Bourgeau Lake Hike to Mount Bourgeau in Banff National Park

hiking mount bourgeau

Mount Bourgeau is a 2,931-metre (9,616 ft) tall mountain in the heart of Banff National Park promises some extraordinary views. It’s easily accessible from the town of Banff and Canmore as it’s only a 10-15 minute drive to the parking area. This makes it a great hike for those staying in Banff town. While the terrain is not challenging the sheer length and elevation gain requires strong legs.

To reach the peak you climb over 1,700 meters or 5,600 feet and nearly 22km in a day. That being said it’s one of the easiest peaks in the Rockies as it requires no scrambling or climbing. However, on the way to the peak you cross the lovely Bourgeau Lake, witness stunning views from Harvey Pass, and then the whole park opens up from the summit. It’s an expansive view that never disappoints.

You have a few options for the hike as you can choose to Bourgeau Lake or Harvey Pass each cutting a large chunk of the hike out. This makes it a great hike in Banff for all skill levels as it can be adjusted.


Bourgeau Lake Hike to Mount Bourgeau Hike Guide


Key Points



Bourgeau Lake Hike Parking


Bourgeau Lake Hike to Mount Bourgeau
On the way to Bourgeau Lake

There is a nice parking area for this trailhead on the south side of the Trans Canada. If you are traveling from Banff there is a cross over lane, just make sure to keep your eyes out for it. If you miss a turn on the Trans Canada it may be awhile till you have the option to turn around.

At the trailhead, there is a bathroom and map. However if it’s a nice sunny summer day in Banff it might be hard to find a parking spot. The lot only has room for 15 or so cars.


Mount Bourgeau Trail Route Description


Bourgeau Lake Hike to Mount Bourgeau
Crossing over the many streams on the way to Bourgeau Lake

Mount Bourgeau is a great trail for hikers looking to have a full day out. The first section is very easy to follow well maintained trail that is 7.4 km to Bourgeau Lake. You’ll have to pass a few creeks along the way so pay attention not to slip and get your foot wet. There is a well-built bridge over Wolverine Creek.

There is nothing difficult about this section and it’s all a gradual uphill climb to the lakes. With an elevation of 750 meters, it’s easy and short enough for all to enjoy. Whether if Bourgeau Lake is your destination or Mount Bourgeau is it’s a good place to stop and enjoy lunch.

Bourgeau Lake Hike to Mount Bourgeau
Bourgeau Lake Hike to Mount Bourgeau
Rounding one of the unnamed lakes.

Continue on the switchback trails up scree crossing avalanche paths. You’ll pass two unnamed lakes, stop and admire them and keep going around Harvey Lake until you reach Harvey Pass which is another 2.3 km further. It’s here that you can see Sunshine Village.

If you look to your left you’ll see Mt. Bourgeau. You have 2.7 km and 400 meters to go. This section took us roughly an hour, and since it was already a long day we were definitely feeling it, but pushed on. It might look tough, but there is no scrambling involved and instead of loose scree you’ll find a lot of beautiful wildflowers.

Once you reach the summit enjoy 360-degree views over Banff. It may be windy (as it was for us), and there is a Repeater Station on the summit to hide away by.

On a clear day you can easily see Mt. Assiniboine on the horizon and Vermillion Lakes.

Bourgeau Lake Hike to Mount Bourgeau
Mt. Assiniboine
Bourgeau Lake Hike to Mount Bourgeau
Summit photo!

When Can You Hike Bourgeau Lake and Mount Bourgeau?


Bourgeau Lake Hike to Mount Bourgeau
Coming up and around Harvey Pass

Mount Bourgeau is high in elevation and will have snow on it in early June and October. The best time to hike Mount Bourgeau is between mid June and Mid September. It’s a long one so check the weather before heading out.


How Long Does Take To Hike to Mount Bourgeau?


Bourgeau Lake Hike to Mount Bourgeau
Looking down from the summit

We were able to complete the trip in around six hours with over a half-hour at the summit. Unless you’re trail-running don’t expect to complete it any sooner as the average time is around eight hours. This is a full day hike so come prepared.


How Hard is it to Hike Mount Bourgeau?


Bourgeau Lake Hike to Mount Bourgeau
Looking at Mount Bourgeau from Harvey Pass. You can see Sunshine Village from here.

Mount Bourgeau is not a hard hike. It’s a gradual incline pretty much the entire way, with nothing seriously steep. However, it’s 21.7 km round trip and has an elevation gain of 1,731 meters making it a very very long day. You must have the endurance to complete this hike, but the good news is you can always turn around when you reach the lakes and still have an awesome day! If you’ve done Mount Allan in Kananaskis it’s similar to that in difficulty.


