Bow Lake

Banff
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Bow Lake

Distance: 4.0km
Elevation: 5m
Time: 1h

Difficulty Rating:

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.

Getting there

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

About

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


Elevation


Detailed Description

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

  • 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.

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