Lake Annette in Paradise Valley via Fairview Loop

December 4, 2020

I was on the hunt for snow. With half of Kananaskis shut down with the annual road closures and super hot temperatures further east, I headed to Lake Louise. Our original plan was to ski the track set Fairview Loop to Moraine Lake Road, go to the viewpoint, and then return via the Tramline. Instead, we opted for a last second adventure that took us out to Paradise Valley and Lake Annette. This detour was well worth the time and effort.

Hoar frost crystals growing on the trees. These crystals grow in cold temperatures, and can change the consistency of snow.

I absolutely love to ski. After trudging around in micro-spikes on my last four mountain adventures, the simplicity, lack of effort, and ability to eat up the kilometers quickly on my skis had me smiling all day. I know winter hiking is a new sport many are taking up, but if you truly love being outside in the winter, then I highly recommend skiing.

Parks Canada has a Winter Trails Map that you can download below. You can follow along using that map if you like. Note that Paradise Valley trails are NOT shown because they are in ATES Class 2 Challenging terrain.

Gear

We had our light touring skis (similar to cross-country skis but a bit wider and metal edges), poles, gators and regular day pack. We forgot a small thermos of hot tea, which we would regret later. We were in a Challenging ATES area so had our avalanche gear.

A pair of skins would have helped with the tricky snow conditions. There was fresh snow, but it was modified to sugar by clear overnight skies and a drop in temperature. There was a temperature inversion so the valleys were cold, but it warmed the higher we climbed. Our wax worked at some temps, but we did have to struggle in a few spots.

Overview

From the Lake Louise parking lot, take the Fairview trail (Trail #17 on the trail map). At the two junctions, be sure to take the straight ahead or lower of the options. To make a loop of Paradise Valley, continue past the trail head to the bridge. Follow the creek until you reach the turnoff for Lake Annette. Turn left and climb up to the lake. On the return, cross the first bridge to take you back to the main Paradise Valley trail. Follow this trail back to the Fairview Loop trail, which will then connect you with Moraine Lake. Turn left at Moraine (or turn right to the look out if you haven’t been) Lake Road. At the winter gates at the start of Moraine Lake Road, turn left to take the Tramline Trail back to Lake Louise.

Avalanche Terrain – Winter Travel Only

According to Parks Canada Avalanche Terrain Exposure Scale (ATES), Fairview Loop, Moraine Lake Road and Tramline trails are all rated as “Simple – Class 1”. Paradise Valley is rated as “Challenging – Class 2”. Please ensure you have the experience and equipment necessary to ski into Paradise Valley / Lake Annette. This trip report is not an endorsement of avalanche or risk-free winter travel. All decisions are your own responsibility and at your own risk.

Parking and Trail Head

The entrance to Moraine Lake Road is closed this year, so we instead parked in the Upper lot of Lake Louise. This actually suited us just fine as it allowed us to take the Fairview Loop Trail, but if the Moraine Lake parking lot is open, then that’s a great way to go as well.

From the upper parking lot, head towards the lake.

The parking lot is directly behind me. The stairs to the smaller washroom are on the right. Straight ahead is the trail sign.

Straight ahead (above the stairs) is the trail sign for Fairview (trail #17).

Go left at the first sign, heading towards the Paradise Valley Junction.

Turn left (away from the lake) and follow this wide and obvious trail. This is a mixed use trail, so be prepared for snowshoers and hikers. (The track set ski trail is Trail #2, accessed via Trail #4.)

Main Trail

Go straight (or slightly left) at the first junction. That trail takes you to Fairview Lookout that overlooks Lake Louise.

The first junction. Trail #15 on the right is to Fairview Lookout over top of Lake Louise.

At the second junction, again to straight (or slightly left). That tail takes you to the col between Shoulder and Fairview Mountain.

The second junction heads up to Fairview Mountain – Saddle Mountain col. If you don’t want to climb the mountain, you can still head up here for a lovely view, and it connects to Paradise Valley (summer travel).

Once past those two junctions, we continued straight ahead. The high point of the Fairview Lookout trail is around 2.5 km from the parking lot.

This is the mixed use trail. The track set ski trail is below us on the left. Despite the fresh snow, we had the trail to ourselves. A few people had attempted to walk and snowshoe here, but both had turned back in the deep snow.

After the high point, it was downhill for another 1.5 km until we reached the trail head for Paradise Valley.

This is the trail head to Paradise Valley (heading right). We elected to ski out on this trail. To start, we went straight ahead.
Decision Point

This is a major decision point. A) Turn right here to access the main Paradise Valley trail. This trail is above the valley, along the side of Saddle/Fairview Mountain. Dark red trail on map. B) Go straight to pick up the connector trail (major left in a few meters) to Moraine Lake Road. This route avoids all Class 2 Challenging terrain. Purple trail on map. Or C) go straight past the connector to Moraine Lake Road, go past the bridge, and then turn right to ski into Paradise Valley, following Paradise Creek. Blue trail on map.

