Lake Annette – Paradise Valley Hike & Camp

If you want a stellar hike or backpacking trip, without the crowds, in the heart of the Moraine Lake – Lake Louise area, I’d highly recommend the Lake Annette – Paradise Valley – Giant Steps trail. Many people stop at Annette Lake – 5.7 km in, but then you miss some of the dramatic scenery, along with the option to hike up to Sentinel Pass. However, it’s a 20.3 km return hike to Paradise Valley – too much for many in a day. That’s where the camping option comes in. Spend a night at the Paradise Valley Campground, something you can only book 24 hours in advance.As many of you know, just getting a parking space so you can hike in the Moraine Lake area is problematic. Because the trailhead for Annette Lake and the Paradise Valley is off the Moraine Lake Road, you’ll be able to access the trail – and shouldn’t have any waits. Read on for all the details. Good signage at the start of the hikeThis post includes some affiliate links. If you make a qualifying purchase through one of these links, I will receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support. Getting to the trailhead The trailhead isn’t hard to find but it is awkward to get to in summer as the traffic patrol people don’t usually let you make a left-hand turn from Lake Louise Drive onto Moraine Lake Road. Instead, you must drive up at least a kilometre to do a U-turn, perhaps at the pullover where the Kingmik sled dogs start in winter. But if there is any traffic, you’ll have to go all the way up to the Lake Louise parking lot and turn around there. Drive back down Lake Louise Drive so you can make a right turn on Moraine Lake Road.  You will have to stop and tell the traffic people you are hiking into Lake Annette and the Paradise Valley. You can also present your camping permit for proof. The trailhead is 2.5 km up the road on the right. Hike details Round trip distance to Lake Annette – 11.4 km with 250 m of elevation  Round trip distance to Paradise Valley – 20.4 km to Paradise Valley with 400 m elevation gain Time needed – 4 hours for the lake, 7 hours for Paradise Valley or overnight Reflection in Lake AnnetteMap of the hike to Annette Lake and Paradise Valley CampgroundThe hike to Lake Annette Before you set off on your hike to Lake Annette and Paradise Valley, be sure that you have a full can of bear spray that’s accessible – and you know how to use it. There is a sign at the start of the trail suggesting that you hike with a group of four or more but according to my guide on the Eiffel Lake hike, it hasn’t been mandatory for years. You need to know you’re traveling through a bear corridorThe hike is a moderate one – and straightforward to Lake Annette. Follow well-signed trails, sticking at signed intersections to the Paradise Valley Trail. There are two crossings of Paradise Creek on sturdy bridges before you reach an intersection at the 4.2 km mark. At the second of the bridge crossings, there are particularly good views of the north face of Mount Temple. From the intersection follow the creek upstream towards Lake Annette. If you went right instead, you’d reach Saddleback after a 4.1 km hike. It’s a pretty pass between Fairview and Saddleback Mountain on the way up Fairview Mountain. Cross Paradise Creek again at 5.2 km and then hike on a moderately steep trail to reach Annette Lake. It’s a nice place for a picnic lunch.  There are several bridges to cross on the route inLake Annette never disappointsAnnette Lake to Paradise Valley Start climbing again from Annette Lake, past the gnarled trees pictured below to reach a large rockslide, 1 km from the lake. The views open to the north across the valley. Make your way through the boulder area on an easy to navigate trail. You’ll reach another intersection at the 8.4 km mark.  If you take the right trail – which is what we did – you’ll descend to cross a bridged creek. Then follow a trail through pretty larch filled woods to reach the campground, 1.9 km from the intersection. The campground is 200 m past the turnoff to the Giant Steps. There is an option to climb to Sentinel Pass from the Paradise Valley Trail. It’s an additional 2.7 km but it’s a stiff climb to reach the pass at 2611 m. For comparison’s sake, Lake Annette is at 1965 m.  Another option adds 1.7 easy kilometres. From the intersection to the Sentinel Pass trail continue on a loop trail for 1.3 km, heading west to get a taste of Horseshoe Meadows. It meets up with the main trail 800 m southwest of the campground. In July, it’s buggy, but this would be a pleasant diversion come mid-August or September. Pass these trees with odd trunks shortly after Lake AnnetteRosie is happy to find snow in JulyHeading for upper Paradise ValleyLots of wildflowers out in JulyInto some viewsTraversing the rocky areaLooking across Paradise ValleyThis hike would be amazing in larch seasonDescending in the direction of the Paradise Creek CampgroundGood signage when you reach the intersection to Sen

