Discover the beauty of Canmore, Alberta, by walking the Bow River Loop Trail. This 2km easy trail along the Bow River is one of the most popular activities for visitors and locals.
This scenic trail winds along the Bow River and provides breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. From well-placed amenities to stunning viewpoints, this trail is a must-visit for anyone looking to explore the best of Canmore’s outdoor offerings.
This should be it if you have time for just one Canmore activity. Our guide offers insights, tips, and a complete step-by-step guide to this must-visit trail.
Why Choose The Bow River Loop Trail?
The Bow River Loop Canmore is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a trail that offers natural beauty, ease of access, and stunning viewpoints.
While several hiking trails in the Bow Valley have breathtaking views, the Bow River Loop Trail is an easy walk that distinguishes itself through its accessibility.
It’s a trail that appeals to families, casual walkers, and those with dogs, providing an opportunity to enjoy nature without strenuous effort. The route is pushchair-friendly and wheelchair accessible, with barely any elevation gain.
Preparing For Your Walk: What You Need To Know
Location And Accessibility
Situated at the western edge of downtown Canmore, the Bow River Loop Trail is easily accessible and convenient for locals and visitors.
There are numerous parking options. You can park in one of the many downtown parking lots, a 5-minute walk from the trail.
If you have accessibility issues, two of the best parking areas are on River Road, behind Riverside Park or in the small parking lot at the west end of Bow River Bridge.
What To Bring
This is an easy walk which doesn’t need too much preparation. The main essential is a camera to capture incredible views of the stunning Rocky Mountains.
If you plan to stay until evening, a flashlight and insect repellent could also be useful during spring and early summer. And if you walk early, or at quieter times of the day, consider taking bear spray as well.
Navigating The Bow River Loop Trail: A Step-By-Step Guide
The Bow River Loop Canmore is an easy 2km loop between Canmore’s Engine Bridge and the Bow River Bridge.
There are trail maps similar to the one above posted regularly at trail intersections and access points. Once on the trail, you won’t have any difficulty navigating the loop, but you can always take a picture of the map with your phone.
Starting Point: Where To Begin
There are multiple entry points to the trail, but popular starting points are:
- Riverside Park – suitable for wheelchair and pushchair access
- The Engine Bridge Via Spurline Trail – suitable for wheelchair and pushchair access
- Bow River Bridge – suitable for wheelchair and pushchair access
- Riverview Place
Riverview Place is at the western end of Main Street and is a good choice if you plan to explore the downtown area. However, this access point has some steps unsuitable for wheelchair access.
Extending Your Walk
You’re in luck if you want to extend your adventure on the Bow River Trail Loop in Canmore. The trail is part of a more extensive network that connects to other scenic routes, offering even more opportunities to explore the area’s stunning landscapes.
One popular extension is to continue past the Engine Bridge and connect to the Highline Trail, which offers elevated views and a more challenging terrain.
Alternatively, you can head south from Riverside Park to join the Policeman’s Creek Boardwalk, a serene path that winds through wetlands and offers different natural beauty.
These extensions add distance to your hike and provide a richer, more diverse outdoor experience. So, if you’ve got the time and energy, why not go the extra mile—or two?
Key Landmarks And Scenic Points
Walking along the Bow River Loop Canmore, you’ll encounter several key landmarks that add depth and interest to your journey. Each landmark offers a unique perspective of Canmore’s natural beauty and historical significance.
Canmore Engine Bridge
One of the most iconic landmarks you’ll come across is the Canmore Engine Bridge. This historic bridge was originally used for coal trains but has been repurposed as a pedestrian bridge.
It’s a perfect spot for photography, offering panoramic views of the Bow River Canmore and the surrounding mountains.
The railroad bridge is a testament to Canmore’s rich history, serving as a reminder of the town’s coal mining past.
Riverside Park Canmore: A Natural Oasis Along The Trail
Another highlight of the Bow River Loop Trail is Riverside Park. This scenic spot overlooking the Bow River is more than a resting place. It’s a popular place for picnics, sunbathing, and outdoor activities.
With well-maintained picnic tables set against the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, Riverside Park offers a perfect setting for an outdoor meal. The open green spaces are also ideal for sunbathing or reading a book.
The park’s spacious layout provides room for casual games like frisbee or soccer. Its proximity to the Bow River allows easy fishing or even dipping your toes in the water.
Three Sisters Viewpoints
One of the Bow River Trail’s most rewarding aspects is its stunning viewpoints.
Riverside Park provides an unparalleled view of the Three Sisters Mountains, creating a picture-perfect backdrop for your photos. The Bow River Bridge and the Engine Bridge also offer excellent views of these iconic mountains.
