The Alpine Club of Canada's Bow Hut is one of the most popular alpine huts in the Canadian Rockies. Through the spring season it is often packed to capacity. The approach to the Bow Hut is incredibly scenic. It differs a bit between summer and winter, but either way it is a beautiful walk in. The trailhead begins about 40 minutes north of Lake Louise on the Icefield Parkway. Follow signs to Num-Ti-Jah Lodge. There is a broad parking lot here with plenty of washrooms. The trail begins down by the lake.
The summer trail follows the edge of the lake for a couple of kilometres. It's a decent singletrack trail that gets flat as it meanders through the gravelly floodplain at the western edge of the lake. Cairns and eventually signs lead you to a gorge and a set of stairs. Just beyond this steep climb is a huge boulder. Here you can head straight for the hut or make a side trip to the Bow Icefall, a popular day hike. You hop over this, and continue along a small trail above the gorge, the route eventually ducks briefly back into the gorge, up a talus field, and back above the gorge before opening up into the alpine.
Winter adventures to the hut require specific training and awareness. You should have completed Avalanche Safety Training 1 before going to this hut. There are several avalanche risk areas, and you will need to be prepared with the right gear and training. Accidents have happened in the past, and thanks to the frozen lake, it's a straight shot across. In the early season, be careful to check the ice for signs of weakness.
To begin, follow the lake and keep heading toward the constriction of the valley. Where the gorge begins hang a right. There should be a solid skin track heading through the woods. If you are on snowshoes, please, please, please do not walk on the skin track. Snowshoes destroy skin tracks, and as the destroyed tracks solidify into a hard and cruddy mess, the trail becomes unusable for people following behind.
It's a good idea to speak up as you move through here because people will be ripping down. Keep an eye out. Past this is a straight shot along the edge of the trees before a short but steep and awkward descent. It's a bit of a tricky ride with skins, and this is often the hardest part of the day for beginners. Past this it's up through the gorge. Be mindful in hot days of the snow above you. It's best to move some distance apart here, too. Early season, it's also worth minding the ice, as it may not be fully frozen yet.
You'll get to a tight squeeze, awkward kick turns will help you gain a small bowl, and then it is up into the trees. Eventually you come out looking up the huge alpine bowl beneath the Vulture Glacier. Taking the south side of the valley, it eventually flattens out. You should be able to see the hut here on the ridge to your right. You have to pull a wide jay into the hut. There is a break in the cliff bands ahead that gains the ridge. Be very mindful here. There was a avalanche in 2016 that took a guy out when people skiing above triggered a slide. Take the appropriate precautions, and be sure to get some training first.
From here it's a quick hike up to the hut. Hopefully someone will have the fire going!
Amenities at the hut include:
In terms of hut ettiquette, the best way to behave in a hut is keep others in mind and leave the hut better than you found it. ACC huts are not the place to host your stag night or other parties. It's there so people can make the best of great outdoors. There are ample cleaning supplies, so be sure to make use of them. Bedtime is at 10 p.m.; after that, you can stay quiet. There are often snorers, so if you're a sensitive sleeper, bring ear plugs and plan accordingly. The good news is that the kitchen and bunkroom are seperate, so more than any other hut you have a chance to escape if need be. Make sure to keep your gear contained.