Banff Hiking Picks with Marc Pinel

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Written by Patrick J. Smith posted on Thursday, July 15th, 2010

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Banff National Park, Alberta – Marc Pinel is another one of our Rockies vacation experts. He’s worked for Parks Canada at the Banff Information Center since 2008, spent the last 7 years living in Banff, is the founder of the Grand Nature Club, a Banff-based hiking club, and is an avid local hiker.

“I have a lot of experience on day hikes,” Marc says. “I’ve done pretty much all the day hikes around Banff, Lake Louise, Yoho and Kootenay National Park.”

Lake Louise offers great scenery for hikers.

We’re willing to bet that you won’t have the time (or inclination) to check out all of the day hikes available to you in the Banff National Park and Lake Louise area on your next vacation. In fact, we’re pretty sure you wouldn’t want to. Ideally, on a vacation, you try to distill the place you’re visiting down to the “best of” and hit those in the time you have.

So it’s good to talk to someone who’s already done all the day hikes, and can give you his opinion on which ones you should hit on your precious vacation time.

Marc says that in Banff National Park, he especially prefers hikes in the Lake Louise area. In particular, he recommends hiking Fairview Mountain and Sentinel Pass in this area.

“Fairview mountain is a pretty difficult hike with 1000 meters in elevation gain,” he says with a nice Quebec accent. “It’s pretty nice for views on the top, because it’s beside Lake Louise, so you can see down to the lake.”

According to Parks Canada, this is a 4.5 km hike, and takes about 5-6 hours to complete. Pick up the trail head for this hike on the shore of Lake Louise, near the boathouse.

Sentinel Pass is in the Moraine Lake area, about 15 minutes from Lake Louise.

“You go over a pass and you’ve got the nice view of the 10 Peaks that surround the Morraine Lake area,” says Marc. “From the pass you can see Paradise Valley.”

Paradise Valley. Now that sounds nice. On top of it, the Morraine Lake area, and the 10 Peaks are some of the most famous areas for photography in all of the Canadian Rockies because of their stunning beauty. This is a definite must-see on your vacation.

“It’s a pretty difficult hike,” Marc notes. But well worth it. According to Parks Canada, the trip is 5.8 km one way, and takes about 5 hours for the round trip. You’ll find the trail head about 100 metres past the Moraine Lake Lodge along the lake’s shore.

Third on Marc’s list was Dolomite Pass on Icefield Parkway. Icefields Parkway is a famous drive between Banff National Park and Jasper National Park that takes drivers through some of the best scenery the Canadian Rockies offer.

Marc notes that on the Dolomite hike, “You go first to the Ellen Lake, it’s a really nice lake. Over the Pass you can see the crow foot glacier and Katherine Lake.”

He rates Dolomite as a moderate level hike. It’s 9 km one way, according to Parks Canada, and is about a 6 to 7 hour round trip. From the Lake Louise junction take Icefields Parkway 33 km north to the Crowfoot Glacier viewpoint. You’ll find the trail head across the highway from the view point.

Marc did offer one easy hike for the not-so-experienced hikers, or hikers with children, Tunnel Mountain. “It’s uphill,” Marc notes, “but it’s not long.”

“This is a nice hike that will give you nice views of the Bow Valley,” he adds.

According to Parks Canada, this is a 4.3 km round trip that takes about 2.5 hours.

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