Ha Ling Viewpoint
Yet the scenic wonders continue. When you reach the northeast side of the Engine Bridge, get ready to be captivated by an awe-inspiring view of the Engine Bridge, again a backdrop of a towering Ha Ling Peak.
Amenities On The Bow River Loop Trail
Benches And Picnic Tables
First off, let’s talk about seating. There are picnic tables available at Riverside Park and many benches strategically placed along the loop.
These offer you a chance to rest your legs and soak in the natural beauty around you. You will likely find a free bench to take in the view even at the busiest times of the year.
Public Toilets And Garbage Bins
Need a bathroom break? Public toilets are available at Riverside Park, ensuring that nature’s call won’t interrupt your nature walk.
Garbage bins are provided at regular points along the trail, including several at Riverside Park.
Trail Maps And Information Signs
Last but not least, information signs are posted at key points along the loop. These signs provide valuable insights into the local flora, fauna, and historical facts about Canmore and the Bow River.
There are also trail maps posted regularly at trail intersections and access points.
Best Times To Visit the Bow River Loop Trail In Canmore
Summer is the peak season for the Bow River Loop Trail, drawing hikers and nature enthusiasts alike. With warm temperatures and a dry and easy-to-navigate trail, it’s perfect for people of all hiking abilities. However, its popularity means it can get busy, particularly on weekends. Aim for an early morning or late afternoon excursion to avoid the crowds.
Fall brings a unique charm to the trail as the aspen leaves turn brilliant shades of yellow, creating a breathtaking backdrop for your hike. The air is crisp, and the path is generally clear of snow, making it a comfortable time for outdoor activities. Plus, you’ll find fewer people on the trail compared to the bustling summer months.
The Bow River Loop Trail becomes a serene, snow-covered landscape in winter. The river takes on a frozen facade, and the mountains are adorned with snowy caps. While the trail is covered in snow, it’s usually well-compacted, making walking feasible. For added safety, consider wearing ice cleats that can be easily attached to your shoes.
Spring is a less crowded season, offering a more peaceful experience on the Bow River Loop Trail. As the snow recedes, the trail opens up, but be prepared for some muddy patches along the way. It’s a time when you can enjoy the solitude and possibly have parts of the trail all to yourself.
Safety Tips And Guidelines
While the Bow River Loop Trail is generally safe, it’s always better to be prepared. Here are some safety tips to keep in mind:
While a short walk along the Bow River Loop Trail offers a chance to connect with nature, it’s essential to remember that you’re sharing the space with local wildlife. Canmore is home to various species, including bears, cougars, and elk.
Elk can be seen daily on the Bow River Trail, especially early in the morning. These large mammals may look docile but can be aggressive, especially during the fall mating season. Keep at least 30 meters away, and never get between a mother and her calf.
Bears, especially black bears, are rarer but often spotted in the area. Carrying bear spray never hurts, ensuring you know how to use it. Maintain a safe distance and never approach or feed them.
Cougars are very rare, especially close to town. However, if you encounter a cougar, make yourself look bigger by raising your arms and speaking loudly to assert your presence. Never turn your back or run away.
Make noise as you walk to alert animals to your presence, reducing the likelihood of surprising them. Following these wildlife safety guidelines allows you to enjoy the trail’s natural beauty while ensuring your safety and the animals you may encounter.
The Bow River is undeniably beautiful, but it’s crucial to remember that it can also be dangerous.
Swimming is not recommended due to the fast-flowing water and the potential for sudden changes in depth. If you can’t resist the water, an area near Riverside Park is suitable for paddling.
If you’re considering canoeing or kayaking, it’s imperative to be aware of the water conditions and to have the necessary skills and experience to navigate safely.
The river’s flow can be unpredictable, and hazards like submerged rocks or fallen trees are not uncommon. We always recommend using a professional guide if you venture onto the water.
Remember, you’re not the only one on the trail. Maintain a respectful distance from other walkers and give way to those who are faster than you.
If you’re bringing a pet, ensure it’s on a leash. Stick to the marked paths to minimize your impact on the environment, and if you bring snacks or drinks, make sure to carry your trash with you and dispose of it properly.
Conclusion – Bow River Loop Trail Canmore
The Bow River Loop Trail offers a beautiful walking experience with panoramic mountain views, easy access, and a touch of history. It is close to the restaurants and sites of downtown, or if you feel like walking a little further, it can be extended by taking in the Larch Island Loop.
Whether you’re a local or a visitor in Canmore, this stunning trail along the Bow River is a must-visit.
So why wait? Put on your walking shoes and explore the Bow River Loop Trail. You won’t be disappointed!