River/Creek · Views · Waterfall
Need to Know
Sunwapta Falls is a popular tourist stop along the Icefields Parkway (Hwy 93). Here, the Sunwapta River plunges down cascades and a cliff, into a narrow gorge to continue on its way to Lower Sunwapta Falls, and then empty into the Athabasca River farther downstream. At the parking area, one can explore Sunwapta Falls. But to see Lower Sunwapta Falls one must hike an easy, short 0.9 miles from the parking area on Lower Sunwapta Falls Trail.
Lower Sunwapta Falls Trail starts at the southwest corner of the Sunwapta Falls parking area. It is a wide forest trail that descends very gradually downstream along the Sunwapta River. Start by looking at the impressive gorge that Sunwapta Falls plunges into. The trail is high above the river here.
For most of its length, Lower Sunwapta Falls Trail is in the forest, too far from the river to see it or its gorge, but near enough to hear it to the left/southeast. At the 0.7 mile mark, the trail arrives at the river's banks at the top of the first of the major drops of Lower Sunwapta Falls. From here, for the next 0.2 miles, to the trail's end at the bottom of Lower Sunwapta Falls, the trail is right at the edge of the falls and its gorges. A sturdy railing on the left, keeps one safe while getting good views of the falls and gorges.
After plunging over the first Lower Sunwapta Falls drop, the river is in a gorge, and then almost immediately plunges over another cliff, into more gorge below. The river then cascades down a length of rapids. Finally, emerging from the gorges, the river becomes wider and calmer, as it goes off into the distance to find the Athabasca River that it empties into. The trail with its protective railing ends after the biggest rapids, next to the river where it widens out and calms down.
Flora & Fauna
Shared By: Joan Pendleton