Bow Glacier Falls is an outstanding short hike in Banff National Park which circles around turquoise blue Bow Lake and leads to the base of a majestic waterfall. Difficulties encountered on the hike include being prepared for sudden changes in weather, dealing with possible bear encounters along the trail, and dealing with route finding and slippery conditions near the base of the waterfall. Route maps and GPS coordinates are not provided because this is an official trail which is maintained by Parks Canada. All hikers should obtain updated information on the hike and current conditions from the Banff Information Centre or the Lake Louise Visitor Centre.
The second of our four hikes on our Canada and Alaska trip in the summer of 2013 took place in Banff National Park to Bow Glacier Falls. The hike is about 3 miles each way, which was just short enough to allow us to take Stefan with us. The hike starts out at the parking area for Bow Lake close to the Num-Ti-Jah Lodge. During our visit, this parking area and the lakeshore nearby were crowded with tourists. And we could immediately see why. Bow Lake has a spectacular blue color that is amazing to behold in person. The first 1.2 miles of the hike circles around the north side of the lake, allowing for a variety of views of the lake, surrounding mountains, and glaciers in the distance. The next portion of the hike follows the glacial stream through a somewhat open area, which allows you to potentially spot any approaching bears. The stream eventually disappears into the mouth of a towering limestone slot canyon. At this point, the trail continues steeply to the right up a long set of stairs which bypass the slot canyon. It is not possible or safe to hike through the stream into the slot canyon, as a hiker would get swept away rather quickly. Fortunately, there are a network of spur trails which lead off from the stairs to overlooks of the slot canyon. Due caution needs to be exercised in this area, as there are no guard railings to prevent someone who is not paying attention from slipping off into the raging water below. After getting a variety of views of the slot canyon, we continued up the staircase until we reached a high overlook point of the Bow Glacier valley. From here, the main hiking route continues to the base of Bow Glacier Falls (about 7/10 of a mile). Two alternate hikes from this spot are the route to Bow Hut up the south valley and the scrambling route to Iceberg Lake with a view of the terminus of Bow Glacier. For our hike, we were sticking with the family-friendly route which led to the base of Bow Glacier Falls. Stefan fell asleep in his carrier just as we descended from the lookout point and were being blasted by a cold wind. So we did our best to keep him warm and soon enough we reached the bottom of the beautiful waterfall, which is enclosed in a natural amphitheater. We all agreed that this was a very nice hike that we thoroughly enjoyed. On this hike were Daria, Stefan, Renee, and I. Gary "The Cat" joined us for the first part of the hike but then decided to spend the afternoon relaxing by Bow Lake. The full hike was about 6 miles RT with an elevation gain of a mere 310 feet. Our hike took place on August 10, 2013.
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