Lake Annette – Paradise Valley Hike & Camp

If you want a stellar hike or backpacking trip, without the crowds, in the heart of the Moraine Lake – Lake Louise area, I’d highly recommend the Lake Annette – Paradise Valley – Giant Steps trail. Many people stop at Annette Lake – 5.7 km in, but then you miss some of the dramatic scenery, along with the option to hike up to Sentinel Pass. However, it’s a 20.3 km return hike to Paradise Valley – too much for many in a day. That’s where the camping option comes in. Spend a night at the Paradise Valley Campground, something you can only book 24 hours in advance.

As many of you know, just getting a parking space so you can hike in the Moraine Lake area is problematic. Because the trailhead for Annette Lake and the Paradise Valley is off the Moraine Lake Road, you’ll be able to access the trail – and shouldn’t have any waits. Read on for all the details.

Good signage at the start of the hike
Good signage at the start of the hike

This post includes some affiliate links. If you make a qualifying purchase through one of these links, I will receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support.

Getting to the trailhead

The trailhead isn’t hard to find but it is awkward to get to in summer as the traffic patrol people don’t usually let you make a left-hand turn from Lake Louise Drive onto Moraine Lake Road. Instead, you must drive up at least a kilometre to do a U-turn, perhaps at the pullover where the Kingmik sled dogs start in winter. But if there is any traffic, you’ll have to go all the way up to the Lake Louise parking lot and turn around there.

Drive back down Lake Louise Drive so you can make a right turn on Moraine Lake Road.  You will have to stop and tell the traffic people you are hiking into Lake Annette and the Paradise Valley. You can also present your camping permit for proof. The trailhead is 2.5 km up the road on the right.

Hike details

Round trip distance to Lake Annette – 11.4 km with 250 m of elevation 

Round trip distance to Paradise Valley – 20.4 km to Paradise Valley with 400 m elevation gain

Time needed – 4 hours for the lake, 7 hours for Paradise Valley or overnight

Reflection in Lake Annette
Reflection in Lake Annette
Map of the hike to Annette Lake and Paradise Valley Campground
Map of the hike to Annette Lake and Paradise Valley Campground

The hike to Lake Annette

Before you set off on your hike to Lake Annette and Paradise Valley, be sure that you have a full can of bear spray that’s accessible – and you know how to use it. There is a sign at the start of the trail suggesting that you hike with a group of four or more but according to my guide on the Eiffel Lake hike, it hasn’t been mandatory for years.

You need to know you're traveling through a bear corridor
You need to know you’re traveling through a bear corridor

The hike is a moderate one – and straightforward to Lake Annette. Follow well-signed trails, sticking at signed intersections to the Paradise Valley Trail. There are two crossings of Paradise Creek on sturdy bridges before you reach an intersection at the 4.2 km mark. At the second of the bridge crossings, there are particularly good views of the north face of Mount Temple.

From the intersection follow the creek upstream towards Lake Annette. If you went right instead, you’d reach Saddleback after a 4.1 km hike. It’s a pretty pass between Fairview and Saddleback Mountain on the way up Fairview Mountain.

Cross Paradise Creek again at 5.2 km and then hike on a moderately steep trail to reach Annette Lake. It’s a nice place for a picnic lunch. 

There are several bridges to cross on the route in
There are several bridges to cross on the route in
Lake Annette never disappoints
Lake Annette never disappoints

Annette Lake to Paradise Valley

Start climbing again from Annette Lake, past the gnarled trees pictured below to reach a large rockslide, 1 km from the lake. The views open to the north across the valley. Make your way through the boulder area on an easy to navigate trail. You’ll reach another intersection at the 8.4 km mark. 

If you take the right trail – which is what we did – you’ll descend to cross a bridged creek. Then follow a trail through pretty larch filled woods to reach the campground, 1.9 km from the intersection. The campground is 200 m past the turnoff to the Giant Steps.

There is an option to climb to Sentinel Pass from the Paradise Valley Trail. It’s an additional 2.7 km but it’s a stiff climb to reach the pass at 2611 m. For comparison’s sake, Lake Annette is at 1965 m. 

Another option adds 1.7 easy kilometres. From the intersection to the Sentinel Pass trail continue on a loop trail for 1.3 km, heading west to get a taste of Horseshoe Meadows. It meets up with the main trail 800 m southwest of the campground. In July, it’s buggy, but this would be a pleasant diversion come mid-August or September.

