Sentinel Pass Hike
The Sentinel Pass hike offers the opportunity to spend a few hours with some of Canada’s most awesome natural wonders in Lake Louise. Start at the beautiful Moraine Lake and then head up through native larches to an alpine pass with astounding views – a truly unforgettable experience.
If you want to park at Moraine Lake, your best bet is to arrive before 6am. To get there, take Lake Louise Drive from Lake Louise Village for 1.2mi, then turn left on Moraine Lake Road and follow for 7.6mi. Most people end up taking public transportation.
|When to do|
June through October
Out and back
Sentinel Pass Hike
Sentinel Pass Trail Description
Sentinel Pass hike starts at Moraine Lake. Parking at Moraine Lake is extremely limited, so your best bet is to aim to get to Moraine Lake before 6am if you want to park.
There are paid shuttle options to Moraine Lake parking lot. These are available from the Lake Louise Village and the Lake Louise overflow parking lot which is where traffic will be redirected to once the Moraine Lake parking lot is full. There is nowhere to line up if access is blocked to Moraine Lake Road.
You can also ride a bike to Moraine Lake, and it’s a beautiful ride.
From the Moraine Lake parking lot walk towards the lake and lodge. Continue, keeping the lake on your left-hand side, and follow the trail markers for a few hundred meters until you see another sign indicating the start of the Sentinel Pass trail on the right-hand side. This is a prime bear habitat, therefore at certain times of the year Parks Canada will insist on hiking in groups to limit bear encounters. Those without large enough groups will often wait by the sign for the next group and opt to hike together to meet the minimum size requirements.
The Sentinel Pass trail immediately starts to climb through the forest, with a steady and demanding grade. This is a well-maintained route, however it is not recommended to take a child carrier up due to the rocks and tree roots. As you continue on the path, enjoy small previews of the turquoise waters of Lake Moraine as well as glimpses of the Ten Peaks through the trees. Soon there is the option to turn off for Eiffel Lake. Continue right here to Sentinel Pass. You will notice immediately that the route levels off and larch trees become predominant. Finally, you will come to a small stream with a log bridge, after which we recommend taking a quick break. The rest of the trek after the bridge will be tiring, but filled with amazing and varying views.
As you approach the tree line, the pass is straight ahead. After emerging from the trees, you will be in an exquisite meadow with three beautiful lakes. The largest of which, the first you encounter, can keep ice well into summer. Looking ahead and to the right, there is a path cut across a mountain with a few switchbacks up to the pass. Here there is steep climbing, and also the potential for lingering snow patches. Many hikers will turn back if they don’t have hiking boots or polls, though there are well defined “boot packs” through the snow.
Upon reaching the pass, enjoy a view down into Paradise Valley. There are small rock outcroppings on either side of the pass, which give extended views, though be careful, as the drops off these rocks are significant and dangerous. From here you can also see experienced scramblers taking the path towards the right up Mount Temple. Please be aware that this route has exposure and significant rock fall. Do not attempt without a helmet and experience with scrambling.
The real treat of the hike is coming down from Sentinel Pass. The view of the Valley of Ten Peaks continues to expand and develop. Pause again in the alpine meadow before the pleasant jaunt back to the lake. The long uphill trek is a pleasant experience going down, and soon you are back at the wonderful Moraine Lake.
Hiking Trail Highlights
Sentinel Pass is the high point of this trail, in more ways than one! This high mountain pass offers remarkable views over the Valley of the Ten Peaks, and many of the other dominant mountains in this part of Banff National Park. You’ll have a glorious view down into Paradise Valley, including Mount Lefroy, the Mitre, Mount Aberdeen and Haddo Peak. To the east you may also catch a glimpse of Collier Peak and Pope’s Peak in the Lake Louise Valley. However, the view to the south is dominated by the magnificent towering mountains of the Valley of the Ten Peaks.
The pass takes its name from the large rock spire on the northern side of Pinnacle Mountain, known as the Grand Sentinel. This impressive pinnacle rises over 100m into the sky, a quartzite rock obelisk, and is a popular challenge for rock climbers. It stands tall, looking over the valley and the surrounding peaks like a looming, silent sentinel.
Valley of the Ten Peaks
The Valley of the Ten Peaks is a stunning destination in Banff National Park, named for the ten imposing peaks that crown the valley. This beautiful spot is actually surrounded by more than ten mountains, but the name is derived from the ten peaks identified by Samuel Allen, a pioneering explorer of the region. He named the surrounding mountains according to the numbers 1-10 in the language of the Stoney First Nations, which he had learned from his Native American guides.
Over the course of recent years, most of the peaks have been renamed in honor of noteworthy or famous individuals, including Allen, who gave his name to the second-tallest peak in the valley. The image of the tall peaks, reflected in the crystal waters of Moraine Lake, has become an iconic symbol of Banff National Park. This beautiful spot is so magnificent, it once graced the back of the Canadian $20 bill!
At specified times during the year you will be required to hike in groups of a minimum of 4-6 people. When this is the case, simply wait at the trailhead that flares off from Moraine Lake. Other hikers will let you join their group.
Get there early to enjoy a coffee in tranquility from the onsite cafe at Moraine Lake Lodge before the tourists arrive.
Start after 4pm and have the pass to yourself. Take a picnic and enjoy dinner in the meadow below the pass.
On calm days, you may get a beautiful reflection of the Ten Peaks on one of the lakes. Get close to see if you are lucky enough!
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