The Ultimate Guide to Bow Lake

Bow Lake Banff

Bow Lake is one of the many beautiful lakes on the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93 N). On the north side of the lake you’ll find Bow Summit. The Bow River, running through the town of Banff, springs from this lake. 

Height: 1920 m (6299 ft)
Deepest point: 51 m
Length: 3.2 km (1.99 miles)
Widest point: 1.2 km (0.75 miles)
Coordinates: 51°39′52″N 116°26′55″W

The lake is one of the largest lakes in the park and is fed by the meltwater of the Bow Glacier in the Sunwapta Ice Field. Bow Lake is the closest lake to the headwaters of the Bow River and has a total area of 3.21 km2 (1.24 sq mi).

Although the lake attracts the most visitors in summer, its area is open for snowshoeing and ski touring in winter. 

Like all glacial lakes in Banff National Park, the water in Bow Lake has a beautiful green-blue color. It is probably the first thing you notice when you stand at the edge of the lake. 

The water in Bow Lake owes its unique color to the so-called rock flour deposited in the lake by the glacier in the summer. The sunlight reflecting off of it creates the water’s beautiful green-blue color.

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Bow Lake is 38 kilometers from Lake Louise Village and is the third lake (after Herbert and Hector Lake) on this breathtaking highway from Lake Louise Village. It lies south of Bow Summit and east of the Waputik Range and offers views of Wapta Icefield, Bow Glacier, Bow Peak, Mount Thompson, Crowfoot Glacier and Crowfoot Mountain. Furthermore, the lake is located west of Dolomite Pass, Dolomite Peak and Cirque Peak.


The history of man’s activity in the Bow Lake area goes a long way back, but the most significant occurrence is undoubtedly the constructing of a lodge near the lakeshore in 1937. English emigrant Jimmy Simpson (1877-1972) built it during the construction of the Icefields Parkway between Lake Louise Village and Jasper. He is a well-known mountain guide and outfitter (entrepreneur who sells specialized equipment for certain activities).

One day in 1898 he Simpson was camping by the lake and he enjoyed the beauty of the location so much that he vowed that one day he would ‘build a hut here’, as can be read on the lodge’s website.

At first, he financed the hotel’s construction with the proceeds of his two daughters’ figure skating careers. In 1940, the year the highway between Lake Louise and Jasper was completed, Simpson opened the hotel. He named it the Num-Ti-Jah Lodge, after the Stoney Plain word for pine marten. At the time, it had only six guest rooms. Over the years Simpson extended it to its current size.

The accommodation is located at the foot of Mount Jimmy Simpson and is easily accessible from the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93 N).


Like the nearby Peyto Lake and Hector Lake, Bow Lake is easy to get to. It’s located right on the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93 N). There’s a car park at the edge of the lake. To get to the lake shore, just scramble down a few meters.

Public Transport

There is no direct bus connection from Banff or Lake Louise to Bow Lake. You can take the bus from Banff to Lake Louise Lakeshore or Lake Louise Village North. There you can take a taxi to the lake.


You can spend the night at the shore of the lake as you’ll find the Num-Ti-Jah Lodge right at the lake’s shore. The property has 25 rooms and is the only place to stay on the lake, so book well in advance to secure a room. If the hotel is booked full, the nearest place to stay is Lake Louise Village, which has various good options.

Num-Ti-Jah Lodge
Address: Mile 22, Icefields Parkway, Lake Louise
Phone: +1 403 – 522 2167

Camping at Bow Lake

It is not possible to camp at Bow Lake. However, there are several campgrounds nearby. The two closest campgrounds are Silverhorn Creek and Mosquito Creek. The use of a campground costs between 15 and 30 CAD per night. If you want to make a campfire you must have a permit. These are available at most campgrounds. 

