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    Observation Peak

    This reflects the 10Adventures difficulty rating for each route. We aim to keep ratings consistent across regions.
    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.
    This reflects the return distance of this route as measured by the GPS file.
    8.2 km
    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.
    1,067 m
    User Ratings
    These ratings are completed by users who have completed this trail and not subject to reviews by 10Adventures.
    Overall Rating
    This is the average user-submitted overall rating on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest.
    Physical Difficulty
    This is the average user-submitted rating on the physical difficulty of this route. In general, green is beginner, blue is intermediate, black is advanced/most difficult and double-black is expert-only. It is recommended that users build up to black and double-black routes.
    Intermediate (Square)
    Suitable for intermediates who are ready for a little bit more adventure.
    Technical Difficulty
    This is the average user-submitted rating on the technical difficulty of this route. In general, green is beginner, blue is intermediate, black is advanced/most difficult and double-black is expert-only. It is recommended that users build up to black and double-black routes.
    Intermediate (Square)
    Suitable for intermediates who are ready for a little bit more adventure.
    Read Reviews
    Directions to Trailhead
    Panorama from Observation Peak scramble in Banff National Park

    Aptly named, the scramble up Observation Peak gives a bird’s eye view of turquoise Peyto Lake and Bow Lake at the base of glaciated giants on the continental divide. Observation Peak is a stunning scramble on the Icefields Parkway.

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    Route Description for Observation Peak

    Observation Peak was named by Charles Noyes, who in 1899 noted that the view from the summit was one of the finest he'd ever taken in.

    While this is a stunning route, we would not recommend this scramble if it’s wet, snowy or outside of the summer season.

    Instead of turning left and parking at Bow Summit Parking Lot, go right, shortly after and drive to the end of the short access road, making sure you’ll be able to get your car out at the end of the day and that you aren’t boxing any other cars in.

    Follow this road as it continues along into the bushes for a few hundred meters. Shortly after it turns left and fills in with willows, look out for a cairn on the right side that marks the start of the trail.

    While there are many possible routes up the mountain, we recommend following the main route that was made popular by Alan Kane's ‘Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies’. There is now an acceptable trail from the parking area to the top via this route. One note though: many guides speak of north and south gully approaches, recommending one or the other. The obvious trail we took initially follows the north gully, but just past the treeline moves onto the broad ridge between the two gullies.

    If the route is dry, there are still two potentially very difficult sections on this scramble. The first difficult section was the rocky cliff bands about 2/3rd’s of the way up. We did expect to encounter these cliff bands, but did not realize that traversing through here would involve moderate scrambling, with a small section just a little more difficult than the Grade 1 rating for the rest of the route. The cairned route through this section involves first a short traverse on a ledge (easy), an awkward maneuver over a rocky rib (hard), followed by several moderately difficult steps over a variety of loose scree and bits of bedrock. Although not too challenging, it does add some time, and did put one of our contributors, a regular scrambler, outside of their comfort zone.

    The second difficult section is especially problematic when this route is attempted late in the season with a very challenging last vertical 150 m of loose scree just before the false summit. The ground is prone to freezing, leaving loose rock on top that slides and rolls with alarming ease. We have been on loose scree before, but this was completely different and ridiculously more difficult (by comparison, it made the stuff in the scree chute of Noseeum Peak look like pavement). When these conditions prevail, it is essentially impossible to move up.

    To continue past this scree, it is recommended to take an alternate route. Options include following a snow-filled trail up and although it will likely be slippery, it does offer the possibility for elevation gain. On the plus side the scree does make for a fun descent, if approached with careful consideration and caution. Again, it was much different than other scree we've descended. It really did feel like marbles on a sheet of ice and it took quite a bit of effort to not fall. It would be safe to assume that in the summer this section is nothing more than your typical run of the mill loose scree, but it definitely isn’t late in the season.

    Once the false summit is reached, the remainder of the traverse is easy. There will likely be a fair amount of snow along the summit ridge, but it will still be possible to distinguish snow on rock from the enormous cornice that overhangs the eastern side. Even after a hot summer it's remarkable how much snow survives through to autumn!

    Views from the top are, as expected, expansive! On a clear day, look out for Mt. Assiniboine, nearly visible from 110.0 km away! Spectacular sights include a large portion of the Wapta Icefield, Peyto Lake and Bow Lake (well over a kilometer below), as well as glaciated Mt. Hector, and a sea of other peaks in all directions.

    Return the way you came up, taking care on the two challenging bits form the way up.

    Insider Hints for Observation Peak

    • Just across the road is another great viewpoint, the Peyto Lake Viewpoint. Consider stopping for a quick look if you start early or finish late, as the softer light makes the view from the Peyto Lake Viewpoint spectacular.
    • The Icefields Parkway is remote, so make sure you fill up with gas and snacks in Lake Louise ( Laggans and Trailhead Cafe are ideal for this) before the drive. Lake Louise’s Bill Peyto’s Cafe is great place for breakfasts or a well-earned post-hike meal, epecially if you’re staying at the adjacent (and excellent) HI-Lake Louise Alpine Centre.

    Getting to the Observation Peak Trailhead

    From Lake Louise take the Trans-Canada Highway west. Turn onto the Icefields Parkway and head towards Jasper for 41.0 km. When you get to Bow Summit, turn right on a small road instead of turning left into the parking lot. Drive to the end of this short access road.

    Route Information

    • When to do

      July - September

    • Backcountry Campsites


    • Toilets

      Peyto Lake Viewpoint; Across the parkway from trailhead.

    • Pets allowed

      Yes - On Leash

    • Scarmbling Rating

      Grade 1

    • Exposure


    • Family friendly


    • Route Signage


    • Crowd Levels


    • Route Type

      Out and back

    Observation Peak Elevation Graph

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    Observation Peak Reviews

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