Fairview Mountain – Lake Louise

Fairview Mountain – Lake Louise

Stunning Glacier views from Fairview Mountain near Lake Louise in BanffFairview 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
Bear spray
Plenty of layers – It’s cold at the top even on sunny days.
Facilities:
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.

The Saddle

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.

Glacier Views

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.

Sheol Valley

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

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

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.

Fairview Mountain - Epic views in Banff National Park Fairview Mountain - For the best views of Lak Louise in Banff National Park Stunning Glacier views from Fairview Mountain near Lake Louise in Banff

52 thoughts on “Fairview Mountain – Lake Louise

  1. This has been on our list forever… and oh my fairy godmother I can’t wait to get back to the Rockies to hike it! Those views from the top are incredible!

    1. Lol I think the same time each time I see your posts in the Rockies!

      It’s mad, I was expecting it to be super busy after seeing it in the “don’t waste your time” book…but there was only one other hiker up there when we arrived.

      I guess it must be really busy when the larches are golden… But I wouldn’t mind to see those views + golden trees.

  2. we visited Louise and Moraine but we never really hiked. What an opportunity missed! Glad to see you defying gravity as usual. Is your jacket that colour to put off the bears because it works as an optical deterrent (I hope it was cheap!!). I’ll confess I like my fruit orange but not clothes or Presidents or influencers …

    1. Hehehee that puffer was on sale so it was pretty cheap…It’s great for making sure Marc can’t lose me in the wilderness…i can confirm that no bears have attempted to eat me when I’m that orange. 🤣

    1. Clazzzzz! Yeah I guess the first time you go to Lake Louise it’s more normal to visit the teahouses, but this was a fabulous option on a day with good weather!!

  3. The views from the hikes!!! holy cow, we would have to get our butts in shape but you captured the stunning surroundings soo well that even WE (un-athletic, glampers) are tempted 🙂

    1. Glamping is the best way to go! To be fair, I think you could get up here even if you are not used to hiking…you would just have sore legs for a few days afterwards! It might be best just not to make this your first hike of the year!

    1. It’s awesome when you find extra possible hikes in an area you think you know well isn’t it! One of my friends told me about Mount St Piran and the Devil’s thumb (the mountains opposite Fairview…) so I still have a few more walks to do in this area! 😀

      I just visited your hiking post about Banff, it is GORGEOUS. I’ll leave you a comment over there.

  4. Wow! Everything about this hike looks phenomenal starting with the gorgeous lake to the epic views from the top! The hike does look intimidating from below but like that it’s hard but not technical. I tend to stay away from technical hikes. That is interesting that you get fined being in small groups, I’d never heard of that. Bummer, I usually travel solo and don’t have someone to hike with. Good to know about that in advance! Would love to do this anyways! 😀

    1. Thanks Vanessa!

      You only get fined if you travel in less than 4, when the signs say it is mandatory. It’s a pretty good idea to keep both humans and bears safe. I asked a ranger about it a couple of years ago and they said they had no recorded bear attacks when people are in groups of 4+. People are used to it though, so solo hikers just wait at the trailhead and join larger groups. You’d be fine if you do that.

  5. This looks absolutely beautifullllll!! Definitely adding it to my travel bucket list for when it’s okay to do so again! <3 The water looks gorgeous and I love all the blues + greens. You captured the hike perfectly! *-*

    1. It’s loopy isn’t it!? It’s also the polar opposite of the beautiful orange/red hikes you keep showing me in the desert. Between the two of us, we have a full palate of hiking colours.

  6. Wow! Just wow! This is so beautiful. It’s my mom’s favourite place in the world. Your images make it easy to see why. Thanks.

    1. Your mum has good taste Rhonda, it is SUCH a spectacular area!

      p.s. That give you a good excuse to visit there with your mum! I’d LOVE to show my mum pretty places like this!

  7. These views are just stunning! I went to Jasper a few years ago but never made it to Banff. I hope I can go back one day – I’d love to do this amazing hike!

    1. Hehehe I am the same with Jasper- we visited in the spring so it was still a bit too dangerous for hiking. I would LOVE to visit there and get out onto the trails.

  8. Oh wow! This looks awesome.Those views! I am continually surprised when I look up at what seems to be an impossibly high, steep mountain and then eventually find myself at the top. When you mentioned the larches I was thinking that I might not be able to identify them in their green state. I’m also a fan of the Dr. Seuss flowers (also heard them called hippy heads). Another hike added to my list! Thank you!

    1. It’s the best feeling when you look up and see a mountain that looks impossible…and then actually make it up there!

      Thank you for your lovely comment. I think we are just going to have to keep inspiring each other to go on more and more hikes! 😀

  9. Wow, what a hike! Those views are absolutely incredible! I was just talking to my parents about Banff yesterday. They’ve started planning an RV trip there for next summer. I’m considering flying out to meet them.

