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
Bourgeau Lake Hike Parking
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
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.
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.
When Can You Hike Bourgeau Lake and Mount Bourgeau?
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?
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?
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?
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.
Wildlife Awareness on 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.
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
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?
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.
We Have an Entire Website on Banff!
We live in this beautiful area of the world and want to make sure you have an epic time in the wilderness. Check out The Banff Blog for more travel information.
What to Pack for Canada?
We’ve put together our favorite packing list items for the Canadian Rockies. This list is meant to be good in any season, for many different levels of activities. Whether it’s hiking or just wandering around exploring the town of Banff and it’s surroundings here are the things to consider for your trip.
You’re going to need something to carry your belongings in while your traveling around Jasper. Even if you’re not doing extensive hikes you need at least something small for day trips. My favorite daypacks are from Camelbak.
If you’re wondering what necessities to bring to Banff then sturdy shoes are perhaps the most important thing you will need before you get to Canada.
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)
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.
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.
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