We had a stunning day Hiking Helen Lake in Banff National Park. From there we headed up Dolomite Pass and the unnamed peak next to it for a view looking down onto the stunning Katherine Lake.
I hope you’ve all been well lately, and pardon my absence for the last 6 weeks or so. I’ve been scrambling to put out as many healthy pantry staple recipes as possible with current world events. But we’re back today with the next instalment of our Canadian road trip.
When we left off with Part 2 of the Conrad Kain Hut we had just cleaned up an epic mouse mess in the back of our truck. From there we were hoping our mouse problems would be over as we headed to Banff. Of course this was just wishful thinking!
I guess 3 hours of bumping down the Bugaboo Forest Service road wasn’t enough to get rid of the one who had moved in permanently. After another couple hours of driving we had reached Banff and started looking for a camping spot. That was also wishful thinking, but since it was getting late, we decided to just find a place to park instead. (Story continued below.)
Everything you need know about Hiking Helen Lake in Banff National Park:
- Elevation Gain: 1,380′ or 420m
- Mileage: 7.5 miles or 12 kilometers roundtrip
- Dolomite Pass: Adding the pass makes this 8.9 miles and 2,032′ roundtrip.
- Trailhead: is located across from Bow Lake.
- Bathrooms: There is a pit toilet at the trailhead, and more pit toilets at the parking lot for the Num-Ti-Jah Lodge a couple miles from the trailhead.
- Extras side trips: You can add Dolomite Pass to this for even more views. From there, you can summit Cirque Peak which is a scramble. Cirque Peak is the peak towering over Helen Lake. Or you can head the opposite way up the unnamed peak next to it for a view down into Katherine Lake. From the pass you can also hike down into Katherine Lake as well.
(Story time continued.) After wasting a ton of time looking for a spot to camp, we decided to go to bed without dinner again. So we crawled into our bed in the back of the truck, and settled down for the night. Not even 5 minutes later, we could hear scampering around in the side wall of the truck!
This time Tyler wasn’t having it. We were going to figure out how they kept getting in. So in the sideways sleet and snow we proceeded to tear apart the back of the truck.
This is no small task in the dark with headlamps in the middle of the night. It’s even harder since we have a deck with 2 drawers installed underneath the bed. We both had a feeling they were getting in under the drawers somewhere.
So armed with just a couple tools he found in our truck, he tore it all apart in the wickedly bad weather. I mean weather so bad the ice crystals pelting our faces stung!
As we pulled it apart, we found no less that 12 spots big enough to let mice in. So that definitely explained a lot. I mean no wonder they were throwing a rave in the truck back on the night of Conrad Kain Part 1.
But now we had a bigger problem – 12 holes and we’re hours from anywhere in the middle of the night. We knew we couldn’t just put things back together because our furry neighbor would just move back in. So after rummaging around to look for ideas we came up with a solution.
I stuffed each and every hole with an empty plastic water bottle and used garbage bags to fill in the extra space. I packed it all as tight as humanly possible knowing that our sleep for the rest of our trip depended on this not failing.
Finally Tyler had the drawers put back together and I had all the holes plugged. By now 4 hours had past and it was 3 am! (We were pretty grateful we didn’t find a camping spot, we didn’t need it after all!) So we crawled back into the truck, and then held our breath hoping for the best. Sure enough, just minutes after we stopped making noise, we heard a scuffling in the side wall of the truck again over the back tire.
We were both crossing our fingers the water bottles would hold when the mouse tried to get back into the topper. Sure enough we lucked out, and it couldn’t get back in! We finally breathed a sigh of relief and took a nap at the trailhead for a couple hours before getting up to do our next hike.
The next day dawned with the most gorgeous sunlight breaking out after the snow/sleet storm the night before. The first photo in this post is from Bow Lake which is right across the road from the Helen Lake trailhead. We started the day over there with the morning light on the glaciers.
Then we decided we better get a move on because the plan was to summit Cirque Peak after Helen Lake. So we ate a couple energy bars, loaded our packs, and got on the trail.
We barely made it 20 minutes into the hike before we ran into heavy snow fall. So we covered our packs and put our Gore-tex on, and kept going. We hoped that the weather would get better as the day progressed. But it ended up being one of those days where it would be a heavy snow storm for 30 minutes or so, then followed by some sunshine.
It was gorgeous and sunny when we made it to Helen Lake, so we decided to continue. From Helen Lake you can hike to Dolomite Pass and on to Katherine Lake if you want. We were headed for Cirque Peak which towers over Helen Lake because it reportedly has some of the best views of the Icefields.
However when we reached Dolomite Pass, it became pretty clear that we could summit Cirque Peak, but we weren’t going to see anything. So we took the side trail to the right instead which leads you up an unnamed peak adjacent to Cirque.
The views weren’t what we were after, but they were stunning none the less. And it turned out to be a great compromise when the weather didn’t work out!
From the unnamed peak, we found a climbers trail that lead us in a loop of sorts back down below Helen Lake. All in all it made for a great day, even if we didn’t make it to our objective. Although we can’t wait to come back because Cirque Peak has been on our list for years.
After getting back to the truck we had to figure out where we were going to spend the night. This time instead of looking for a camping spot, we headed back to the overflow parking near Lake Louise. We had seen this spot on a previous trip to Banff and wanted to try it out.
It’s basically a large gravel parking lot that you pay to park in overnight. I think it was around $15 when we were there, which in Canadian prices is a steal. There’s a pit toilet there, and that’s about it. There’s no running water or anything like that. But we don’t need much with our truck setup, so it was perfect!
We found a good level spot to park and started making a real dinner. You’ll see in the last photo, we had pasta which is a staple when we’re hiking everyday. This version was a Jovial 100% brown rice pasta with Delallo’s tomato basil sauce.
Then at the end I added a few tablespoons of butter along with some diced chicken and spinach. We topped the whole thing off with pre-grated parmesan. Then the 2 of us devoured all 4 servings no problem!
After dinner, we decided to head straight off to sleep because we were both exhausted from lack of sleep the night before. And of course we had our eye set on summiting another mountain the next day. So we packed it up and got ourselves a solid 8 hours of sleep for a change!