    1. Oooh you will love it! If they book it early, there is an RV campground in the village below Lake Louise, that might be the perfect base for you!

  10. We visited Lake Louise a few years ago and it was so pretty!! We were on a tour so didn’t have a chance to hike anywhere but your pics look amazing!! Need to go back and do some hiking!!

    1. Going on a tour is such a good way to see loads of pretty places, but I have a feeling it would leave me itching to get out onto the trails! I hope you can make it back to really get into the wilderness. 🙂

    1. It’s mad isn’t it!? I love how much it changes at different times of day and when you walk around the lake. Hopefully you’ll get to visit too once the borders are open again.

  11. Holy smokes, these views rival any I’ve seen! And only in 2 hours! You look like you could be anywhere in the world, in the Alps or something. Who needs a time machine when you can just go for a hike?

    You guys are brave when it comes to the bear thing. That would definitely be on my mind the whole time. What happened when you saw the bear family on that other hike? Did they run off?

    1. It’s crazy isn’t it! I guess it is because Lake Louise is already at 1750m, so it’s not *too* much higher to get to the epic heights/views. I think you would really like some of the long distance hikes near here Claire (although you’d have to join up with other hikers to walk in the grizzly areas)

      When we saw the grizzly family they were pretty far away (around 3-400m), so we could stay at watch them for aaages. (This is that post if you’re interested: https://www.awalkandalark.com/highline-trail-to-big-beehive-and-lake-agnes/) I have never seen bears when we’re on the trails in the Rockies. There are so many people and they avoid humans.

      1. Omg and you even got pictures! They look so cute from that distance haha! Wow, that’s another gorgeous trail. Love the colors and the pristine water.

        I think I would too, I have a lot of trip planning ahead of me after COVID. I want to do some other hikes in the northern US so maybe I could string them together with a Canada trip

  12. Josy, I really enjoy reading about your adventures. I love the beautiful views, but reading that you have to be in groups of 4, because you are in Griizzly Bear country, makes me happy that I can enjoy everything from the comfort of my home.

    1. Hehehe yeah, I get that! That was the thing I was most worried about when we first moved to Canada! The thing is, when you are in a group of 4+, you just won’t see the bears (unless it is really far away.) They don’t want to come anywhere near a large group of humans.

  13. This hike sounds ideal! One, it’s challenging but not too challenging. Two, amazing views! Three, very few other people. Although I do like the strength in numbers rule because of bears. I have never seen nor do I want to see any grizzlies while hiking!

    1. We saw some from far away two years ago…so that was enough for me!!
      I’m glad you liked the look of this Melinda! 😀

    1. Thanks Sandy! Just, don’t get too lost! 😉
      This is one of those area where you want to leave a trip plan with a friend (just in case…)

  14. WOW! that is amazing. I wish Darcee my wife liked hiking and backpacking but she hates it which is weird cause she loves camping and the great outdoors. If I could teleport her to the Farview Summit and then down to Lake Annette and then back to Lake Louise she would be in heaven. But for me the hike is where it is at! I am much like you guys as I would have worn a combination of shorts and puffer jackets too cause I HATE bulky warm clothes while backpacking.
    The whole Bow Valley and Saddleback Mountain were gorgeous but I think I would love to take that Plain of 6 Glaciers hike to the Tea House too! We loved Lake Louise and Banff but now I am realizing how much we missed out by not exploring more!!

    1. Oooh I will have to take a peek at your Canadian Rockies posts Eric. I bet you saw loads of amazing places too.

      After this, we spent some time in Kootenay National Park, Darcee might have liked it there – there were fabulous front country campgrounds with gorgeous sites (like marble Canyon and the ink pots) that you don’t have to hike to.

      And yeeees we loved the hikes to both tea houses. The Cake at the Plain of 6 Glaciers was really good too…

  15. You find the best spots! This looks like an amazing hike! I’ve never been to the area, but I’ve heard lots about the crowds at Lake Louise. So much so, that I’ve pretty much decided that I don’t really need to visit. Now, I’ve changed my mind because I want to do this hike!

    1. It’s funny, even at Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, you don’t have to go very far before it gets quiet again! It’s a little mad, but 90% of people only stand at the first viewpoints that are closest to the car park.

  16. That view from the top is just something else. With turquoise lakes below and snow covered peaks around, I’m enchanted. Interesting about the rule to hike with 4 people for grizzlies. It’s a good idea but I didn’t know it was a rule.

    1. It wasn’t a true rule when we visited (it was just recommended.) However later in the summer it is a hard rule – that’s when you might get fined for being in a smaller group or solo hiking.

  17. Holy cow! I can’t believe you can hike up that peak – the VIEW from the top is incredible! Also, I think Dr Seuss poofs is a far better name lol 😉

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