While Banff National Park offers a seemingly endless network of gorgeous hiking trails, I’m going to open by saying that this hike was not our favorite of the lot. If you’re looking for jaw-dropping alpine summits, this is not the hike for you. If you’re looking for a flat, easy walk to kill a couple hours one morning, keep reading.
A short, easy out-and-back with virtually no elevation gain, we decided to hike the Bow Glacier Falls trail at the last minute. Our original intent was to begin the higher Helen Lake route early in the day, but the forecast called for low cloud cover, and we didn’t want to miss the incredible views we had read about. We therefore opted for Bow Glacier Falls as it was a low elevation hike (good for a cloudy morning), and also because it would only take a few hours, leaving our afternoon free for Helen Lake if the weather improved (the trails are only a few miles apart on the Icefields Parkway).
For a significant portion of the hike, Bow Glacier Falls’ level trail hugs the shoreline around Bow Glacier Lake, affording a nice view of the intense, turquoise water. After traversing the northwestern edge of the lake, the trail follows the sandy riverbed where the nearby falls form the headwaters of the Bow River. After climbing a small outcropping (a staircase leads you over the canyon), the path again levels off and continues along the (now more rocky) riverbed to the falls. The climax of the walk is Bow Glacier Falls, not overly scenic, but still a rush of glacial meltwater cascading 505 feet down a craggy rock face.
Pros – Nice panoramas of Bow Glacier Lake and Bow Glacier Falls
Cons – Fairly boring route, not much variation in scenery, few flowers and birds