There are few winter destinations within Banff National Park which are more magical than Lake Louise. With towering snowcapped Rocky Mountain peaks surrounding a frozen lake, a visit to Lake Louise in winter is so special.
With so much stunning winter scenery, it can get very busy in Lake Louise in the winter. If you’d like to go snowshoeing in Lake Louise without the crowds, the Highline to Paradise Creek snowshoe trail is a great option.
The Highline to Paradise Creek snowshoe trail crosses avalanche terrain, always educate yourself about venturing out in the winter and check the avalanche forecast.
Highline to Paradise Creek Snowshoe
- Highline to Paradise Creek Snowshoe – Quick Details
- Lake Louise Highline Snowshoe Trail Highlights
- Lake Louise Highline Snowshoe Trailhead
- Highline to Paradise Creek Snowshoe Stats
- Lake Louise Highline Snowshoe Trail Map
- Snowshoeing Highline to Paradise Creek with Kids
- Where to Stop for Lunch or a Break
- Lake Louise Highline Snowshoe Trail Safety
- Highline Snowshoe Trail Logistics
- What to Bring for Snowshoeing in Banff
- Lake Louise Highline Trail Foot Traction Recommendations
- Other Banff Winter Activities
- Banff Trip Planning Resources
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Highline to Paradise Creek Snowshoe – Quick Details
Trailhead: Fairview Lookout Trailhead (this Highline trail starts at the same place)
Distance: 9 km out-and-back
Elevation: 523 m elevation gain
Lake Louise Highline Snowshoe Trail Highlights
Before you begin the Highline snowshoe trail, walk from the parking lot to the first section of shoreline along Lake Louise. Take a moment to soak in the winter wonderland around you. The Chateau Lake Louise looks so elegant sitting next to the beautiful frozen Banff lake surrounded by Fairview Mountain (2,744 m), Victoria Glacier, the Big Beehive (2,270 m) and more.
After you’ve spent enough time enjoying the world-class beauty of Lake Louise in winter, you’ll find the Highline snowshoe trailhead a few feet away in the trees on your left.
If you have the time either before or after snowshoeing, plan to skate on Lake Louise. A truly magical experience that only those who visit Lake Louise in winter get to enjoy!
Parks Canada has very good signage for the Lake Louise area trails. For the Lake Louise Highline snowshoe trail look for a blue square with the number 17 in it.
There are many Lake Louise trails which originate from this trailhead, so the trail is nice and wide at the beginning as you enter a beautiful forest of snow-covered evergreen trees. Be sure to look through the trees on your right for a few last glimpses of frozen Lake Louise.
The Lake Louise Highline snowshoe trail starts to climb uphill a bit. There’s a trail sign which indicates bikes are not allowed; it’s a summer biking sign, but we assume this prohibition extends to no fat bikes as well.
At the 300 m mark of this Lake Louise snowshoe trail you’ll reach the trail junction for the popular Fairview Lookout snowshoe trail. You’ll find a large trail sign and map at the Fairview Lookout snowshoe trail, which is a short trail to a wonderful Lake Louise viewpoint. Continue left for the Lake Louise Highline snowshoe trail.
We mentioned there are many Lake Louise trails in the area; the next one is about 50 m later where you’ll reach the junction for the Sheol mountain hike (one of our favourite Lake Louise larch hikes). Again, follow the blue 17 sign to the right to follow the Highline trail.
This marks the end of the Lake Louise trail junctions and the beginning of the real Highline to Paradise Creek trail. We first experienced the Highline trail when we hiked the Saddleback Mountain / Sheol Valley loop during the Lake Louise larch season. In the fall, this section of trail isn’t very nice as it’s primarily a horse trail. In the winter, the snowshoe trail transforms into a magical winter wonderland.
The Highline snowshoe trail begins with a slight uphill, with the trees along the side of the trail bending over from the heavy snow.
Before long, you’ll find yourself walking across the side of a hill on a side slope. I really enjoy snowshoeing on side slopes as the forest floor comes closer to your face on one side of the trail, but you also enjoy elevated views of the forest below on the other side.
After snowshoeing 800 m on the Highline snowshoe trail you’ll arrive in a section of forest where the trees are much smaller. These younger trees reward Lake Louise snowshoers with some views of the surrounding Canadian Rocky Mountains.
From this vantage point, you’ll see Fairview Mountain towering overhead on your right, while Redoubt Mountain (2,902 m), Unity Peak (2,652 m) and Lipalian Mountain (2,710 m) become visible across the Bow Valley on your left. As you walk a little further through the clearing, the Lake Louise ski resort becomes visible as well.
You’ll be tempted to stay for a while and enjoy the views, but these trees are young for a reason – you’re standing in the middle of a Fairview Mountain avalanche track (which you can see from this Google Map satellite shot). Based on the size of the trees, it’s been many years since an avalanche has run here, but Parks Canada warns snowshoers not to linger in this area – and we agree.
