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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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.
Related: Check out our post about the Siffleur Falls and Meadow Hike, another family-friendly hike in David Thompson Country.
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.
Related: Read our post Prairie Mountain – Hike a Mountain Before Lunch!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Waterfalls are a beautiful thing, but nature needs to be respected. Stay on the trails and viewing platforms and keep children close to you. Do not go beyond the barriers as rocks near the falls can be slippery and it is easy to fall in. Do not attempt to swim near the falls. The water is cold and the current is strong. People have been pulled under by the current and drowned or died of hypothermia. Watch for unstable ice when you visit the falls in winter.
More Great Alberta Hikes for Families: Read our post about the Grassi Lakes Hike near Canmore.