Fairview Mountain is one of the huge mountains with giant rocky cliffs that sits on the edge of Lake Louise in Banff National Park. When you’re standing at the lake, Fairview Mountain looks impossible for mere mortals to climb. However there is a fun trail that will take you around the back, to hike straight up there. You have to make it up over 1000m in elevation gain, but it is not technical at all, and the trail is not crazily steep. This makes a hike that is tiring, but totally manageable for strong walkers.
If you are lucky to visit Lake Louise on a beautiful day, hiking up there has to be one of the best ways to escape the crowds and see some truly gorgeous views of Banff National Park.
Fairview Mountain Map
This is the route we took up Fairview Mountain, then down into Paradise Valley (with a small detour to Lake Annette.) The path we found was actually a little closer to Sheol Mountain, but for some reason that is not showing up on the map. This gives you the basic idea.
On hot days, you may end up looking daft with a combination of shorts and puffer jackets.
Fairview Mountain – the basics
Distance: 9.2 km (21 km+ if you do the loop via Paradise Valley)
Cumulative Elevation gain: 1011m (1521m for the loop)
Highest Point: 2744m
Time: 4-5 hours (7-8 hours for the loop)
What to bring:
The 10 Essentials
Hiking poles were useful, especially during the descent
Plenty of layers – It’s cold at the top even on sunny days.
There are loos at Lake Louise, but none along the trail
Dogs: Yes (on a leash)
How hard is it? Hard. However the hike is not actually technical (you can walk without climbing/scrambling)
Fairview Mountain – Getting started
You do need to get up early to park up at Lake Louise, (although not as crazily early as Moraine Lake!) We were there just before 8am, before the parking attendants started to work, so we didn’t realize there was an empty car park higher up. A full car park isn’t enough to stop us from hiking; So we parked just down the road at the Great Divide trailhead.
Lake Louise was looking beautiful early in the morning! Even at 8am, there were quite a lot of people crowded into this viewpoint at the end of the lake. However, once we found the trail, it was completely deserted.
The route has some switchbacks through the forest as it winds around the back of the mountain. The trail goes up constantly, but it is not very steep. Once you reach the smaller trees of the subalpine, you’ll be able to look up at the huge rocky cliffs.
Saddleback Mountain and larches
It does not take long before the views become fantastic. You’ll be able to see Saddleback Mountain on one side, the rocky cliffs of Fairview Mountain on the other side, with a wide, open vista looking down to Bow Valley in the middle.
Lots of the trees in this area seemed to be larches – the rare deciduous pine trees which turn golden in the autumn. This trail must be amaaaazing when these ancient trees turn to gold.
There are also plenty of wild flowers to decorate the trail. As always, I love the Dr Seuss poofs. Otherwise known as western anemone or pasqueflowers.
After a bunch of switchbacks through pretty alpine meadows, you’ll find yourself on a saddle between Saddleback Mountain and Fairview Mountain. Those two mountains behind me are Sheol Mountain and Haddo Peak. From here the path splits three ways – Go right for Fairview Mountain, straight on for Paradise Valley or left for Saddle Mountain.
Fairview Mountain – the real climb
Now comes the tough part. The hike up from the saddle (to the peak) is steeper than the hike up from Lake Louise; It is rocky and can be a little slide-y. However it is also really fun because each time you turn around, the views behind you get more and more impressive!
I was a bit slower than Marc, so you can see me in his photo from near the top. you can see me waaay below, trudging up the slope. That’s Saddle Mountain behind me.
This was the middle of August, so there were some patches of snow, but not many. As you hike higher, the temperature drops. I was wearing a t-shirt on the saddle, then needed my jumper as the wind started to bite us on the climb. By the top of Fairview Mountain I needed my crazily bright puffy jacket too.
Fairview Mountain Summit
It took us just over 2 hours to hike up here – but look at that viiiiew!? My photos do not do these vistas justice at all. The glaciers look especially spectacular from up here.
You can scroll to the end of the post to see panoramas and get an idea of how these views stitch together into 360° of epic-ness.
If you look behind my left arm (photo above), that rocky area below is the trail up to the Plain of the Six Glaciers; Where we previously saw a grizzly bear family and hiked up to a teahouse.
Lake Louise from above
You will earn a fabulous bird’s-eye view of the bright blue Lake Louise. If you look really carefully you can see Mirror Lake. It’s on the trail to Lake Agnes and the Big Beehive.
This is the view down to Bow Valley. You can see the ski slopes of Lake Louise Ski Resort on Whitehorn Mountain, on the other side of the valley.
I was most drawn to the pointy Haddo Peak and Mount Aberdeen, as well as the massive glacier on Mount Victoria.
Why are glaciers so amazing? I could stare at their cracks and crevasses for hours!
Heading to Paradise Valley
If you just want a quick adventure, you can return the way you came for a 9km hike. Or, if you are feeling epic, you could climb Saddle Mountain as well before you head back to Lake Louise. We decided to make our hike into a loop. So we followed the trail into Sheol Valley, and then down to Paradise Valley.
Just be aware, this area is a grizzly bear habitat, so it is recommended to hike with 4+ people. We met another hiker (Carla) who joined us for safety. Later in the summer it is mandatory to hike with 4+ people. You can be fined for hiking in small groups.
This area was truly beautiful! Once I realized that the path we were on was not mapped, I started to record; So you can see the route we took.
There was an easy to follow path, that takes you right up to the cliffs below Haddo Peak. It then led us into the valley below Sheol Mountain that meets up with the Paradise valley trail.
We only met a couple of other hikers along this trail so most of the time we had all this spectacular scenery to ourselves. It is a little mad that you can find such peace and quiet so close to one of the busiest areas in the Canadian Rockies!
Paradise Valley itself seems perfectly named. You’ll see the sparkling waters of Paradise Creek with Mount Temple looming above you. We could not resist walking a little further into this wilderness, so we hiked to Lake Annette for lunch before returning to Lake Louise.
Lake Annette is a another stunning, turquoise alpine lake at the base of Mount Temple. Two walkers were leaving just as we arrived, but other than that, it was deserted. So we ate lunch at this beautiful lake with no other walkers!
I will write another post with more information about Lake Annette as it is beeeautiful, and easy to reach (you don’t have to climb Fairview Mountain to get here.) This valley is right in the middle between the two most famous lakes in the Rockies, Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. I guess that is why it doesn’t get more attention.
Return to Lake Louise
Once we’d filled our bellies with bagels, we headed back along Paradise Valley to Lake Louise. I have to admit, although most of the hike back was easy, we were very tired in the forest close to Lake Louise. Just a small amount of uphill is exhausting after a long day hiking! We were chuffed to reach Lake Louise and see views of Fairview Mountain from below again.
So, if you fancy a challenge when you visit Lake Louise, Fairview Mountain is a fantastic option. It is a tiring walk but I think the views really punch above their weight considering it only took 2 hours to reach that impressive peak. Plus you can make it shorter/easier by cutting off the loop into Paradise Valley.
I’ll finish with a few panoramas to tempt you to give it a go.
I hope you like the look of this incredible hike as much as we loved exploring here! Let me know what you think, or if you have favourite hikes near Lake Louise. We’ll definitely go back to explore this area more. Please click on the pins below to save them for later.