Bow Peak, Banff National Park, Canada

This turned out to be one of the best days of my life and one of my favourite adventures, combining some paddling with hiking and scrambling. I started off paddling down an incredibly beautiful lake, then hiked through some nice forest up to a tarn studded alpine pass, then boulder hopped and scrambled up to peak with jaw-dropping views, all on a perfect day.

Bow Peak can be accessed from the Icefields Parkway, so there is no need for a boat or to cross the lake, however there is a small river crossing that might be impassable at some times. I just thought it would be way cooler to paddle down the lake. I launched my inflatable kayak from a picnic area on Bow Lake, then paddled along the lake shore until I reached its outlet, followed a short section of a shallow river until it emptied into a smaller lake, then crossed that until I found the trail which was at the outlet of that smaller lake. From there, it was a relatively short trail through forest and an easy ascent to a picturesque alpine pass. You are with the current on the way to the trailhead but fighting it on the way back. The river was very shallow in some places when I did it, so sometimes I jumped out and hauled the kayak up the river on the way back.

Once you are on the smaller lake, the trailhead is right at the outlet where a small river leads away. There is an obvious trail once you land but it’s not apparent while on the water. This is where hikers starting from the Icefields Parkway would ford the river. The trail is relatively flat as it goes through forest, then begins climbing up to the pass. The forest section is relatively short, so you’ll pop up above the trees into alpine quickly. The pass has a few nice tarns to get water and chill out beside. From there, you could continue on through to pass and contour around a mountain for bigger views of Lake Hector, or you could go left up to the top of Bow Peak. This side of Bow Peak is essentially a giant boulder field, so pick your route carefully. There is a rough, steep trail farther to the right (south) that avoids boulders for the most part. I wish I had noticed on the way up, it would have way easier than hopping boulders!


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