Alpine Paddling at Iceberg Lake

Iceberg Lake as viewed from Mt. Jimmy Simpson Junior. “Piccolo Pond” to the bottom right.

It’s one of those hidden gems in the Canadian Rockies, despite the fact that droves of people head to the nearby Bow Hut each year. Nestled above Bow Glacier Falls at Bow Lake, Banff National Park, Iceberg Lake is a small alpine oasis, just hidden from view when below.

Rewind to 2005 and I had just arrived at Num-Ti-Jah Lodge for my first season of work in the Canadian Rockies. About a month in, the snow had finally thawed enough for us to do more hiking right from the doorsteps of the lodge. The objective? Iceberg Lake. At the time I knew nothing about it, nor the glacier that hung over it, nor the giant icefield, otherwise known as the Wapta, that lay beyond. As time would pass I would visit all of these places on various mountaineering and ski touring trips, as well as on a few traverses of the icefield itself.

As if the hike itself wasn’t good enough, this time around we hiked up to Iceberg Lake with an inflatable kayak. Yep. Anyone who has been to Iceberg Lake, or any alpine lake at that elevation for that matter, would probably think we were crazy. But, why not? It felt strange to be bobbing up and down on the water so new and blue as it rushed out of the Bow Glacier. Hoping a serac wouldn’t come crashing into the lake, I paddled toward the falls, pushing against the wind until my arms almost fell off. It felt surreal thinking about where I was paddling and how many times I had visited this place before without a boat.

There’s nothing quite like an alpine paddle.

To get to Iceberg Lake: Follow the lakeshore trail at Bow Lake up to the Natural Bridge, a large boulder that is resting in the canyon. Travel up and over the boulder and follow the trail to Bow Hut. When you find yourself back at creek level, you’ll need to cross the creek that comes down from the canyon leading up to Bow Hut. Once across the creek, aim for the crest of the moraine coming down to the left of Bow Glacier Falls. At the first major ledge, veer left onto the ledge (there are cairns to indicate the way) and wrap around the cliff face into the trees. Take the trail, which is currently flagged, up through the ledge system and trees and continue following cairns once you reach the top of this treed section. The trail will take you to the base of another moraine. Again, follow the crest all the way up until you are level with Iceberg Lake, above Bow Glacier Falls. Hike down to the right, across rubble and smooth rocks to Iceberg Lake, which will be in full view as you descend. Voilà!

Beautiful falls cascading out of Iceberg Lake before descending over the wall as Bow Glacier Falls.

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14 thoughts on “Alpine Paddling at Iceberg Lake

  1. Suz says:

    To cross the creek at Bow Hut, do we need to ford or is there a bridge or stones to step on? Trying to decide if an extra pair of socks would be a good idea. Thanks.

  2. Chris says:

    I must have climbed up the wrong ledge yesterday, after crossing the boulder going toward the hut. How far down before I cross the creek? I was so disappointed yesterday I couldn’t find the right mountain slope to climb..

    • Meghan J. Ward says:

      I’m sorry to hear that Chris. You need to cross the creek that comes out from the canyon en route to Bow Hut (to the right, towards the falls). Then start up that moraine. You essentially cross the big boulder and when the trail spits you back out onto the valley bottom you cross the creek.

      • Chris says:

        Thanks for the reply, so I take a left and cross the big boulder going toward the hut, and then once the trail brings me down to the valley bottom again, that’s where I cross the creek. Seems easy enough, wish there were markings.

  3. 2soonold2latesmart says:

    Well, I have never made it to this Iceberg Lake yet but I did visit a similarly named lake in East Glacier National Park in Montana last summer. I have been out to Bow Hut a few years back and remember the creek crossing. One of our group lost his hiking boots in the creek while crossing and had to hike back in sandals.

    Into the Bowl

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