Want a great larch tree hike in Lake Louise? Try connecting the Sheol Valley hike and the Saddleback Pass Trail

Sheol Valley Hike in Banff National Park

There is so much to love about the Sheol Valley Lake Louise hike. Sheol Valley is a connector hike between the Saddleback Pass Trail and the Paradise Valley Trail – two outstanding Lake Louise hikes on their own merits.

The Sheol Valley hike leads you through some spectacular Rocky Mountain scenery. What else would you expect from a Lake Louise valley created in the space between the majestic foursome of Fairview Mountain, Haddo Peak, Saddle Mountain and Sheol Mountain?

A hiker enjoys larch trees and looming views of Mount Haddo whike hiking Sheol Valley in Lake Louise

In addition to hiking in the shadow of these Lake Louise mountain peaks, you be treated to towering mountain waterfalls, a hike along a mountain stream and, in season, a great opportunity to hike among larch trees without the massive crowds.

If you have the time, we highly recommend the 15km loop from the Chateau Lake Louise all around Saddle Mountain. This is done by taking the Saddleback Pass Trail to the Sheol Valley Trail. As you emerge from the valley, turn left on the Paradise Valley Trail, then finally make another left to an unnamed, but easy to find connector trail back to the Chateau.

It may sound complicated, it’s really not. We give maps and details below!

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Sheol Valley Hike Highlights

One of the great things about the Sheol Valley hike is that you need to get to it via another outstanding Lake Louise hiking trail – either the Saddleback Mountain Trail or the Paradise Valley Trail.

Once in the Sheol Valley, you’ll enjoy the intimate setting of being in a mountain valley, with several peaks looming overhead. The beautiful, rocky Haddo Peak is especially prominent as you wind through the valley.

Haddo Peak as seen from the Sheol Valley Trail in the fall

Close to the top of the Sheol Valley you’ll hear, and eventually see, several waterfalls originating from Fairview Mountain and Haddo Peak. The flow from these waterfalls meet up in the valley floor to form an energetic mountain stream.

Luckily the Sheol Valley hiking trail follows this stream for a while, offering beautiful sights and sounds.

On its own, the Sheol Valley is an incredibly beautiful Lake Louise hike, but it just gets better in the fall when you’ll be treated to a walk through golden larch trees.

Sheol Valley Larch Trees

The world-famous Lake Louise Lake Larch Valley hike is a spectacular opportunity to enjoy golden larch trees in fall. But if you find the Larch Valley parking lot full (as is often the case), or you are looking for less crowds, there are many excellent alternatives to the Larch Valley hike.

One of the best alternatives to the Larch Valley hike in the Lake Louise area is Saddleback Pass – which, as luck would have it, is one of the hikes you can take to get to the Sheol Valley trailhead.  

Get all the larch trees without the crowds - alternative hikes to Larch Valley in Lake Louise

Most hikers are content with their excellent larch tree viewing on the Saddleback Pass Trail, but not many people know that the larch forest continues into the Sheol Valley. Admittedly, the larch forest is better on the Saddleback Pass Trail, but the Sheol Valley larch trees are pretty darn good too. What makes it even better is you can enjoy the larch trees without the insane crowds you find on other larch tree hikes In Lake Louise.

Sheol Valley is a great alternative to Larch Valley Lake Louise hike

I was very impressed by the extent of the larch trees on the Saddleback Pass and Sheol Valley – they were way better than expected. These excellent Lake Louise hiking trails are really good alternatives to the Larch Valley hike.

For additional ideas, check out our list of great larch tree hikes in Alberta.

Sheol Valley Hike Stats

The stats given below are for the Sheol Valley hiking trail in isolation. These stats do not include the hiking you’ll need to do along the Saddleback Pass or Paradise Valley to get to Sheol Valley.  

Distance: The one-way distance of the Sheol Valley hiking trail is 4.1km.

Elevation Gain – Saddleback Pass to Paradise Valley Trail: This direction of the Sheol Valley hike is awesome – it’s literally all downhill! Our GPS registered a mere 11m of elevation gain as we hiked down from Saddleback Pass to Paradise Valley. (Keep in mind that to get here, the hike from the Chateau Lake Louise to Saddleback Pass has 595m of elevation gain…)

Elevation Gain – Paradise Valley Trail to Saddleback Pass: If you hike the opposite direction, you’ll encounter 500m of elevation gain as you work your way up the heart of Sheol Valley to Saddleback Pass.

For reference, the Saddleback Pass sits at 2,318m above sea level while the junction with Paradise Valley Trail is at 1,850m.

Will I need hiking boots on the Sheol Valley trail?

