*** The flood of June 20-23, 2013 washed away the picnic area. The falls are still stunning, but they’re surrounded by a bit if a mess – as of spring, 2017 ***
A plan released in 2016 proposed restoring the embankment along what used to be the shoreline. A path will be built and the lookouts repaired, but no picnic tables will be provided. It seems the government wants people to come and enjoy the view, but if you want a place to picnic, move on.
There is so much more to see. Explore the Elbow Valley and enjoy a rewarding experience while there. Check out these two new features you might find interesting.
Guide to Day Use Recreation Areas in the Elbow Valley
The Elbow Valley attracts hundreds of thousands of visits annually; it is the most popular recreation area in Alberta. It also brings a lot of business into Bragg Creek. Now that its two principal attractions are gone, where do we go? This new feature is designed to survey the damage done to the Elbow Valley and provide some alternatives for people who need to find a place to bring their family and friends to picnic and play.
Elbow Valley trails and facilities locator map
Explore this interactive map to find all the trails in the Elbow Valley, including the new trails in West Bragg Creek. Roll your mouse over the trails to find their names and length. You can also roll over the symbols on the map including the red dots for day use areas and the campground symbols to locate campgrounds and the number of campsites available there
Please see the locator map
It’s the main attraction of the Elbow Valley.
Easy to get to, easy to get around and always an eyeful.
At the point where the foothills turn into the Rockies. Just about 45 minutes from Calgary. Just 22 km west of Bragg Creek, you can turn off highway 66 at the Elbow Falls sign and you’ll hear the roar of the tumbling water as you step out of your car.
Lots of folks do, as the falls are always a sight to see – winter or summer. June is the high water month, when the melting snow pack in the mountains combines with late spring rains to raise the water level several metres. During the dry winter, the falls can be 6 metres high. In June the high water churns up the shoreline and the now muddy, swollen river, reduces the fall of water to 3 metres or so. Throughout the summer the crystal clear water has a turquoise tint with a white froth below the falls whipped up by the torrent of water from above.
The pathways along the riverside are packed gravel (no more). The path to the lookouts are paved. There are stairs and guardrails to facilitate access to the upper levels, but even wheelchairs can get to the upper and lower lookout on a gently sloping path. There are 3 lookouts; one near the end of the parking area above the falls, one halfway up the rock outcrop facing the falls and another higher up. Information about the formation of the falls is posted on interpretive signs along the way. A leisurely stroll around the entire site takes about half an hour.
This is a popular picnic area. The firepits and tables provided are often all occupied on weekends (they got washed away in the flood). You must bring your own firewood as using dead or fallen wood from the forest is forbidden and there is none for sale on site. There is a pit toilet and a water pump provided near the 60-car the parking lot. During the long summer days a campfire cookout by the falls on a weekday evenings is an experience not many think of doing. You can have your pick of sites to settle into.
Elbow Falls marks the end of the road during the winter when the gate across highway 66 is lowered on December 1. It is raised again on May 15th. The falls are accessible year-round, although the upper trails get treacherous. It is a treat to cycle down the vacant highway in the early spring. If you’re lucky you might even see some mountain sheep with their new offspring.
Read about the unofficial trail downstream of Elbow Falls