Panoramic views from the Crowfoot Pass hike along Icefields Parkway, the Canadian Rockies
Panoramic views from the Crowfoot Pass hike along Icefields Parkway, the Canadian Rockies

Crowfoot Pass and Balfour Viewpoint hike

Along Icefields Parkway
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Stunning Blue on the Crowfoot Pass and Balfour Viewpoint Hike from the Icefields Parkway near Banff National ParkLooking back on Bow Lake on the Crowfoot Pass and Balfour Viewpoint Hike from the Icefields Parkway near Banff National ParkClimbing upon the Crowfoot Pass and Balfour Viewpoint Hike from the Icefields Parkway near Banff National ParkTrail of the Crowfoot Pass and Balfour Viewpoint Hike from the Icefields Parkway near Banff National ParkBow Lake on the Crowfoot Pass and Balfour Viewpoint Hike from the Icefields Parkway near Banff National ParkBalfour Viewpoint on the Crowfoot Pass and Balfour Viewpoint Hike from the Icefields Parkway near Banff National ParkOne of the tarns on the Crowfoot Pass and Balfour Viewpoint Hike from the Icefields Parkway near Banff National ParkA tarn on the Crowfoot Pass and Balfour Viewpoint Hike from the Icefields Parkway near Banff National ParkBow Peak Scramble as seen from the Crowfoot Pass and Balfour Viewpoint Hike from the Icefields Parkway near Banff National ParkThe route down the pass on the Crowfoot Pass and Balfour Viewpoint Hike from the Icefields Parkway near Banff National ParkMushrooms along the trail on the Crowfoot Pass and Balfour Viewpoint Hike from the Icefields Parkway near Banff National Park

Crowfoot Pass and Balfour Viewpoint hike

Distance: 9.6mi
Elevation: 2,605ft
Time: 5-7h

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The hike up to Crowfoot Pass and onwards to Balfour Viewpoint provides serene solitude in the remote backcountry. Enjoy a river crossing, a high alpine pass and incredible view of a majestic waterfall. For the adventurous scrambler, the steep rocky Bow Peak Scramble can be added to this trail.

Crowfoot Pass and Balfour Viewpoint hike Map

Getting there

From Lake Louise, take the Icefields Parkway north towards Jasper and turn-around at the Crowfoot Glacier Viewpoint – roughly 5.5mi north of Mosquito Creek Hostel turn-off. Go 0.6mi south to a slight gravel pullout on the right-hand side of the road.

I’ve done this 46 people have done this
I want to do this 67 want to do this route

About

When to do

June through October

Backcountry Campsites

No

Toilets

No

Family friendly

No

Route Signage

Average

Crowd Levels

Low

Route Type

Out and back


Crowfoot Pass and Balfour Viewpoint
Elevation Graph


Route Description for Crowfoot Pass and Balfour Viewpoint

This hike feels remote, as it doesn’t get anywhere near the traffic of the Helen Lake/Cirque Peak trail across the road. Why? The trailhead is harder to find and this is not an official route, although the path is clear except for the first 328ft or so.

After parking your car considerately (to allow others to park here), walk on the side of the Icefields Parkway in the direction towards Lake Louise. After passing a culvert at 656ft you will walk another 492ft and you should see a slight path heading down the hill. There is typically some tape or other markers denoting the trail down. Continue on the faint path as it drops down through tight trees, eventually reaching a plain. A clearer path will now emerge moving away from the highway in a southern direction.

Continue on this trail for approximately 2625ft until you reach the outflow from Bow Lake and the start of the famous Bow River, you will cross literally where the river starts its journey. From here, change into your water shoes and cross the river. You can see the path on the other side. The water height varies, but typically is between the upper calf and lower thigh. The water here is clear, however, so there is great visibility of what you’re walking on. There will also be the pull of the current. Although it’s not that strong, poles help stability if you aren’t experienced with river crossings.