After leaving the Highline avalanche track with the great views, the forest becomes very narrow with the spruce trees very tight on both sides. Look for the atmospheric Old Man Beard lichen dangling from the branches of these up-close trees.
Sporadic fallen trees across the Highline trail keeps the snowshoeing interesting at times. Sometimes you’ll go around the trees, while sometimes you go over or under.
The forest becomes normal (less tight) around the 1.3 km mark of the Highline snowshoe trail. In fact, the trees are spaced out enough that you can enjoy some open sky above you.
Watch for some bright yellow lichen growing on the trunks and branches of the trees in this area. It’s a real explosion of colour in an otherwise white and green world.
At the 2 km mark of the Lake Louise Highline trail, the trail turns sharply south and starts going uphill again. The incline is slow and steady, but not too strenuous.
A short 600 m later and you’ll be snowshoeing downhill again. From this higher vantage point, you can see occasional snowcapped mountain through trees on the left. The Highline snowshoe trail becomes quite fun as it winds its way down the hill.
The descent becomes steeper as your near Paradise Creek. You’ll reach a break in the trees at the 3.8 km mark of the Highline snowshoe where you’ll be treated to nice views of Armor Peak (2,850 m) and Protection Mountain (2,972 m) across the Bow Valley.
At the 4.1 km mark of this Lake Louise snowshoe trail, you’ll reach a trail junction for the Paradise Valley trail (heading south-west deeper into Paradise Valley). There is significantly higher avalanche risk in Paradise Valley. Please do your own research to determine if your avalanche equipment and training is sufficient before proceeding down the Paradise Valley trail.
Stay to the left past the Paradise Valley trail to complete the last section of the Highline snowshoe trail. Mere steps after leaving the Paradise Valley trail, the lower slopes of the monstrous Mount Temple (3,544 m) appear ahead through the snowy trees.
You’ll reach the official end of the Lake Louise Highline to Paradise Creek snowshoe trail after 4.4 km of snowshoeing when you arrive at a T-intersection. You can continue on to the Paradise Creek Parking lot to the left, where you’ll meet up with the Moraine Lake Road multi-purpose trail.
The best place to end your Highline snowshoe outing is by going 100 m to the right, where you’ll find a bridge over Paradise Creek. As you stand on the bridge, listen for the sound of water rushing towards the Bow River underneath the frozen surface.
Looking upstream of Paradise Creek, the wintery Rocky Mountain views are outstanding. You’ll be rewarded for your snowshoeing efforts with outstanding views of Sheol Mountain (2,776 m), Haddo Peak (3,070 m), Saddle Mountain (2,433 m) and Fairview Mountain (2,744 m).
Lake Louise Highline Snowshoe Trailhead
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.
The Lake Louise parking lot will fill up fast on weekends and during the Lake Louise Ice Magic Festival when people flock here to see the stunning Lake Louise ice sculptures. (POSTPONED FOR 2023)
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 which is the same as the Highline trail to Paradise Creek.
You’ll be following the blue 17 trail marker on this Lake Louise snowshoe trail.
Highline to Paradise Creek Snowshoe Stats
How Long is the Highline Snowshoe?
The round-trip distance of the Highline to Paradise Creek snowshoe trail is almost 9 km (4.5 each way) from the Fairview Lookout trailhead.
How Hard is it to Snowshoe to Paradise Creek?
Due to the length and incline, we rate the Highline to Paradise Creek snowshoe as “moderate”.
At almost 9 km and 523 m elevation gain, the Lake Louise Highline snowshoe is a moderate snowshoeing trail. It’s a longer snowshoe that would be much more difficult after a recent snowfall.
There are a few sections that climb, but it flattens out quickly or heads back down. There are also a lot of fallen trees that you need to crawl over, under or around.
How Long Does the Highline to Paradise Creek Snowshoe Take?
It should take a typical adult 2.5-3.5 hours to snowshoe to Paradise Creek from Lake Louise. We snowshoed this trail recently and it took us 2.5 hours including time at Paradise Creek and stopping for pictures.
Lake Louise Highline Snowshoe Trail Map
The Highline Trail is relatively easy to follow. It’s well marked at the beginning so you know where to go and again it’s well marked when you reach the end. Snowshoeing has the added benefit of making a very clear trail, so if someone has been snowshoeing this trail recently it will be easy to follow.
If you are feeling uncertain, you can use the Alltrails app while snowshoeing to Paradise Creek, but there’s no specific snowshoe trail that you can pull up. You can use the first section of the Alltrails Sentinel Pass and Giant Steps from Lake Louise, but just don’t venture past the bridge over Paradise Creek unless you have avalanche training and equipment. This would be around #3 in the map below.
Be sure to download your hiking maps prior to leaving.
A paper map isn’t required for this snowshoe 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 Highline trail map is found on the “Lake Louise & Yoho” map and it’s labelled as “horse trail”. You can order it before your trip, or you can pick it up here as they are widely available.