We went into Paradise Valley via option C and followed the creek. On the way out, we took the more direct Option A back to the start of the Decision Point. We then took option B to exit via Moraine Lake Road.

From the intersection with Paradise Valley, we continued straight for another 200 m to the bridge over Paradise Creek.

The bridge over Paradise Creek. We turned right after the bridge, and followed a trail to the left of the creek. Straight ahead is another multi-use trail that will also lead to Moraine Lake Road.

We turned right after the bridge, and headed up Paradise Valley by following Paradise Creek. This is an absolutely delightful ski in, as we had the whole panorama of Mount Temple, Sheol Mountain, and the Saddle/Fairview Mountains to delight us.

Mount Sheol on the left, and the right is Saddle Mountain with Fairview Mountain behind it. The col between Sheol and Saddle is a loop you can do in the summer.

The creek itself was also gorgeous. It was snow and ice covered, with hoar frost mounds growing in the cold overnight temperatures. It is not possible to do this route in the summer, because this whole area is moss and marsh, with many meandering creek fingers reaching out from the main Paradise Creek.

The creek was a series of interesting photo ops after another. We could have spent a full day just enjoying the creek.

I will admit that we spent a long time skiing in, because we stopped to take a lot of photographs. Even though it was the same three mountains, each kilometer showed us a slightly different view. It was magical. It was also absolutely freezing! With the temperature inversion, it was about -18 in this low valley. I was thankful for my neoprene face mask. I also had hand warmers in my pack if it got too bad.

Saddle Mountain with it’s head in the sunshine. We could have used some sun in the valley. The hoar frost is growing like little icebergs on the creek.
Mount Sheol rising up from the valley.

We continued up the valley until we reached the turn off for Lake Annette. This was about 8 km total from the parking lot, and 4 km from when we started skiing into Paradise Valley.

Lake Annette

We could tell from the snowpack and tracks, that most people did not elect to go up to Lake Annette. Why is that, we wondered? We decided to go up here mainly because of our hiking buddy Annette. Would it be worth it?

The trail to Lake Annette starts with another bridge crossing. This is also the main trail if you want to continue to the Giant Steps or Sentinel Pass in the summer.

The trail was badly damaged by skiers walking back down. Normally, I would rant about this, but on this occasion, I will not only forgive them, but heartily join in! The trail to Lake Annette is narrow and steep. This is where a good pair of skins would have been handy. Nevertheless, we persevered and skied up the misleading 600 m to the lake.

Crossing several downed trees was just part of the fun. The trail was very narrow, and our wax was holding just enough to allow us to keep going.
This is the final little headwall right before Lake Annette. Mike went low (he is just above the creek outlet), and I went high. I won that gamble, but neither was great.

The view of Mount Temple from Lake Annette is stunning. From the highway, this view of Temple is more or less vertical and inspires awe and respect for the few mountaineers who have climbed this face. The view from Lake Annette showed the many options of climbing Mt Temple. I can see why people would climb it from here. Not me, but others.

The view of the north face of Mount Temple.

To get back down from Lake Annette, I literally followed in my predecessors footsteps. It takes a LOT to get me off my skis, but this track was so narrow and steep, with a lovely steep and tree-infested drop off, that I thought it way safer to walk down. It takes even MORE for my husband Mike to remove his skis. He tried to ski the first several meters, but after a pretty good wipe-out, decided that skis off was safer.

So, was Lake Annette worth it? At the time, hell no. In the bigger picture of getting something done, absolutely! If only so I don’t have to go back and do it again (in the winter at least).

Paradise Valley Return

After hiking back to the start of the Lake Annette trail, we decided to take the main Paradise Valley trail back to the Fairview Loop. This will lead us directly to the start of the Decision Point area discussed above. This is the dark red trail on the map. We crossed the bridge, and then began to gain some elevation. The trail was higher up the side of the mountain than we thought, but this makes sense to get away from the boggy creek bed below.

I’m sure all these bridges will look alike after a while, but they are quite distinct based on orientation and location. This is the main Paradise Valley Trail (Decision Point A – Dark Red trail on map above).

The trail magically popped us out at the “Decision Point” section above. From this intersection, we continued straight for about 250 m. We turned left to take the main connector to access Moraine Lake Road.

This is the junction about 250 m down from the Paradise Valley trail head. Take the heavily used trail on the left to connect to Moraine Lake Road.
This is the trail sign next to Mike in the above photo. Going “Right” leads back to the main Paradise Trail junction. The “Highline Trail” is the mixed use trail that continues on past Paradise Creek. The last option “Trailhead” will take you back to Moraine Lake Road.

We skied the connector trail for about 1 km of fairly fast downhill. This trail is tight and bumpy. Add in the freezing cold, the snow was rock hard and ungiving. On a warmer day, the snow would be softer and an easier ski down.