Are dogs and kids appropriate on this trail?


Bourgeau Lake Hike to Mount Bourgeau

There is no scrambling or anything technical involved to summit Bourgeau, but it is a very long hike and day so if you bring the kids and pets make sure they are cared for.


How Busy is Mount Bourgeau Lake Hike?


Mount Bourgeau is easily accessible from Banff making it one of the busier hikes in Banff National Park. We passed many groups enjoying this hike, however most stopped at the lakes. Only one other pair summited Mount Bourgeau with us. So if you keep going and push for the summit it’s unlikely you’ll find others around.

Bourgeau Lake Hike to Mount Bourgeau

Wildlife Awareness on Mount Bourgeau


Bourgeau Lake Hike to Mount Bourgeau

If you’re on any hikes in the Canadian Rockies you should practice proper wildlife awareness. In the region, there are frequent sightings of black bears, grizzly bears, moose, coyotes, and cougars. They all a potential threat to humans and we should reduce our impact on their natural lives.

Before any hike or walk-in the Canadian Rockies, you need to have bear spray. Remember that the bear spray is worthless if it’s in your pack, you’ll need to be able to grab this in two seconds or less in an emergency. We wear our bear sprays on our hip.

The likeliness of seeing wildlife on this trail is high. It is a moderately trafficked trail, but bear sightings have occurred. The meadow and valley is prime grizzly habitat and the trail has been closed in the past due to bear activity. We saw a male grizzly near the saddle of this hike. Thankfully he was fairly far away and we had a large group.

Always check the park websites for wildlife information (Parks Canada) and then check again for notices at the trailhead. 

When you’re on the trail make noise by banging hiking poles, talking, whistling, clapping, or singing. This is particularly important around blind bends and corners. You’re through the deep woods during these times, and it’s prime time to sneak up on a bear. Once you’re at the summit, you’re safer as you can see wildlife from afar, but still, don’t let your guard down and keep the bear spray on you just in case.

As always while hiking, you need to stay alert, travel in a group, mind children and pets, and finally carrying bear spray and knowing how to use it. If you’ve come to the park without bear spray Valhalla Pure Outfitters in town sells spray and holders with employees who will demonstrate how to use properly. 

Besides bears, it’s common to see hoary marmots and pika. We asked a marmot for directions, but they only gave us a whistle.


Advice on Hikes in the Canadian Rockies


Bourgeau Lake Hike to Mount Bourgeau

If this is your first time hiking in the Rockies take a conservative approach. Pick an adequate hike for your fitness, plan for plenty of time, pack water and food, and don’t be afraid to turn around. If you want to learn more about what to wear hiking we have a great post.

For long hikes, set a turn around time at the departure. Any time we set out for an objective I determine a time at which we need to turn around in order to arrive at the parking lot or campsite by dark. I would recommend not hiking in the dark as it’s easy to get lost and it’s not fun in bear country.

On that note, always carry bear spray if you plan to hike in the park. We carry ours in the neighborhood and bears have been known to stroll through town and busy parking lots. Always practice wildlife awareness when you’re on a trail, and please give animals space.

In regards to times keep in mind your mountain fitness — different than the gym. The low end of the times in this post is a constant fast pace uphill with little to no breaks and a brisk pace downhill. Most hikers should plan for a middle of the road time with the estimated duration.

It’s also super important to know that there are limitations and to come prepared. These are very serious mountains and it easy to get in well over your head with life-threatening consequences.

Lastly, a GPS tracker could save your life – it’s one of those backpacking essentials I like to have on me just in case I need to hit SOS.

Alltrails is our favorite app to have on a hike. It shows the correct trail way, elevation, and other hiker reviews. We paid the subscription fee so that we could download all the data we need to our phones. Best $2.50 (per month) ever spent!


What to Wear On a Hike?


Bourgeau Lake Hike to Mount Bourgeau

The most basic principle of what to wear hiking is layering. Anyone that has spent time in wilderness or mountains can speak to the fact your temperature can fluctuate a lot on a hike. You can easily start off cool at the base of the mountain and get hot as soon as you begin moving.

The goal of hiking clothing is to help regulate your body temperature, element protection, and moisture management. Temperature management is best done through a layering system if you want to learn more about what to pack for a day hike or what to wear on a hike, you can see our full post!  Here are the best hiking clothes for men and the best hiking clothes for women.

What to Wear Hiking!


