Taking the Highline: Snowshoe from Lake Louise to Paradise Creek

In 2016, I organized a group snowshoe up the Highline trail for my hiking club. I had never been there, and it sounded like an enjoyable trail. That’s about the time I discovered that Parks Canada is sometimes not terribly accurate when it comes to trail distances and elevation gain. It still says on the website that the Highline trail is only 60m of elevation gain, but if you look at a map with contour elevation, you’ll see the trail actually climbs about 175m. Maybe not a huge difference, but it wasn’t what was promised on my hike posting, and I heard a few complaints about it.

Sunburst, pastel on paper

Lake Louise and environs typically sees a lot of snow, and the winter of 2016 was no exception. Our snowshoe trail was more like a trench, with snow up to our knees on either side. The trees were loaded with snow-bombs. Our measurements into the powder, using a reversed hiking pole, gave us a minimum of three feet of powder.

Into the Light, pastel on paper

For most of the way to the Paradise Valley, we were snowshoeing in the trees, with one notable exception. There is a class 1 avalanche path coming off Mount Fairview, that rarely slides. It still requires that you take a good, hard look at it, and consider the conditions, before crossing it.

Once you climb to the highest point of the trail, you then head down to the Paradise Creek area. My snowshoe group were less than thrilled with the idea of having to go back up again on the return trip. (It’s funny how most hiking groups feel the same way – they almost all want to climb in the morning, but on the return leg, when they’re tired, they just want to go downhill!) We found our way to one of the bridge crossings at Paradise Creek, and as we perched on the railing for lunch, there was a fair bit of grousing about the return trip. Luckily for them, there is another option.

Getting Our Ducks in a Row, pastel on paper

Paradise Creek is part of a trail which, in summer, starts off the Moraine Lake Road. In winter, the road is closed and turned into a cross-country ski trail. From where we took our lunch break, it was a short distance downhill to the road. So long as we stayed off the track-set ski trail, we could use it to make a loop back to the parking area. It looked like someone had already taken that route, as there was a packed trail heading down that way. That happy decision made, we enjoyed our lunch and the views of Mounts Temple and Sheol further up the valley.

Temple and Sheol, pastel on paper

From the Moraine Lake road/ski trail, the views open up across the Bow Valley to the peaks on the north side, a nice change from being closed in the trees. An easy stroll down to the parking lot at the start of the road, then we were able to remove our snowshoes and just walk back up the main road to Lake Louise.

Across the Bow Valley, pastel on paper

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