In late September the yellow larches along this trail are an awesome sight. But there will be hundreds of other people on the trail, because it's Banff, and in the fall this trail is one of the park's feature attractions.
On the day we attempted this hike there was a warning sign at the trailhead stating that a grizzly with 2 cubs had been sighted in the area and hikers were only permitted up the trail in groups of 6 or larger. We only had to wait a few minutes until a group of 4 women from Toronto agreed to hike with us up the trail. Luckily they were also pretty slow.
There's a nice meadow at the top of the pass, which permits views of the peaks around you (the Valley of the 10 Peaks). The trail dips back into the larches for a bit then clears the treeline at the base of Sentinel Pass. We met a Parks Canada dude sitting in a lawn chair at this location, admiring the scenery and keeping an eye out for the bears.
In the flats before Sentinel Pass there are a couple of pretty reflective pools (called Minestimma Lakes). The switchbacks to Sentinel Pass rise 500 ft above the lakes and look about an hour away, with Mt. Temple rising above. My hiking companion had been dragged practically straight off the plane from Montreal to this spot and was pretty pooped, so we called it even and turned back down to Moraine Lake. All in all a great hike.
NTS Map: 082N08
Elevation Gain: 732m (2,400 ft), 12km return.
Access Point: Moraine Lake Parking Lot (follow the lakeshore, right, to the trail marker sign).
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Posted By: hugh
- Fri Aug 06 14:43:52 EDT 2010
UpsideSentinel Pass was one of the best hikes that we experienced on our recent 11 day trip to the Canadian Rockies. We went on July 10, 2010 on a crystal clear day--one of the few nice days that Lake Louise had experienced thus far. At times, the switchbacks leading up to Larch Valley were a little steep and the final climb to the pass was a little dicey, particularly with the many snow patches that were still covering parts of the swithbacks up to the pass. That being said, the effort expended was well worth the reward at the top of the pass. The views of the ten peaks, Wenkchemna Glacier, Sentinel Mountain and other surrounding mountains, and the lakes below at the base of the pass were absolutely beautiful. Even though it was July, one of these lakes was still frozen and was just beginning to thaw out. Had that been all we saw, we would have been very happy, however the views of the opposite direction (25 feet behind us) towards Paradise Valley and the amazing pinnacles and sphires of Pinnacle Mountain were equally as breathtaking. Overall, in my opinion, the 720 degree view (360 degree view towards the ten peaks and 360 degree view towards Paradise Valley) at the top of the pass was the single most beautiful spot on our entire trip. We also had a unique experience with a little chipmunk at the top of the pass. The little guy stole a ziplock bag of trail mix out of my pack and was able to run off with it and hide under a rock. He proceeded to eat all of the peanuts and would not let any of the other chipmunks share. The most amazing thing about this is that the trail mix probably weighed as much as he did. We know not to feed the animals, however this guy was able to do all of this before we could shoo him away...very quick!!!
I highly recommend this hike, particulary if good weather is forecasted. It is not particularly long and the scenery from Larch Valley all the way up to the pass is fantastic.
Posted By: desi_hiker
- Sat Jan 30 19:22:52 EST 2010
CommentDid in September 09.Unfortunately ,larch valley was still green.Nonetheless, great hike for a day.lots of people upto the sentinel pass.some were even going on Mt.Temple.
Could be difficult for someone out of shape.
Posted By: Millnut
- Thu Oct 01 23:38:08 EDT 2009
QuestionIs it going to be a tough climb for someone out of shapeANSWERS are in this forum: Larch Valley
Posted By: cec403
- Tue Jun 09 21:15:55 EDT 2009
UpsideNice hike, great views of the valley.
DownsideGet up to the parking lot before 10am as it fills up quickly. Also plan ahead due to restrictions in the area when bears are present.
Posted By: marvin
- Wed Oct 15 05:17:40 EDT 2008
CommentDone in Mid September 2008 at -7 C and light flurries. The parking lot is disastrously and the toiletts were very disgusting. But after 200m when going up the hill the mass of tourists is thinning and only a few people are going up to Larch Valley or Eifel Lake. The larchs look really unnatural with there black and silver bark and the yellow-orange needles but it is an impressive view. The way up the end of the valley is very well with some step sections and a lot of switchbacks. In good weather thers should be a great view to the "TEN" and the other mountains. The trail to the pass is through a gravel field. A little bit slippery when wet but easy going. The pass is very small and it is very windy/chilly. We were glad to here that the 4 people restriction was canceld one week before. So we did the trail in that weather without a opportunity of great view but the larchs and the few possible view on the tops has been fantastic enough for such a day. We will try another day in sunny weather
Posted By: Hermanater
- Thu Nov 01 14:27:43 EDT 2007
UpsideLoved this hike. It was amazing. I could have sat at the top for hours....
DownsideNone really. Maybe the crowded parking lot at the trailhead.
CommentSee my profile photo.......