Arnica Lake Hike

Difficulty
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Moderate
Duration
This reflects the estimated time the majority of users will take on this trail. If you are slower, add time to the top-end figure. If you are fast, then you may complete this route faster than this time range.
4.5-6h
Distance
This reflects the return distance of this route as measured by the GPS file.
12.9 km
Elevation
This reflects the total elevation gained throughout this route as measured by the GPS file. This includes all ascents and descents, and is higher than what is quoted in most route guides, which simply measure the distance between the starting-point and high-point of the route.
753 m
User Ratings
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Directions to Trailhead
Arnica Lake

Do yourself a favour and save this hike for wildflower season—as its name suggests—you won’t be disappointed. Pass by Vista Lake before ascending the steep climb towards Arnica Lake. As you gain elevation quickly, you’ll be gifted with views all around from castle junction. Babbling creeks and various trees make up this elevated trail to Arnica Lake, backed by a soaring, jacked rock wall.

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Route Description for Arnica Lake Hike

One thing to note about the Arnica Lake trail is that it begins with a descent to Vista Lake. This makes for a nice start to the trail, but some hikers dread the final push back to the parking lot.

Arnica Lake is a less frequented trail in Banff National Park; however, it is part of a backpacking route, so you may see more cars than faces as backpackers tend to drop a car here. It’s a great trail that gets up high quickly and ends with a unique alpine lake below a towering rock wall.

A simple trail leads hikers down to Vista Lake, providing views of its stunning blue waters the entire way. You’ll reach Vista Lake quickly, where you will cross a bridge and begin your climb to Arnica Lake.

There are no junctions or plateaus on your way up to the lake. Plenty of small bridges and one large bridge carry hikers over the flowing creeks on the way to the lake. Watch out for muddy and flooded ground in the spring as some of these creeks can be flowing quite strong as the snow melts.

Early season might see some snow near the lake, so you might want to wait until wildflower season to explore Arnica Lake in its prime. If you miss the wildflowers, come back in the fall for some larch viewing. This is one of the more underrated larch hikes in the park and it won’t disappoint. Anglers will be pleased to find plenty of fish in Arnica lake, so bring your rod and stay awhile.

Want to find more amazing Lake Louise hikes? Check out the Plain of the 6 Glaciers, Sentinel Pass, Morraine Lake or the Skoki Lakes hike.

Insider Hints for Arnica Lake Hike

  • Hike during wildflower or larch seasons
  • Bring a fishing rod if you are an angler
  • Prepare for a steep ascent and a final gain on your way back to the parking lot
  • The trail connects to Twin Lakes if you’d like to extend your trip or camp overnight

Getting to the Arnica Lake Hike Trailhead

To get to Arnica Lake trail, you will be looking for the Vista Lake trailhead. Head west on the Trans-Canada Highway, and at 32.0 km from the Town of Banff, take the exit for Radium Hot Springs and Highway 93S. Turn left off the ramp and cross the highway. Continue on the highway for roughly 8.0 km looking for the Vista Lake sign. Turn left into the small parking lot. You’ll see Vista Lake below, and the trail starts at the trail kiosk on the east side of the parking lot.

Route Information

  • When to do

    June-September

  • Backcountry Campsites

    No

  • Pets allowed

    Yes - On Leash

  • Family friendly

    Older Children only

  • Route Signage

    Average

  • Crowd Levels

    Moderate

  • Route Type

    Out and back

Arnica Lake Hike Elevation Graph

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