Silverhorn Creek Campground

Address: Icefields Parkway, Improvement District No. 9
Phone: +1 780 – 932 6868 
Overnight stay: subject to availability
Number of sites: 67
Facilities: picnic tables, hand water pump, dry toilets (no flushing) and bins
Campfire permit: available  
Kind of accommodations: motorhomes and trailers, not for tents
Distance to Bow Lake: 10.3 km (6.36 mi)

Mosquito Creek Campground

Address: Icefields Parkway, Improvement District No. 9
Phone: +1 403 – 522 3833
Overnight stay: upon availability
Number of sites: 32
Facilities: drinking water, picnic tables, dry toilets (no flushing), communal kitchen, fire pits.
Campfire permit: available at the campground 
Kind of accommodations: motor homes and tents
Distance to Bow Lake: 17 km (10.49 mi)


The best period to visit Bow Lake is from June to September. The first and last month of this period in particular are very suitable for a visit. In June, the ice melts, there are considerably fewer tourists in the park than in the summer months and the first flowers bloom after a long winter. In September, the peak of the high season is over and with a bit of luck you can enjoy a lovely warm Indian summer.


Although Bow Lake is not nearly as touristy as Peyto Lake, you can easily spend a whole day or more at the lake and the surrounding area. Besides several shorter and longer hikes, you can also fish in the lake and do some nice snowshoeing in the winter months. 

Hikes around Bow Lake

As with every lake in Banff National Park, Bow Lake offers many great hikes. In some cases, you can start directly from the car park at the edge of the lake. Other routes begin from the Num-Ti-Jah Lodge, which can also be reached by car. 

Bow Lake3.4 km (2.1 mi)50 minutes5 m (16 ft)Bow Lake car park
Bow Glacier Falls8.4 km (5.37 mi)2 – 3.5 hours155 m (508 ft)Bow Lake car park
Helen Lake and Cirque Peak17.2 km (10.62 mi)6 – 8 hrs1007 m (3303 ft)Bow Lake car park, just before the Num-Ti-Jah Lodge
Bow Hut15.6 km (9.63 mi)4 – 6 hrs555 m (1821 ft)South of the Bow Lake car park, by a small tree with flags
Bow Peak13.2 km (7.47 mi)6 – 9 hrs950 m (3117 ft)South of the Bow Lake car park, by a small tree with flags
The Onion Scramble19.7 km (12.16 mi)6 – 9 hrs840 m (2756 ft)Car park at the Num-Ti-Jah Lodge
Jimmy Simpson17.4 km (10.74 mi)5 – 8 hrs1275 m (4183 ft)Car park at the Num-Ti-Jah Lodge
Hiking trails around Bow Lake

Fishing on Bow Lake

Fishing is allowed on Bow Lake. You do need a national park permit. This is available at the two visitor centers in the park, most sporting goods shops in the park, and online. A national park pass is also required. A fishing license from the province of Alberta is not sufficient. 

Any angler younger than sixteen may fish in the lake without a license if accompanied by someone under sixteen who holds a national park license. The maximum number of fish to be caught is then equal to the limit of the license of the person holding a license.

There are two types of permits: 
Day Permit: CAD 9.80 
Annual permit: CAD 34.30


– It is mandatory to put back caught fish to the place where it was caught.
– The use of natural bait is not allowed in Banff National Park.
– In addition to a fishing license you must also have a National Park Pass.

Fish Species in Bow Lake

Fish species present in Bow Lake include rainbow trout, yellow perch, brown trout, northern pike and whitefish.

Snowshoeing around Bow Lake

Even in winter Bow Lake offers plenty of opportunities to enjoy beautiful nature. One of the best ways to do this is through snowshoeing. It allows you to walk with relative ease over the thick snow in the coldest months.

4 km (2.47 mi)1 hour5 m (16 ft)Bow Lake car park, just before the Num-Ti-Jah Lodge
8 km (4.94 mi)2 hrs80 m (262 ft)Car park at the Num-Ti-Jah Lodge
Snowshoeing trails around Bow Lake


Banff Visitor Centre
Opening hours (daily): 9 am – 5 pm
Address: 224 Banff Avenue, Banff
Phone: +1 403 – 762 1550

Lake Louise Visitor Centre
Opening hours (daily): 9 am – 5 pm
Address: Samson Mall, 201 Village Rd, Lake Louise
Phone: +1 403 – 522 3833

Other articles you might be interested in:
How to Make Sure Mosquitoes Don’t Ruin Your Stay in Banff
Plan Your Banff Itinerary – Know the Distances
How Much Does a Banff Vacation Cost in 2022? (Crazy Numbers)


As a former Banffite, I love writing about my favorite piece on the globe. I keep coming back to enjoy the mesmerizing beauty the park offers. It just never fails to impress me. With my extensive knowledge of the area, I aim to provide you with the best informational posts on Banff you can find on the internet.

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