Bow Lake and Peyto Lake – Banff National Park, Canada
Bow Lake and Peyto Lake are another set of lakes in the northern park of Banff National Park offering spectacular views and hiking opportunities. Bow Lake and Peyto Lake are nearby each other and are north of Lake Louise, taking us about an hour and a half from Canmore to get there. As we got closer, a giant lake appeared that blew us away. After seeing Lake Louise, I didn’t think the lakes would continue to impress but this one was huge and completely still. In the distance we spotted a red roof for what I assumed was the histroic Num-Ti-Jah Lodge. Built in 1950 by Jimmy Simpson (one of the first to explore this area – much is named after him here!) and features 16 rooms for lodging, a cafe, and art shop.
The parking lot was a bit crowded when we arrived at 9:30AM but we were able to find a spot without much hassle. We were all so enamored with the red lodge so we hopped inside as we got coffee and snacks to start the morning. Before starting on the trail, we took a montage of photos of Bow Lake – it is so photogenic!
The Bow Falls Trail starts close to the tea house totaling 5.5 miles / 8.9km there and back, and is moderate difficulty. It was a lovely walk where the forest meets the lake and was very easy for the majority of the way. The scenery really slowed me down as I had to take photos of everything – it just kept changing every few steps!
Eventually we made it past the lake and where the river fed the lake. In the distance, we could spot the tiny waterfall that fed the river that fed the lake. I could imagine that most of the area is typically under water in the spring time when the flow of water is much higher after the snowy season.
I knew the lovely flat trail could not last the entire way but it was nice while it was there. The stair master up certainly hit a bit harder after yesterday’s 15 mile hike. The way up hugged the river with was definitely more aggressive falls at this point. Luckily it did not last very long and just over the top of the hill, a giant valley appeared with the waterfall in the center.
We could have continued to the base of the water fall but since we still have one more stop today, we turned around to head back to the tea house. The views on the way back we equally gorgeous, especially since we had the sun a bit higher in the sky.
We made it back to the tea house around 12pm so we grabbed a table and enjoyed our lunch along with some more purchased treats from the tea house.
There are many other trails at Bow Lake including some summits so if you have more time and want a challenge, check out these additional trails.
Next stop, Petyo Lake!
Lake Peyto is less than ten minutes from Bow Lake so it is very easy to pair one with the other. This is another glacier fed lake sporting that incredible ice blue water and this one is very easy to see.
The parking situation here was bonkers but we got very lucky that we found a spot only doing one lap – cars were sharking all over the place. This spot is very popular since it is easily accessible for all ages and is wheelchair accessible as well, and visitors get a great view of that blue glacier water. I have to say though, the incline to get to the boardwalk viewing area was not nothing! But it was a very short walk to get to a very crowded boardwalk that overlooked Peyto Lake, which was beautiful.
There were actually an area below the boardwalk that was far less crowded so we headed there to take more photos. It is a gorgeous viewing area even if it was very crowded.
We spent about ten minutes here before heading back the to car and making someone’s day by giving them our parking spot.
Visiting Bow Lake and Peyto Lake were a great way to spend the day without embarking on a double digit hiking adventure. Both lakes are incredible and it is definitely worth the stop at both – especially if you plan on visiting the Columbia Icefield or Jasper National Park.
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