Here is exactly what we take on hikes in the Canadian Rockies

Fjallraven’s Keb Pant


Packing List Keb Hiking Pant

Both Cameron and I have Fjallraven’s well known Keb pants. Fjallraven’s Keb pants are a mountaineering staple, but they are heavyweight and not excellent for quick dry properties yet extremely durable.

They kept me warm throughout this entire hike and are windproof. When I was too hot at the base of the mountain, I was able to unzip the sides for airflow. These are, without a doubt, my favorite pants to hike in the Canadian Rockies. You can also check out the best hiking pants for women and the best hiking pants for men.

If you want to wear shorts check out our best hiking shorts for men and our best hiking shorts for women.

Fjallraven Keb Women’s PantsFjallraven Keb Men’s Pants


Outdoor Research Shirt Echo Series


I have six Outdoor Research Echo shirts and rotate them on all my hikes. They are lightweight and moisture wicking. Seriously, you don’t want to be stuck with a cotton shirt while hiking it traps all your sweat and then when you get cold it becomes a problem.

Outdoor Research shirts provide full coverage with their long sleeve collections, but you won’t get hot under the sun. These shirts are built with UPF sun protection, AirVent™ moisture management, and ActiveFresh™ odor control technology.

Womens Outdoor Research Echo ShirtsMens Outdoor Research Echo Shirts


Down Jacket


We ALWAYS have a down jacket with me on every single hike I go in the Rockies. It’s a just in case jacket that we usually end up wearing when we reach the summit, and it gets cold. Down jackets pack up light and small so there is no reason NOT to have one in your bag. Seriously it could save your life in a bad situation. We wrote a whole post on our favorites (hint – Arc’Teryx Cerium LT Hooded Jacket, Patagonia Down Sweater, REI Coop Down Jacket)

Best Packable Down Jackets


Shell Jacket


Arc’teryx Zeta SL Best Packable Rain Jacket

I also always have a water-resistant windbreaker/rain jacket in my hiking backpack. This is for if it rains (which it did on this hike) or if it gets windy. I have never regretted having a windbreaker in my back.

Again, it’s another piece of clothing that is super light and could save your life. The one I wore on this hike is by one my new favorite companies – Topo Designs. They make a Global Jacket that is waterproof, with a structured hood, and venting pockets.

Topo Design WindBreaker


Gloves


I have a pair of Outdoor Research gloves in my hiking pack at all times. They are great for when you are scrambling and I always end up using them. I never want to come back with bloody hands and they protect against that.

Outdoor Research Gloves


Wool Socks


Wool Socks - Morocco Packing List

We’ve learned to love our feet with a good pair of merino wool hiking socks. You will want to keep your feet nice and dry while you walk around. Most importantly wool socks stay fresh for several days as they have natural antimicrobial properties.

We travel with a couple pairs of the Darn Tough Merino socks and our feet have never felt cold or wet. As a bonus, they’re produced in Vermont!

Darn Tough Merino Socks


Hiking Backpack


We personally like to use between a 30-40L pack for most day hikes in the mountains as it allows for us to carry everything we could need. The major plus side is a large bag means we can bring things like a stove to make coffee or a hot meal for a nice rest on long hikes. We also love to use our Camelbak’s for easier objectives.


Sunglasses


Make sure to protect your eyes from the sun since you’ll likely spend a lot of time hiking in the sun at elevation. There are a lot of options for sunglasses and everyone should own at least a pair. It’s best to make sure they do have UV protection for the health of your eyes. Sunglasses are particularly important if you plan to visit any glaciers or high alpine passes as sun reflection from the snow is damaging to your eyes.

We made our first investment in quality polarized sunglasses with a pair of SMITH Optics Lowdown 2. Truthfully, not everyone needs to invest $150 in a pair of sunglasses; however, we love ours and will never buy cheap ones again. Polarized glasses are great at enhancing vision in bright environments and removing glare from windshields and the water.

Smith Lowdown 2.0


Hat


I always have a baseball cap in my bag in case the sun gets too intense. I’ve been out too many times without one and my forehead gets too toasty for my liking – even with sunscreen. A baseball cap protects against that and I highly recommend having one in your bag.

Baseball Caps


Hiking Poles


FLZ Best Hiking Poles Black Diamond

If you have plans to take part in a long day or multi-day hikes a pair of hiking poles are a great way to save your knees and prevent injuries. If you’re on a full day of hiking in the mountains you’ll gain and descend a lot of elevation. So, it’s easy for your legs to get tired so a pair of hiking poles will pay off. Although I don’t always need hiking poles, they are always in my pack. I ended up using them while hiking the ridge and descending on this hike.

