HIKE TO THE EDGE OF THE SIFFLEUR WILDERNESS AREA
The trail to the first set of falls on the Siffleur River is very popular but going beyond those falls offers great views and the likelihood of hiking the rest of the day without seeing anyone else.
Published on April 30, 2015 | Last updated on November 4, 2022
Those looking for the trail guide for the easy hike to the first set of falls should have a look at the Siffleur Falls Trail Guide. This guide is for the longer hike along the river, all the way to the edge of the wilderness area.
The Siffleur River trail takes you through two protected areas with the highest levels of protection in Alberta: the Kootenay Plains Ecological Reserve and the Siffleur Wilderness Area.
Ecological reserves are the second highest level of protection in the province, focused on preserving natural heritage in an undisturbed state for scientific research and education. This is a special place and access is limited to low impact activities. Camping and fires are prohibited in the Kootenay Plains Ecological Reserve.
The trail ends at the edge of the Siffleur Wilderness Area, one of only 3 wilderness area in the province. These areas have one of the highest level of protection in Canada with limited nature-based outdoor recreation allowed. Camping is allowed but fires are prohibited within the Siffleur Wilderness Area.
Trails are not maintained within the wilderness area but this historical route connects with the Pipestone River trail, attracting a few backpackers each year making the journey from Abraham Lake to Lake Louise.
AT A GLANCE
- Distance: 14 km return
- Elevation gain: ~245 m
- Challenge Level: Moderate
- Trail type: There and back
- Congestion: Moderate
- Management: Kootenay Plains Ecological Reserve
- Other Trail Uses: None
Trailhead: Approximately 62 km west of Nordegg and 21 km east of the Banff National Park boundary. The trail starts at the Siffleur Falls Staging Area which provides ample parking space and dry toilets.
THE TRAIL GUIDE
SIFFLEUR FALLS ACCESS | 7 KM
- 0.5 km | Suspension bridge
- 0.7 km | Boardwalk
- 1.2 km | Go left at the end of the boardwalk
- 1.8 km | Siffleur River Bridge
- 1.9 km | Go left at the junction
- 3.2 km | Canyon Viewpoint
- 3.5 km | Siffleur Falls
- 4.7 km | Gravel Wash
- 5.9 km | Second Falls Viewpoint
- 6.5 km | Third Falls
- 7.0 km | Siffleur Wilderness Area Boundary
SIFFLEUR FALLS RETURN TRAIL | 7 KM
- Retrace your steps back to the trailhead
From the trailhead parking lot, follow the main Siffleur Falls trail making your way across the North Saskatchewan River on the suspension bridge. A boardwalk has been build through the next section. This area is extremely fragile, please stay on the boardwalk. At the end of the boardwalk, follow Glacier Trail on the left toward the Siffleur River.
Shortly after the Siffleur River bridge the trails comes at a junction. The Siffleur Falls trail is the one on the right.
Before long you’ll be treated to great views of the canyon at a series of viewing platforms. The falls ahead are impressive with the Siffleur River plunging 15 m through a narrow channel in the rock. Take the time to enjoy the views and make sure to stay a safe distance from the cliffs and canyon edge. Unfortunately the area has seen many casualties over the year.
The next section starts with a sign warning that trails in the area are unmarked and from our experience not always maintained. Follow the trail away from the falls and along the river. Along the way you’ll come across a number of shallow canyons with some of the best views available early and late in the season when the water levels are lower.
At the gravel wash, head down toward the river and make your way up along the edge of the canyon. Signs of the 2013 flood are obvious here and the old trail, further away from the river, are still visible. From there the trails continues to follow the river, becoming narrow in sections as it makes its way across the slope leading down to the canyon below.
As you go you’ll come across a number of informal campsite and fire pits. Those look like they get significant use but keep in mind that camping and fires are prohibited in this area and the entire Kootenay Plains Ecological Reserve.
The second set of falls is visible from high above along the way.
At the next gravel wash (and sometimes creek crossing) head down to the river to a quiet spot below the third set of falls. It makes for a pleasant lunch spot and for many this is the end of the hike. This looks like another popular camping spot but if you are looking at camping legally, just head a little further along the trail to the Siffleur Wilderness Area.
The Siffleur Wilderness Area boundary is only 0.5 km away at this point. Head back up the creek to the trail and continue along. Soon you’ll get to see some great views of the river cascading into the third set of falls before coming up to the wilderness area.
The falls mark the end of the trail for most people. If you want to go further, the trail continues to two more sets of falls and leads to the Siffleur Wilderness Area. You can find out more about the next section in the Siffleur Falls – Third Falls and Wilderness Area Access trail guide. To head back to the trailhead, simply retrace your footstep.