The 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.
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.
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.