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Calgary, the largest city in Alberta, is blessed with its proximity to the Rocky Mountains. On top of that, there are over a dozen waterfalls near Calgary. So don’t heed TLC’s advice, and DO go chasing waterfalls when in Calgary!
If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you live in Calgary. As an Edmonton-resident myself, I must point out how lucky you are. My similar article covering waterfalls near Edmonton starts with the closest one at two hours’ drive, and it only goes up from there!
Meanwhile, you guys even have a little waterfall in Calgary, which I describe in the first section below. After that, I’ll cover the closest waterfalls to Calgary (less than 1 hour), other waterfalls near Calgary (1-2 hours), and finally several more waterfalls further away from Calgary (2–3.5 hours). That’s still day-tripping distance, if you are waterfall-obsessed enough!
You can also see the top choices summarized in my guide to the best waterfalls in all of Alberta!
Table of Contents
Waterfalls in Calgary
Don’t expect to find too many waterfalls in Calgary, a city that is almost totally surrounded by prairies. But there’s at least one!
Bowmont Park Waterfall Valley
Bowmont Park is a large (164 ha) park on the north bank of the Bow River in Northwest Calgary. It occupies a ridge below the community of Silver Springs. The name Bowmont is a combination of Bowness and Montgomery, two other nearby communities. And yes, the park does have a waterfall!
The rather dramatic sounding “Waterfall Valley” is located roughly in the middle of the park, accessed via Silver Springs Boardwalk, which starts at Silver Springs Blvd and 54 Ave NW. The 3-meter waterfall is right beside the boardwalk as it approaches the Bow River. Called a tufa waterfall, its water comes from runoff from uphill communities, collects minerals from the underground bedrock, then deposits them on the stones of the waterfall.
While the waterfall itself won’t blow you away, the park’s many other walking trails and lookouts feature gorgeous river valley scenery year-round, making it a real gem, and an easy waterfall hike in Calgary.
Closest Waterfalls to Calgary
The following waterfalls can all be reached within one hour from downtown Calgary. I’ve ordered them starting from the closest falls near Calgary.
Big Hill Springs Waterfall (42 km)
The closest waterfall to Calgary that’s worth the trip can be found in Bill Hill Springs, a small provincial park northwest of the city.
A series of springs feed a stream that flows through the park, eventually emptying into Big Hill Creek, which later flows into Bow River at Cochrane. There are several small waterfalls along the stream, but the main one can be viewed by walking an easy 1.6 km loop trail through the park.
Like the Bowmont Waterfall in Calgary, this is one is a tufa waterfall. The output of the springs remains consistent throughout the year, so the waterfall is usually flowing, including below the ice in winter.
Elbow Falls (66 km)
Elbow Falls is a gorgeous waterfall on the Elbow River, which originates in the Rockies and drains into the Bow River in Calgary. The waterfall is in Elbow Provincial Wildland, which is technically part of Kananaskis country, albeit a remote eastern section of it that is more easily accessed from the east (Calgary) side.
The waterfall is a 20-minute drive up Highway 66 from Bragg Creek, west of Calgary. Despite its proximity, the area’s scenery is wild, surrounded by forested mountains.
While the waterfall, which plunges over a rocky shelf, is only 3 meters high, it actually grows to 6 meters when the water level below is lower. An easy walking loop from the parking lot is less than a kilometer long, and you can walk right up to the falls, peering down into it.
Try walking downstream, from where photos looking back up at the waterfall will make it seem larger than it really is. For more information on the area, see my guide to Kananaskis.
O’Shaughnessy Falls (88 km)
Small, cute O’Shaughnessy Falls isn’t much to write home about it, but I still include it because it makes a quick, easy stop on the way to Troll Falls (see below) or Kananaskis Village. It is right along Highway 40, just past Barrier Lake when driving south into the heart of Kananaskis from Highway 1.
The falls are right next to the small parking lot, so this is a good spot to stretch the legs and enjoy the trickling sound of the falls for a minute or two. Driving time is exactly one hour from central Calgary.
Other Waterfalls Near Calgary
The following waterfalls are within 1-2 hours of Calgary, making them doable as easy day trips from the city.
Grotto Canyon Falls (92 km)
It takes a few minutes over one hour to reach the trailhead for Grotto Canyon, one of the most popular easy hikes in Kananaskis country, from downtown Calgary. The trailhead is on Bow Valley Trail (Highway 1A), just 13 km before it reaches the town of Canmore.
Grotto Canyon Trail follows a small creek valley upstream, with the chance to see inukshuk and indigenous pictographs along the way. You’ll find the waterfall coming down a cliff wall about halfway up the hike. It’s named Grotto Canyon Icefall on GoogleMaps, for it’s most impressive when frozen in winter.
The hike is super popular in winter, so beware of crowds. Also make sure the creek ice is thick enough for walking, and wear cleats/microspikes on your shoes to avoid slipping.
Budget about an hour return to make it to the waterfall, or two hours for the whole hike, and more time if visiting with kids.
Troll Falls (98 km)
Troll Falls is the most popular waterfall in all of Kananaskis country, meaning it is also probably the most visited waterfall close to Calgary.
