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How to walk the Bow River Loop trail in Canmore

Me by the rivers edge on the Bow river loop

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The Bow river loop is an easy trail in Canmore. It has panoramic mountain views in almost every direction which really showcases the beauty of the town. The trail is family-friendly and suitable for people of all fitness levels and it’s even wheelchair and pushchair accessible!

Probably only one of the only wheelchair-friendly trails in the area, too.

During the walk on a clear day, you will be lucky enough to see the following mountains: Lady MacDonald, Grotto, Mount Lawrence Grassi, Mount Rundle and the Cascade Mountains. You can also see part of the Fairholme Range from most of the river.

It really is such a beautiful destination. Hopefully, this will show you why Canmore’s my favourite destination to date!

Fun fact: The Bow river is 587 km long starting in the Canadian Rockies at Bow Lake. The Lake is fed by the Bow Glacier and travels all the way through popular destinations like Banff, Canmore and Calgary until it reaches the Prairies.

Country:Canada
Currency:Canadian Dollar / CAD
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a sign of the trail route in front of the mountains
The trail map where many people start the trail. The engine bridge is just to our right.

Trail Stats

You can follow the route of the trail here.

Type of Trail:

Loop trail

Length of trail:

2.1 km / 1.3 miles

Time to complete;

20-30 minutes

The Bow river loop trail is a casual walking trail with only a small elevation gain of 54 m. Most of the trail is paved with the smooth ground which makes this a common route for not only hikers but also cyclists.

Safety Tip: Stay to the right side of the trail to make way for oncoming pedestrians and cyclists.

What I love about this trail is that it is so close to the town centre, you can get there in 10 minutes on foot! The river runs through the natural mountain landscape and is close to some residential areas too.

As it is a loop, you can technically start the trail at any point along the route. Many people use the engine bridge as their start and finish point as it’s a nice obvious feature – You can’t miss it.


the engine bridge in Canmore
The engine bridge and starting point for the Bow Valley loop.

The trail route

I’d recommend getting an eSIM or sim card during your trip to Canmore so you can easily navigate without getting lost. Plus, it makes it easier to contact someone if you come into trouble or in contact with a bear.

Starting at the old engine bridge on the east side of the trail, you cross the bridge which takes you into a well-walked forested trail. Once you reach the end of the forest you cross a wooden bridge which ends by the water treatment facility.

To your left, you will have the river and to your right, you have the facility. You want to keep the Bow river to your left for the entire loop of the trail. Walking just a few metres you will have to pass by the large wooden staircase built into the hill that takes you to the popular cycling and powerline trails.

Staying on the track and NOT going up the stairs, you will walk past some more wooded areas on your right hand until you reach some cabins and holiday homes.

By this point, you’re in a louder and slightly busier part of the trail. The river is down a steep bank but after a few more metres the terrain gets flatter and is easier for you to walk on the rocks of the river bed if you choose to.

Always remember to be aware of the dangers of hiking which includes other people. In this instance, you could get hit by a cyclist since you will share the trail with them during your hike.

forested area next to the bow river loop
A small path off of the trail brings you to the river’s edge

You will eventually reach a road (named Bridge Road) that crosses the bridge in front of you. This is where you will turn left to reach the other side of the loop track.

This is the halfway mark! Once you get to the other side, this is an area with a few amenities (we will talk about these below) for public use.

The trail will continue and gradually go downhill. You’ll have a small green park to your right and small openings in the bushes to reach the riverbed “beach” on your right.

After a few minutes, you will be in a shaded section of the trail covered by trees on both sides. This is the landscape until you reach the finish point at the engine bridge!


mountains surrounding the bow river from the west side of the loop trail
A rocky island in the centre of the river

Safety

Although this is a physically easy trail, there are still a few things to be aware of to stay safe. Canmore is a small town in the Rocky Mountains and is surrounded by thickly forested areas. This means there are many protected wildlife corridors around the town.

During my time on the Bow river loop, there were 2 signs stating that a bear had been spotted in the area.

