Moraine Lake - Sentinel Pass
Inside Banff National Park is a natural wonder that truly deserves its growing popularity. Moraine Lake is a natural gem, with amazing turquoise waters and beautiful surrounding mountains. It is an excellent spot for both tourists and backpackers who flock to this region. Moraine Lake is extremely accessible, with a paved road and parking lot leading straight to the lake. Most visitors to this amazing lake only walk along the lake and miss out on the surrounding hiking trails. The Sentinel Pass hike is an amazing hike for those who want to see Moraine Lake, and also get some miles under their feet and see incredible natural beauty.
Time Required: 2.5 Hours One Way
Total Distance: 4.2 Miles One Way
Total Elevation Gain: 2,373 ft
Minimum Elevation: 6,171 ft
Maximum Elevation: 8,544 ft
Sentinel Pass Itinerary
Start by driving to Moraine Lake. To control the number of visitors to Moraine Lake, the Canada Park Service closes Moraine Lake Road when there is no parking availability. I would recommend getting there as early as possible, but if you get there too late do not worry. What we did was park in the nearby picnic area, and asked the rangers to let us know when they could let us in. It was a great moment that reminded me of the importance of being friendly, and that people want to help people when they are nice and respectful. The trail is very easy to find from the visitor area at Moraine Lake. It is a tough set of switchbacks in the woods for the first couple miles, then opens up to some beautiful views of the neighboring mountains. The hike from Minnestema Lake to the summit of the Sentinel Pass is a challenging ascent, but the 360-degree views are incredible and absolutely worth it.
There are some backcountry sites available beyond Sentinel Pass that you can explore, but our plan required us to simply return to our car back at Moraine Lake. I highly recommend this hike to make your trip to Moraine Lake a bit less synthetic and touristy as most people experience it. Moraine Lake is definitely the Instagram hotspot of Banff, but you should also not miss out on the great hiking it has to offer!