I would guess that the waterfall is about 10 meters in height (if you have a more exact figure, please let me know in the comments!) A new wooden fence blocks visitors from getting too close to the falls.
The waterfall is understandably popular due to its close proximity to Kananaskis Village and Nakiska Ski Area. It’s also a perfect length waterfall hike for kids of all ages, taking about an hour (make that 2 with young kids). Watch for the teepees (and trolls on trees) along the way!
If you decide to spend the night in the area, you only have three options, from most to least expensive: Kananaskis Mountain Lodge (with its Nordic Spa), cheaper Crosswaters Resort next door, and the excellent HI Kananaskis Wilderness Hostel.
Upper Troll Falls, Marmot Falls, and Boulder Falls (98 km)
From Troll Falls, it is possible to hike further up a steeper trail to enjoy several more waterfalls on the same stream, Marmot Creek. To reach them, you’ll need to cross a bridge over the river then continue upstream.
The first you’ll encounter is Upper Troll Falls, also known as Double Falls. Another is Marmot Falls, which looks similar to Troll Falls but you can go behind it, and Boulder Falls. The trails to the falls beyond Upper Falls are basically non-existent, though, and these falls aren’t marked on GoogleMaps, so don’t get lost!
Sheep River Falls (98 km)
Sheep Falls (or Sheep River Falls) is exactly the same distance from Calgary as the last two entries, but takes a little longer to reach, about 1 hr 20 min, because of the slower, sometimes bumpy road. It is located in Sheep Wildland Provincial Park.
Like Elbow Falls, this is a remote area of eastern Kananaskis country. While Sheep Falls are only 20 km south of Elbow Falls, as the crow flies, it takes over an hour to drive between them because they are up different roads.
Sheep Falls is also similar in size to Elbow Falls, and likewise requires only a very short and easy walk to reach. The scenery around the falls is every bit as wild and pretty. Because of the further distance, it sees fewer visitors.
Bow Falls (128 km)
Rather than a single drop, this waterfall tumbles down a rocky section of the river. You can drive right to the lookout point. Turn around, and you can see Banff Springs Hotel, the park’s most iconic structure, peeking out from the trees above.
One cool fact that you probably didn’t know: Bow Falls appeared Marilyn Monroe’s 1953 film River of No Return. Bow Falls makes for an easy stop on the drive up to Banff Gondola or Upper Hot Springs. You can get there in 1.5 hours from Calgary.
Also see my guide to the best lakes in Banff National Park.
Johnston Canyon Lower and Upper Falls (150 km)
Johnston Canyon is one of the most popular attractions in Banff National Park, and for good reason. A trail meanders up this stunning, narrow gorge past numerous waterfalls, the most impressive being Lower Falls (30 min) and Upper Falls (1 hr).
In summer, the falls are roaring, while in winter, they become a frozen spectacle (ice cleats/microspikes helpful but not essential). Lower Falls is viewed from a bridge, after which you can walk through a tunnel for an even closer view. Upper Falls is even taller. After that, you have the option to continue even further to the Ink Pots.
Being such a popular spot, you’ll want to avoid peak times for this one. You can get there in just under two hours from downtown Calgary. To find out how to fit this into a longer trip, see my recommended Banff itinerary.
Silverton Falls (158 km)
Just past Johnston Canyon on Bow Valley Parkway (Highway 1A), before it rejoins Highway 1, is the trailhead for Silverton Falls. The waterfall is equal in beauty to those of Johnston Canyon, but minus the tourist crowds.
The waterfall can be reached as a detour from the much longer and more difficult Rockbound Lake Trail. You only have to walk up the trail about 10 minutes before hanging a right and following Silverton Creek to the falls.
Waterfalls Further Away from Calgary
For the final section, these waterfalls are 2-4 hours from Calgary. This makes them still possible to visit on a long day trip, but more likely, you’ll probably visit them as a part of a multi-day visit to Waterton Lakes, Banff, Jasper, or other provincial parks further afield.
Lake Louise Waterfall (186 km)
Lake Louise, the most famous lake in Alberta and arguably all of Canada, also has a waterfall of its own. The waterfalls trickles some 90 meters down the cliff face at the far end of the lake, opposite the parking lot and the lake’s famous resort, Chateau Lake Louise.
You can reach the waterfall by following the Lakeshore Trail to the end of the lake. The waterfall is best seen when visiting Banff in winter, when it freezes over and often has people ice climbing up it.
While in the area, another small waterfall, Lake Agnes Waterfall, can be seen on the hike to Lake Agnes Tea House, just before you get there.
Lundbreck Falls (205 km)
Lundbreck is one of the largest and most impressive waterfalls in southern Alberta, and it only takes two hours to reach from Calgary. The waterfall marks the southern end of the Cowboy Trail (Highway 22), which runs parallel to the Rockies through Alberta ranch land for hundreds of kilometers.
This powerful falls plunges off a 12-meter cliff, split in the middle by a cluster of trees. There are numerous vantage points on either side of the falls, and some spots downstream where you can get right down by the water.
