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Rockies ::  Icefields :: Iceberg Lake

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Iceberg Lake and toe of Wapta Icefields from ridge below Portal Peak


Overall Difficulty


Non-bridged glacial outflows.  Tricky, but avoidable natural bridge over deep canyon.  Steep scree slopes and several class 2 scramble steps. One slightly exposed, but wide ledge traverse.  Routefinding.

Snow Factor


Steep slopes with avalanche potential. Not a popular winter objective; most traffic heads for Bow Hut and Wapta traverse.


Spectacular hike around Bow Lake. Magnificent waterfall draining Iceberg Lake.  Glacially fed alpine lake and outstanding ridgewalk



Marked and well-traveled trail for first hour to flats below Bow Falls, none after. Occasional cairns.

Suggested Time

5-6 hr

Return time for Iceberg Lake. Add couple of hours for traverse of ridge below Portal Peak.


Start: 1950 m     Max: 2500m     Total: ~700m  (Iceberg Ridge)

Round Trip: 16km (Iceberg Ridge)


Hiking boots and poles; skis or snowshoes in winter. Gaiters essential for scree slopes. If water is high, old sandals for creek crossing


Wapta outflow and Bow Falls.  Outlet of Iceberg Lake.  Carry 1-2L

Dog Friendly


Not recommended for canine travel due to scramble steps, scree slopes and creek crossings



Glacial flats 10 min past natural bridge; ascent moraine in center

Mildly exposed but wide ledge traverse across the rockband Break spot in meadow above the rockband. Crowfoot Mtn upper left View back to Bow Lake from edge of Iceberg Lake basin
Hiking around small bays on east shore of Iceberg Lake Iceberg lake and Crowfoot mtn from slopes below Portal Peak Highpoint of "Iceberg ridge". Snowy peak is Mt. Jimmy Simpson Zoom on St Nicholas and Onion, popular mountaineering objectives

Sunset at Bow Lake. Crowfoot mountain in center, Portal peak far right



Off the beaten track exploratory scramble in spectacular alpine environments.  Most people who visit the area only hike the popular trail to Bow Falls as easy half-day trip. The objective is to reach high alpine basin and lake above the falls. No trails exist, and careful route-finding is essential. However if staying on easiest path much of the trip is just off-trail hiking with only 1 or 2 mild scrambling steps. Couple of steep moraines must also be negotiated, and this is key reason why trip is suitable for experienced hikers only.  Iceberg Lake is also the base of Portal Peak (difficult and loose ascent, suitable only for capable scramblers).  Many other options for further exploration exist.  Ridge on north side can be traversed leading to high-point with exceptional views. Linking with normal scramble route of Mt. Jimmy Simpson is feasible option.

Drive Icefields Parkway to north end of Bow Lake, 36 km from junction with Trans-Canada at Lake Louise.  Park at second (hiker) parking, past red-roofed Num-Ti-Jah lodge.  Wide and flat hikers trail leads around Bow Lake in about 30 minutes. When water is low it is easier to stay in gravel flats in next part; otherwise follow forest trail on the right side.  Past second flats trail ascends steeply on north side of the canyon. On top leave the trail and carefully scramble across large chockstone - natural bridge over the canyon. Trail continues on the other side and soon descends to glacial flats granting good views of ascent route.  It is also possible to continue along main trail to Bow Falls, thus avoiding the tricky chockstone - but several braided water channels must be crossed further on in order to reach large scree cone leading to first rockband. This rockband looks quite tricky from the distance, but near the top of scree cone there is wide boulder covered ledge that slices to the left.  This ledge is not obvious, and path in scree continues to the top of scree cone.  Although it is possible to scramble from there as well, this is very difficult and not necessary.  Past the ledge bits of trail and cairns lead over several short cliff-bands. It is very important to look back on occasion to recognize terrain for return.  Nice meadow on top is good spot for the break.  Final part is ascent of second scree cone;  going up it is easiest to stay on the crest; coming down simply trash rivers of scree. Cairn on top is important landmark to recognize on return.  Final part is  to the lake is gradual descent over much boulders and talus.


If time allows, it is recommended to cross lake outlet and ascend ridge below Portal Peak. Sandals could be useful here but late in season rock-hop should be possible. Follow path of least resistance up talus slope for amazing viewpoint of Iceberg Basin. Meadows continue north towards Mt. Jimmy Simpson. Highpoint is reached in about 30 minutes from start of the ridge; cairn on top testifies it has been visited before. There are fantastic views of St. Nicholas and Onion on Wapta from here.  On the other side Mt. Jimmy Simpson looks very doable, but it is not straightforward as cliffs must be negotiated to reach normal scramble route from base of Bow Falls. For scramblers Jimmy Simpson - Iceberg loop would be the most satisfying trip in the area, but I don't know of anyone that has done it.  Return is the same way.