
: Minimal
Time: 1 hour
What to bring:
You don’t need much apart from a camera.
It’s a busy-ish route, but bring your bear spray if you have any.
Facilities:
It’s close to Lake Louise village – there are shops and loos there.
Dogs: Yes (on a leash)
How hard is it? Super easy

Bow River Trail – Getting started

We were staying in Lake Louise (the village below the famous lake,) so we just walked up to the start of this loop. It’s pretty easy to find; Just walk towards the Bow River from anywhere in the village, and you’ll find the Bow River trail. Normally you can hike along both sides in a loop. However in August, part of the trail is closed off to allow Grizzly Bears and other large mammals room to roam.

This whole trail follows the Bow River, so you’ll get views of the surrounding mountains as well as well as the bright blue water. We did this on a pretty miserable day, and it was still beautiful (if a little moody!)

Go for a paddle?

There are quite a few little beaches along the edge of the river if you (or your dog) want to paddle. However I would not want to swim here. The water flows very quickly and is cold enough to make your feet feel numb as soon as you step into it!

Wild Flowers along the Bow River

As the river cuts through the forest, there is always plenty of light along this trail so we found loads of wildflowers. I loved the super floofy plants (let me know if you know what they are.) As well as all the bright purple fireweed.

Once you’ve found the Bow River trail, you can’t really go wrong. You just hike along the path next to the river.

On one side of the river there is a massive campground for RVs, and on the opposite side is the campground for tents. The tent-camping side is surrounded by an electric fence, to help safely guide bears around the campground and to prevent them from venturing into the tent area to forage on plants (or find improperly stored human garbage or food.)

Small channels along the Bow River

At a few points the path follows smaller streams that run alongside the raging Bow River. These areas are a little calmer, and are good spots to watch out for birds and squirrels.

We also found the smaller streams were perfect for capturing reflections.

Be bear aware

About a dozen grizzly bears and several black bears rely on the habitat in the Lake Louise area. This is quite a busy area, so it is quite unlikely that you’ll run into a bear (mostly likely they will hear you and disappear before you see them.) However there are plenty of berries along the river, so there is still a chance that bears will be in the area. As you walk you should try to be loud, carry some bear spray, and learn how to use it.

I have heard stories (probably urban legends) of people that were confused about bear spray so sprayed it on themselves like bug spray! Don’t do that! You’d just be seasoning yourself to make yourself more tasty for the bear!

When we visited, we were not able to walk on the second side of the loop as that part of the trail was closed for the whole of August. If you are in the area in August, please respect the path closure and give the bear-dudes their space.

Morant’s curve

If you’d like to see an extra view of the beautiful Bow River; It is also worth taking a quick scenic drive along the Bow River Parkway to Morant’s Curve. This is only 10 minutes drive away from Lake Louise, but it is a great spot to see the river as well as the mountains around Lake Louise. This spot was made famous by Nicholas Morant, a photographer who took photos here for Canadian Pacific Railway’s promotional materials.

There is a parking area directly opposite the viewpoint, so it is very easy to visit; No hiking required! I loved the views in the opposite direction as well. Although most images for this bend in the river seem to be the view above.

Other great places to see the Bow River

There must be loads of other mini hikes along the Bow River. Here are a couple of other suggestions if you like the sound of seeing more of this bright-blue jewel of the Rockies.

  • The Hoodoos trail in Banff is a great way to see the Bow River as well as some cool Rock Formations.
  • Bow Falls (also in Banff) is really gorgeous – plus it’s next to the Fairmont Banff Springs if you fancy a posh hot chocolate
  • We love the view of the Bow River from the Castle Mountain Lookout, close to Morant’s Curve.

If you like the look of the Bow River Trail in Lake Louise, please pin it for later.

Bow River Trail - Pretty hike near Lake Louise Bow River Trail - Easy hike near Lake Louise Bow River Loop - Easy hike near Lake Louise

33 thoughts on “Bow River Trail – Lake Louise

  1. This walk seems suitable to elderly rellys! The fluffy things just look like Bog Cotton to me. But taller perhaps. Love, Lis

  2. The floofy flowers are dryas (aka mountain avens) – they bloom with a pretty white flower and then turn into these fluffy helicopters.

