Elbow Falls Hike Bragg Creek – Perfect Picnic by a Waterfall

Elbow Falls Trail is always a good road trip stop if you’re near Bragg Creek Alberta in Kananaskis Country. In the springtime and after heavy rains the water is flowing faster and creating bigger waterfalls on the Elbow River. While the picnic tables washed away in the flood of 2013 it’s still a pretty place for a picnic lunch with views of the Rocky Mountains and the sound of the waterfall.

Although the Elbow Falls hiking trail is more of a walk with a scenic viewpoint than a hike, you can keep walking further along the Elbow River as well. If you do carry on hiking along the river it’s wise to bring bear spray, and know how to use it.

Most people only go to see the falls rather than hike. It’s a popular spot for a family outing because it is a short walk to see the waterfalls so it’s easy enough for young kids.

 

Where is Elbow Falls?

Elbow Falls is located on Hwy 66 in Kananaskis Country, 20 km (12 miles) southwest of Bragg Creek Alberta. The trail is open year round, although Hwy 66 is closed west of the falls from Dec 1 to May 14 each year.

READ now: 5 Easy hikes in Kananaskis – best hiking near Calgary

 

Serene views of the Elbow Falls near Bragg Creek Alberta

Serene views of the Elbow Falls near Bragg Creek Alberta

 

The color of the water changes depending on the time of year largely due to how much rock flour is in the water. Rock flour is created from tiny particles of rock formed from glacial erosion and it is a big part of the reason glacial lakes are often brilliant shades of blue.

 

Beautiful view of the Elbow River in Kananaskis Alberta

Beautiful view of the Elbow River in Kananaskis Alberta

 

The Elbow Falls hike is a nice stop in Kananaskis to combine with hiking the Fullerton Loop Trail which is between Bragg Creek and the falls. You could do the Fullerton hike first then drive to Elbow Falls to enjoy lunch by the river.

Or do both hikes and then drive to Bragg Creek for lunch and a post hike beer. I enjoyed lunch out on the deck at The Bavarian Inn, located at 75 White Ave. You can have a look at their menu here.

 

View of the Elbow River from the stone pathway at Elbow Falls hike in Kananaskis

View from the stone pathway at Elbow Falls hike in Kananaskis

 

Looking for more of a workout during your hike? Head further west to Canmore where you can check out Grassi Lakes Trail for incredible turquoise glacier lakes, it’s open year round. Combine it with either Grotto Canyon or Troll Falls and enjoy a lunch break in Canmore. Although it’s closed in winter, from spring through autumn one of my favorite hikes in the Rockies is Ptarmigan Cirque because of the panoramic views of the mountains.

 

Signage at Elbow Falls about picnic areas near the falls

Signage at Elbow Falls about picnic areas near the falls

 

 

Elbow Falls is scenic spot to stop for a picnic and short walk along the Elbow River near Bragg Creek

Elbow Falls is scenic spot to stop for a picnic and short walk along the Elbow River near Bragg Creek

 

Pink wildflowers along the banks of the Elbow River in Alberta

Wildflowers along the banks of the Elbow River in Alberta

 

How to get to Elbow Falls?

The address in Google Maps is Elbow Falls, AB-66, Bragg Creek, AB

GPS coordinates: 50.8679° N, 114.7788° W

 

Elbow Falls info sign at the trailhead by the parking lot

Elbow Falls info sign at the trailhead by the parking lot

 

From Bragg Creek

Follow Hwy AB-22 south for a few km then take a right on Hwy AB-66 and continue 18 km (11 miles) to the Elbow Falls parking area.

From Calgary

The drive from Calgary to Elbow Falls takes about 45 minutes to an hour depending on where you start out in the city.

Take Trans-Canada Hwy 1 west and take exit 161A for Hwy AB-22 south (also known as the Cowboy Trail) toward Bragg Creek. Turn right on to Hwy AB-66 west and continue for 18 km (11 miles) to the parking at Elbow Falls Provincial Recreation Area.

 

Sign at Elbow Falls with map of the trail to the waterfall

Sign at Elbow Falls with map of the trail to the waterfall

 

There are some information boards with details about how the waterfall will change over hundreds of years. Gradually the falls will turn into rapids and later the rapids will disappear leaving a slow moving river.

 

Info sign showing how erosion at the site of the Elbow Falls changes the anatomy of the waterfall

Erosion at the site of the waterfall changes the anatomy of the falls

 

Scenic view of Elbow Falls and mountains in Kananaskis AB

Scenic view of Elbow Falls and mountains in Kananaskis AB

 

Hike info

At the parking lot you’ll find the trailhead next to the map of Elbow Falls Trail. Shortly into the walk you will see the Elbow River. There is a stone walkway with railings along the waterfall viewing area. If you do the hike as a loop you will walk back to the parking area via the pathway through the trees. I prefer to walk back along the same stone pathway so I can spend more time around the falls and the river.

Even though there are no picnic tables you could pack yourself a lunch and enjoy dining by the river.

 

A short drive from Calgary the Elbow Falls is an easy hike close to Bragg Creek

A short drive from Calgary the Elbow Falls is an easy hike close to Bragg Creek

 

Type of hike

Loop or out and back

Distance

1 km ( .6 miles) round trip

Elevation gain

45 m (150 ft)

 

Elbow Falls in Kananaskis Country Alberta near Bragg Creek

Elbow Falls in Kananaskis Country Alberta near Bragg Creek

 

Duration

Allow about 30 minutes

Difficulty

Easy, family friendly hike for all ages

Best time to hike

May through September

Can I bring my dog?

Yes, but please always keep dogs on leash

Facilities at trailhead

Garbage, recycling, and pit toilets

 

Picturesque Kananaskis Country Alberta view of the Elbow River near the waterfall

Picturesque Kananaskis Country Alberta view of the Elbow River near the waterfall

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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

2 Replies

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  1. Jo Harmon says:

    WOW! what a gorgeous place.

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