Difficulty: If you hike up from Paradise Valley Trail to Saddleback Pass, you’ll need to climb 122m of elevation for every 1km you hike. At an average 12% grade, it’s a good workout, but it’s definitely manageable for most hikers.  If you hike the downhill direction, you won’t even break a sweat!

Parks Canada rates the Sheol Valley hike as “difficult”, but we honestly don’t think a 12% grade over 4km is that hard. We rate the Sheol Valley hike as “moderate”.

Duration: The length of time it will take a typical adult to hike the Sheol Valley Trail ranges between 60-90 minutes, depending on which direction you are hiking it.

Sheol Valley Trail Location

The Sheol Valley hike is unusual in a few regards: it’s a one-way trail that connects two separate Lake Louise hiking trails. There is no parking lot for the Sheol Valley Trail. To get to it, you must hike the Saddleback Pass Trail or the Paradise Valley Trail.

The junction sign for Fairview Mountain, Sheol Valley and Saddleback Mountain hike

How to Get to Sheol Valley from the Saddleback Pass: Read our post on the Saddleback Mountain Trail for everything you need to know. Once you are at the Saddleback Pass, keep walking straight and you will run into a Grizzly Bear warning sign. Stop to read the sign carefully before proceeding – the Sheol Valley Trailhead is right next to this sign.

How to Get to Sheol Valley from the Paradise Valley Trail: The Paradise Valley trailhead parking lot is along Moraine Lake Road. (If the road to Moraine Lake is blocked due to overcrowding, talk to the attendant and they may let you proceed anyway). The junction to the Sheol Valley Trail is 4.3km from the Paradise Valley trailhead – it’s an unmarked right-hand turn, but the trail is well established and should be easy to see.

Regardless of which trail you take to get to Sheol Valley, make it easy on yourself by downloading the map into AllTrails (details below). Be sure to read on to get the correct map as many maps of this area in AllTrails are incorrect.

Sheol Valley Hiking Maps

Once you find the appropriate trailhead, the Sheol Valley hiking trail is really easy to follow. It’s a well-established trail with no real options to turn off before it’s time.

It’s a little harder to find the Sheol Valley Trail on a map though. I love using the AllTrails app for all my hikes as I have this (not so) funny habit of getting lost. AllTrails is right 99.9% of the time, but as it turns out, most of the maps for Sheol Valley within AllTrails are outdated & incorrect.

The best, accurate AllTrails map to use for hiking Sheol Valley is “Lake Louise to Lake Annette”. This map is perfect to use for the Sheol Valley Trail as it shows the Saddleback Mountain Pass Trail junction as well as the Paradise Valley Trail junction.

(BTW – Lake Anette is only a 1km side-trip. Some experienced hikers we talked to on the Sheol Valley Trail said it’s really beautiful, but sadly we didn’t have time to go).

You will not have cell service this far from Lake Louise Village, so be sure to download this map into AllTrails before you leave home.

Beautiful fall colours in Lake Louise underneath Haddo Peak

Hiking Sheol Valley Trail with Kids

Our kids have grown up in the Canadian Rocky Mountains and at age 5 & 7 are pretty normal kids, but are capable little hikers. For benchmark purposes, they have successfully hiked Wind Ridge (my favorite Kananaskis hike) and the Lost City in Colombia.

The Sheol Valley hike is not a standalone hike and needs to be combined with one or more other hiking trails. Before deciding to take your kids on the Sheol Valley hike, you’ll need to look at the combined hiking stats to decide of they are capable.

I expect most people who hike Sheol Valley will do the loop around Saddle Mountain (as we did) as shown in the Lake Louise to Lake Annette map. This loop (excluding the side trip to Lake Annette) is about 15km long with about 800m of elevation gain. This is similar to the stats for the Wind Ridge hike, so I expect my kids could do it (with enough time and patience of course).

No matter which direction you do the Sheol Valley hike, there will be one leg with an extended uphill section. The uphill leg will be a reasonably short 4-5km with approximately 500m of elevation gain. This is a 12-15% grade, which should be doable for most kids in reasonable shape.

If you are considering the Saddleback Pass to Sheol Valley to Paradise Valley loop with your kids, we recommend doing the Saddleback Pass trail first. This way, you get all the hard work done in the first 4km. You can stop for a snack at Saddleback Pass and decide if you collectively have the time and energy to go the remaining 11km (which is mostly flat or downhill).

Where to Stop for Lunch or a Break

The scenery along the Sheol Valley Trail is stunning, but there really aren’t many great spots to stop for a break. It’s simply a connector trail between Saddleback Mountain and Paradise Valley.

We recommend taking a break at Saddleback Pass. The Saddleback Pass is a large, open rocky meadow with plenty of rocks to plop down on for a well-deserved rest. From here, you will enjoy excellent views of Fairview Mountain and Saddle Mountain. And yes, in the fall, you can enjoy the surrounding larch trees as well!.

