Banff National Park
Time: 5 hours
Distance: 11.6 km (return)
Elevation Gain: 370 m
How To Get There: Park in the Moraine Lake parking lot located at Moraine Lake, 12km west of the Lake Louise town site. Moraine Lake Road is not plowed during the winter months.
This was the first hike of the year that I was going to be doing with Kim and I was very excited to get started. The weather forecast wasn't looking especially great for the Lake Louise area (with only plus 10 as the high) but we decided to go ahead with the hike anyway. As per usual, when we reached Moraine Lake to get started, the parking lot was already full so we ended up having to park further down on the road. Once we walked back up to the lake, we managed to take a few nice pictures before filling up our hydration packs and hitting the trail.
Since it was a bit earlier in the season there was only a recommendation to have at least a group of four hiking together in order to increase bear safety. Once the season goes on, the sign will change to saying that it is mandatory and if you don't follow this instruction, you can be fined.
Kim and I waited for only a few seconds before we were joined by several other hikers (just to be on the safe side) and then we continued to our right past the trailhead sign that indicates the start of Sentinel Pass, Larch Valley, Eiffel Lake, Wenkchemna Pass and Mount Temple.
The first 3 kilometers or so take you up across a bridge and then through a steady incline of (seemingly) never-ending switchbacks that were dotted beautifully with wildflowers.
Once we reached the sign at the fork in the road, we turned left through Desolation Valley which leads you towards Eiffel Lake.
Almost all of the elevation had been gained at this point, so it was pretty much a straight walk amongst a root and rock filled trail after this.
With the gained elevation, you can see Moraine Lake below, which provides a beautiful backdrop of turquoise and hunter green.
Unfortunately, the clouds had begun to settle so we were unable to see much of the famed ten peaks (though I was able to get a few pictures whenever the sun managed to break through).
Along the way through Desolation Valley, we tried our best not to trip on the large stones that popped out from the trail. At one point, we spotted a curious ground-squirrel who seemed to be trying to play a game of hide and seek with Kimberley.
The closer we got to Eiffel Lake, the more the trail quality began to decline until it was completely scree laden. Snow patches began popping up here and there until we were forced several times to make our way across several large snow chutes that crossed over the scree.
Snow was beginning to fall on and off, providing an impromptu photoshoot of some flowers with the precipitation in the background.
Not long after, our hiking efforts were rewarded with our first look at Eiffel Lake.
Though the lake itself wasn't much to look at, especially with the overcast sky, it was still a very beautiful scene with the mountains surrounding us from all sides.
We could see Wenkchemna Pass off in the distance, to the right and just behind Eiffel Lake, but decided to remain where we were as it was getting a bit later in the day.
A few other hikers made their way all the way down to sit beside the lake but Kim and I decided to just remain perched up top as the weather was beginning to take a turn for the worse. We found a nice spot tucked away from the wind and then sat down to have our lunch. Just as we were opening our bags, we managed to see a quick glance of a Pika as it ran around the corner. Then, while I was eating my chickpeas, we were joined by a curious little chipmunk (we named him Charles) who seemed very interested in our food. A word of caution- make sure you keep your lunch closely guarded! That little guy climbed right up onto the rock wall beside us in an attempt to sneak a snack.
Once we had taken a few more pictures of the lake and the surrounding area, my frozen fingers told me it was time to head back home.
I can only imagine that this hike is even more beautiful on a blue-sky day. Even with the clouds all around us, it was still a gorgeous hike. While Larch Valley is more popular, this hike offers a different view point of the ten peaks and if you don't want to be surrounded with tourists, is probably your better option. One day I plan to come back and do Wenkchemna Pass…hopefully on a sunnier day!