Snowshoeing Highline to Paradise Creek with Kids
Our kids (aged 8 & 6) are strong little hikers and snowshoers. We haven’t taken them on this snowshoe trail yet, but we are certain they could do it given the multitude of Kananaskis snowshoe trails they’ve done. We’d also make sure that any avalanche forecasts are extremely low before taking them along.
Our experience snowshoeing with kids is that they tend to get bored faster vs. summer hiking. This is likely because they can’t run wild and most of the things they find interesting on a hike (finding treasures etc.) are now buried under the snow.
If your kids are older and/or strong snowshoers who can keep themselves entertained, you’ll enjoy a great day of snowshoeing in Banff with your kids.
Where to Stop for Lunch or a Break
The bridge over Paradise Creek is the best place to stop for lunch or a break! The views are amazing!
Otherwise, have a quick snack then head back to the Chateau Lake Louise (one of the best Lake Louise hotels) for a lunch with a view in a warm setting!
Lake Louise Highline Snowshoe Trail Safety
In the dead of winter, the bears around Banff should be hibernating (be careful in early winter or early spring though!) But that’s not a reason to let your guard down as wolves, cougars, elk, etc. still provide a safety risk to Banff visitors. It only takes a few minutes to learn about wildlife safety in Banff National Park.
It’s always a good idea to check the Highline trail conditions (under Lake Louise Area Snowshoeing and Winter Hiking Trails) before you leave home.
The main reason to snowshoe to get to Paradise Creek for the mountain views. The flip-side though is avalanche danger.
We highly recommend consulting the Banff Avalanche Bulletin published by Parks Canada before you go.
We are not avalanche experts, so please educate yourself and make smart decisions while enjoying the beauty of Banff in winter.
Highline Snowshoe Trail Logistics
- Snowshoe rentals are available in Lake Louise at Wilson Mountain Sports in the town of Lake Louise or at Chateau Ski and Snow Rentals in the Chateau Lake Louise.
- There are toilets located in the Lake Louise parking area.
- You can fill water bottles in the restrooms in the main Lake Louise parking lot. Drinks are available for purchase inside the Chateau Lake Louise.
- Dogs are allowed on-leash.
- The Highline snowshoe trail is not a Lake Louise fat bike trail. Fat biking is not allowed.
What to Bring for Snowshoeing in Banff
When snowshoeing in Banff, it’s essential to dress properly in layers. The uphill sections of the Highline snowshoe trail or snowshoeing through deep snow will make you hot and sweaty. A proper base layer needs to effectively wick that moisture away from your skin. If the sweat remains on your skin, the cold wind will evaporate it, cooling you quickly which could be dangerous.
Lake Louise Highline Trail Foot Traction Recommendations
This trail isn’t as popular as the other snowshoe trails around Lake Louise. While you might find it packed down, if there’s been a recent snowfall you’ll want your snowshoes! Even if it has been partially packed down, it can still be soft enough that you’ll be post holing the entire way (making deep foot prints in the snow, which isn’t a lot of fun for you or the people who follow).
While it might be possible to do without anything other than winter boots, you’ll enjoy it more with some form of traction device on your feet (snowshoes are the best choice).
We almost always pack both our snowshoes and microspikes, which allows us to choose what will work best when we get to the trail. If you don’t have this luxury, snowshoes will always work even if the trail is packed down! Plus you can have some fun playing in the deep snow next to the trail.
Since the Highline to Paradise Creek snowshoe trail starts along the popular Fairview Lookout trail, you won’t know the actual conditions of this trail until you’ve gone a ways in.
Snowshoes for Lake Louise Highline Snowshoe
If you are going to snowshoe the Lake Louise Highline trail, make sure you have multiple crampons underneath your snowshoes – some on the front toe and a pair under your heel. Also, if possible, look for a pair of snowshoes with double-ratchet bindings and avoid snowshoes with any form of buckle bindings – they tend to come undone, which gets annoying quickly.
Winter Hike Traction Devices
If you are going to winter hike to Paradise Creek you will need some form of traction device on your feet.
We own and highly recommend Kahtoola MICROspikes. Look at the steel spikes on the bottom of the Kahtoola MICROspikes and you’ll see why we love these winter traction devices so much. They are a scaled-down recreational version of the crampons you’ll see on mountain expeditions.
Yaktrax are another popular multi-purpose traction device used around Banff for winter walking or running. They are popular as they are very comfortable for walking on winter hikes or snow-covered walking trails in Canmore or Banff. The lack of spikes makes them comfortable to walk on, but they are not great for ice walking.
No matter which traction device you use for your feet, you should consider using trekking poles to help your balance. We’ve tried trekking poles and to be honest, we don’t like them nor use them, but we seem to be in the minority. Trekking poles are widely used around Banff and Kananaskis in winter.
It makes sense… winter hiking on snow or ice in the mountains is often very slippery and trekking poles add two more points of contact with the ground, thus greatly reducing your odds of slipping.
The Highline to Paradise Creek is an excellent choice for anyone looking for a longer snowshoe trail away from the crowds at Lake Louise.
Other Banff Winter Activities
Banff Trip Planning Resources
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