Lake Louise and Hiking to Fairview Lookout

3a Lake Louise HDR
Lake Louise with Mount Victoria at center. HDR. Lowell Silverman photography, 2014

Lake Louise is one of the most beautiful lakes in the Canadian Rockies—a land with no shortage of beautiful lakes.  Surrounded by a cluster of mountains located on the Continental Divide (which also represents the border between the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia), the lake is a popular stop for visitors to Banff National Park.

17 Mt Victoria
Mount Victoria and Upper Victoria Glacier

Across the lake from the Chateau Lake Louise sits the impressive Mount Victoria, which itself hosts Victoria Glacier.  It may be appropriate then that Lake Louise was named for a daughter of Queen Victoria.  According to Carl Benn’s book Banff National Park:

“Lake Louise is the daughter of Victoria Glacier.  In the distant past, the glacier covered the whole lake.  It gradually deposited debris to form a landscape feature called a ‘terminal moraine’ which acted as a dam to hold meltwater as the glacier slowly retreated.”

It’s interesting to note that nearby Moraine Lake derived its name from the belief that it had been formed by the same process, though later research determined that it was a rockslide rather than glacial moraine that resulted in the formation of Moraine Lake.

1 Sunrise Lake Louise
Sunrise at Lake Louise

On Monday, October 20, 2014, we drove up to the lake at dawn to watch the sun illuminate Mount Victoria.  The lake has a deep teal color, but the water was so still and reflective of the mountains that it wasn’t really evident from our angle.

We gorged on the breakfast buffet at the Chateau Lake Louise.  Though it was a pricey C$30/person, it probably ranks as the best breakfast buffet I’ve ever had at a hotel.  Full English breakfast, fish, eggs, surprisingly fresh fruit for the season, omelets, French toast with berry compote, choco-almond pancakes, and a crispy four-potato (red, white, blue, and sweet) medley.  Oink!  Like many other railroad-built hotels, Chateau Lake Louise is now a Fairmont.

2 Mt Lefroy
Mount Lefroy with Mount Victoria at right

I walked off some of the meal immediately afterward.  Now that the sun was higher in the sky, Mount Lefroy looked even more amazing than Mount Victoria.  Located to the southeast of Mount Victoria, the mountain had a beautiful mantle of snow and a thin, chiseled-looking north face.  We got excellent views of Lefroy and Victoria during a brief walk around the north side of the lake.

4 Lake Louise Path
Walking path on the north side of Lake Louise

I suggested we hike to the Fairview Lookout, a short spur off the Saddleback Trail that I’d hiked the day before.  The trail to the overlook is 1.2 km (0.75 mi) out and back with 100 m (328′) of elevation gain.  Although not nearly as challenging a hike as the Saddleback, the trail was quite steep and my parents turned back, huffing and puffing.  I arrived at the Fairview Lookout after maybe 20-25 minutes.

6 Hike to Fairview Overlook
Tree on the trail to Fairview Lookout

Views are limited from the trail itself, but the overlook gives good views back towards the Chateau Lake Louise and the mountains beyond.

8 Chateau Lake Louise
View from Fairview Lookout

7 Fairview Overlook

9 Mountain IR Fairview Overlook
Infrared photo of mountain from the overlook. I haven’t actually been able to determine its name.

Signage indicated that, although possible to make a loop (total length 2.1 km or 1.3 mi) by continuing hiking beyond the lookout and then coming back along the lakeshore, the trail was in poor condition.  I retraced my steps and met my parents back by the Chateau Lake Louise.  Unfortunately, our stopover in the Canadian Rockies was drawing to a close.  We headed up the Icefields Parkway back to Jasper, where we would catch the next westbound Canadian the following day.

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