Edworthy Falls, Kananaskis: A Hidden Gem

by - Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Edworthy Falls is a hidden gem just off the Big Elbow Trail in Kananaskis. Falling 20 metres to a turquoise plunge pool, this stunning and rarely visited waterfall can be reached by a short day hike from Elbow Lake. 

As you near the falls, if you listen carefully, you can hear them crashing below you. In 1924, George Edworthy and his wife, Myrle, found the falls in just this way. Until a few years ago, it was quite a bushwhack to reach Edworthy Falls, but a narrow, defined trail has developed, making it easier to access this picturesque spot. For the best photos, head out on a cloudy day with a tripod (seriously lamenting leaving ours at home)! The Elbow Lake lakeshore and meadow en route to the falls are pretty too. 

Trail at a Glance

  • Distance: 6.4 km return from Elbow Lake / 9 km return from Elbow Pass Parking Lot 
    • (Note that it is a steep 1.3 km hike with 125 m elevation gain from Elbow Pass parking lot to Elbow Lake.)
  • Elevation Gain: 50 metres from Elbow Lake / 175 m from Elbow Pass Parking Lot
  • Difficulty: Easy to the falls viewpoint.
  • Chariot friendly? Technically yes except for the last 200 metres (trail is too narrow). The trail is on an old logging road, but it's extremely bumpy and the first part to Elbow Lake is is super steep, so a baby backpack is recommended.
  • Washrooms? Outhouses at Elbow Lake Campground
Note: The trail to Elbow Lake and Big Elbow Trail are multi-use trails. Expect to see horses and bikes (but we saw neither on our hike).

Directions From Elbow Lake

While you could hike to Edworthy Falls in one day, we camped at Elbow Lake Backcountry Campground and hiked from the lake to make it easier on the kids. From Elbow Lake to Edworthy Falls, there is minimal elevation gain, so the going is easy.
  1. Take the trail around the left (west) side of Elbow Lake to avoid meandering through the backcountry campground (Note: backcountry permits must be purchased in advance if you wish to camp at Elbow Lake).

  2. In 600 metres, cross a small bridge over the outlet of Elbow Lake.

  3. Go straight (north) on Big Elbow Trail for 2.4 km. 

    • You will travel on a wide horse/bike trail (old logging road) through forest, bushes, and meadow, watched over all the while by Tombstone Mountain on your left.
    • Disregard the small rock cairn that leads into the meadow. 

  4. After leaving the meadow, look for a rock cairn on the left marking a trail into the trees (photo below). You cannot see the river from the cairn, but don't worry, it's only 200 m away!

    • Turnoff location: 50.6645734,-114.9973918 or GR 415144 (Source: Xcaret's Trip Report on Trailpeak)
    • Note: If you reach the Sheep Trail junction, you missed the cairn and have gone 600 m too far.

  5. Take the little trail into the trees - be sure to shout "Yo Bear!" periodically - and descend to a viewpoint of the falls (about 150 m from turnoff). 

    • It's a short scramble (~50 metres) down to the plunge pool if you have good hiking boots on.

  6. Savor the solitude and scenery! We were the only people at the falls on our visit!! 

  7. Return the same way you came. 
Elbow Lake, Kananaskis
Elbow Lake, Kananaskis
Big Elbow Trail, Kananaskis
Big Elbow Trail, Kananaskis

Edworthy Falls, Kananaskis - from viewpoint
Edworthy Falls, Kananaskis - from base of falls
Clambering back up to Big Elbow Trail
Expansive meadows along Big Elbow Trail
Mini falls along Big Elbow Trail
What's your favorite waterfall? 

Acknowledgements & References

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