The incredible Rocky Mountain landscapes and brilliant turquoise waters of Lake Louise attract millions of visitors from around the world. Most visitors to Lake Louise will simply go to the lakeshore and admire the beauty of Lake Louise from the shoreline, while some may enjoy one of the best easy hikes in Banff along the Lake Louise Lakeshore Trail. But, here’s a little secret for you… the water color of Lake Louise gets even more incredible, the higher you go, and the Fairview Lookout hike is one of the easiest ways to see it.
There several Lake Louise hiking trails which allow visitors to enjoy the spectacular turquoise colors from above. The very popular Lake Agnes trail (to one of the famous Lake Louise tea houses) provides elevates views along the way up, but the Big Beehive Trail offers the best, elevated views of the turquoise water. But the difficulty of these Lake Louise hiking trails may be too much for some, making the relatively easy Fairview Lookout hike a good option for almost everyone visiting Lake Louise.
Fairview Lookout Trail at Lake Louise – Table of Contents
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Fairview Lookout Hike – Quick Details
Trailhead: Fairview Lookout Trailhead
Distance: 2 km out-and-back
Elevation: 170 m elevation gain
Fairview Lookout Trail Highlights
Before you begin the Fairview Lookout hike, take a moment to soak in the incredible Rocky Mountain vistas from the Lake Louise shoreline. There are few spots in Banff National Park as beautiful as the scene from the Lake Louise shoreline; the brilliant turquoise waters of Lake Louise, surrounded by Fairview Mountain (2,744 m), Victoria Glacier, the Big Beehive (2,270 m) and the iconic Chateau Lake Louise hotel (one of the best hotels in Lake Louise).
The trail to the Fairview Lookout hike begins to the left of the lakeshore viewing area. At first the trail has a paved surface, but it soon transitions to a more natural hiking surface. There’s a few junctions leading to the parking lot, etc., so just follow the Fairview Lookout signs.
The Fairview Lookout trail leads you through a lush evergreen forest, with a moderate incline and wide enough for two people to hike side-by-side. There’s a few rocks and roots on the hiking trail, but they are manageable.
There’s a number of felled trees along the side of the trail; take a moment to try and count the growth rings as it will give you an appreciation for how old the trees lining the trail actually are. Some of the Douglas Fir trees along the side of the trail are massive by Banff National Park standards – they must be hundreds’ of years old!
Along the way, some beginner hikers may notice their hearts beating a little faster, due to the incline of the Fairview Lookout hike. It’s one of the steeper hikes on our list of the best easy hikes in Banff, but don’t worry – it’s a short trail, and almost everyone will be able to complete the Fairview Lookout hike.
If you need to stop and rest, take a moment to admire the beauty of Banff National Park all around you. On the bigger side, see if you can notice the towering peak of Mount Fairview looming high above you on the left. While, on the micro side, take a moment to enjoy the subtle beauty of the Old Man Beard Lichen dangling from the branches of the evergreen trees.
After 1 km of hiking from the Lake Louise lakeshore, the Fairview Lookout hiking trail levels off. You can get your first glimpses of the incredible turquoise water through the trees below. From here, it’s a short downhill walk to the wooden viewing platform at the end of the Fairview Lookout hike.
You’ll immediately see why the Fairview Lookout hike is so popular with visitors to Lake Louise. At an elevation of 1,852 m, the Fairview Lookout is approximately 110 m above the water, approximately 40% down the length of the lake. The people canoeing on Lake Louise look so small from up here!
Read more on canoeing on Lake Louise!
If you hike to the Fairview Lookout on a sunny day, you’ll be rewarded with incredibly brilliant turquoise waters of Lake Louise below. I’ve lived near Banff my whole life and I still can’t believe my eyes every time I see the incredible water colors.
The mountain views from this Lake Louise lookout are stunning as well. Looking across the water of the beautiful Banff lake, you’ll enjoy a great view of Mt. St. Piran and the Little Beehive (2,220 m). Looking northeast across the Bow Valley stands the massive Mt. Hector (3,394 m), Three Brothers (3,185 m), Cataract Peak (3,333 m) and Mount Richardson (3,086 m).
