Just about 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. 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. 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 60-car the parking lot. During the long summer days a campfire cookout by the falls on weeday 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 accesible year-round, althought 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