Want an awesome non-technical challenge that boasts second-to-none views of towering mountains, glaciers and an iconic lake? Escape the crowds normally found on other local trails and try this easy scramble. Fairview Mountain is a great objective for those who want a gorgeous yet challenging half-day hike. From the summit you’ll get to see 360-degree views of neighboring mountains (including Temple), popular trails such as the Plain of Six Glaciers and the Beehives, and the stunning turquoise waters of Lake Louise. And if you have time, you can also do neighboring Saddle mountain or head back down to chill at Lake Louise.
- Location: Lake Louise
- Distance: 9.2 km (5.7 miles)
- Approx. Time: 4 hours
- Elevation Gain: 1,012 m (3,320 feet)
- Rating: Moderate Hike. Easy Scramble.
- Route: Out and Back.
- Dog Friendly: Yes
Start early. Lake Louise is one of the busiest points of interest in Banff. On a weekend or any given beautiful summer day, the parking lot can easily fill up by 7 am. The trail starts on a very well-marked trail. You can find the trailhead near the canoe rental kiosk coming from the parking lot. As you gain elevation you can see the Bow Valley and trails at Lake Louise Ski Resort (yet another wonderful place to hike in the region). In typical Kirsten fashion, I had already snapped around a hundred photos at this point.
The trail to Fairview Lookout is very well-marked. When you reach the Saddle Junction, keep right to get to the summit of Fairview. The trail isn’t as well marked as you make your ascent, but we had no problem following it up. It’s definitely quite steep compared to some of the other well-trodden hikes in the area. I suggest to just keep a good pace, and make the necessary water, snack and photo stops.
The view at the summit is nothing short of one of the best in the area. You can look down at Lake Louise, and even see people canoeing if you look really closely. You can also get close-up views of the glaciers, seemingly endless surrounding mountain peaks (including the iconic Mount Temple) and other trails. We even saw a few avalanches at Temple; it’s not uncommon to see some small avalanches in the Lake Louise or Moraine areas while hiking. We then had our typical summit lunch, snapped tons of photos and began our descent back to the lake.
Make sure to take the same path you took coming up as you do for the descent. There is a sign at the summit that also heeds this warning. If you take an “alternate route” on the other side you could end up needing a helicopter evacuation, as it leads to dangerous vertical cliffs. Many people who attempt this get caught on the cliff and need an evacuation, as they realize they are unable to climb down safely. Some people have been seriously injured, or worse.
After you’re done I definitely recommend hanging out at the lake. I always plan to spend at least an entire day here; there is just so much to do! You can rent an iconic canoe at the dock, paddleboard or kayak (bring your own), check out another hike or hit the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise for some delicious food. Or, just find a spot by the lake and relax. Take it all in; these views are incredible!
- Bring lots of water! I always use a Camelback for easy access.
- Bring snacks and a summit lunch. My go to? Subway sandwiches and candy. Definitely a good reward for your efforts!
- Bring a camera. Yes, it adds weight to your backpack. Worth it.
- Wear good hiking boots with tread and bring poles. You will thank me on the descent.
- Wear SPF. The sun is strong here.
- Bring layers in case the weather changes.
- Start early. Especially in the summer, the Lake Louise parking lot fills up quickly. Get there before 7 am and hit the trails!
- Practice safe mountain etiquette. Check weather conditions, use a GPS, and let people know where you will be.
- Know your ability and watch conditions carefully. If you feel uneasy or unsafe, there is no harm or stigma in descending early.
- Leave no trace. Pack out what you pack in. There are lots of trash bins down at the parking lot and the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise area.
- And, most importantly, have fun!
Founder and main contributor to This Adventure Life, Kirsten Alexis has passion for all things adventure and the outdoors. She is an avid participant in action sports, such as skydiving, paragliding, snowboarding, high-altitude trekking, mountain biking, surfing and more. She is passionate about inspiring others to live their wildest dreams as well as conserving the environment for others to enjoy for years to come.