With another week left in our spring break, we researched options for short winter hikes a little farther afield. After narrowing it down to two options, we headed northwest, to the Icefields Parkway.
Option 1 – Bow Glacier Falls, an easy half-day hike we enjoyed last summer
Option 2 – Peyto Lake, where there’s a very easy/short walk to Peyto Lake Viewpoint and the possibility of a longer (but still easy) extension to Bow Summit Lookout
We got a late start. We backed out of our Canmore parking spot at 9:30 and it was 11 o’clock by the time we had to choose between the two. We stopped briefly at the Crowfoot Glacier Viewpoint. Although far less crowded than in the summertime, there were quite a few cars in the small parking area. Mr. GeoK took the time and care to set up his tripod and took enough photographs to create this panorama view across the valley…
Given our late start and that it was new-to-us, we opted to carry on five minutes past the Bow Glacier Falls parking area to the lower parking area for Bow Summit/Peyto Lake.
Still in the parking lot, we chose MICROspikes and crampons over snowshoes. The snow depth was well over one meter, but looked fairly well packed. So after donning gaiters and adjusting our trekking poles, we headed out in search of the official Peyto Lake Viewpoint.
From everything we’ve read, this location is an extremely popular summer stop. In fact, there’s a separate parking area for tour buses. But at this time of year it’s far less busy. We saw just 10 other people all day – 2 back-country skiers making their way up the shoulder of Mount Jimmy Simpson and 8 visitors who only went as far as the wooden-railed viewing platform.
Guidebooks and maps aren’t that helpful in the winter. The paved paths are buried under snow and trail junctions are hard to decipher. Fortunately, there is a self-guided nature trail (loop). By following the best-packed trails in the snow and keeping an eye out for signs poking out of snowpack, we made quick work of the 750 meters to the official viewpoint.
From there, route-finding was a little more challenging. There were lots of braided trails through the snow and about a kilometer later we found ourselves at a higher viewpoint where we settled in for lunch.
After lunch, we decided to have some fun on the descent, freewheeling as much as possible in our MICROspikes. Here are a couple of photographs. If I figure out how to edit and upload video, I’ll add that later.
Total hiking distance = 3.6 km (would be about 5.6 km if we made it to the Bow Summit Lookout)
Elevation gain = 150 m (235 m to the Bow Summit Lookout)
This is an easy hike. Snowshoes/poles recommended if you go in winter. Summertime photos of the area suggest this might be a good destination for wildflower season. A high driving to hiking time ratio, so we’ll probably make a return visit to Bow Glacier Falls or try somewhere else next time we venture this way.