Bow Lake

Difficulty
This reflects the 10Adventures difficulty rating for each route. We aim to keep ratings consistent across regions.
Very Easy
Duration
This reflects the estimated time the majority of users will take on this trail. If you are slower, add time to the top-end figure. If you are fast, then you may complete this route faster than this time range.
1h
Distance
This reflects the return distance of this route as measured by the GPS file.
4.0 km
Elevation
This reflects the total elevation gained throughout this route as measured by the GPS file. This includes all ascents and descents, and is higher than what is quoted in most route guides, which simply measure the distance between the starting-point and high-point of the route.
5 m
User Ratings
These ratings are completed by users who have completed this trail and not subject to reviews by 10Adventures.
Overall Rating
This is the average user-submitted overall rating on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest.
9.9
Physical Difficulty
This is the average user-submitted rating on the physical difficulty of this route. In general, green is beginner, blue is intermediate, black is advanced/most difficult and double-black is expert-only. It is recommended that users build up to black and double-black routes.
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Technical Difficulty
This is the average user-submitted rating on the technical difficulty of this route. In general, green is beginner, blue is intermediate, black is advanced/most difficult and double-black is expert-only. It is recommended that users build up to black and double-black routes.
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
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Directions to Trailhead
Panorama on Bow Lake snowshoe trail in Banff National Park

Bow Lake is incredible, especially on a weekday in mid-winter, when it is all yours. This is a great place for beginners to enjoy a great snowshoe and incredible views. Be aware that there are avalanche slopes at the far end of Bow Lake and you shouldn’t proceed too far along the lake.

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Route Description for Bow Lake

Anyone on a snowshoe trip should have Avalanche training, we recommend AST 2 for all backcountry travellers, and AST 1 is the minimum. It is important to note that when travelling through avalanche terrain it is extremely valuable to always have a companion.

The snowshoe along the shores of Bow Lake is a classic, family-friendly snowshoe in the Rockies. Depending on current conditions, you may be able to do this route without snowshoes, especially if there hasn’t been any snow recently.

The route is simple avalanche terrain until you get to the end of Bow Lake, where there are large avalanche paths. Make sure to turn around before you reach the avalanche paths.

Start your snowshoe in the Bow Lake parking lot, just before Num-Ti-Jah Lodge, which is unfortunately boarded up and closed in winter.

We like to snowshoe past Num-Ti-Jah Lodge and then head down to Bow Lake and explore the lakeshore, which has stunning views in winter. Once along the shores of Bow Lake you can either follow the summer path that goes along the edge of Bow Lake or, if Bow Lake is frozen, head out along the path skiers make that goes across Bow Lake. These skiers are heading up to Bow Hut, an ACC hut that requires navigation through complex avalanche terrain to access.

Our route map shoes us following a snowshoe trail along the edge of Bow Lake. The main mountain you see across Bow Lake 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 snowshoe trip along the shore of Bow Lake has wonderful views in all directions.

As you get near the end of Bow Lake there are some avalanche paths, and you should make sure to turn around before you see avalanche paths above you. The views on the walk back along Bow Lake are just as remarkable!

Insider Hints for Bow Lake

  • 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.
  • As with any ice, make sure it is well frozen before venturing on it. We recommend confirming with Parks Canada at Lake Louise.
  • Snowshoeing in the Banff takes you into remote terrain. Make sure you are prepared for an emergency with warm clothes, extra food, matches and ideally a satellite transceiver, like a Garmin InReach. Cell phones do not work until you get to Canmore.
  • Always check the avalanche forecast for Banff before heading out.

Getting to the Bow Lake Trailhead

Drive on Highway 93 north towards Jasper for roughly 35.0 km and park in the Bow Lake lot and Num-Ti-Jah Lodge. There is also campground and HI Hostel nearby.

Route Information

  • When to do

    December - April

  • Mountain Huts

    No

  • Toilets

    Trailhead

  • Pets allowed

    Yes - On Leash

  • Avalanche Risk

    Simple

  • Family friendly

    Yes

  • Route Signage

    None

  • Crowd Levels

    Low

  • Route Type

    Out and back

Bow Lake Elevation Graph

Weather Forecast

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Bow Lake Reviews

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