Home Destinations Waterfall Walks and Hikes in Southern Alberta

Waterfall Walks and Hikes in Southern Alberta

by Karen Ung

Whether you’re looking for a scenic road trip stop, short walk, or half day hike, these Southern Alberta waterfalls are worth a visit!

Waterfall hikes in Southern Alberta from top left clockwise: Upper Falls, Grotto Canyon, Louise Falls, Grassi Lakes

Safety Moment

Tips for staying safe while visiting waterfalls:

  1. Keep children close and keep your dog on a leash.
  2. Never climb over viewing platform railings.
  3. Stay out of the water above and directly below the falls. Swirling water in plunge pools can drown even the strongest swimmer.
  4. In winter, do not stand too close to icefalls. Chunks of ice can fall off without notice and can cause severe injury or death. The risk is even higher if ice climbers are climbing near you.

Quick Stops: Waterfalls at Roadside Pullouts

Bow Falls, Banff National Park

Bow Falls is the most accessible waterfall in Banff. You can drive right to it, or walk a paved path from downtown Banff to the water’s edge. The Bow River drops 9 metres here before continuing east through Canmore and Calgary. Make the most of your trip to Banff with our Banff Sumer Fun Guide or Banff Winter Fun Guide. Accessible year round.

Cameron Falls, Waterton Lakes National Park

At the edge of downtown Waterton, Cameron Falls runs pink(ish) during peak spring runoff when rock flour is washed from red argillite, a type of rock which is prevalent throughout the park. While the falls aren’t pink the rest of the year, they’re still worth a visit. To see the falls from the upper viewing platform, hike a few hundreds metres along the Carthew-Alderson Trail. Parking is available near the base of the falls. See our Winter in Waterton story for more things to do in Waterton during the snowy season. Accessible year round.

Lundbreck Falls, Lundbreck Provincial Recreation Area

Lundbreck Falls is a beautiful twin falls located 20 minutes west of Pincher Creek at the south end of the Cowboy Trail. You can see them from the viewing platform beside the parking lot, or walk 400 metres from Lundbreck Falls Campground to the base of the falls (shown above). Our Camping at Lundbreck Falls story has more info. Accessible year round.

Tangle Falls, Jasper National Park

When driving back from Jasper, make a quick stop at Tangle Falls. The multi-tiered cascading falls, located 7.9 kilometers south of the Columbia Icefields, are 48 metres high! Parking is on the west side of the highway and the falls are on the east side. If you choose to cross Highway 93 for a closer look, use extreme caution and stay well off the road as cars are moving quickly. See our story, The Best Stops on the Icefields Parkway, for more waterfalls along Highway 93 North. Accessible year round.

O’Shaughnessy Falls, Kananaskis

If you’ve always wondered why people pull over at that wishing well on Highway 40 South, I’ll fill you in on a secret: they’re checking out a little waterfall behind the well! Click here for Google Maps directions and look for the pullout on the east side of the highway 4.9 km south of the Barrier Dam turnoff or 1 km north of Baldy Pass Parking. Accessible year round.

Bonus: Takakkaw Falls, Yoho National Park

Although Takakkaw Falls is in BC, it’s worth a mention because it’s only a few hours from Calgary and is one of the tallest waterfalls in Canada. Dropping 380 metres, and visible from the parking lot, Tak Falls is a must-see in Yoho National Park. Be advised, however, that the road to Takakkaw Falls is closed from mid-October to late June.

Short Waterfall Walks & Hikes (less than 2 km round trip)

Athabasca Falls, Icefields Parkway

Gorgeous in all seasons, Athabasca Falls roars through a gorge with Mount Kerkeslin in the background. The falls are quite close to the parking lot, but we recommend doing the short (1 km) loop to see the falls from different vantages, and check out the blue lagoon downstream. Accessible year round.

Cascade Falls, Banff National Park

Cascade Falls is the long waterfall visible on the side of Cascade Mountain as you head west on Highway 1. This 240 metre high waterfall is best visited in summer as it is located on an avalanche slope. The trail is short but steep with lots of loose rock, so take your time. Afterwards, visit Cascade Ponds and all the lakes on scenic Lake Minnewanka Drive (Johnson Lake, Two Jack Lake, and Lake Minnewanka). 1.1 km round trip, 90 metres elevation gain.

