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Wenkchemna Pass Hike in Banff National Park

It may not be the most well known of the Moraine Lake hikes, but the Eiffel Lake to Wenkchemna Pass hike could quite possibly be the most scenic. A reasonably difficult hike, the Eiffel Lake to Wenkchemna Pass showcases some of the best features the Lake Louise and Moraine Lake area. You’ll hike to a spectacular Canadian Rockies mountain pass, bask in the beauty of the Valley of the Ten Peaks and in fall, you’ll enjoy golden larch trees!

The Moraine Lake area is closed in the winter, but the Eiffel Lake to Wenkchemna Pass trail is beautiful during the warmer months. In spring and summer, this Moraine Lake hiking trail features some of the best views of the Valley of the Ten Peaks that you can find anywhere, making it one of the best hikes in Banff.

Wenkchemna Pass - Moraine Lake Hikes

But if you have the chance, the Wenkchemna Pass hike is most stunning in fall. You’ll still get the amazing views of the Valley of the Ten Peaks, but the golden larch trees along the trail make this a special experience.

Although Larch Valley features a more extensive larch forest, the fall colors and the beauty of the Valley of the Ten Peaks makes the Eiffel Lake to Wenkchemna Pass hike one of the best larch hikes in Alberta. A huge bonus is that the Wenkchemna Pass trail is much quieter than the Larch Valley trail.

Eiffel Lake to Wenkchemna Pass Trail – Quick Details

Trailhead: Wenkchemna Pass Trailhead

Distance: 18.3 km out and back

Elevation: 930 m elevation gain

Trail from Eiffel Lake to Wenkchemna Pass in Banff

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Eiffel Lake to Wenkchemna Pass Hike Highlights

The Wenkchemna Pass trail is not a standalone hike at Moraine Lake. In order to hike to Wenkchemna Pass, you must first hike to the end of the Eiffel Lake trail. As a popular Moraine Lake hike in its own right, we recommend you read our blog post on the Eiffel Lake trail, as we don’t repeat the details here.

golden larch trees line the shores of Eiffel Lake

As you transition from the end of the Eiffel Lake hike into and the start of the Wenkchemna Pass hike, the trail surface remains unchanged. You’ll continue to walk along a trail cutting through a side slope of a rockslide. In short order you’ll need to navigate through a small pile of red boulders blocking the path.

a man hikes through a pile of boulders on the Wenkchemna Pass Trail near Moraine Lake

The larch trees become less abundant as you continue hiking the Wenkchemna Pass trail, but you’ll pass a small stand of them shortly after passing Eiffel Lake. The trail continues to pass through boulder fields, but most are easy to walk through. Listen for the distinctive “eeeeep” call of a pika, who love to live in rocky terrain like this.

man hiking through Larches along Wenkchemna Pass hiking trail

Take a look up on your right and you’ll understand why the trail is so rocky. There is a massive rock wall off Wastach Mountain (2,819 m) which was the previous home of all these rocks.

By the 6.9 km mark of the Wenkchemna Pass trail, the shale, boulders and larch trees are pretty much gone. Here you’ll be walking along a berm underneath a series of alluvial fans at the base of Wastach Mountain.

a hiker on a berm passes Wastach Mountain alluvial fans on his way to Wenkchemna Pass

Take a moment here to have a sip of water and look behind you at some incredible views looking back at the Valley of the Ten Peaks. The view of the top-to-bottom glacier on Deltaform Mountain (3,424 m) is pretty amazing. Near this spot, we heard the uneasy rumble of either a rockslide or a piece of a glacier giving way. It was a humbling reminder of the power of nature.

a vertical glacier on Deltaform Mountain in the Valley of Ten Peaks

The Wenkchemna Pass trail enters a meadow with boulders scattered around delicate alpine plants and flowers. As you walk through the meadow, you’ll be skirting the edge of a rockslide. Notice the stunted growth of the small larch trees in the meadow, which struggle to grow in such harsh conditions.

a woman hikes through an alpine meadow with tiny larch trees as she approaches Wenkchemna Pass

A small stream appears, flowing down from the stubborn snow patches which remain on Wenkchemna Pass all summer. Follow the path down and you’ll notice a small alpine lake just below you to the left.

The ascent up Wenkchemna Pass begins at 8.5 km when you begin hiking up a series of tight switchbacks with Wenkchemna Peak towering overhead on the right. The trail is generally easy to follow as it’s a path of small rocks snaking its way through much larger rocks. If you find yourself walking on big rocks for too long, you’ll need to look for one of the cairns which mark the path of the trail.

a woman begins the final hike to Wenkchemna Pass on a series of switchbacks

Chances are good that you’ll stop to catch your breath along the final slog to the top of Wenkchemna Pass. Take a moment to look back for a once in a lifetime view of the Valley of the Ten Peaks from the very far end. Eiffel Tower (3,080 m) and Mount Temple (3,544 m) also complete the scenic view on the opposite of the valley.

