4 - 5
FATMAP difficulty grade
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. 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/Helen_Lake_Hike/Helen_Lake_Hike.htm