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Sideways Falls
   Alberta, Canada

This waterfall has been surveyed, mapped and measured in person by the World Waterfall Database.
Photo of Sideways Falls Sideways Falls is the largest waterfall occurring in the Big Bend area near the northern border of Banff National Park. The falls occur along an unnamed stream fed by three large glaciers on Mount Saskatchewan which during the summer rivals the North Saskatchewan River in size. As this stream encounters the valley of the North Saskatchewan, it enters a severely constricted canyon which bisects sharply uplifted and jointed bedrock which causes the water to slide down the various canyon steps 'sideways' in a lightning bolt sort of pattern. Because of this sideways movement of the water, about a third of the way down the upper section of the falls the stream creates one of the most interesting examples of the fire hose effect in North America. The water is funneled into a narrow slot and strikes the rock with such force that it shoots clear across the face of the falls, and up into the air a good 15 to 20 feet before striking the opposite wall of the canyon.

The falls consist of two distinct sections. The first and largest part of the falls drops 284 feet in a long zigzagging cascade, the characteristic which inspired the name given to the falls, which then lead directly into a sheer plunge of about 100 feet into a large pile of sand and rock which slid from the adjacent wall recently and buried part of the falls. Shortly downstream the stream turns 90 degrees to the right and cascades another 66 feet over 3 more individual tiers ranging from 15 to 28 feet in height, all of which are more difficult to photograph. It is expected and presumed that there are additional sections to the falls upstream of the visible portion which may or may not be accessible.

Southbound travelers on the Icefields Parkway will get a face full of the falls as you round the Big Bend, 14 kilometers south of the Icefields Center. Northbound travelers should keep watch for a large pullout at the apex of the Big Bend, and pull out to view the falls.


  • Also Known as: Big Bend Falls
  • Sideways Falls is the Colloquial name of this waterfall

Surprisingly we cannot find any evidence that this waterfall has ever been officially named despite its visibility from the Icefields Parkway. Locals have dubbed the feature Sideways Falls for its unique geologic structure. The falls have also been referred to as Big Bend Falls.

Our thoughts

The Big Bend area is a hotbed for waterfalls in this part of the Canadian Rocky Mountains, and virtually all the waterfalls which occur in the area are high quality waterfalls, so saying that Sideways Falls is far and away the best of the bunch should say something about the stature of this waterfall. Even if you don't have time to scramble to the base of the falls, stop alongside the road for a few minutes and take it in. Easily one of the best falls in Alberta.

Location and directions

Sideways Falls is encountered near the Big Bend along the Icefields Parkway, about 14km south of the Columbia Icefields Center, in Banff National Park. Southbound travelers will see the falls across the valley when rounding the bend. Northbound travelers will have to pull over as the falls will be behind and to the left. The base of the falls can be reached by starting at North Saskatchewan Canyon, a few hundred meters south of the Big Bend pullout, and following the Old Wonder Trail for about ¾ of a kilometer to Old Wonder Falls, then finding a faint path leading upstream towards Sideways Falls. The trail crosses many deadfalls and isn’t very obvious at all, but a clear swath through the woods is evident. As the trail approaches the falls, you will have to drop to the streambed then climb back into the woods and ascend rocky outcrops to get a good view. Total distance from the road is about 1 ½ kilometers, but it is slow going and not something everyone should attempt. Good route finding skills are necessary.

Sideways Falls is shown in the center. Additional nearby waterfalls (if any) can be found in the list below.

Additional Nearby Waterfalls

Name of Waterfall Distance
Old Wonder Falls 0.37 mi / 0.6 km
North Saskatchewan Falls 0.67 mi / 1.07 km
Unnamed Waterfall 0.69 mi / 1.1 km
Unnamed Waterfall 0.77 mi / 1.23 km
Nigel Falls 1.12 mi / 1.79 km
Panther Falls 1.36 mi / 2.17 km
Stairstep Falls 1.54 mi / 2.47 km
Bridal Veil Falls 1.57 mi / 2.51 km
Mistashu Falls 1.57 mi / 2.52 km
Unnamed Waterfall 1.7 mi / 2.71 km


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