Helen Lake and Dolomite Pass

Banff National Park

Popular hike to a photogenic lake, plus an extension to get higher and farther into the backcountry.

Hiking Moderate

Distance
18 km
Ascent
808 m
Descent
808 m
Duration
4-5 hrs
Low Point
2 km
High Point
2.5 km
Gradient
Helen Lake and Dolomite Pass Map

Helen Lake is a popular day hike from the Icefields Parkway near Bow Lake. The attention is well deserved because it’s one of the most all-around beautiful short hikes in Banff National Park. In a little distance, it packs in a lot of views, including huge glaciers, waterfalls, deep forest, flowery meadows, and an alpine lake encircled by peaks. The trail does not end at Helen Lake, however. It continues up a steep ridge and on to Dolomite Pass, where fewer people go. If you want to leave the crowds behind and earn an even better view, do the additional work to climb to the pass.

Description

From Helen Lake, you’ll soon climb the steep and rocky headwall to a ridge of Cirque Peak. From there, you’ll have an elevated view over the lake you just passed, and you’ll see a larger lake and expansive meadows on the other side. The trail then continues through these rocky meadows and past Katherine Lake. This is where you’ll find relative solitude surrounded by wildflowers, trickling water, and huge peaks. Cirque Peak and Dolomite Peak stand impressively on either side, both with well-defined and colourful rock layers plus streaks of snow.

Dolomite Pass itself is broad and not much more dramatic than the rest of the trail that leads there. The real highlight is climbing the ridge from Helen Lake and continuing any distance through the meadows beyond. The trail over the pass soon connects with even more remote trails. Simply go as far as you like before returning the way you came.

Sources: https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/ab/banff/activ/randonee-hiking/93N http://www.albertawow.com/hikes/HelenLakeHike/HelenLakeHike.htm

Difficulty

Moderate

Hiking along trails with some uneven terrain and small hills. Small rocks and roots may be present.

Medium Exposure

2 out of 4

The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.

Remoteness

2 out of 4

Away from help but easily accessed.

Best time to visit

June, July, August, September, October

Features

  • Wildlife
  • Picturesque
  • Dog friendly
  • Wild flowers
  • Water features
  • Family friendly
  • Forestry or heavy vegetation

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area