Anybody driving the Icefields Parkway should stop in at Bow Lake and do this family-friendly hike. Hiking along the edge of Bow Lake is a great break. Enjoy the great views of a stunning lake on this easy hike.
Drive on Highway 93 north towards Jasper for roughly 21.7mi and park in the Bow Lake lot and Num-Ti-Jah Lodge. There is also campground and HI Hostel nearby.
|When to do|
Out and back
Bow Lake Route Description
The hike along the shores of Bow Lake is a classic, family-friendly hike in the Rockies. Start your hike in the Bow Lake parking lot, which fills up quickly, so try and get there early.
Bow Lake is a beautiful, small lake nestled in the heart of the Canadian Rockies. Fed by meltwater from the Bow Glacier, Bow Lake is best known for its incredible turquoise hue, a result of glacial silt mixing with the cold waters. The gorgeous waters provide the perfect mirror for the surrounding mountains on clear, calm days, and you’ll definitely want to get a picture of the dazzling reflections in the lake!
The name ‘Bow’, which is shared by the nearby glacier, river and mountain pass, comes from the reeds that grow along the floor of the Bow Valley. These long, flexible reeds were used by First Nations peoples to make bows, thereby giving the region its name.
The hike heads to the right of Bow Lake, passing Num-Ti-Jah lodge on the way. Num-Ti-Jah Lodge is a wonderful reminder of the classic era of exploration in the Canadian Rockies. Built by Jimmy Simpson during the construction of the Banff to Jasper highway, the lodge opened in 1940 with six guest rooms. By 1950 the beautiful 16-room log and stone hotel was open, allowing guests to enjoy the stunning views of Bow Lake. Num-ti-jah still has the feel of the 1950s, a charming reminder of a bygone era.
Continue hiking along the lake. The main mountain across the lake you see is Crowfoot Mountain, a stunning view. Stretching to your left beyond it is Bowcrow Peak and Bow Peak. Above you is Mount Jimmy Simpson, named after the founder of Num-ti-jah Lodge.
This whole walk around Bow Lake has wonderful views in all directions. It’s up to you to decide when to turn around, depending how much energy you have, as well as on the water level. The end of Bow Lake can be pretty marshy. Once you have reached the foot of stairs that is the farthest you should go unless you want to continue onto either Bow Hut (a challenging hike) or Bow Glacier Falls (an intermediate hike).
The views on the walk back along Bow Lake are just as remarkable, and we swear the water is just a little bit bluer on the return journey!
Hiking Trail Highlights
Crowfoot Mountain looms over Bow Lake, its northeastern flank covered by the majestic Crowfoot Glacier. The mountain stands at an elevation of 10023ft and is a striking feature of the craggy mountainscape around Bow Lake.
Crowfoot Mountain gets its name from the Crowfoot Glacier, so-named as a result of its distinctive lower part, once etched in the shape of a crow’s foot. However, since the mountain and glacier got their names, the glacier has receded significantly, and only a small portion of the crow’s foot remains. However, if you look up at the mountain from the southern end of Bow Lake, you may still catch a glimpse of the remainder of this curious part of the glacier.
Consider a stay at Num-Ti-Jah Lodge if you want to do other great hikes in the area or just relive how the Rockies used to be.
This is a favourite family-friendly hike, as the path is clear, flat and not too long. As such, it can be pretty busy!
Check out our YouTube video on this great family hike.
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