The Beauty — and Disappointment — of Bow Glacier and Bow Lake

B ow Lake and Bow Glacier are both located almost 40 kilometers northwest from the southern terminus of Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park; and the parking area is easily accessible from the road.

The Beauty — and Disappointment — of Bow Glacier and Bow Lake

Bow Lake and Bow Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Bow Lake is located on the Bow River, of which Trans-Canada Highway 1 and then Icefield Parkway parallel.

Bow Lake and Bow Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Upon reflection, the colors found in Bow Lake are vibrant — even on a mostly overcast day.

Bow Lake and Bow Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Bow Glacier supplies water for Bow Lake and Bow River from its runoff.

Bow Lake and Bow Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Bow Glacier is an outflow glacier from the Wapta Icefield which rests along the Continental Divide, where water either flows west to the Pacific Ocean or east to the Atlantic Ocean.

Bow Lake and Bow Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

The border between the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia is located approximately one kilometer southwest of the lake.

Bow Lake and Bow Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Facing southeast from Bow Lake are mountains which include BowCrow Peak and Bow Peak.

Bow Lake and Bow Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Crowfoot Glacier can be seen on the right side of the photograph shown above…

Bow Lake and Bow Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

…and on the left side of the photograph shown above near Crowfoot Mountain.

Bow Lake and Bow Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Ice — since broken from when Bow Lake was frozen over — floats on the aquamarine-colored water as Bow Glacier stands guard in the background.

Bow Lake and Bow Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Bow Glacier Falls carry the runoff from Bow Glacier.

Bow Lake and Bow Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

A trail brings visitors closer to Bow Glacier and the waterfalls; and I was ready to hike the approximately nine kilometers on that trail to get to Bow Glacier Falls.

Bow Lake and Bow Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

From the parking area to get on the trail towards Bow Glacier, visitors must pass Simpson’s Num-Ti-Jah Lodge — at which I did not stay as a guest — prior to crossing this bridge…

Bow Lake and Bow Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

…which in this case crosses over a bank of deep snow as water flows underneath.

Bow Lake and Bow Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

There was a lot of water due to runoff from melting ice and snow…

Bow Lake and Bow Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

…so much so that this makeshift bridge of two wooden planks was rendered useless by the raging floodwaters.

Bow Lake and Bow Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

The disappointing part of my visit is that I looked ahead to the next bridge and beyond — only to find that the trail was too flooded to venture forward; and the water was moving fast.

Bow Lake and Bow Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

I had no choice but to turn around and return to the parking lot — and the incredible views compensated for my disappointment.

Bow Lake and Bow Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

How can anyone resist photographing this scenic landscape?

Summary

If you plan to hike on the trail to Bow Glacier Falls, give yourself at least three hours. The trail is reportedly easy for most of the way, with the steepest ascent during the last 1.5 kilometers of the trail. I wish I could give you a more detailed report of the trail — along with photographs — but the floodwaters which prevented me from hiking on that trail was one of the rare disappointments of the entire trip to the Rocky Mountains in Canada for me.

Despite the disappointment, the views of Bow Lake and Bow Glacier were still incredible — and anyone can view them with a short walk from the parking area. In fact, both Bow Lake and Bow Glacier are easily visible from the west side of Icefields Parkway.

Facilities are available at Simpson’s Num-Ti-Jah — including guest rooms to stay the night; a cafe to enjoy a meal; and toilets. I did not need to use any of the facilities; so I cannot comment on them.

If you are driving on Icefields Parkway, definitely stop to see Bow Lake and Bow Glacier — even if you only stop for a few minutes and do not have time to hike on the trail to Bow Glacier Falls.

All photographs ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

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