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    This reflects the 10Adventures difficulty rating for each route. We aim to keep ratings consistent across regions.
    Very Hard
    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.
    1,007 m
    This reflects the return distance of this route as measured by the GPS file.
    17.2 km
    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.
    User Ratings
    These ratings are completed by users who have completed this trail and not subject to reviews by 10Adventures.
    Advanced (Diamond)
    Suitable for advanced experience level looking for a solid adventure.
    Physical DIFF
    Intermediate (Square)
    Suitable for intermediates who are ready for a little bit more adventure.
    Technical DIFF
    Directions to Trailhead

    Helen Lake and Cirque Peak

    Panorama of the Helen Lake hike along Icefields Parkway, the Canadian Rockies

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    Table of contents

    Hiking to Helen Lake and Cirque Peak is a local favourite. From Helen Lake up to Cirque Peak the hike provides incredible views. Be warned that this is a challenging day with steady uphill climbs, particularly the final push to the top of Cirque Peak, which also involves some scrambling.

    Route Description for Helen Lake and Cirque Peak

    Start the hike from the signed point in the parking lot. Entering the forest, you follow a well-marked trail for roughly 4.5 km, until you emerge from the trees and begin to get some stupendous views. Crossing Helen Creek, the route soon arrives at Helen Lake after roughly 6.0 km and having gained approximately 380 m of elevation.

    From the lake, contour around the right-hand side of the water towards a headwall. The trail will take you to the right of cliffs. Follow the main trail here and don’t take shortcuts. From here you can scamper the remaining few meters to the viewpoint before turning left and walking across the plateau to the base of the main push to the top of Cirque Peak.

    Walk across the marshy plateau towards Cirque Peak, eventually reaching a sandy, steep ascent. From here you have under 500 m of elevation gain to complete in 1.3 km of distance. The sandy section will lead to a ridge, where the consistency changes to small rocks and a bit of scree. Follow the trail to the left of the ridge, and make sure to steer clear of the edge.

    Roughly 10 m from the top, you will encounter a rock formation that will require a bit of agility. Ditch your poles here and use your hands to go up the notch towards the peak. Take care, as this scrambling can be intimidating to those without experience.

    Reaching the top, you have outstanding 360 degree views – Dolomite Pass, Dolomite Peak and Lake Katherine to name a few. The submarine-like mountain to your right is Dolomite Peak, one of the most unique in the Rockies. Take great care at the top, however, as the drop off on the other side is enormous, and certainly fatal.

    Those who are very adventurous can scramble to the second peak, though that is beyond our own capabilities, so only challenge this route if you’re very experienced. Please judge your own capabilities accurately and ensure you are safe.

    Coming back down the rock formation is actually easier, provided your pants or pack don’t get caught on rocks and throw you off balance. Once down, you have a pleasant descent provided you’re comfortable moving on loose rock. Regardless of your abilities, coming down the black sand is a joy. If you are new to these descents, treat it like snow, step down with your heel first until you find a firm footing and then move your other foot. Keep straight downhill and be prepared to fall back on your bum. This takes some practice, but over time you can greatly improve your speed at descents.

    Return the rest of the way you ascended, once again making sure you take the same route you took up. There are several game paths that look like trails that can lead you to the exposed cliff edge.

    The steady route up through the forest is a welcome relief on the way down, as you coast easily back to your car. Just be sure to keep on the lookout for roots and make enough noise to ensure the bears stay away, as this is prime bear habitat.

    Helen Lake hiking news for 2024

    In 2024, the Helen Lake trail in Banff National Park is poised for an earlier start to the hiking season due to lower than usual snowfall levels. However, visitors should be prepared for a particularly busy summer at the trail. The increased accessibility and the trail's popularity mean that early arrival to secure parking and starting the hike in cooler morning hours might be more crucial this year. It's advisable to check local conditions before heading out, especially due to potential wildfire smoke, which could affect visibility and air quality.

    Insider Hints for Helen Lake and Cirque Peak

    • Bring gaiters and poles for the scree and sand route down.
    • Do this in a group as you are in prime bear habitat and for support on the final push to the peak.
    • Stop for a snack at the iconic Num-Ti-Jah Lodge after the day. Better yet, get a jump on the crowds and book a night at the Num-Ti-Jah to be transported back in time.

    Getting to the Helen Lake and Cirque Peak Trailhead

    Drive on Highway 93 north towards Jasper for 32.8 km from the highway turnoff (or head 3.4 km south from the Num-Ti-Jah Lodge turnoff). The parking lot is listed as “Helen Lake” and is on the east side of the road.

    Route Information

    • When to do:

      June through October

    • Backcountry Campsites:


    • Toilets:


    • Family friendly:


    • Route Signage:


    • Crowd Levels:


    • Route Type:

      Out and back

    Helen Lake and Cirque Peak Elevation Graph

    Weather Forecast

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