Crescent Falls Hike – Family Fun in Summer and Winter

The Crescent Falls hike is a fun family adventure in all seasons. These two stunning waterfalls in Alberta’s David Thompson Country are a fabulous reward for novice hikers who are looking for a little adventure. After experiencing it in both summer and winter, we can say for certain that it’s special in every season. Here’s what you need to know to experience this short hike.

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Related: Check out our post about the Siffleur Falls and Meadow Hike, another family-friendly hike in David Thompson Country.

An image of the Crescent Falls Provncial Recreation Area Sign in David Thompson Country, Alberta.
Crescent Falls Provincial Recreation Area is a beautiful hiking spot and a nice camping area for families. Photo by Debbie Olsen.

Getting to the Crescent Falls Hike Trailhead

The turnoff for Crescent Falls Provincial Recreation Area is 22 km west of Nordegg on Highway 11. The gravel access road is 6-km long and a little rough in places. When you get to the end of it, you’ll find a day use area with pit toilets, a small campground, equestrian sites with hitching rails and trails. This is the trailhead area for the Crescent Falls hike. The entire recreation area is 262 hectares and includes the two waterfalls as well as a beautiful section of the Bighorn River Canyon.

An image of the Bighorn Gorge Overlook on the Crescent Falls Hike in David Thompson Country, Alberta.
Be sure to stop at the Bighorn Gorge Overlook and take in the view. Photo by Debbie Olsen.

Be Sure to Check Out the Overlook

A few minutes down the access road, you’ll see a small parking area in front of a lookout point. Pull over and enjoy a fantastic view of the Bighorn Gorge and the Bighorn River Valley. 

An image of the Bighorn Gorge in David Thompson Country, Alberta - Crescent Falls Hike.
For a longer hike, leave from the overlook and hike along the Bighorn Gorge to the two overlooks above Crescent Falls. It’s 2.5 km one-way. Photo by Greg Olsen.

There are Two Parking Lots

When you get to the day use area, there is a large upper parking lot with bathroom facilities. There is a gravel road to the left side of the day use parking area that goes down to a second smaller parking area that is very close to the two lookouts closest to the waterfalls. This is the closest access for the Crescent Falls hike.

An image of a little girl and her grandma on the Crescent Falls hike in David Thompson Country, Alberta.
We parked at the upper parking lot near the day use area and hiked down a trail and the road to get to the overlooks at the top of Crescent Falls. Photo by Greg Olsen.

Crescent Falls Hike – The Easy Way

Be sure to take in the view of Crescent Waterfalls from the two lookout platforms. Then follow the trail along the top of the Bighorn River Canyon a short way. You will see a spot where a side trail takes a steep turn downwards. The steepest part of the trail has an anchored rope to aid in climbing up and down. Once you are at the bottom, keep walking and you’ll reach the base of the waterfalls – a great spot for a picnic on a hot day.

A close-up image of Crescent Falls in David Thompson Country, Alberta.
Did you know that Crescent Falls used to be called Bighorn Falls? The crescent-shaped falls are a feature along the Bighorn River. Photo by Greg Olsen.
An image of the Crescent Falls Overlook in Alberta's Bighorn Country - Crescent Falls hike.
The Crescent Falls are the highlight of the Crescent Falls hike in Alberta’s Bighorn Country. Photo by Greg Olsen.
An image of a man with a baby carrier on the Crescent Falls hike in David Thompson Country, Alberta.
The views from the trail are excellent on the Crescent Falls hike. Photo by Debbie Olsen.

Crescent Falls Hike -Longer Version

If you prefer a longer hike, park at the Bighorn Gorge Overlook and hike the trail northward along the top of the canyon to reach the base of the falls and the two overlooks at the top of the falls. The total distance is 2.5 km one-way.

An image of the frozen Crescent Falls in winter - Crescent Falls Hike.
Crescent Falls is beautiful in winter when the falls are frozen. Photo by Debbie Olsen.
An image of a person kneeling on the ice in front of Crescent Falls in winter - Crescent Falls hike.
The best photo in winter can be had by hiking to the base of the waterfall.

Crescent Falls Hike in Winter

The Crescent Falls hike is magnificent in winter when the falls are frozen. We recommend you park at the day use area parking lot in winter and walk down the road to the two Crescent Falls overlooks and the Crescent Falls hike trailhead. The smaller road is steep and could be slippery in winter. The road to Crescent Falls and the day use parking area were plowed when we visited in winter. You will definitely need ice cleats to get down the steep trail that leads to the base of the waterfalls, but it’s worth the effort. Check out our gear review of Canadian Tire microspikes for hiking.

An image of the equestrian day use area sign at Crescent Falls in David Thompson Country, Alberta.
There is a special camping area for equestrian users complete with hitching rails. There’s also a day use area for equestrian users. Photo by Debbie Olsen.

Camping at Crescent Falls Provincial Recreation Area

There is a lovely well-treed campground not far from the two viewpoints at the top of Crescent Falls. There are 7 tent-only sites, 22 RV sites and 2 equestrian sites with hitching rails at the campground. There are pit toilets and a water pump and each campsite has a fire ring. Note: You cannot drink the water directly from the pump unless you have a Lifestraw Personal Water Filter or similar device or you boil the water first.

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