Hiking the Bow River Trail Canmore Alberta

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The town of Canmore is home to the stunning beauty of the Canadian Rockies and the turquoise waters of the Bow River. One of the best things to do in Canmore is hike the Bow River Trail. Last summer I took a day trip to Canmore from Calgary and hiked along the Bow all afternoon. I enjoyed stunning views for the entire hiking trail.

For this post I’m covering one of the easiest trails in Canmore, suitable for anyone doing a one day trip to Canmore. You can do the short route that I outline below, or you can easily add on other sections to make it a longer hike.

If you prefer biking that is another option for this Canmore trail.

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Don't MISS This Hike in Canmore Alberta Best of Canadian Rockies Alberta

Source of the Bow River

Bow Glacier is the source for Bow Lake which feeds the Bow River. You can see Bow Glacier and visit Bow Lake via the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park.

Read my Icefields Parkway Itinerary to plan your trip on one of the most scenic drives in the world.

The water from the Bow River flows through Alberta, Saskatchewan, and all the way to Hudson Bay in northern Manitoba.

Imagine that?! The water you see in Canmore Alberta could make a journey all the way to Hudson Bay!

Bow River trail Canmore Alberta Canada

A view of the Rockies and the Bow River from the Engine Bridge in Canmore

Hiking in Canmore

Hiking in Canmore Alberta is a treat because you get the Rocky Mountains and the beautiful Bow River as your companions. Those are two of the things I miss most after moving away from Alberta.

The color of the Bow River looks unreal – glacial fed waters have an amazing turquoise color.

Canmore Engine Bridge over Bow River

Canmore Engine Bridge, formerly a railroad bridge, is a pedestrian bridge now

Canmore hikes rival those in Banff and Lake Louise, but with fewer people. If you want to fully explore the Canmore hiking trails, you’ll want to book a few nights at a hotel or hostel.

Click here to read reviews and check availability for Canmore accommodations including hotels and hostels.

Map of Canmore trails near Bow River

Map of Canmore trails near Bow River

I love that you can hike alongside the river for a couple hours then take a short walk to town and enjoy a meal and refreshments at one of the Canmore pubs or restaurants.

I don’t know about you, but I like a nice cold beer after a hike.

It’s easy to access the Bow River hiking trails. From downtown Canmore walk to the Riverside Park on River Road near the Bow River Bridge.

There’s a bridge for cars and a separate one right next to it, for pedestrians and cyclists.

Bow River pedestrian bridge Canmore AB

Bow River pedestrian bridge crosses the river near Canmore Riverside Park

Easy 2 km (1.2 mile) Hiking Route

Watch for the hiking trail signage near the bridge so you can plan your route. For an easy 2 km (1.2 mile) hike you can walk across the pedestrian bridge (by Riverside Park)

Turn right and walk to the Canmore Engine Bridge where you’ll cross the Bow River again. Then walk back to the pedestrian bridge, passing Riverside Park on the way.

Spur Line Trail Canmore Alberta Canada

Trail maps are posted along the hiking routes so you can plan your hike

Canmore Engine Bridge spans the Bow River and offers spectacular views.

View of Bow River from Canmore Engine Bridge

Picture perfect view of the Bow River from Canmore Engine Bridge

Japan’s Sister City to Canmore

Higashikawa Japan is sister city to Canmore – since July 12, 1989. There is a plaque on a big chunk of rock along the Bow River Trail, commemorating the sister cities.

The portion of the trail between the Engine Bridge and Riverside Park is named Higashikawa Friendship Trail.

Plaques commemorate Canmore and Higashikawa Japan as sister ciites

Plaques commemorate Canmore and Higashikawa Japan as sister ciites

Directions to Bow River Hiking Trails

Banff to Canmore

Banff is only 25 km (15 miles) from Canmore

  • Take the Trans-Canada Hwy east to exit 86 for Canmore/Bow Valley Trail
  • Turn right onto Bow Valley Trail
  • Right again onto 17th Street
  • Turn left onto 9th Ave
  • Continue onto Fairholme Drive and 8th Ave
  • Turn right onto River Road to the parking lot

Allow 30 minutes driving time from Banff

Calgary to Canmore

Calgary is about 105 km (65 miles) from Canmore

  • Take the Trans-Canada Hwy west for 80 km (48 miles) to exit 89 for Canmore
  • Turn right on Palliser Trail
  • Another right onto Benchlands Trail and continue to Railroad Ave
  • Turn left on 8th Street
  • Another left onto River Road to the parking lot

Allow at least 1 hour driving time from Calgary

Canmore Engine Bridge Bow River

Hiking and biking the trails in Canmore – perfect summer day trip from Calgary

Why is the Water so Blue?

The Bow River feeds from Bow Lake, in Banff National Park, which is a glacier fed lake. Bow Glacier in the Wapta Icefields is the source of water to Bow Lake and the Bow River.

Glacier waters contain ‘rock flour’ which is tiny bits of rock ground up into silt, mostly caused by glacial erosion.

Another pretty turquoise Canadian lake that you may have heard about is Peyto Lake. You can hike Bow Summit for outstanding views of the glacier fed lake.

To get there you take the Icefields Parkway and while you’re there you can visit Bow Lake too.

Canoeing Bow River Canmore Alberta Canada

Canoing and kayaking is popular on the Bow River in Canmore

Read these related posts to plan your trip to the Canadian Rockies

5 Easy Hikes in Kananaskis – Best Hiking Near Calgary

Boom Lake Banff Hiking Trail to Perfect Picnic Lakeside

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5 Awesome Glacial Lakes to Visit on a BC and Alberta Road Trip

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Enjoy exploring in western Canada and the beautfiful Rocky Mountains!

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About the Author

Susan Moore spent 7 months traveling solo around Southeast Asia back in the 90's. Returning to Canada she found a job working on rotation in Siberia Russia. She later moved to Austin Texas where she started a bookkeeping business, allowing her to work remotely. Currently Susan is in year 5 of a solo road trip around the USA and Canada, living a nomadic life, and writing about her experiences with a focus on hiking and cultural encounters. Read all about Susan » You can reach Susan Moore at Facebook or Twitter or Instagram

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  1. Susan, this looks like a dream. Alberta popped up on my radar quite a bit recently.


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