A forest of Lake Louise larch trees sit in front of Haddo Peak and Sheol Mountain

Alternately, there are plenty of beautiful spots to stop and sit next to Paradise Creek when you are on the Paradise Valley Trail.

No matter which way you go, you’ll have a decent day of hiking along the Sheol Valley Trail. When you are done, be sure to reward yourself after this difficult hike at one of the excellent restaurants in Lake Louise.

Sheol Valley Pass Hiking Safety

  • Before entering Sheol Valley from Saddleback Pass, there is a prominent Grizzly Bear Warning sign. Let that sink in…  Grizzly… Bear… Warning…

    Parks Canada recommends that hikers travel in tight groups of 4 people or more in the Sheol Valley. This is not mandatory, but highly recommended (bear attacks on large groups are very rare).

    Before hiking Sheol Valley, please take the time to educate yourself on Bear Safety in Banff National Park. And please, make lots of noise as you hike to alert the bears of your presence.
Parks Canada recommends hikers in Sheol Valley travel in groups of 4 or more due to grizzly bears
  • Grizzly Bears not enough for you? Cougars also live around Lake Louise. Learn more about Cougar Safety in Banff National Park.

    
  • Don’t let this scare you off – chances of a dangerous wildlife encounter in Banff are very low, but you never know what will happen with Banff wildlife, so be educated and prepared.

    
  • We recommend you check the latest Sheol / Paradise Connector trail report for trail conditions, wildlife warnings and possible closures before you head out.
Hiking from Saddleback Pass to the Paradise Valley Trail on the Sheol - Paradise Connector trail

For recommendations on what to bring on the Sheol Valley hike to improve your safety, see below.

Sheol Valley Hike Logistics

  • On-leash dogs are allowed on the Sheol Valley trail.

  • Mountain biking is not allowed.

  • There are several washrooms in the Lake Louise parking lot. There are no toilets at the Paradise Valley parking lot, on the Sheol Valley trail, or any of the connecting trails. The Saddleback Mountain trail can be pretty busy, but elsewhere there are lots of trees to duck into if you need to. It’s best if everyone goes before they begin the hike.

  • There are no drinking water facilities on any of these Lake Louise hiking trails, so fill your refillable water bottles or hydration packs before you leave home.

  • Lake Louise is a world-famous destination known for its stunning natural beauty and excellent hiking opportunities. Accordingly, the Lake Louise parking lot fills up very early, even on weekdays.

    When Lake Louise gets too full, Parks Canada will actually put up roadblocks to prevent additional cars from entering. No matter when you come to Lake Louise, get here as early as possible.

  • You should get intermittent cell service from Lake Louise Village on the Saddleback Pass Trail, but you’ll be in a dead zone for the rest of your outing. Never count on it for your safety.
A deep forest near the bottom of Sheol Valley in Lake Louise

What to Bring on the Sheol Valley Hike

Generally speaking, you don’t need a lot of hiking gear for Lake Louise hiking trails. We have shared our a list of essential hiking gear with the gear and clothing you’ll need to enjoy your hike, regardless of the variable Banff National Park weather and trail conditions.

Bear spray is a must on the Sheol Valley hike as it is prime grizzly bear habitat

The Sheol Valley trail is a moderately difficult Lake Louise day-hike, so we would like to reinforce the importance of a few items from our hiking essentials list:

  • As discussed above in the safety section, there is a Grizzly Bear warning in effect for the Sheol Valley. Bear spray is a must! Cannisters are available to buy or rent at many locations in Canmore and Banff.

  • Water – your hike to-or-through the Sheol Valley hike will entail a healthy uphill leg, so you’ll get a good sweat on. A hydration pack is an effective and eco-conscious way to bring enough water for a long day of hiking in Lake Louise.

  • Bring several layers of clothing with you. The weather can be quite variable hiking around Lake Louise, no matter the season. For hiking in Lake Louise, we typically wear convertible hiking pants, T-shirts, a fleece top and rain jackets. Bring a hiking daybag as you can expect to put on and take off layers all day.

  • We don’t use trekking poles, but you will see many people using them hiking around Lake Louise to help with balance and to take pressure off their knees on the steep descent.

Sheol Valley Mountain Footwear Recommendation

The hiking trails in-and-around the Sheol Valley are traditional mountain hiking trails with plenty of protruding rocks and tree roots to deal with. Regular city walking shoes are not sufficient for these hiking trails, and we recommend you wear a good quality pair of hiking shoes or boots to deal with the challenging footing.

September larch hikes in Lake Louise

Shop hiking shoes and boots on MEC or REI.

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