Pass these trees with odd trunks shortly after Lake Annette
Pass these trees with odd trunks shortly after Lake Annette
Rosie is happy to happen on snow in July
Rosie is happy to find snow in July
Heading for upper Paradise Valley
Heading for upper Paradise Valley
Lots of wildflowers out in July
Lots of wildflowers out in July
Into some views
Into some views
Traversing the rocky area
Traversing the rocky area
Looking across Paradise Valley
Looking across Paradise Valley
This hike would be amazing in larch season
This hike would be amazing in larch season
Descending in he direction of the Paradise Creek Campground
Descending in the direction of the Paradise Creek Campground
Good signage when you reach the intersection to Sentinel Pass
Good signage when you reach the intersection to Sentinel Pass
View from the bridge on the route out
View from the bridge on the route out

The Giant Steps

Don’t miss a visit to see the Giant Steps. It’s a quick walk from the campground. You might want to drop your gear and set up your tent first and then return after dinner. A boardwalk takes you over an area of rusty rock  to a lookout at the Giant Steps. Enjoy views all the way to the Lake Louise Ski Resort. The view up the creek is also pretty. 

Boardwalks lead you to the Giant Steps
Boardwalks lead you to the Giant Steps
Enjoying the view towards Lake Louise from the Giant Steps
Enjoying the view towards Lake Louise Ski Resort (the distant slopes on the left) from the Giant Steps
Incredible rusting around the Giant Steps
Incredible rusting around the Giant Steps
Looking upriver from the Giant Steps
Looking upriver from the Giant Steps
Lots of blocky rocks that look like giant steps
Lots of blocky rocks that look like giant steps

Camping in Paradise Valley – and how to book

Paradise Valley is the only backcountry campground in Banff National Park – to my knowledge – where you book the campsite 24 hours ahead of when you want to visit. And then it’s by phone. I think it’s because the campground is in a bear corridor, so they close it down if there are any issues.

You can call either the Lake Louise Trails Office at 1-403-522-1264 or the Banff Backcountry Office at 1-403-762-1556. Leave a message with the date you want to do it and the number in your party. A real human will call you back. You can book 24 hours out so call at 9 AM the day before you want to go.

The actual campsite is pretty and there’s a decent amount of privacy between the 11 tent pads. The communal cooking area has several picnic tables and numerous bear boxes. There is also one outhouse nearby. The water source is from Paradise Creek and it’s in a very pretty setting. 

The downside to a summer trip as I found out, is that its buggy and not just a wee bit buggy – but eat as fast as you can and get moving to keep the bugs away kind of buggy. Since the trail winds through pretty larch country, I would recommend a camping trip from late August until about the third week of September. Count on very chilly nights.

The group cooking area with bear boxes
The group cooking area has bear boxes nearby
Beautiful backdrop where you get your water
Beautiful backdrop from Paradise Creek where you get your water
Looking up Paradise Creek
Looking up Paradise Creek
Looking towards Sentinel Pass from the campground
Looking towards Sentinel Pass from the campground
We could see Sentinel Pass through the trees from the Paradise Valley Campground
We could see Sentinel Pass through the trees from the Paradise Valley Campground

A few things to take on this hike – camping trip

If you like paper maps, pick up a copy of Gem Trek Lake Louise & Yoho.

Don’t forget the bug spray.

If you’re camping or you don’t want to carry a lot of water, take a water filter like this easy to use one.

For campers, an MSR Pocket Rocket is a lightweight choice. 

And I always carry a roll of Gear Aid in case I need to make a repair on the fly to my tent, jacket or sleeping pad.

Pretty scenery on the hike out - after you've pass Lake Annette
Pretty scenery on the hike out – after you’ve pass Lake Annette

Where to stay in the Lake Louise area

If you want to stay nearby the night before or after, you’ll find plenty of options. It’s best to reserve well in advance.

Near Lake Louise itself, the rustic Deer Lodge is a good choice, especially the renovated rooms.

Paradise Lodge and Bungalows would be great if you could get in. 

Just outside of Lake Louise via a scenic drive on Highway 1A is Baker Creek Mountain Resort – with cabins and fire pits beside the river.

Baker Creek - one of the Charmin Inns of Alberta
Lots of red chairs and fire pits outside Baker Creek Mountain Resort