Lake Louise to Waterfowl Lake Out and Back

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Beautiful Bow Lake. May, 2016
This is an out and back ride starts at Lake Louise. Points of interest labelled 1-3.

Ride Statistics

Ride Difficulty Rating –  Expert due to the distance and elevation gain and grade up to and down Bow Summit

Distance – 120.7 km out and back Elevation Gain – 1309 m

Estimated cycling time – 6 hours assuming 20 km/hr.

Maximum Grade –7.1% down hill grade  on the out trip descending from Bow Summit at 44 km and up hill grade of 7.3% on the return trip at Bow Summit at 76 km Maximum Elevation – 2071m at Bow Summit 

Best Parking Option

Park at the Lake Louise Visitor Centre just past the four-way stop as you enter Lake Louise.  Cycle west onto Village Road approx. 800 m, then left onto Sheol Road  and use the pedestrian over-pass and dedicated pathway to get to Hwy 93 (Icefields Parkway).  A valid Parks pass is required to park.

Amenities

Washrooms at the Lake Louise Visitor Centre. The Visitor Centre is undergoing renovations summer 2019. Parks Canada has provided a temporary Visitor Centre in trailers in the parking lot.

Many picnic spots and campgrounds with out houses along the route.

Food at Num-Ti-Jah Lodge. (Closed summer 2020 due to COVID, it appears as though it will be open summer 2021 but best to check the website before you go)

Campground at the turnaround point, Waterfowl Lakes.

Points of Interest  (labelled on map above )

1. Herbert Lake at Km 5.6. Ideal picnic  spot and views of the Main Range peaks. Bring out your camera!

2. Num-Ti-Jah Lodge has a small gift and coffee shop open May – Oct at Km 38 (Note: Closed 2020 due to ‘you know what!’). This historic log and stone lodge on the shores of Bow Lake was completed in 1950 by the Simpson family.

3. Bow Summit and Peyto Lake lookout at Km 42.9. Iconic views. Note: these sites and more can always be visited on the return trip.

Comments from our test riders:

Beginner Road Cyclist – A long, long day but awesome ride with lots of opportunity for rest stops. More traffic than I am used to.  

Intermediate Road Cyclist –  A good highway ride with smooth shoulders.  

Expert Road Cyclist – We kept going to add some distance.

Num-ti-jah Lodge. A part of Alberta’s history.

What to expect on this ride

Many road cyclists (including us!) recommend the 235 km Lake Louise to Jasper multi-day road cycle but many find it difficult to find the time or a weather window for a three-day mountain journey. The first leg of this ride, Lake Louise to Waterfowl Lake,  is recommended as an alternative  one-day ‘teaser’ trip.  At the time of writing, Hwy 93N is being upgraded with wider and smoother shoulders which makes road cycling much more pleasant than in the past.  Construction work has been completed from Lake Louise to Waterfowl Lake. Beyond this point, the shoulders can be rough and narrow.

Hwy 93N, also known as the Ice Fields Parkway,  is called ‘one of the most scenic roads in the world’ according to Parks Canada. We can attest not only to the beauty of the area but  also the opportunity it provides for excellent road cycling adventures. The 121 km out and back ride will take you up and over Bow Summit Pass (Elev 2067m) and down to Water fowl Lake (Elev 1687 m). There are numerous scenic side trip stops along the way, the most scenic being a short diversion up to the picturesque Peyto Lake viewing area. Probably one of the most photographed lakes in Canada, but seeing it is even better!!

Lake Louise to Waterfowl Lakes makes a great mid-week shoulder season trip  when motor vehicle traffic is lighter.  If you can catch good weather in late May or early June this is an ideal time to go. Always plan for changing weather, even on clear sunny days. When we did this route  in late May, 2016 we encountered  sprinkles of snow at Peyto Lake  on an otherwise beautiful cycling weather day.  Traffic volumes generally get lighter by mid afternoon to early evening on this route.   Ride single file  and wear high visibility clothing.  If planning side trips off the highway use extreme caution when crossing the highway. This  route is definitely worth the time and energy. You are now ready to plan your multi-day Lake Louise to Jasper trek!

Riding single file up the Icefields Parkway. Riding late in the day warrants wearing high visibility clothing. Look at how the middle cyclist in this group stands out wearing a bright solid colour.

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