Siffleur Falls, Bighorn Backcountry

Distance: 4 km (1 hour) to the main waterfall, 7km to the wilderness campground and secondary falls.

Access: 27.5 km from Saskatchewan River Crossing to the trailhead on highway 11, also known as the David Thompson Highway. Just over 2 hours from both Jasper and Banff on the Icefields Parkway. Make sure you have a full tank before venturing out.

Tips: Hold on to your children and pets! 

A fellow teacher introduced me to the wonders of the Bighorn Backcountry in 2016. We took twenty high school students on a backpacking trip to the falls and beyond to a wilderness campground on the Siffleur River. It was a great trip and cemented a love of the area in me. I’ve been back three times since and have expanded my explorations to other parts of the David Thompson Corridor as well. siffleur

The first 4 km to the main waterfall is congested on the May long weekend, and during the summer months. It’s wide and very easy to follow.

The trailhead is interesting in itself. Before beginning your trek, look around and take some time to read the WWII memorial stones.

Onward then! The trail dips down and through a dry forested area, before opening up and exposing views of the North Saskatchewan River. The first highlight is within sight- a pedestrian suspension bridge spanning the river. It’s fun!

 

You come out at the other side of the river and begin an easy walk along a boardwalk through the flatlands of the Kootenay Plains. Your shoes thump against the wood and the wind gently whistles around you. Hopefully it’s not too busy so you can stop and snap some pictures of the surrounding peaks. Do not wander off the boardwalk as vegetation in the area is extremely fragile.

When the boardwalk ends, the trail widens and without fail you will need to dodge puddles and mud for a while.

Soon, it’s time to cross another river, this time over a less interesting but straight and sturdy bridge. Over the river and you’re back in stunted forest growth. Eventually the trail gradually climbs to a scenic view of the Siffleur River and canyon. You’re very close to the edge here, and with no barriers set up, a misstep could mark your end. Be careful.

You’re afforded many views of the valley and the beautiful turqoise water of the river below. Several viewpoints are offered before heading back through the forest toward the pounding sound of the main falls. Continue to exercise caution as you get closer.

The falls are beautiful, and deadly.

 

Unfortunately, Siffleur Falls has been the site of several accidental deaths- usually from people getting too close to the waterfall and slipping. There are warning signs, and plaques up remembering the hikers who lost their lives here as well. If you’re bringing children or pets, keep them close and stay away from the edges. There are some barriers, but the river is exposed before the falls and large rocks provide irresistible places to sunbathe.

Most stop here. But if you have time and energy, I recommend continuing on. Two more, smaller falls are further along the river, and if you’re looking for a real back country experience, go even further to the wilderness campground.

The second waterfalls is a further 2.5 km down, and the third, another 1.6 km from that. The path is unmarked and narrows considerably from the beginning of the trail. Congratulations, you’ve probably escaped most of the crowds by now.

wilderness
Camping on the river is an option in May

The campground is located beside the river and across from a steep headwall. There are some semi-established sites in the forested areas, but if you’re feeling adventurous, set up camp right on the shore and let the river lull you to sleep. You also get a better view of the stars at night by leaving tree cover. Be mindful of how close you get to the river.

 

camp
Wilderness campground

As this is a wilderness campground there are no toilets or shelters. Follow protocol and do your business at least 60 meters from water sources. Digging a hole and marking it with a flag will make it easier to find. Use dirt to cover waste after each use. Hang your food high above to avoid attracting any critters.

Whether you spend the day or night in the Siffleur area, you’re sure to enjoy the experience!

 

 

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