Sentinel Pass – a must do Moraine Lake Trail in Banff
Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life. ~ John Muir
Other than Lake Louise, Moraine Lake is probably the other glacial-fed lake that is most photographed. What can be more beautiful than a lake that is situated in the Valley of the Ten Peaks surrounded by mountains, trees and rock piles. There are many trails in the Moraine Lake area. The closest and easiest is the Rockpile Trail, which led you up the top of the rock pile with a stunning view of Moraine Lake and the Ten Peaks. There is a well-marked trail with switchbacks near the lake but we observed a lot of people fell into the water by taking the short cut from the parking lot. This short cut consists of logs floating on the lake at the bottom of the rock pile. They seem innocent and easy to maneuver but one has to be agile to go through these logs. Falling into the cold water will definitely put a damper to your visit.
We decided to challenge ourselves and took the difficult hike through the Larch Valley and up to Sentinel Pass. The hike is about 7.2 miles round trip with about 2370 feet elevation gain. The first part of the hike is a steady climb to the Larch Valley with peekaboo view of Moraine Lake in between the trees at the beginning of the trail. As we hiked to the higher elevation, the Ten Peaks were getting closer and closer.
The scenery is just too beautiful to describe. The meadow of wild flowers was amazing too. Once we passed the Larch Valley, the climb to Sentinel Pass began right after the Minnestimma Lakes. It was such an intimidating view looking at the switchbacks to the pass. We had to climb about 1.5 miles and about 650 feet up. Hiking poles will definitely help especially coming down the trail. Once we reached the summit, we were welcomed by the views into Paradise Valley and the back towards Larch Valley and the Ten Peaks. I would consider this the best hike of all times, difficult yet rewarding.
Tips before you hike Sentinel Pass:
- Parking is limited at the Moraine Lake area. We were there in August and by 8am the lot was full and we found roadside parking. Roadside parking is limited and the road to Moraine Lake will close when it gets crowded and parking full.
- This is bear country, check the Parks Canada website before you hike if there is a restriction on hiking party size. Carry bear sprays with you and know how to use it.
- The weather can be unpredictable on the mountains. Pack enough water, food, hiking poles and extra clothing. It is breezy and cool up on the pass.
- Give yourself plenty of time to fully enjoy the views and experience.