If you crane your neck a little bit around the trees to the right, you’ll see the Lake Louise Ski Resort. If you like easy to achieve vistas of the Canadian Rockies, you should consider visiting the Lake Louise summer sightseeing gondola.
The views of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise hotel from the Fairview Lookout are some of the best you’ll find anywhere, making it a real treat for guests of this 5-star Fairmont Lake Louise hotel who’d like a great picture of this iconic hotel.
Learn more about the Fairmont hotel in our Chateau Lake Louise review.
Fairview Lookout Trailhead
In theory, getting to Lake Louise is easy. The Lake Louise parking lot is 46 minutes from Banff and just over 2 hours from Calgary. Take the TransCanada Highway 1 west, then exit toward Lake Louise. Turn left towards the village of Lake Louise then continue on Lake Louise Drive until you reach the parking lot.
However, the incredible popularity of Lake Louise means that the parking lot is nearly almost always full. If you’d like to guarantee the opportunity to visit Lake Louise, we strongly recommend you read our post about the Lake Louise shuttle buses.
As you walk from the Lake Louise parking lot, you’ll reach a large Lake Louise trailhead sign. Turn left to reach the Fairview Lookout trailhead.
If you’d like to learn more about Banff National Park on the drive to Lake Louise, we highly recommend the informative & entertaining GuideAlong audio tour.
Fairview Lookout Hike Stats
How Long is the Fairview Lookout Trail?
The official distance of the round-trip hike on the Fairview Lookout trail is 1.8 km (1.1 miles), but it depends on where you start your hike from down below.
How Hard is the Fairview Lookout Hike?
Due to the short length and moderate incline, we rate the Fairview Lookout hike difficulty as “easy”.
At only 2 km long and 170 m (560 feet) elevation gain, the Fairview Lookout trail is an easy Lake Louise hiking trail that most anyone can do.
It is a consistent climb on the way up and steep at some points, so if you are a beginner hiker then this will probably feel difficult. Just go slow and take breaks along the way, the epic Lake Louise views are worth it.
How Long Does the Fairview Lookout Hike Take?
It should take a typical adult 30 minutes to 1 hour to complete the round-trip Fairview Lookout hike. We recently hiked this trail with our kids and it took us 52 minutes including time at Fairview Lookout and stopping for pictures.
This is the perfect short hike to add to the end of the day of a Lake Louise itinerary!
Fairview Lookout Trail in Winter
Are you visiting Lake Louise in winter? Check out how different the Fairview Lookout Snowshoe Trail looks compared to the summer trail!
Fairview Lookout Hiking Trail Map
The Fairview Lookout hike is easy to follow and is well marked. If you are feeling uncertain, you can use the Alltrails app while hiking to Fairview Lookout, but the trail is popular enough that you’ll usually have other hikers to follow.
To find the Fairview Lookout trail map in Alltrails, simply search for “Fairview Lookout”. Be sure to download your hiking maps prior to leaving as cell phone signals are never guaranteed in the mountains.
Enjoy map downloads and many more premium features with a 7-day free trial of AllTrails+!
A paper map isn’t required for this Lake Louise hiking trail, but if you prefer to hike with a paper map and compass as an additional safety layer, we highly recommend Gem Trek hiking maps. We own the entire set of these excellent Banff and Kananaskis hiking maps. They are exceptional 3D topographic maps which we love looking at for hiking inspiration.
The Fairview Lookout trail map is found in the “Lake Louise & Yoho” map.
Hiking to Fairview Lookout with Kids
If you are visiting Banff with kids, this is an excellent hike for the entire family. With the short, but consistent climb, it may be challenging for some kids, but it’s well worth it to make it to the top. Even kids can appreciate a view like the one you get at the Fairview Lookout.
Along the way there are plenty of opportunities for kids to stop for a break on a log or a large rock.
