Trailhead: Park at the Helen Lake trailhead parking lot 1km south of Bow Lake. Across from the Crowfoot Glacier viewpoint approximately 38kms north of Lake Louise on the Icefields Parkway. Banff National Park.
Description: This is one of the finest hikes you’ll find in Banff National Park. The first section of the trail is well worn with never ending tree roots to stub your toes on. Over the years foot traffic has eroded the earth around the roots exposing them to the air.
The trail slowly climbs in a straight direction for approximately 2.2kms then works it’s way up a few short switch backs before arriving at the meadows. This meadow is over 2kms long and 1km wide and one of the finest you’ll see in the Canadian Rockies. As you continue on views of the Bow Valley behind you get better and better. Helen Creek glistens in the sun as it flows down the middle of the meadow towards the valley bottom.
In late June and the month of July wildflowers are blooming everywhere. Stay on the trail as not to disturb their fragile growth. Keep hiking up through the meadows until you reach Helen Lake. Once you arrive at Helen Lake take the extra effort to continue up the headwall which is another 280m or so. Views from the headwall towards Dolomite Peak, Cirque Peak, Mount Hector, Wapta Icefields, Bow Valley and Helen Lake are stunning.
This is an excellent spot to have your lunch before turning back. Expect to see very large Hoary Marmots on the top of the headwall. These Marmots have certainly seen thousands of hikers and I’m always surprised at how they make you feel like you’re the first. If you still have more energy you can scramble to the top of nearby Cirque Peak or explore the flats towards Dolomite Pass and Lake Katherine. Cirque Peak looming behind you is another 600ms in elevation. Allow 2 more hours return to the summit. This Is Bear Country.