    Did you try any of the red berries (soapberries)? They’re definitely worth a try. Once…

    1. Oooh Andy you are such a star! I was wondering if you knew what they were – there were orange versions of those berries too. I didn’t try them because google didn’t know what they were, and I don’t eat anything unless I’m sure they’re safe.

      I’ll try them next time.

      1. Aww 🙂 Yeah, you have to be sure you’re eating the right berries, though if you taste one and it’s bad then it should be okay to just spit it out. The other berries are black twinberry but I don’t think they’re edible.

    1. Thanks for your lovely comment Bill! We did feel very lucky for the entire trip the the Rockies! It’s such a gorgeous area.

  3. I did a three day trip on the Bow River past where this hike is. The color of the Bow River with its glacial flour in the water is so beautiful. I remember paddling past the hoodoos too and they were amazing. I was in Banff for a conference and the Bow River is really the only thing I remember from the trip. That’s how gorgeous it it.

    1. Oooh Karen I should have guessed you would have paddled down here! You didn’t go down the waterfall in the Bow River in Banff did you? The water there looks pretty terrifying!

  4. No matter how many photos I see of that turquoise water, I will NEVER get used to it! What a beautiful trail! I have a trip planned to Banff in early March, I suppose it will be frozen at that time?

    1. Same! I get excited whenever I see rock-flour-filled waters. Squeee for your trip next March! We visited last year in April and the rivers were partially frozen. The lakes were totally frozen over at the waterfalls were giant blocks of ice. You are going to LOVE it!

    1. I hope you can make it up Shelby! This one may not make it on to a normal bucket list, but it’s a pretty place to stretch your legs if you are passing through. 🙂

  5. I’m so envious of all these stunning hikes out west! I have a friend that lives not too far from Lake Louise so I’ll definitely be tying in some hikes when I visit her! I can’t get over how stunning that blue water is!

    1. Oooh nice, you are going to have such a blast when you visit her! If you can, come back and see my more recent post at Lake Louise – the hike up Fairview Mountain is STUNNING (and not too hard.) Or you can hike up to the teahouses if you need cake to tempt you out on a walk. 😉

    1. No, we wanted to, but the campsites were all full at weekends when we were near Lake Louise. (We camped in Yoho, and then in Kootenay National park – both were fantastic) and my friend Lisa told me that camping at Lake Louise is great too.

      We stayed in one of the ski lodge-like hotels in Lake Louise village.

  6. I’m always so excited to read your most recent post on hikes in Canada. The Bow River Trail would be great for my family — so much scenery but not a ton of strenuous elevation gain. Thanks for the idea — pinning for later!

  7. How have I never heard of this trail before?! And I’ve been twice. Looks like the perfect relaxing and scenic hike to end a busy day in Banff. Definitely will be doing this trail the next time I’m there. Thanks for sharing!

    1. It’s not so strange – I mean, if you’re close to Lake Louise, most people head up to the lake, rather than walk along the river! It is a nice place to wander if you’re staying nearby though!

  8. Bow river trail lake louise sounds like an easy to do and enjoyable hike. There are people spraying bear spray on themselve? I thought you have to spray it in the bears direction, so that you can back away.

    1. It’s mad isn’t it!? A few different hikers have told me about people spraying themselves with bear spray…but it seems like a urban legend to me!

  9. Lake Luise is currently on my bucket list and I would love to do Bow River Trail when I get there. Thank you for sharing this guide!

    1. Yay, I am glad you like the look of it. Th whole area around Lake Louise is gorgeous, so I am sure you’ll love it. 🙂

  10. Ha ha love this – “quick, non strenuous walk with some mountain views” – sign me up! The water looks incredible! Love that color but yes it does look quite cold. Looks like a lovely and relaxing hike.

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