The hiking trail to the Fairview Lookout is wide enough for 2 people, making it a great hike for families or groups.
Our kids (now aged 7 and 9) are decent hikers. They found this hike really easy and they quite enjoyed the epic views from the top. Given we were staying at the Chateau Lake Louise that weekend, they especially enjoyed seeing the majestic Fairmont hotel from above.
Don’t miss out on the best Banff day-hikes with kids.
Where to Stop for Lunch or a Break
Back down at Lake Louise is the best place for lunch or a snack! You can even reward yourself with an ice cream from one of the shops inside the Chateau Lake Louise. Take it from us, ice cream always tastes better after a great hike in Banff National Park!
The actual lookout area at the top of the hike is pretty small. There is a single park bench on the viewing platform, but there’s a decent chance you won’t be able to sit and enjoy your lunch due to the number of people in the area.
Fairview Lookout Hiking Safety
There are relatively few hiking hazards along the Fairview Lookout hiking trail. The trail is well maintained and easy to follow up all the way to the popular Lake Louise viewpoint.
That being said, it’s still important to educate yourself on Bear Safety in Banff National Park. This should entail carrying bear spray, hiking in a group and making plenty of noise on the way up.
Cougars also live in Banff National Park. Learn more about Cougar Safety in Banff National Park.
Chances of a dangerous wildlife encounter in Banff are very low, but you never know what will happen with Banff wildlife, so be prepared.
We recommend you check the Fairview Lookout trail report for the current trail conditions, wildlife warnings and possible closures before you head out.
Fairview Lookout Trail Logistics
On-leash dogs are allowed on the Fairview Lookout hike, but mountain biking is not allowed on the trail. There are toilets in the Lake Louise parking lot, but none along the hiking trail.
Plan to pack plenty of water and snacks for this hike. Fill your hydration packs before you leave.
Being so close to the Chateau, you’ll probably get intermittent cell service throughout the Fairview Lookout hike, but don’t count on it for your safety.
What to Bring for Hiking to the Fairview Lookout
This isn’t a very long hike, so you don’t need to be as prepared with all the proper hiking gear. Check out our list of essential Banff hiking gear to get the most enjoyment out of your hike, regardless of the variable Banff weather and trail conditions. The Fairview Lookout trail is a short Banff hike, but there are still a few items that we recommend bringing:
- Bear spray is a must, especially around Lake Louise. Canisters are available to buy or rent at many locations in Canmore and Banff. Always carry your bear spray in an easily accessible location and never inside your day bag.
- Water – the Fairview Lookout hike is a consistent uphill climb and on a hot summer day you’ll want to ensure you have enough water. A hydration pack is an effective and eco-conscious way to bring enough water for a summer hike.
- Bring several layers of clothing with you. The weather can be quite variable hiking in Banff National Park, no matter the season. For hiking in Banff, we typically wear convertible hiking pants, T-shirts, a fleece top and rain jackets. Bring a daybag as you can expect to put on and take off layers all day.
- We don’t use trekking poles, but they can help with balance and to take pressure off knees on the descent.
Fairview Lookout Footwear Recommendation
The Fairview Lookout trail is in decent shape for most of its length, with minimal rocks and roots. Therefore, you could do this hike in your normal city shoes or Keen sports sandals, but hiking shoes are always a better option if you have them with you.
The Fairview Lookout trail is a “must-do” Lake Louise hike for anyone who wishes to see the incredible turquoise waters from above! You’ll find every step worth the effort when you see the views!
Dan Brewer, a life-long Alberta resident, calls Canmore home along with his wife and two kids. He is the co-owner of Travel Banff Canada, where he gets to share his passion for the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Dan, along with his family, love being outdoors doing one of the many activities they enjoy in the mountains: hiking, mountain biking, paddleboarding, skiing, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
When he's not in Canmore enjoying one of his favourite local hikes, you can find him hoping on a plane to explore a new country with his family or working on one of their other two travel sites: Family Can Travel and Baby Can Travel.