Eiffel Lake and Wenkchemna Pass {Banff National Park}

Eiffel Lake and Wenkchemna Pass {Banff National Park}

Eiffel Lakes and Wenkchemna Pass Hike

  • Distance – 18.8 km roundtrip (19.4 km according to Parks Canada)
  • Elevation – 850 meters cumulative, 720 meters net
  • Difficulty – Medium
  • TrailheadMoraine Lake parking lot
  • LogisticsShuttle or getting up at 4:00 am to get a parking spot

In order to hike to Eiffel Lake and Wenkchemna Pass, you have to first get to Moraine Lake. Spending time at Moraine Lake is one of my favourite things to do, unfortunately, it is about 1 million other people’s favourite thing to do as well.

Moraine Lake at Sunrise
It is hard to beat this view! In July, we got up before the sun and got to watch the sun light up the world on top of the Rock Pile. Stunning!

Many beautiful places, such as Wenkchemna Pass, Eiffel Lake, Sentinel Pass, and Larch Valley require that you start at the Morane Lake shoreline. During a normal summer, the parking lot fills up with early birds and intense hikers by 4:00 am and shuttle busses run constantly.

This year, due to COVID-19, there were no shuttle busses, but also fewer people .. kind of. When you are a weekend hiking warrior like I am, you are out of luck when it comes to getting into the parking lot. All of Western Canada came to the Rockies for a visit this year. Despite the mountains being a bit less chaotic than normal years, it was still impossible to get into the parking lot without getting up with the moon and a whole lot of coffee brewed at 3:30 am and put into a thermos so you could drink it in your car while you wait for the sun to come up.

I am crazy, but not THAT crazy.

Nonetheless, we decided to give it a try because there really had to be fewer people during COVID-19 and in October, right? As we drove towards Lake Louise on Saturday, we noticed that the overflow parking for Lake Louise was quite full and there were signs about shuttles.

Say what?!

For a few weeks in the fall, Parks Canada decided to run a shuttle to Moraine Lake every 20 minutes from 8:00 – 3:00 – can you say lucky? It was nice to sleep until we woke up, eat breakfast and have some coffee before a full day of hiking. The next morning we were on the 8:20 shuttle and hiking by 9:00 am.

But first, the obligatory picture of Moraine Lake.

Moraine Lake Shoreline
Chilly in October, but still gorgeous!

Hiking details.

Start the Moraine Lake Shoreline hike. Within about 500 meters, you will notice a signed junction off to your right. Take this junction towards Eiffel Lake, Wenkchemna Pass, Larch Valley, and Sentinel Pass.

You will switchback up through the trees for 3 kilometres. There will most likely be a lot of of people on this part of the trail. Don’t worry, you will lose them as soon as you reach the junction for Eiffel Lake and Wenkchemna Pass.

At about 3.5 km and about 450 meters of elevation, there is a bench and another junction. The trail also suddenly flattens out. Take the left-hand trail towards Eiffel Lake and Wenkchemna Pass. For the next two kilometres, you will be walking on a mostly flat trail and heading towards a bowl-shaped valley with Eiffel Lake at the bottoms of the valley.

Trail to Eiffel Lake
On the way to Eiffel Lake!

Keep your eyes peeled for animals! Previously, I have seen marmots and a family of grizzlies on the trail.

Note: There are tons of larches in the area – it would be a gorgeous hike to do in the fall when the larches turn golden.

As you reach the end of the valley, Eiffel Lake will be on your left. The views of the peaks and glaciers you see at the Moraine Lake shoreline surround you.

At this point (around 5.5 – 6.0 km into the hike and 500 metes of elevation gain), you have reached Eiffel Lake. To continue to Wenkchemna Pass is another 3.5 – 4 km and 300 meters of climbing.

Eiffel Lake before Wenkchemna Pass
Views of Eiffel Lake just before you start the last climb up to Wenkchemna Pass.

Keep going – it is worth the additional elevation!

Continue along the trail and circle around the end of the valley and work your way up to the pass through the switchbacks in the rockfall. The trail loses its integrity as you climb up the rockfall – look for the cairns and use common sense to make it to the pass safely.

The top of the pass, like most passes, is extremely windy. We hiked it in October and were glad for gloves, toques, and extra layers.

Wenkchemna Pass
I had to pull out the toque, gloves, and heavier coat a few meters from the top of Wenkchemna. The wind was biting and cold, but the views were worth it!

The other side of the pass gives you views into Yoho and British Columbia as you are standing on the Great Divide at Wenkchemna Pass. Mount Biddle is to your right as you look towards Yoho. Stunning!

Once you’ve had your fill of trying not to be blown off the mountain, head back down the trail and go out the way you came.

Don’t forget to stop and admire the blue of Moraine Lake as it peeks up at you from the valley floor through the trees.

  • I give this hike 8 stars, even with the logistical issues!

Have you done some of the hikes in the Moraine Lake area? What are your favourites?

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