Bourgeau Lake and Harvey Pass {Banff National Park}

Bourgeau Lake and Harvey Pass {Banff National Park}

This year is Canada’s 150 year anniversary which means the parks are full, and I mean FULL, of tourists.

I love that people are finding out about the amazing places in my backyard, but I also hate it because I am a selfish woman who wants to keep all the beautiful places to herself.

  • Too honest?

This summer we tried to get to Moraine Lake three times to do some hiking only to be foiled each and every time by complete and utter disorganization by Parks Canada and an overflow of confused tourists.

When the sign says the parking lot isn’t full, you drive up and it’s full, then the overflow parking is full, and you drive to overflow parking part two as directed, otherwise known as the gondola, to stand in line with 47 other people only to have the smallest bus on the planet show up which only takes you to town (but due to the size of the bus, you need to wait for the next one which is coming in 30 minutes) where you have to catch a shuttle to the overflow parking and then get shuttled up to Moraine Lake back through town … only to undo it again in less than 5 hours to get back to your car …

Suffice it to say, we left.

I was rather disappointed. It was the middle of September and golden larch season. Can’t a girl see some golden larches and hike to the top of a mountain in peace?

Apparently not!

Leaving Lake Louise, I pulled out my Banff Area hiking map and made a quick decision.

Bourgeau Lake.

I knew nothing about it and in light of the time we had left in the day, the distance and elevation gain was just about right.

  • 7.2 km one way
  • 725 meters elevation gain
  • Additional option – 2.2 km and even more elevation up to Harvey Pass

I only had enough time to slather a bit of peanut butter on a rice cake and scarf it down before we pulled into the tiny, and I mean TEENIE TINY, parking area. I was still brushing crumbs off my chest when we crammed the car into a questionable parking spot.

Most of the trail up to Bourgeau Lake is in the trees. If you have ever hiked Healy Pass, it is a similar feel, which only makes sense since they are next-door neighbours.

Bourgeau Lake and Harvey Pass, Banff National Parl
Looking back on the trail … don’t forget to look where you’ve come from now and again!

At about 4 km, the trail passes over a waterfall and then the climbing increases. Whoever developed the trail gets an A+ in trail design. With all of the switchbacks and moderate incline, the climb never feels too strenuous.

In fact, suddenly you arrive at Bourgeau Lake without expecting it.

The valley and lake are pretty, but the best part is yet to come!

Bourgeau Lake and Harvey Pass, Banff National Park Hike
Looking back to where you came from is always a nice surprise! This is the view back down the valley from Bourgeau Lake.

It was a very cold and windy day and I was still slightly grumpy from the Moraine Lake fiasco, so all I could agree to after arriving at a pretty-but-not-stunning-wow-that-was-a-long-way-just-for-that lake was to climb up to the next ridge towards Harvey Pass.

Bourgeau Lake and Harvey Pass, Banff National Park Hike
The sun came out in full force and the wind died down. My love of beautiful things and need to explore kept pushing us forward.

Suddenly, every single ridge needed to be climbed.

The hike through the pass lands you at the shores of another three lakes, a gorgeous cirque and then a mountain meadow which looks out towards Mount Assiniboine.

And did I mention there were larches?! Golden ones.

Bourgeau Lake and Harvey Pass, Banff National Park Hike
Golden Larches!
Bourgeau Lake and Harvey Pass, Banff National Park Hike
Up over the pass, there was an amazing cirque and meadow that would be stunning in wildflower season.
Bourgeau Lake and Harvey Pass, Banff National Park Hike
The options to continue to climb and explore were never-ending.

Suddenly, the hike went from average to surprising. I suppose the lesson here is, keep going until you get to the top.

And if you don’t think you can get to the top, or you are just plain grumpy from tourist fiascos, go to the next ridge and see what you can see and re-decide if you are going to keep going or pack it in for the day.

Options. I am obviously a girl who loves options.

And her golden larches!

Bourgeau Lake and Harvey Pass, Banff National Park Hike
Happiness is a woman on a surprisingly good hike full of golden larches after thinking she wasn’t going to see any!

I give Bourgeau Lake 4 stars and Harvey Pass 7 stars.

Have you ever done a hike you’ve known nothing about and been pleasantly surprised?




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