About Helen Lake / Dolomite Pass
The trailhead is about 35 km northwest of Lake Louise, along the Icefields Parkway (Hwy 93 North). Coming from the south, the parking lot will be to your right.
First To Review: Dan N.
Dec 29, 2008
The Helen Lake/Dolomite Pass hike is simply mentioned together with Lake Louise, since it's the closest 'settlement' to this trailhead. It's not anywhere near the village - it's a good 35km or so away - so you'll need to get in a car for this one.
This hike is definitely a big highlight for anyone traveling along the Icefields Parkway between Lake Louise and Jasper...for the folks who get out of their car and jump into the wilderness, that is. Starting opposite from the Crowfoot Glacier viewpoint, this 6km trail (about 3.75 mi) one way to Helen Lake takes the hiker through an amazing alpine environment and some prime grizzly bear habitat. The altitude gain is 419m (1374 ft), or 556m (1824 ft), depending on whether you climb up the ridge overlooking the lake...more on that later. I personally spent about 5.5 hours on this hike total, including the ridge walk and various stops.
The first 3km or so is a straightforward uphill walk - nothing overly strenuous. The views start to get good at around km2.5, with views of Crowfoot Glacier behind you. Once you round the trail's corner at around km3, you're immediately presented with a vast expanse of alpine meadow, with the pinnacles of Dolomite Peaks dominating the southeast and Cirque Peak straight ahead. It's right about here where you'll need to watch out for signs of grizzly--the meadows practically invite them to feed here. More common to spot are the hoary marmots, scampering around the foliage and ducking into their burrows. Think of them as big woodchucks living in alpine country.
Once you get to Helen Lake (where many tend to rest and call it a day), you have the option to continue on the trail and climb up to the top of the ridge that overlooks the lake. It's steep, but the views up top are more than worth it and is highly recommended--you see Helen Lake below, as well as Katherine Lake and Dolomite Pass behind. This option adds about 1km (a little over half a mile) one way to your trip. Whether you choose to continue along the trail down towards Katherine Lake and onwards is entirely your choice--this will add another 4km (3.5mi) to your overall journey.
This is a hike to do when the weather is nice or relatively decent in the valley below. If the weather is bad at highway level, you can be sure it'll be utterly miserable up top--from around km3 of the hike, you are completely exposed to the elements without any sort of shelter or overhang to hide under.
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