This past July 1, I spent time appreciating the natural beauty of Canada, losing the tourists and catching a cool glacial breeze during a heatwave, by traveling beyond Bow Glacier Falls to what has unofficially been dubbed “Iceberg Lake.“
Attempting this hike during a historic heatwave meant making it to the trailhead for 5am to get a good start on the journey before the full force of the sun was beaming down on the Rocky Mountains. The trail begins just off the parking lot for Bow Lake, near Lake Louise and within the borders of Banff National Park. You are looking at about an hour drive to the lake if you are traveling from the town of Banff. Hikers then travel around the shores of Bow Lake before beginning their ascent to Bow Glacier Falls.
Within what has come to be known as the “hiking capital of Canada,” those who make the nearly 10km round trip trek to Bow Glacier Falls are in for a treat as they witness the birth of a river, at its very source roaring over the cliffs near the toe of Bow Glacier. A number of other cascading falls can be found coming down cliffs all through this area.
For many, the falls is their ultimate destination, before a return to the trailhead, but my Canada Day adventure was only beginning at this point, as I sought to cross the rapidly flowing glacial waters and ascend beyond the steep and rocky moraines to the top of the waterfall before I was ready to turn around. On this particular journey, though I may consider alternatives when I do return to explore the area further, we followed the Bow Hut Route signage we came across, which meant climbing a giant boulder over a canyon, some rock scrambling and crossing the flowing waters quite aways downstream near another significant cascading waterfall that was being directly fed by a visible glacier.
If taking this route, which does come with amazingly rewarding viewpoints, once crossing the water (prepare to be moving beyond this point with wet feet), you then should begin navigating the rock moraine back upstream, keeping to the left of a forested area you will come across, and then travelling up a steep alpine meadow. The sun was out in full force at this time on my journey, so it was important to stay hydrated, take breaks and then after putting the legs to the test, I reached a snowy area and my first glimpse of Iceberg Lake.
It was nearly 40 degrees Celsius back at the trailhead when I reached the midpoint of my planned journey, but at Iceberg Lake, a long-sleeve shirt was necessary and some shelter from the breeze in a nook next to the top of the famous waterfall to enjoy lunch.
I met one other duo only up on these cliff edges, exploring the area, and then chose to travel a different route down, navigating very steep and loose rocky moraines, using extreme care. From the top, I could see the highway off in the distance and the red tin roof, next to the parking lot where my truck was, serving as a testament of how far I’ve come.
Beyond the intensity of the moraines and rock scramble back down the mountain, one other notable feature was the fact that the waters we needed to cross had increased in size and speed since the early morning, as a result of the afternoon sun on the glacier. I travelled approximately 22 kilometres on my first visit to this area, but believe that a return trip to Iceberg Lake would allow me to cut some distance off my ascent, and allow me the time and energy to journey up “the Onion” to the top of the Bow Glacier, and I very much look forward to this day. Regardless, standing on the shores of Iceberg Lake should be a check box on the bucket list of any adventurous spirit.