Crescent Falls Winter Hike

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The region’s most popular frozen waterfalls

This short and easy hike includes great views of the falls and the Bighorn Canyon.

Crescent Falls provincial recreation area is one of the most popular spots in David Thompson Country for a reason. There is an abundance of sights to be seen with the main ones being the Bighorn Canyon and Crescent Falls. Most options are at the easy to intermediate level, with easy access on a maintained road and viewing platforms for safety. It would be a loss to not explore the area, even if it is just for a short stop.

The Crescent Falls PRA will likely be closed for a year starting in May 2023. Check with Alberta Parks before planning your trip to this waterfall.

At a Glance

  • Distance: 1-2 km return
  • Elevation gain: ~60 m
  • Challenge Level: Easy | Family Friendly
  • Trail type: There and back
  • Congestion: Busy
  • Management: Alberta Parks PRA
  • Other Trail Uses: None

Trailhead: The trail starts at the Crescent Falls Staging Area, approximately 25 km west of Nordegg and 78 km east of Saskatchewan River Crossing. Access includes a 6 km gravel road. Toilets are available at the trailhead.

The Bighorn Canyon Lookout

4kms along the Crescent Falls road from Highway 11 you will see the sign for the lookout. Pull into the parking area on the left. There are garbage cans but no washrooms available. Directly ahead of the parking area is a platform that hangs over the lip of the canyon, providing you with some dizzying views deep into the heart of the Bighorn River. Keep an eye on the young ones, if you have any, as this can be a potentially dangerous area. Once you are satisfied with the views, we highly recommend picking up a trail in the forest to the south, left, that takes you along a level but exposed trail to the next platform. Be careful on this trail, it gets close to the canyon rim and is eroding at a fast pace. Enjoy the view up the canyon and towards the Bighorn range.

Retrace your steps back to your vehicle. If you are excited by the views and not ready to get back in your vehicle just yet, pick up the trail to the right of the parking lot behind a couple large boulders. Work your way through a very short section of forest to a point where the trail runs along the canyon. Again, the trail is eroded here and comes very close to the edge. There is a new path that branches off to the right that takes a safer route around the most exposed section. You will come out onto a prominent point with outstanding views down the canyon where you came from. From here, the trail starts to enter forest and the views soon begin to dissipate. Turn around when you are happy and head back to the parking lot. If you continue on the trail, it eventually comes out at Crescent Falls around 3 km further.

The trail guide

Distances

  • 0.5 km | Crescent Falls
  • 1 km | Crescent Falls Overlook

Distances are from the trailhead. 

The Journey

At the end of the Crescent Falls road, you will run into a large parking lot with outhouses and a garbage bin, park here. To access the falls, you will head west, downhill, on the closed section of the road. This hill can get icy due to the amount of traffic packing down the snow and the sun melts it into a hard crust. In about 500 meters you will start to level out and encounter a small parking area on the left. From this spot, pick up a trail that heads towards the top platform, where you will get a commanding view into the beginning of the Bighorn Canyon and the 2 waterfalls that it contains. After you have soaked in the scene and taken your pictures, head down to the right to the second platform that actually hangs over the cliff that the waterfall plunges over. This vantage point gives you an up-close and personal look. We highly recommended NOT exploring or posing for pictures on any of the cliff edges away from the railings, as it can be very unstable and icy. There have been numerous deaths here due to unsuspecting people wandering too close to the edge.

Crescent Falls Overlook

After you’ve had your fill of the viewpoints, there is an option to go on a small, ½ hour side trip to the Crescent Falls overlook. From the top viewing platform, take a left, south, to pick up the trail. At first it is fairly large and eroded, but soon it files down into a single track that leads up a small hill.

After it levels out, keep your eyes open for a junction with a small trail on the right; it has a sign with a hiker and biker on it. Ignore the arrows on the sign and turn onto the small trail to the right. You will go up a short hill and the overlook will be on your right. Watch the eroded cliff banks and enjoy the view of the gorge where the Bighorn River drops over 2 cliffs with the Bighorn Range as the backdrop.

The Return Trail

Return the way you came.

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You can find us at the Nordegg Canteen:
4 Stuart Sreet, Nordegg, AB, T0M 2H0


We acknowledge that the land on which we gather, explore and adventure is home to the Îyârhe Nakoda First Nation and the Smallboy Mountain Cree, part of the Treaty 6 and Treaty 8 Territories, part of the Métis Nation of Alberta Region 3, and has been the traditional meeting ground for many Indigenous Peoples since time immemorial. We are grateful for the stewardship of these lands along with the knowledge, traditions, and teachings that have been passed down through generations.

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