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.
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.
Panther Falls Trail
Distance: 0.8 km round trip
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
While at the falls, you’ll notice that the trail continues downhill away from the waterfall. This leads to 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Nearby Hikes and Places to Visit
You may also enjoy these nearby trails and places to visit:
Shop for Alberta & Adventure Themed Merchandise
Visit our store for more Alberta, nature, and adventure inspired products.