Although bears are generally more scared of humans than we are of them, we still need to practice bear safety when travelling around these places.

The bear warning signs during my walk were on the west side of the loop trail just after the water treatment centre and large staircase. However, even if you don’t see any signs on your walk you should still stay vigilant. You might be the first one to spot a bear that day in the area!

Spending some time in Canmore? Check out these other posts

If you’d rather hike a slightly more difficult mountain trail, check out the EEOR Hike in Alberta – The East End of Rundle


mountain landscape with trees on the rocky beach
The view to your right when you cross Bridge road.

Features of the trail

  • Engine Bridge – This bridge was built in 1891 by the Canadian Pacific Railway. It was built as an access route to a local coal mine. Much of that old route is now used as the Bow river loop trail. This is a popular photography spot so don’t be surprised if you see engagement or prom photos being taken near the bridge backdrop!

I saw 3 different groups having photoshoots during my time on the Bow river.

  • Riverside Park – This is the park next to the river and Bridge road. It is a public park open to locals and visitors and is open from 6 am until 11 pm each day. This is a popular area for people to sit by the river, and enjoy the views, and is a dog-friendly area (as long as they stay on a lead).

path along the bow river trail
The bench next to the river – the view to the right from the engine bridge

Amenities

There are a few amenities scattered around this loop trail including benches, public toilets and bear-safe rubbish bins.

Public toilets – There seems to be only one location for restrooms along the trail which is located in the riverside park. There are 2 toilets in the one building and these are only available during the park’s opening hours from 6 am-11 pm.

If you do need another public bathroom or that one is closed, the next closest one is located back in the centre of town on 7th Ave which is a 10-minute walk away from the engine bridge.

Benches – What’s nice about this loop trail, is there are places to sit down all along the river on both sides. This allows you to take some time out to relax and enjoy the natural surroundings before continuing along the trail. Plus, located at the riverside park there are a few picnic tables too, This would be the perfect place to stop for a snack and to rehydrate.

Rubbish Bins – Along the route, I think I counted at least 4 bins. This means there is absolutely no reason to litter! What’s interesting about Canmore is many of the bins along the nature trails have bear-safe bins. This means bears are unable to smell the contents and prevents bears from trying to raid them.


me walking on the rocky riverbank with mountains behind me
Me walking along the rocks on the river’s edge near Riverside park.

Where to stay in Canmore?

What’s great about Canmore is how small the town is. No matter where you are staying, and no matter where you need to be, you’re only a walking distance away!

When staying in any new place, I like to experience 2 different types of accommodation. A budget hostel and a more relaxing option. Check out my favourite two below:

  • Canmore Downtown Hostel – The name sums it up really. It is a fun and sociable hostel in the centre of the Canmore shops. It has both shared dorm rooms as well as private rooms for visitors to stay in. They always advertise activities for guests like trivia and karaoke nights at a local bar.
  • Solara Resort – A resort for guests of all ages with spacious private rooms. This is a more expensive option than the hostel but for good reason. This resort is ideal for those guests who want a more relaxing and quiet stay rather than a sociable option.

The Bow River Loop is an easy walk that really compliments any itinerary in the area. You can walk, run, cycle or even skate along this route and take in the local surroundings and Canmore’s beauty.

Have you walked the Bow River Loop yet?

Need help planning your trip?

Check out how to plan a trip abroad & see my travel resources for more.

WayAway – Great for booking flights. They even have a cashback feature for those who fly frequently.
Skyscanner – A comprehensive comparison website showing where to purchase flights.
HostelWorld – The biggest selection of hostels & sociable accommodations.
Booking.com – The largest collection of accommodations worldwide.

Safety Wing – A travel insurance brand for long-term travellers and nomads.

Airalo – An eSIM card company that lets you stay connected during your trip.
Wise – Perfect for transferring foreign currencies.
iVisa – For applying for tourist and visitor visas.

Viator – Great for finding tours and activities worldwide.
Get Your Guide – Another company for finding activities.
Klook – Have some of the best activity deals in Asia.

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