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Fairview Mountain
Lake Louise, Alberta
August 3, 2019

Distance: 10.2 km
Cumulative Elevation Gain: 1070 m

With a trail running all the way to the summit, Fairview Mountain is one of the easiest ascents in Lake Louise. But that's all Dinah and I could remember after climbing it 14 years ago. We decided to return to refresh our memories.

Since that trip, the crush of tourists at Lake Louise has increased considerably, and the parking lot fills quickly. To accommodate the influx, a shuttle bus now runs from an overflow parking lot on Highway 1 to Lake Louise.

We didn't need an early start for the short trip up Fairview, otherwise we would have tried to find parking at Lake Louise before 8:00 am. So at 9:00 am we pulled into the overflow. When we arrived, there was already a huge lineup for the bus, well past the 60 Minute Wait sign. But 45 minutes after getting in line, we were on the bus and on our way. But we were lucky. Being only two people, we took the last two spots on a bus just departing. After a 15-minute bus ride, we were dropped off at Lake Louise.

We made our way through the throngs of tourists to Saddleback trail, near the boathouse. With signs at junctions, the broad path is easy to follow. Almost 3 km into the trip, a steep shortcut saves 250 m before rejoining the main trail. Shortcuts should normally be eschewed, but this one, well worn and still in use since we were there in 2005, appears tolerated by the park.

Above the shortcut, the landscape changes and becomes more interesting. Pines give way to larches, and breaks in the trees provide glimpses of Fairview Mountain. Impatient hikers have made shortcuts across the fragile subalpine terrain, but these certainly should be avoided. The main trail continues to Saddleback Pass. At the pass, a side trail to Fairview Mountain cuts through a stand of larches. After the trees, switchbacks ease the way up a talus slope to the summit. We weren't surprised to find others on this popular objective, lingering to enjoy the views.

As we started back down, we passed more groups going up. But it was peaceful until we returned to the Lake Louise parking lot. There we were met with chaos. Tourists gathered to leave, but there was some confusion as to where to catch their bus, either for Lake Moraine or for the overflow parking lot. Meanwhile the lake parking lot was jammed. Despite being full, cars kept streaming in, circling the lot and spewing CO2 in hopes of catching someone leaving. Not mindful of hindering traffic, a few cars stopped to wait for a spot, forcing parking attendants to yell at them to keep moving. I found it all unsettling, at odds with a place known for its serene, natural beauty.

KML and GPX Tracks

The line-up for the shuttle bus extends far right where people can be seen standing between buses

Fairview Mountain seen from the lakefront. The trailhead starts by the boathouse seen near the centre.

Starting up Saddleback trail

Keep right at the next junction

Whitehorn Mountain/Lake Louise Ski Resort seen from an avalanche slope

The sign indicates Saddle Mountain is ahead, but makes no reference to shortcut on the right

The shortcut joins the main trail at a switchback corner

Hiking through the larches

A switchback provides a good look at Fairview Mountain

Heartleaf arnica

From the pass, a side trail leads to Fairview Mountain

The trail runs through larches

Silky scorpionweed

After the trees, a long grind starts up a talus slope

Saddle Mountain behind us

Mount Temple in the background

The trail switchbacks up the slope

Lipalian Mountain lies northeast

The summit is still several minutes away

On the other side, Mount St. Piran rises above Lake Louise

Standing on the summit

82 N/8 Lake Louise

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