Crescent Falls, David Thompson Country

Crescent Falls is a stunning two-tier waterfall in David Thompson Country. From the viewing platforms near the parking lot, you can watch the falls plummet over the first ledge. Hiking the Bighorn Canyon Trail for about a kilometre brings you to a viewpoint where you can see both levels of the crescent-shaped falls.

There have been several fatalities at Crescent Falls, so it is advised that you view the falls from the viewing platforms.

Elbow Falls, Bragg Creek

Elbow Falls is a popular destination near Bragg Creek. Walk the 1 km interpretive trail to learn about water erosion and management while you make your way to the falls (it’s only 300 metres to the first viewpoint). Bring a picnic blanket so you can stay a while, or plan to picnic at Bill Allen Day Use or Forget-me-not Pond. Popular hikes in the area include Prairie Mountain, Vents Ridge, and Powderface Ridge. Accessible year round.

Fish Creek Ice Falls, Fish Creek Provincial Park

Fish Creek’s falls are best seen in winter when they’re frozen. Only 700 metres from the Bow Valley Ranch parking lot, you can even visit in the dead of winter when it’s too cold to drive to the mountains (wait, is it ever too cold?!). Save time to visit the Artisan Gardens, home to 175 sculptures, while you’re there. Our story The Ice Falls and Caves of Fish Creek Park has more info. Accessible year round.

Mistaya Canyon, Banff National Park

Mistaya Canyon is a curvy slot canyon on the Icefields Parkway featuring a waterfall and great views of Mount Sarbach. Allow at least half an hour to visit the falls. It’s only 500 metres to the bridge! Accessible year round but snowshoes may be required in winter.

Ram Falls, David Thompson Country

Ram Falls is a spectacular 20-metre high waterfall in David Thompson Country. Since it’s off the beaten path, over 3 hrs from Calgary (including 85 km on a sometimes rough gravel road) on forestry trunk road highway 734, you might want to book a campsite during the summer months. The trailhead is located at the 2nd day use area at Ram Falls Provincial Park. Note that this trail has stairs so it is not stroller / wheelchair accessible. 800 metres one way.

Discover more gems in the area in our story: Camping and Hiking in David Thompson Country.

Sheep Falls, west of Longview

From June 15th until November 30th, you can drive to Sheep Falls Day Use and walk 500 metres to the waterfall viewpoint. If you’re lucky, you’ll see lots of bighorn sheep for which the park is named. 1 km round trip.

In spring, it’s a rolling 15 km bike ride from the Highway 546 Winter Gate to Sheep Falls Day Use. See our story: Biking Sheep River Road / Highway 546 for more information.

Silverton Falls, Banff National Park

Silverton Falls is a cascading 2-tier 50-metre (164 feet) high waterfall just a few kilometres down the road from Johnston Canyon. It tends to see a lot less traffic than Johnston Canyon, so if you’re looking for a short, quiet hike, this one fits the bill. Begin the hike at Rockbound Lake parking lot. The viewpoint is on an avalanche/mudslide path, so this hike is NOT suitable for winter or after heavy rainfall. For more details, see our Silverton Falls story. 1.4 km round trip, 90 metres elevation gain.

Star Creek Falls Loop, Crowsnest Pass

Star Creek Falls is a hidden gem in West Coleman. This short, but scenic trail include two bridges, two waterfall viewpoints, and a 75-metre deep canyon. Get directions to this unmarked trail at the Frank Slide Visitor Information Centre. 1.6 km loop, 114 m elevation gain.

Sunwapta Falls, Icefields Parkway

Sunwapta Falls (178 km north of Lake Louise / 56 km south of Jasper) has two sets of falls. The upper falls, only 200 m from the parking lot, may be viewed from the viewing bridge and the trail. The lower falls are a 4 km round-trip hike. See The Best Stops on the Icefields Parkway for more sights to see on Highway 93. Accessible year round.

More Waterfall Hikes (2-6 km round trip)

Allison Creek Falls, Chinook Provincial Recreation Area

If you don’t mind getting your feet wet, Allison Creek Falls is a lot of fun! Expect to cross the creek a few times as you head upstream to a cascading waterfall. 2.6 km round trip.

Allstones Creek, David Thompson Country

Allstones Creek is a fun hike on a hot day. Splash along the creek to a pretty little waterfall, then watch cliff jumpers at Allstones Day Use. If you’d like to try it yourself, be advised the clear, turquoise water is icy cold! 4.8 km round trip.

