Panther Falls and Bridal Veil Falls- Banff National Park

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Panther Falls and Bridal Veil Falls in Banff National Park are two beautiful, but very different, waterfalls on the Icefields Parkway.

Panther Falls is a roaring powerhouse spraying out from a small opening in a rocky cliff, whereas Bridal Veil Falls is a long, multi-tiered waterfall with a more delicate appearance.

Panther Falls in Banff National Park, Alberta
Panther Falls, Banff National Park

Both waterfalls can be enjoyed from the same roadside pullout on the Icefields Parkway at the north end of Banff National Park. Bridal Veil Falls can be seen from the parking lot and Panther Falls can be reached with a short walk through the forest.

View of Bridal Veil Falls from the parking lot
Bridal Veil Falls as seen from the parking lot

Panther Falls Trail

Distance: 0.8 km round trip

Difficulty: Easy

Elevation Gain: 53 m

Surface: Loose rock, dirt

Trail Type: Out and back

Time: 30- 40 min

Trailhead: The large pullout at the top of Big Bend Hill on the Icefields Parkway (approximately 120 km north of Lake Louise).

Track log/map of Panther Falls Trail
Track log/map of Panther Falls Trail

The official Panther Falls Trail starts from the far south corner of the parking area. The trailhead isn’t obvious at first, but if you walk beside the road from the parking lot you’ll soon come to the trailhead sign at the edge of the forest.

Walking to the trailhead
Walking from the parking lot to the trailhead
Sign at the trailhead
Sign at the Panther Falls trailhead

After the sign, the trail immediately starts zigzagging down through the forest on route to the main Panther Falls viewpoint. Some parts of the trail have a lot of loose rock, so proper hiking shoes are recommended to minimize your chances of slipping.

Start of the trail
Loose rock covering the trail

After a short section of switchbacks descending the slope, the trail levels out as it continues straight through the forest. Eventually the trail follows alongside a wall of rock then comes to a junction.

Forested hiking trail to Panther Falls
Rock wall beside the trail
Junction in Panther Falls Trail
Keep left for a view of Bridal Veil Falls and right to get to the Panther Falls viewpoint

At the junction, if you keep left beside the rock and go up the small hill you’ll get a nice view of Bridal Veil Falls cascading down the mountainside opposite you.

Rock wall leaning over the trail
Bridal Veil Falls in the distance cascading down the mountainside
Bridal Veil Falls in the distance

Bridal Veil Falls is really tall (some sources list it at 365 m/1200 ft), but because of the density of trees around it, you can’t see the waterfall in its entirety. The primary part of the falls that is visible is about 85 m/281 ft tall. Even in partial view, its plunges and slides are a beautiful sight.

Bridal Veil Falls on a forested mountainside

After retracing your steps back to the junction on the main trail, this time keep right along the ridge. The scenery opens up offering views of the canyon as the trail makes a gentle descent.

Trail beside a wall of rock
Going back to the junction
Downhill path with a view of the canyon
The approach to Panther Falls

Soon you’ll round a bend and Panther Falls comes crashing into view. Panther Falls is the largest waterfall on Nigel Creek and makes an explosive plunge as it forces through a narrow opening in the rockface.

Panther Falls as seen from the viewpoint
Zoomed in view of Panther Falls gushing through a hole in the cliff

The energy of Panther Falls is incredible and its powerful flow shoots a heavy mist onto the trail. You have to work fast to get a picture because it doesn’t take long for your camera lens to get covered in water.

Panther Falls

The viewing area on the trail is small and doesn’t have any protective barriers, so watch your footing here. You likely won’t want to get too close to the edge of the trail anyway, since you’ll end up soaking wet!

Panther Falls dropping down from an opening in the cliff

While at the falls, you’ll notice that the trail continues downhill away from the waterfall. This leads to Nigel Creek.

Nigel Creek

The trail from Panther Falls to Nigel Creek is steep and slippery/muddy from the waterfall mist. You have to do a short scramble down to the creek, using your hands to grasp roots and branches for support. It can be treacherous and the view isn’t really worth the added risk.

Big boulders on the shore of Nigel Creek
Nigel Creek
Big boulders in Nigel Creek

After you’re done admiring the waterfall, return the same way you came to get back to the trailhead.

Once you’re at the parking lot, if you want to visit Upper Panther Falls walk to the north end of the lot and follow the small, unofficial trail heading into the forest. When you reach the creek, continue upstream until you arrive at Upper Panther Falls.

Pullout/parking lot for Panther and Bridal Veil Falls
Pullout/parking lot for Panther and Bridal Falls

Review of Panther Falls and Bridal Veil Falls

If you’re driving the Icefields Parkway, it’s definitely worth taking some time to stop and see Bridal Veil Falls and do the short hike on Panther Falls Trail.

Bridal Veil Falls framed by trees
Bridal Veil Falls as seen from the parking lot
Panther Falls Trail with the waterfall
Panther Falls Trail

Since Panther Falls Trail is somewhat hidden from view from the main parking lot, and there are no signs in the lot or on the road mentioning Panther Falls, the waterfall is not as popular as other attractions on the Icefields Parkway. It’s possible that most people who pull over here aren’t even aware of Panther Falls and how close it is to the road.

Panther Falls as seen from the trail to Nigel Creek
Panther Falls as seen from the trail to Nigel Creek

The most impressive thing about Panther Falls is how wild and violent its drop is. For a relatively low volume waterfall, especially when compared to Athabasca Falls and Sunwapta Falls in Jasper, it sure is mighty!

Panther Falls

Tips for Visiting Panther Falls and Bridal Veil Falls

Location: Panther Falls and Bridal Veil Falls are located on the Icefields Parkway (Hwy 93) in Banff National Park. They are about 36 km north of Saskatchewan River Crossing (at the David Thompson Hwy junction), and 13.5 km south of the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre.

  • There is no sign on the road for Panther Falls, so you’ll need to watch for the large pullout at the top of Big Bend Hill.

Best Time to Visit: The best time to visit Panther Falls and Bridal Veil Falls is in the summer. Panther Falls has the best flow from May to October and Bridal Veil Falls from May to August.

  • Winter is another good time to visit Panther Falls if you like frozen waterfalls.

Panther Falls in Winter: In the winter, Panther Falls is a popular ice climbing destination.

Facilities: None. The nearest washrooms are at Parker Ridge.

Visitor Guidelines and Safety: Keep away from the cliff edge and be aware of slippery rocks.

  • Leave no trace by packing out all garbage.

What to Bring: Sturdy shoes with good grips are recommended. You may also want to wear a raincoat since you will get wet at the Panther Falls viewpoint.

  • This hike can be done without hiking poles, but if you have them they can provide support on the loose gravel section.
Panther Falls as seen from the trail to Nigel Creek

Accommodations in Banff National Park

For your convenience, here is a list of HOTELS IN BANFF NATIONAL PARK. Please consider booking your Banff accommodations through the included link. It costs nothing extra and helps support this website. Thank you!

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