Black Diamond is a company dedicated to mountain sports and has worked hard to craft wonderful products. I personally use the Black Diamond FLZ Hiking Poles, but there are some other great poles out there produced by companies like REI and MSR. “Z” poles are fantastic as they’re lightweight and can be stashed inside a backpack should you not need them.

Black Diamond FLZ Hiking Poles


Peak Design Capture Clip


Peak Design Capture Clip

This is has been one of our favorite additions to our camera equipment and hiking outfit. The Peak Design capture clip allows for a camera to be clipped on to your backpack strap or belt.It has to be one of the best accessories we’ve ever used for carrying our camera.

The clip feels secure and robust with a straight forward design that makes switching straps easy. We’ve brought it on several hikes around the Canadian Rockies now and it has changed the way in which we photograph hikes. The access it provides to your camera is so much better than a camera strap that allows a camera to swing and banging into everything.

It’s super handy and a must for anyone who want to carry their camera on hikes, but not have to fumble around in their bag every time they want to take a photo.

Check It Out On Peak Design


Camera (We have the Fujifilm X-T3)


This beautiful and reasonably priced camera is both weather-resistant and mirrorless. It is easily the best ASP-C camera on the market and gives a serious run at many of the full-frame cameras. After all, is a full-frame camera really a necessity? In my opinion, not at all! We love photography, posting to Instagram, and posting on this website so we always have a camera on us on any hike. See the best cameras here.

Check Prices Here!


Bear Spray*


Bear Spray - Hiking in Banff

This is a non-negotiable Banff packing list item if you’re in bear country and in some parks, it’s actually required by law. Bear spray should be on your person and not in your pack. We each have a neoprene sleeve that holds our bear spray on our belt pocket. It’s easy to reach in case of an emergency which the most important detail.

It’s a good idea to make noise while hiking in bear country whether that is singing, ringing a bell, clapping, or banging your hiking poles. Be wary of blind spots on your hikes such as tight bends and forested sections of the trail.

Bear Spray


Headlamp


On any trip where we’ll spend time outside, almost every trip, a headlamp is on our packing list. I typically don’t plan on using it on a day hike, but it’s always there just in case.

We have several, but one of our favorites is the Biolite 330. It took several recommendations online before settling on this one because of its affordable price and durability. It delivers 330 lumens, costs $60, and it’s rechargeable.


High-Calorie Snack


Pack some high-calorie snacks for your hike on the trail. Popular options are energy gels, bars, or balls, jerky, nuts, or even a Snickers. Hiking at elevation can burn a lot of calories so it’s important to maintain your glucose levels.

It’s advised to eat as much as 200-300 calories per hour of exercise. If it’s a long day on the mountain you can always bring a packed lunch with a sandwich and high calorie like dried fruits. (I’m pretty much a kid and still love a peanut butter and jelly sandwich). We fell in love with the Nut Butter filled Clif Bars.

How to Choose Energy Foods


Emergency Blanket

This is where preparation for spending a night out in the wilderness comes into effect. If you’re on a short loop around town it’s probably not necessary, but any significant hike in a national park or wilderness area presents the risk of spending the night outside.

When temperatures drop at night it presents the very dangerous threat of hypothermia or frostbite. Every time I pack this thing the photo cracks me up, but I suppose it’s better than a smiling couple.

Emergency Blanket


Plan Your Trip to the Canadian Rockies


Travel Insurance

We don’t travel without travel insurance and neither should you. You never know what can happen in a foreign country and it’s best to be prepared. World Nomads provides good short term coverage

SafetyWing is perfect for digital nomads. See our full review here!

Check Rates


Get a Travel Credit Card

How do we travel so much and avoid going broke? Well, we actually have many travel rewards credit cards. How many? Over 20 to be exact. If you’re a responsible credit card user I highly recommend looking at these travel rewards credit cards and earning points and airmiles for your purchases.

Check out our travel banking tips here. And If you’re wondering how to save money for travel click here.

The Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards


Things to do in Jasper
Guide Book

Sometimes it’s nice just to have a real book in your hands when traveling. We recommend picking up a Lonely Planet to get you through the wireless nights.

Guide Book


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About the Author

Cameron

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Cameron Seagle is one of the creative forces behind The World Pursuit. He is a writer and photographer for the travel website. Cameron has been traveling for the last four years. He found a passion for conservation and safari while living out of a truck in the African bush. Obsessed with finding the best gear and travel products, he loves to research new product releases. In his free time, you can find him shooting photographs, summiting mountains, and snowboarding. Cameron currently lives in Banff with his partner and blogging co-conspirator Natasha. Cameron's favorite countries are Ireland, Scotland, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Japan. And he can never resist an excellent beach destination.

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