If you don’t already know one thing about the Canadian Rockies in early summer, let me tell you that their mosquitoes are not to be taken lightly. See all those pretty lakes and streams from melted snow and ice? Hungry mosquitoes love them too.

OK, that may be true for any mountains and forests that have abundant water sources. We don’t normally go on a hike without having insect repellent with us. There was one time on the Cascade Canyon hike in Grand Tetons National Park where biting flies were ferocious. Had we not carried the insect repellent with us, we would have had to turn around. That said, until this Rockies trip, we rarely needed a lot of insect repellent on hiking trails. Most times a few drops on the clothes or hat brims would be enough to keep mosquitoes away.

N,N-Diethyl-3-methylbenzamide, commonly known as diethyltoluamide or DEET, is a commonly-used active ingredient in commercial insect repellents. Some people may prefer natural alternatives, like citronella oil or catnip oil, but DEET is the only thing we used because it’s effective against mosquitoes and ticks. Well, it’s only effective if it’s with us when we need it. One time we needed a mosquito repellent but didn’t have it with us was while hiking the Bow Glacier Falls Trail in Banff National Park.

Bow Lake, a large beautiful lake and a popular spot on the Icefields Parkway

The Bow Glacier Falls hike is an relatively easy hike that is listed prominently on the park’s Icefields Parkway area hiking guide. The first part of the hike is along the north shore of Bow Lake. The trail then follows a stream above the lake head up to the towering Bow Glacier Falls. The best part about this hike is that you could really hike up to the base of the waterfall and even scramble up to explore the rock cliff next to the waterfall.

The first part of the hike was a walk along the north shore of Bow Lake.
Bow Glacier and Bow Glacier Falls could be seen from the lake shore.
A closer look. Our destination was the base of the fall.
Crowfoot Mountain stood prominently behind the beautiful green-colored lake as we made our way toward the lake head. As we get closer to the stream near the lake head, mosquitoes were more active. We were about a mile in when the mosquitoes were bothering us, but we decided to continue.

It was early in the summer. There were some avalanche debris that we had to navigate as we made our way along the side of the stream, but nothing difficult.

Hiking along the stream above the lake
Looking at the mountain on the north side. There were lots of colorful rocks on the trail.
Approaching a gorge. The trail goes up the steps on right side of the gorge. This was the only significant but short ascent section of the trail.
First look of a bowl on the other side. You could see the stream flowing into the gorge.
The trail continued down into the bowl. Can you spot a group of hikers on the right? Behind me was a forest that we emerged from. The mosquitoes were in a full attack mode as soon as I stopped to take photos. Some even bit through my shirt.
Continued toward the falls. You can see lots of water in the creek on the left of David.
Paused to admire the magnificent sight and sound of the Bow Glacier Falls. You may notice three tiny hikers coming down from the base of the falls on right. That’s where we headed next.
From our lunch spot. The water you see here was an outflow of Iceberg Lake below the Bow Glacier (hidden in this picture) above this rock cliff.

If you would like to see what Iceberg Lake above the Bow Glacier Falls looks like, our friend Sheri has a nice picture of the lake taken from when she hiked up the summit of Cirque Peak (the far peak on the right of a picture below).

After soaked up the beauty of the place and had lunch, it’s time to head out.
Followed the creek back to the Bow Lake shore

The Bow Glacier Falls hike was a good easy-to-moderate hike to do in Banff National Park. It was unfortunate that the mosquitoes were a problem for us when we took the hike in early summer. A lesson learned for us, I guess.

  • Date hiked: June 30, 2017
  • Hiking time: 3h 25m
  • Distance: 5.76 mi round-trip (out and back)
  • Elevation change: Approx. 470 ft gain

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