There are a number of impressive waterfalls in Banff National Park, and Bow Falls is just one of those waterfalls. The park in and of itself is stunningly beautiful, with jagged mountains rising thousands of feet above you. And then add in waterfalls, and you’ll have no lack of things to do and see.
Bow Falls is one of the wider falls in the park. Some of the other falls are taller but are narrower. Bow Falls benefit may also be its curse. Bow Falls is very easy to visit. It’s located in Banff, and can be accessed via car (or hiking, I’m sure…). Once you arrive at the falls, there’s essentially no hike involved. Because of that, though, many people visit the falls. I was lucky to be able to get a shot of the falls that didn’t have a bunch of other people in it!
- Take Banff Avenue into the heart of Banff.
- Continue along Banff Avenue over the Bow River.
- Turn left onto Glen Avenue after crossing over the Bow River.
- After a short distance, veer left onto Bow River Avenue. The signs clearly indicate that you’ll be heading toward Bow Falls.
- On your left will be a parking area for Bow Falls. Park here and then head toward the falls!
Hike: not applicable
Bow Falls in August 2014
Where in the World is Bow Falls?
Cascade Falls in September 2014
I couldn’t remember Cascade Falls right away, but once I saw a picture, it began to come back very quickly. I remembered passing by Cascade Falls as I went west through Banff, and yet I didn’t stop. I’m not really sure why…it may have been that I had passed the exit near the falls. So on the way back, I remember seeing it out of the corner of my eye, and I quickly exited the Trans-Canadian Highway and found that there were indeed places where I could pull off and take photos of the falls.
At approximately 1000′ in height, I didn’t feel any need to get closer to the falls. After doing a bit of research, it appears there is a path that will get you closer to the falls. In winter, there are even people that do ice climbing on the falls. In early September, the ice climbing obviously wasn’t an option! And earlier in the year, you’re likely to find more water flowing, which might make hiking to the base a bit more worthwhile. I was honestly just happy to be able to stop and photograph the falls, as there are other instances where cool waterfalls of this sort aren’t so easily captured since there’s no nice place to pull off.
- This is a very easy one to find as it’s right off of Trans-Canadian Highway 1. As you’re heading into Banff, take the exit for Banff/ Minnewanka Loop/ Boucle Minnewanka. From there, head north along Range Road 115B.
- After just a few hundred feet, find a place to pull off and photograph the falls, which will be to your left. If you’re interested in hiking to the base, you’ll have to look for further directions. It sounds like there’s an easy to find trail nearby.
Hike: roadside, though hike possible
Where in the World is Cascade Falls?
Upper Johnston Canyon Falls in late August 2014
One of the more popular hikes in Banff National Park is the hike in Johnston Canyon. In some ways, it’s easy to understand why…The scenery inside of the canyon is stunning. The “trail”, as it were, is really more of a boardwalk that has been installed. Otherwise, you would have to walk up the creek/river for much of the journey, and that wouldn’t be particularly easy. Along the way, you will be treated with views of at least six moderately impressive waterfalls.
But with the beauty and relative ease of access comes the crowds. You shouldn’t let this deter you, because it’s definitely worth it…But you should be ready to be as patient as possible. The trail to the Upper Falls is 1.5 miles one-way, while to just the lower falls, it’s about 0.5 miles one-way. And it’s likely that first 0.5 miles that will be the most crowded. I have to admit, that portion of the trail seems to attract a number of people that shouldn’t necessarily be on the trail. I saw a good 10 or so children in rather large strollers…Except the trail/boardwalk in places was barely wide enough. It created these hiking traffic jams. My advice: leave the stroller behind.
If you can get past that initial extreme crowded-ness, it calms down a bit, though it’s still very busy. But if you are willing to deal with it, you’ll be rewarded with a view of Upper Johnston Canyon Falls. It’s a particularly beautiful waterfall. You’ll also be rewarded with a colorful rock wall near the falls.
(If you want something a bit (maybe a lot) calmer than Johnston Canyon, check out Silverton Falls.)
- This isn’t a particularly difficult set of waterfalls to find, with one minor hitch. The trail head is along of the Bow Valley Parkway (Highway 1A). If you’re driving along the Transcanadian Highway 1, there are limited entrances/connections onto 1A. In order to find the falls, you can either enter onto 1A a few miles after leaving Banff. You will be heading west if you take this exit, and the trail head will be on your right after driving for a while. (You can also exit at the junction of Transcanadian Highway 1 and Alberta 93. Instead of heading south, though, head north for a short distance. Then turn right and drive for 6.4 km. The parking area will be on your left.)
- I mention a parking area, but if I remember correctly, that parking area was completely full. There were at least a hundred or so cars (possibly more) parked on the sides of 1A, so that’s where I parked. It added a little bit longer to the walk, but it wasn’t much.
Accessibility: 8/10 (though strollers are honestly too big for the trail)
Distance of Hike: 3.0 miles round trip
Where in the World is Upper Johnston Canyon Falls?
Silverton Falls in late August 2014
I’m in Canada and visiting Banff and Yoho National Parks this weekend. It’s Labour Day weekend here in Canada, so it’s a popular weekend to visit the parks. I started by going to Johnston Canyon, which I’ll post about some other time, and it was insanely busy. 100+ cars were parked on the roads outside of the regular parking area, and I probably passed 200-300 people along my 1.5 mile (one way journey).
So it was a nice surprise to find another trail that was much calmer. If you visit Banff National Park during the summer, and you feel like you need a break from the crowd, Silverton Falls is the right place for you. I passed maybe 10 people the whole time. And while it’s not advertised very well, Silverton Falls is a very pretty waterfall. It’s a pretty short hike also, though on the second half of the hike, it does climb up switchbacks. At 150’+, it’s also a pretty impressive waterfall. The are two main drops, and one smaller drop at the top.
Now getting to the falls isn’t really difficult, but there’s one piece you need to pay attention to. The sharp left turn isn’t extremely obvious when you’re hiking in, but on the way back, it became much clearer. Check the directions below.
- From Trans-Canada Highway 1, exit at the junction of AB-93 South/AB-1A.
- Turn right to head toward Alberta-1A, the Bow Valley Parkway.
- Take another right onto the Bow Valley Parkway heading east.
- After maybe 500 feet or so (a VERY short distance), you’ll see a sign for the Rock Bound Lake Trail. Turn left into this parking area for the trail.
- Start along the trail. I’ve seen directions that indicated it is an unsigned trail, but the trail is now marked for Silverton Falls. It’s only about 0.6 miles (0.9 km) one way.
- After a few hundred feet, you should see a sign indicating to take the right path to Silverton Falls. If you have any doubt, it’s easy just to stay close to the creek that’s to the right of the parking area.
- After maybe 0.3-0.4 miles, pay attention for a fork that veers sharply left. It’s a 90 degree turn. You’re going to want to take this turn.
- You’ll start climbing up switchbacks along this trail. It’s a short distance along these switchbacks, though they are steep. It could be very easy to slip along the trail, so exercise caution as you approach the falls.
- The falls just appear! Again, exercise caution. There might be a way to get close to the falls, but I really felt like it wasn’t the best idea. You can get a pretty good view of the falls from about halfway between the base and crest.
Hike: 1.2 miles round-trip
Where in the World is Silverton Falls?