Lundbreck Falls Provincial Park campground is nearby, while the excellent Oldman River Brewing is just down the road in the small town of Lundbreck. Lundbreck Falls also makes for a good stop en route to Waterton Lakes National Park (see next three entries).
Cameron Falls (269 km)
If you haven’t been to Waterton Lakes National Park, the lesser-known of Alberta’s Rocky Mountain national parks, well, it’s time to change that. The park can be reached in just under three hours from central Calgary. Here’s my detailed things to the best things to do in Waterton, waterfalls included!
Waterton townsite, the home base for most visitors overnighting in the park, is also home to the impressive Cameron Falls. The waterfall is walking distance from anywhere in town and has a large viewing platform. On rare occasion after heavy rain, the waterfall has even been known to turn pink!
Bertha Falls (270 km)
A second waterfall in Waterton Lakes National Park that is definitely worth checking out is Bertha Falls, which actually consists of two waterfalls, Lower Bertha Falls and Upper Bertha Falls.
Both falls can be reached on the trail that leads up to Bertha Lake, an alpine lake on Bertha Peak. The trail starts right next to the campground in Waterton townsite. It takes less than an hour to reach Lower Bertha Falls. The waterfall cascades down a wide rock face, and you can climb up a vantage point directly opposite it, which is where I shot the above photo from.
From there the trail gets steeper and follows many switchbacks before reaching the Upper Falls.
Blakiston Falls (279 km)
The third and final waterfall in Waterton Lakes National Park that you shouldn’t miss is Blakiston Falls. This 20-meter waterfall can be reached on an easy, 15-minute hike from Red Rock Canyon, one of the park’s most popular attractions.
Reaching the falls, you can overlook it from above from two different brand-new viewing platforms. Like Bertha Falls, the trail to Blakiston passes through a forest with lots of evidence of the 2017 Kenow Fire that swept through the area.
Bridal Veil and Panther Falls (297 km)
The next closest waterfall to Calgary takes us back to Banff National Park. Bridal Veil Falls and Panther Falls are two adjacent waterfalls on the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93), the highly scenic highway connecting Banff and Jasper National Parks.
Bridal Veil Falls can be seen right from the parking lot, but what you see is only a small section of the waterfall, which tumbles a staggering 370 meters over a series of cascades down the mountain!
From the same parking lot, a short trail (30 min return) leads to Panther Falls, which features a more explosive 66-meter, 20-meter wide single drop.
Ram Falls (266 km)
Looking for a very large, remote waterfall devoid of tourists? Then Ram Falls may be it! Ram Falls is located in the Nordegg region, but well off the David Thompson highway, accessed by mostly gravel Highway 734. This waterfall is truly worthy of making it onto your Alberta Bucket list.
A staircase leads down to an epic viewpoint of the falls. There’s also an unserviced campground on site, and bighorn sheep can often be seen in the area. If you make it this far, consider adding the equally impressive Crescent Falls (see last entry of the article) in the same area.
Note that the road to this waterfall closes in winter. It’s about a 3 hour 15 minute drive from Calgary.
Tangle Creek Falls (317 km)
Heading back to the Icefields Parkway, Tangle Creek Falls is one of the first stops you’ll encounter after crossing from Banff into Jasper National Park, just north of the very popular Athabasca Glacier on the Columbia Icefield.
Like Bridal Veil Falls (see two entries above), you can see Tangle Creek Falls right from the small parking lot at the side of the highway. In winter, it’s common to see ice climbers on the frozen falls, as pictured here. Total driving time from Calgary is 3.5 hours.
Stanley Falls (325 km)
Just six minute’s drive past Tangle Creek Falls will bring you to an even more impressive waterfall, Stanley Falls. This one, however, requires a hike to get to.
Stanley Falls can be reached on an easy hiking trail, which takes about 1 hour return (double that with young kids). It’s definitely worth the walk, though, to walk right up to the edge of a cliff looking down on the pool that the falls drop into.
While I haven’t included them because they take more than four hours to reach from Calgary, Sunwapta Falls and Athabasca Falls, the two most famous waterfalls in Jasper National Park, are further up the highway. You an read about them in my guide to the best waterfalls near Edmonton, although they aren’t exactly close to Edmonton, either.
Crescent Falls (327 km)
The final waterfall “near” Calgary that I’m going to include is Crescent Falls, which can be reached in 3.5 hours from the city.
Like Ram Falls (see two entries above), it is located in the highly scenic yet untouristy area of Nordegg/Clearwater County/David Thompson country. This one is just off the main highway, though, so it’s easier to get to.
Crescent Falls is a huge two-tiered waterfall, dropping 27 meters in total. You can peer right over the edge from the top tier, or hike down the bottom of either one. It widely considered one of the province’s most beautiful waterfalls.
As a word of warning, though, several people have died at the bottom of the falls in recent years, so please take care when visiting! If you happen to visit, make sure to also check out the ice bubbles at Abraham Lake nearby!
Well, folks, I hope you found plenty of ideas for waterfall hikes near Calgary. Did I miss any amazing waterfalls around Calgary? Let me know in the comments below!