Bow Summit Peyto Lake Hike Icefields Parkway Banff

Peyto Lake hike to the upper lookout trail at Bow Summit along the Icefields Parkway is the best place to view Peyto Lake. Skip past the tourists at the viewing platforms and hike Bow Summit instead. I’ve seen Peyto in sunshine, gusting winds, drizzling rain, and through snowflakes or sleet. Peyto is unmistakable for both the fox shape and turquoise color of this stunning glacial lake in the Canadian Rockies.

 

Peyto Lake Canada Bow Summit Lookout in the Canadian Rockies

 

Millions of tourists visit Banff every year and Peyto Lake is one of the most popular attractions in Banff. In high season from June through August there is steady flow of tour buses at Peyto Lake. Avoid the biggest crowds by hiking to the Peyto Lake Lookout and get the best view of Peyto from above.

 

Bow Summit Peyto Lake hike to view the iconic fox shape turquoise lake in Banff National Park AB Canada

Bow Summit Peyto Lake hike to view the iconic fox shape turquoise lake in Banff National Park

 

How to get to Bow Summit Peyto Lake hiking trail

Bow Summit/Peyto Lake lookout is located on the Icefields Parkway (Hwy 93) and it’s 100 km (60 miles) northwest of Banff. Allow at least 1 hour driving time.

READ MORE: Icefields Parkway Itinerary Best Stops for Lakes, Waterfalls, Hikes

From Banff take Trans-Canada Hwy 1 West (signs for Lake Louise) and take the exit for Hwy 93 North (signs for Jasper). Check the Alberta Highway road conditions via 511 Alberta website and download the app to your phone.

To get to the Bow Summit Peyto Lake Lookout trail you will start out from the paved walking trail at the parking lot. You will see hoards of people at the two wooden platform lookouts. If you don’t have time to do the hike you’ll have to hang out here until you get a view of the lovely fox-shaped Peyto Lake in brilliant turquoise. But I highly recommend continuing onward to the Peyto lookout further up the mountain. You’ll enjoy a wondrous view of the Peyto Glacier to the left of the lake minus the crowds from the tourist buses.

Click here for free Icefields Parkway map from Parks Canada

 

Overflow parking at Bow Summit Peyto Lake

Overflow parking at Bow Summit Peyto Lake

 

Bow Summit is the highest point on the Icefields Parkway with an elevation of 2,085 m (6,840 ft) .

 

At 2,085 m (6,840 ft) Bow Summit is the highest point on the Icefields Parkway

At 2,085 m (6,840 ft) Bow Summit is the highest point on the Icefields Parkway

 

Peyto Lake lookout trail to the best viewing point of the lake and Peyto Glacier

Peyto Lake lookout trail to the best viewing point of the lake and Peyto Glacier

 

Bow Summit trail distance marker at Peyto Lake Icefields Parkway Alberta Canada

Bow Summit trail distance marker at Peyto Lake Icefields Parkway

 

Peyto Lake Map of Lookout Trail

On this map of Peyto Lake you’ll notice the bus parking area near the top-left. Directly to the right of the tour bus parking the short walking trail leads to the two wooden viewing platforms overlooking Peyto Lake. You’ll want to continue on the paved walking trail to a dirt trail that leads to Bow Summit and Peyto Lake overlook.

 

Map of Peyto Lake Lookout Trail at Bow Summit parking area on Icefields Parkway Banff Alberta Canada

Map of Peyto Lake Lookout Trail at Bow Summit parking area on Icefields Parkway Banff

 

A closer look at Peyto Glacier in July 2018

A closer look at Peyto Glacier in July 2018

 

Why is it called Peyto Lake?

Peyto Lake is named after Ebenezer William “Bill” Peyto, park warden of Banff National Park from 1913 to 1936, although his job was interrupted by his service in World War I. Bill Peyto was born in England in 1869 and died in Banff in 1943. He emigrated to Canada in 1887 and worked on the railroad in his early days in Banff, then became a mountain guide and horse outfitter.

You can visit Bill Peyto’s cabin at the Whyte Museum in Banff.

A large portrait of Bill Peyto used to greet visitors entering Banff at both the east and west entrances. But the Town of Banff removed the signs in 2015 when they chose new signage for the town.