At the top of a little knoll, the trail splits. Straight ahead looks like the faster (shorter) route, but go left as you will almost immediately hook up with the gloriously track set Fairview #2 trail. This delivered us onto Moraine Lake Road (Trail #1).

The final decision before returning to Moraine Lake Road. The sign says the shorter route is to the right, but the left connects immediately with a track set loop back to Moraine Lake road. Go left.

From here, left will take you back to Lake Louise. Right takes you to the highpoint of Moraine Lake Road. Your choice.

A dad is encouraging his kids to keep going on Moraine Lake Road. Not seen is the mom wanting to turn back “now!” I don’t blame her. It’s was 3:00 pm and the kids were not moving too quickly.

If you went right on Moraine, this is the view from the look out. Mount Temple is on the right, Moraine Lake below, and a glimpse of the Valley of the 10 Peaks circling the lake.

The end of Moraine Lake Road track set. Mount Temple is on the right, and it rains down avalanches onto the road all winter long. Travel beyond this point is not recommended.

We skied back to the winter gates at the start of Moraine Lake Road. On the left is the Tramline Trail (Trail #3), which took us back to the Lake Louise parking lot.

At the winter gates, we turned left and headed up the Tramline Trail to the Lake Louise Parking lot.

This is a wide trail with a really low grade for the original tram that would have run up from the Lake Louise townsite. It is a steady incline, but not that noticeable due to the slight grade.

Almost there! Fairview Mountain on the left. The right skyline is the mountains surrounding Lake Louise, like Big Beehive, and Mount Whyte. Winter travel is not recommended due to avalanche danger.

This was a lovely day of exploration around Lake Louise on our light touring skis. At 20 km, with lots of exploration and stunning views, it was well worth the drive.

If you found this post useful, please do me a huge favour and click the Star button to “Like” it. You can also follow my blog, follow me on Instagram, or join my FaceBook page Al’s Adventurers.

Alisen

Totals – Tracked on Strava

Date: December 4, 2020
Group:  Two (Alisen and Mike)
Distance:  19.4  km
Elevation:  428 m (1,412β€²)
Time:  6 hours (includes lunch & breaks)

A fun day exploring Paradise Valley and Lake Annette. So much to do here, but long distances to travel. The skis sure made this trip fast and easier.
Lots of elevation gain and loss throughout the day, but no one section was particular steep or overly strenuous.
Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Adventures, Skiing
31 comments on “Lake Annette in Paradise Valley via Fairview Loop
  1. Amit Kumar says:

    Awesome!! πŸ˜€
    I’m going to Paradise ValleyΒ but through this post..πŸ˜…πŸ˜€πŸ˜ŠπŸ€—

    • alisendopf says:

      I love it! Yes, when we cannot do something physically, we can still enjoy it through someone else’s eyes. What a great attitude you have, my friend.
      Alisen

  2. Looks like a beautiful day out πŸ™‚ Lots of highly relevant info as always. I love the way you always provide so much information on your posts.

  3. Beautiful Pictures….Lovely!

  4. I’ve hiked to the summit of Fairview Mountain in the summer and thought it was a challenging hike, even to get to the saddleback. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to do the uphill with skis! This area looks absolutely beautiful covered in snow though.

    • alisendopf says:

      First off – well done you for nabbing Fairview! I think you’ve hit most of the highlights in Louise. Very impressive.
      Yes, I know the feeling. Skis are heavier than hiking boots, and you do carry more stuff in the winter. Thankfully the descent is a free ride home, so makes up for the slower ascent. On this we skirted around the base of saddleback, as we didn’t have our touring skis with us. Next time πŸ™‚

  5. Alisen, my husband was wondering if you knew when Lake Louise were opening West Bowl? (Not an area I would ever be interested in skiing!!)

    • alisendopf says:

      That’s a great question. I know all the runs are Black, except for one Green run because Charlie insists on one groomed run down from every single lift. 🀣

      I am working tomorrow, so I will ask what the timing is. The signs next to Charlie’s Choice have changed from Boundary to Closed, so I think we are close… I do know they have to bomb that area for avalanches, so maybe that is a factor.

  6. jyotsandhu20 says:

    Well done! Beautiful pictures

  7. fadikkakinn says:

    Almost paradise πŸ’«

  8. Gibberish says:

    This place is absolutely stunning…what an experience it must have been to ski through such stunning and breathtaking views 😍😍

  9. Halbarbera says:

    Stunning slopes…

  10. So heavenly..😍

  11. bj.richmond says:

    We wish you the best of luck in all of your future endeavors, you will be great! Life is filled with unexpected adventures. As you continue to move on in life and face new events, adventures, and challenges, we all wish you the best of luck. Good luck to you as you continue to learn and grow as an adult.
    I wish you the very best merry Christmas πŸŽ„πŸŒΉ

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