On the other side of the crossing, you can either stash your shoes/sandals or take them back in your pack for the remainder of the day.

The path from here roughly follows the Bow River through a forest for about 0.6mi, until it starts to head up towards the pass for another 1.1mi. Travel through the forest with multiple stream crossings. You will find your travel is typically a bit slower than other trails as it can be a muddy on this route if there has been a lot of rain. In addition, there are also a lot of fallen trees, which can be difficult to manipulate.

After approximately 2.4mi from the car, you’ll emerge from the forest and climb up with the moraine of retreating glacier by your side. Continue on the path and come upon two small tarns just before the pass. These tarns can provide excellent photo opportunities for reflections with low wind and good visibility.

You’ll reach the pass at approximately 3.2mi total distance from the car. Unlike many passes in the Rockies, this pass is long and broad.

To get to the viewpoint, which really is highly recommended, head down the valley and then re-ascend the shoulder on the right. To do this, follow the path south as it descends approximately 492ft, eventually crossing a stream at 7343ft, approximately 0.6mifrom the pass. From here, continue along and you will gain 197ft, eventually being blessed with a magical view through the trees of Mt. Balfour and the Waputik Icefield. This view also includes an enormous waterfall cascading down, eventually reaching the incredibly blue Hector Lake. Wander up and down the ridge to find the best viewpoint, taking care to note where you came up from the trail. Your total distance to here from the car is roughly 4.7mi.

Return the way you came to Crowfoot Pass. At this point, there is the opportunity of ascending to Bow Peak to the east of the pass. This is a significant scramble of an additional 1706ft. The scramble is over large boulders, and can be very tricky and dangerous in wet weather. In fine weather, the scramble is still a noteworthy undertaking, with no defined path. Take care and go slow. Those who get to the top will have an incredible panorama as well as the opportunity to write their name in the summit book.

For those who don’t fancy a trip to the summit, climb to the base of the boulders on Bow Peak to gain additional perspective on not only the Waputik Icefield but also to look back on Bow Lake, Num-Ti-Jah Lodge and the peaks to the north/northwest.

When you’ve had your fill of the alpine (if that’s possible), return the way you came back to the car. Take care when crossing the river, as water levels can rise after the heat of the day.

Insider Hints

  • Bring sandals or spare shoes and trekking poles to assist in the river crossing. A small towel is also a great help in drying feet and removing sand during the crossing.

  • The tarns just below Crowfoot Pass offer great photo opportunities.

  • Bow Peak is just east of the pass, and can be summited by confident scramblers. Take care if you choose to do this.

  • This hike is remote and not crowded, do this trip with a group.

Comments

Richy_travels 2 years ago

I enjoyed the quiet and calming atmosphere here.

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6h 00m Time Taken
Greenlife 2 years ago

I admire the majestic waterfalls among the other stunning views here.

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6h 15m Time Taken
Lambert Y. 2 years ago

When I saw the water shine as the afternoon sun hits it, I was amazed.

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Hiking-eh 2 years ago

Amazed at the beauty of Crowfoot Glacier. Very happy with my view and pictures from the roadside.

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FellWalker 2 years ago

The views, as expected were great. After you cross the bow lake continue up a steep climb to the pass, it will give you a magnificent view

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Jeffrey Reagan 2 years ago

It was so lovely even though the weather was awful. It's one of a kind.

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LukeMc 2 years ago

The crystal clear water from the lake was mesmerizing. The waterfall and mountain views were astonishing as well.

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akaneogawa 3 years ago

It is a must see from amazing granite cliffs to fabulous water falls to green lush forest to picturesque lakes.

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havedogwillhike 3 years ago

perfect if you barely want to see another soul. glad i brought some friends. we considered the scramble but decided to just soak up the view and leave it for another day. good one!

Larry D. 3 years ago

Spectacular views! There are rocky and rugged paths but it was doable.

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28 Comments Show all

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