 

Lines show the layers of sedimentary rock in the Canadian Rockies at Peyto Lake Alberta

Lines show the layers of sedimentary rock in the Canadian Rockies

 

Close-up view of the Canadian Rockies from Bow Summit trail

Close-up view of the Canadian Rockies from Bow Summit trail

 

Best time to hike Bow Summit to Peyto Lake Lookout

The best time to hike with warmer weather at Bow Summit trail to Peyto Lake Lookout is from June through August. However, to hike with fewer people on the roads and on the trails try shoulder season which is in-between high seasons of summer and winter but still nice weather. Try late May to early June before the kids are out of school, or mid-September for a decent chance of good weather, few people, and hotel rates are generally cheaper too.

 

Bow Summit Peyto Lake trail provides views of the lake and Peyto Glacier

Bow Summit Peyto Lake trail provides views of the lake and Peyto Glacier

 

Spring thaw brings snow melt and rock debris down into Peyto Lake

Spring thaw brings snow melt and rock debris down into Peyto Lake

 

Why is Peyto Lake turquoise blue?

Beautiful turquoise  coloration of Peyto lake is due to the creation of rock flour from the glacier. Rock flour, also known as glacial flour, is present in the lake. Water flows into Peyto Lake from Peyto Creek, fed by Caldron Lake and Peyto Glacier which part of the Wapta Icefield.

When I wrote about Grassi Lakes last month I included a section about rock flour and how it creates the brilliant colors in glacier lakes, click here to find out more about rock flour. You’ll also find out why the Canadian Rockies have such pretty turquoise lakes whereas the American Rockies, although equally breathtakingly beautiful, do not have such stunning glacier lakes.

READ MORE: 5 Stunning Glacier Lakes in Alberta and BC

 

Map of trail to upper viewpoint of Peyto Lake at Bow Summit

Map of trail to upper viewpoint of Peyto Lake at Bow Summit

 

Wildflowers and evergreen trees are abundant along Peyto Lookout trail

Wildflowers are abundant along the Peyto lookout trail

 

You’ll see trees growing in circular pattern at the Peyto Lake trail, a fairy ring of trees.

 

A circle of trees at Peyto Lake lookout trail

A circle of trees at Peyto Lake lookout trail, a fairy ring of trees

 

Bow Summit Peyto Lake hike visitor info

Type of hike –  out and back

Distance – 5.8 km (3.6 miles) round trip

Elevation gain – 115 m (375 ft)

Time – allow 2 hours

Difficulty – Easy

Best time to hike – June through September. Be aware that weather in the mountains is often unpredictable. Bring layers and cold weather clothing options and use ice cleats if the conditions warrant. You’re not going to need cleats in the summer but it can snow any month of the year in the Canadian Rockies.

NOTE: If you are hiking during high season June through August the parking lot and paved hike to the wooden viewing platforms will be EXTREMELY crowded. The earlier you get there the best chance you have of avoiding the biggest crowds. Or hike later in the day, around dinner time, remember there are long summer days in Alberta :)

Dogs allowed on trail – Dogs must be on leash

Facilities at trailhead – trash and recycle bins, pit toilets

 

It gets windy at the summit and the weather changes rapidly in the mountains.

 

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Peyto Lake Canada Bow Summit Lookout in the Canadian Rockies

 

 

Turquoise color and shaped like a fox, Peyto Lake is a memorable landmark

Turquoise color and shaped like a fox, Peyto Lake is a memorable landmark

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About the Author

Susan Moore spent 7 months traveling 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 4 of living a nomadic life, roadtripping around the USA and Canada and writing about her experiences. Read all about Susan » You can reach Susan Moore at Facebook or Twitter or Instagram

4 Replies

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  1. Jo Harmon says:

    OH MY! How breathtaking is all of this.

  2. So great to see pictures of home! I love that you give good advice for people to get further into this beautiful part of the world since so many only experience it from the comfort and safety of their cars. Thanks for sharing!

    • Heather, thanks for your comment. Glad you enjoyed it, I know you must miss those mountains, same as I do, you can’t leave Calgary and NOT miss the mountains! Peyto is magic when you get beyond the tourist clusters. Someone told me that 93% of tourists do not venture more than 1 km from where they park the car, wow! So it’s easy to avoid the tourists, by going the extra mile, or kilometer, even in the most visited National Park in Canada :)

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