Sentinel Pass Moraine Lake: If you find yourself in the Lake Louise area of Alberta Canada during the summer and early fall months, we highly recommend spending a day hiking the Sentinel Pass hike into Paradise Valley. It’s a wonderful trail that takes you from the beauty of Moraine Lake and Valley of the Ten Peaks over a high altitude rocky pass into the cool tranquil Paradise Valley. It has everything you could ever imagine you would see in the Rocky Mountains including tall fir treed forests, high alpine meadows, rocky mountainous switch backs, and the cool clean fresh Glacial Rivers.
Sentinel Pass Moraine Lake
You start at the Moraine Lake Visitors Center where there is plenty of parking, washrooms and a concession where you can stock up with a little food if you didn’t bring any supplies. Make sure you wear a good pair of hiking boots as the upper portions of the trail gets steep and rocky. Also bring along a warm fleece due to the cooler temperatures at the higher elevation.
The trail starts at the North West corner of the lake and you will hike for about 2.4 km before reaching the meadow of Larch Valley. The trail is well marked with signs but just remember to keep right when you hit a joining trail.
From Larch Valley you have about another 3.4 km of trails and switch backs to get to the summit of Sentinel pass. This is where it begins to get steep and you gain some serious vertical along here. Just make sure you stay on the trail. It’s surrounded by loose shale and it can be dangerous to try and ascend straight up, skipping the switch backs.
At the top of Sentinel Pass you will get an amazing view of Paradise Valley to the North and Valley of the Ten Peaks to the South. The top of the pass is just over 2,600 m in elevation with lots of outcrops to setup a good spot for a relaxing lunch.
Now that you have refreshed yourself and packed up all your gear, (remember to Leave No Trace) it’s time to descend into Paradise Valley which truly lives by its namesake. Follow the switch backs down and stick to the trail because it’s much safer then sliding down the rocky face.
At the bottom of the slope you end up in Horseshoe Meadow. Take the trail to the left which will bring you around to the Giant Steps. You have come all this way do not miss this. Paradise Creek is fed by the Horseshoe Glacier and the water is ice cold. The creek flows through the center of Paradise Valley and at the upper portion near Horseshoe Meadow it cascades down a rocky shelf called the Giant Steps. By this time you have worked up a good sweat and the falls provide a great spot to take your boots off and just chill. I literally mean chill – the water is extremely cold.
When you’re done, continue on the trail. It will hook up with the main trail that will take you down through Paradise Valley. The remaining portion of this trail is all downhill and in open meadows but once in the lower portion you’ll be back in the pines.
It’s about 8 km to the trail head where you will meet up with Moraine Lake Road. If you haven’t left a car at the Paradise Valley parking lot you’ll need to hitch hike back to Moraine Lake. The locals are friendly and don’t mind giving hikers a short lift to Moraine Lake. After all they are Canadian.
Things you will need for this hike
- Day pack (Earth Gear Recommendation: Osprey Stratos 34)
- 4 liters of water per person
- Lunch and snacks (take power bars or chocolate bars for instant energy)
- Light weight fleece top (Earth Gear Recommendation: The North Face TKA 100 Glacier Quarter-Zip Pullover)
- Light hard shell jacket (Earth Gear Recommendation: Mountain Hardwear Stretch Capacitor Rain Jacket)
- Light weight hiking boots with a Vibram sole (Earth Gear Recommendation: Asolo Reston WP Hiking Boots)
- Camera (Earth Gear Recommendation: Canon PowerShot G16 Digital)
Remember, this is a strenuous hike and it will take you the better part of a day to complete. Make sure you start early. You will gain about 500 meters in elevation and travel around 16 km so it’s imperative to not go unprepared.