Blakiston Falls, Waterton Lakes National Park

Blakiston Falls (20 metres high) is a great little hike to do in combination with Red Rock Canyon since they both start at the same place. Follow the easy trail through charred trees and 5-foot high fireweed to the waterfall viewing decks. 2 km round trip. Note: The Red Rock Canyon Parkway is closed to vehicles each year from October 29 – May 1.

Cat Creek Falls, South Kananaskis

For a fun, easy hike, try Cat Creek Falls. Kids will enjoy all the little footbridges along the way. The trail is best done from late spring until autumn. The winter gate is closed from December 1st – June 14th each year but you can bike on the road from late May until June 14th. Read our story Bike and hike to Cat Creek Falls for details. 2.4 km round trip, 90 m elevation gain.

Grassi Lakes, Canmore (closed for construction in 2022)

If you take the “difficult” trail to Grassi Lakes, you’ll pass a beautiful waterfall. The falls are located right before the stairs, and can be easily seen from the new viewing platforms. We recommend taking the difficult trail to the lakes and returning on the easy trail because it’s easier to go up on the steep part than down (less chance of falling down the stairs). Note: There is a seasonal closure of the “difficult” trail due to ice flows across the trail. 3.8 km round trip, 125 m elevation gain.

Grotto Canyon, Exshaw

For a unique winter hike, put on some microspikes and walk the frozen creekbed to Grotto Canyon’s Icefalls. The ice falls at the end of the canyon, popular with ice climbers, are known as “His” and “Hers.” The trail also boasts pictographs and a cave. See our Grotto Canyon story for more info! 3.8 km round trip, 100 m elevation gain.

Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park

Johnston Canyon is a great year-round hike featuring several waterfalls, a little tunnel to a viewing deck, and cool catwalk along the gorge. Continue on to the Ink Pots, five cerulean pools, if time allows. 1.2 km to Lower Falls, 2.5 km to Upper Falls, 5.7 km to the Ink Pots. Accessible year round.

Louise Falls, Lake Louise

Did you know there’s a 100-metre high waterfall at the end of Lake Louise? Follow the lakeshore trail for 2 kilometres to reach the falls, or cross country ski across the lake in winter (if the lake is frozen enough, a ski track and walking trail will be groomed). Accessible year round.

Winter Safety Note: DO NOT WALK/SKI ON THE BOATHOUSE SIDE OF THE LAKE – THERE IS EXTREME AVALANCHE DANGER FROM THE SLOPES ABOVE. Also, stay near the lake (i.e. don’t go close to the icefalls) as chunks of ice could fall off without warning. For more information, see our story Skate, Ski, Walk, and Snowshoe on Lake Louise.

Sarrail Falls, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park

Sarrail Falls is a small but pretty waterfall on the south east side of Upper Kananaskis Lake, only 1.3 kilometres from the parking lot. You pass right by it on the way to Rawson Lake and Sarrail Ridge. Enjoy a picnic at Upper Kananaskis Lake Day Use after your hike!

Sunwapta Falls, Icefields Parkway

Sunwapta Falls (178 km north of Lake Louise / 56 km south of Jasper) has two sets of falls. The upper falls, 200 metres from the parking lot, may be viewed from the viewing bridge or the trail. The lower falls are a 4 km return hike. Fun fact: “Sunwapta” means turbulent water in the Stoney (Nakoda) language. See The Best Stops on the Icefields Parkway for more scenic spots. Accessible year round.

Troll Falls & Upper Falls, Kananaskis Valley

Troll Falls is a lovely short hike, but there are even more waterfalls along Marmot Creek. Continue past Troll Falls on the marked trail to Upper Falls. Distance: 1.7 km to Troll Falls + 1 km to Upper Falls Elevation Gain: 150 m Accessible year round.

Three Sisters Creek, Canmore

This short hike features two small waterfalls and views of the Three Sisters, the iconic mountain range near Canmore. 4 km round trip. Accessible year round.

What to Bring

Always carry The Ten Essentials including water, extra food, extra clothes, a headlamp, and GPS/compass and map of the area. Trekking poles are useful for long/steep hikes or when you’re carrying a lot of weight.

In winter conditions, traction devices such as Kahtoola Microspikes (Available from AmazonMEC, and Camper’s Village), or Hillsound Trail Crampons (Available at AmazonHillsound, and Sport Chek) are recommended. See our story on Traction Devices for Winter Walks and Hikes for more options.

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