Along our way to the top of Wenkchemna Pass, we enjoyed seeing the tiny larch trees which somehow manage to grow up here – they are more like larch shrubs. We also were greeted by several beautiful White-tailed Ptarmigans, who seemed to love hanging out near the stream.

a white-tailed ptarmigan huddles next to a rock along the Wenkchemna Pass trail

The final few hundred meters of the Wenkchemna Pass trail require you to find your way through much larger rocks. A path of cairns lead the way to the top, but you can also find the path using a hiking app such as AllTrails.

The summit of Wenkchemna Pass is along the Continental Divide, marking the Alberta – BC border. At the top there’s a altitude sign in the centre of a large plateau where you can pick a spot to enjoy the view of your choice.

The two distinct views from the top of Wenkchemna Pass are quite incredible. Behind you, of course, is the world-famous Valley of the Ten Peaks. In fall, you can see golden larch trees as far as Protection Mountain (2,972 m), which across the Bow Valley and is very near the Taylor Lake hike. You’ll be enjoying this view on your hike back to the Moraine Lake parking, so we recommend spending most your time at the top looking towards BC.

Eiffel Lake and Larch Trees seen from Wenkchemna Pass

On the far side of Wenkchemna Pass, you’ll be looking down into Yoho National Park in British Columbia, where you’ll see a massive, rock wall shared between Mount Biddle (3,319 m) and Curtis Peak (3,051 m). Tokumm Creek flows through a valley filled with larch trees below.

a view of a valley of larch trees from the top of Wenkchemna Pass

If you follow this valley north you’ll reach Opabin Lake in the Lake O’Hara area of Yoho National Park. And if you follow this valley south, you’ll reach the Marble Canyon Trailhead in Kootenay National Park. Both are multi-day hikes, so do not attempt them unless you have properly researched and prepared for the journey.

Eiffel Lake and Wenkchemna Pass Trailhead

The Wenkchemna Pass trailhead is found near the Moraine Lake Lodge on the Moraine Lakeshore Trail.

sign of hiking trails around moraine lake

The drive to the Moraine Lake area is approximately 2 hours from Calgary and only 45 minutes from Banff. You will need to plan for the fact that the Moraine Lake parking lot is almost always full. Unless you wish to arrive in the middle of the night for a parking spot, we recommend you learn how to get to Moraine Lake.

Our favorite way to guarantee a visit to Moraine Lake is to book a Parks Canada shuttle to Moraine Lake.

Those lucky enough to stay at the Moraine Lake Lodge, one of the best hotels near Lake Louise, are guaranteed a parking spot.

Get a guaranteed Moraine Lake parking spot by staying at the Moraine Lake Lodge

Finally, the Moraine Lake Road is only open seasonally during the warmer months. Typical dates are between Victoria Day in May through to Canadian Thanksgiving in October.

Wenkchemna Pass Hike Stats

How Long is the Wenkchemna Pass Hike?

Including the distance on the Eiffel Lake trail, the round-trip distance of the Wenkchemna Pass trail is 18.3 km (one-way distance of 9.2 km) from the Moraine Lakeshore trail to the top of the pass.

A view of the entire Wenkchemna Pass hiking trail looking towards Eiffel Lake

How Hard is the Hike to Wenkchemna Pass?

Due to the length, incline and minor scrambling, we rate the Wenkchemna Pass hike as a “difficult Banff hike”.

Although we rate the Eiffel Lake hike as a moderately difficult Banff hike, the added distance, elevation gain and some minor scrambling required to get to Wenkchemna Pass is enough for us to increase the difficulty rating to “hard”.

a woman hikes on a difficult, rocky section of the Wenkchemna Pass Trail

How Long Does the Wenkchemna Pass Hike Take?

It should take a typical adult approximately 5 hours to hike to Wenkchemna Pass. We’re reasonably fast hikers, and we recently enjoyed the Wenkchemna Pass hike in 4 hours 15 minutes.

a man hikes along a rocky trail to the top of Wenkchemna Pass

Eiffel Lake and Wenkchemna Pass Trail Maps

While the trail to Eiffel Lake is well marked and easy to follow, the trail to Wenkchemna Pass can be a little uncertain at times. We used the AllTrails app to help us find our way a few times, especially towards the top.

A woman hiker on a rocky section of the Wenkchemna Pass Trail near Moraine Lake

To find the Wenkchemna Pass trail map in AllTrails, simply search for “Wenkchemna Pass“. Be sure to download your hiking maps prior to leaving as you’ll get no cell service anywhere around Moraine Lake.

A paper map isn’t required for this Moraine Lake hike, but if you are like us and love looking at topographic hiking maps, we highly recommend Gem Trek hiking maps. We own the entire set of these excellent Banff and Kananaskis hiking maps.

I love looking at my Gem Trek hiking maps; they are exceptional 3D topographic maps which give an excellent overview of the mountains and hiking trails in the area. It really helps you understand how the Wenkchemna Pass trail fits into the Moraine Lake area.

The Eiffel Lake and Wenkchemna Pass trail maps are found in the “Lake Louise & Yoho” Gem Trek map.

a hiker walks through a meadow with small larch trees adjacent to the Valley of the Ten Peaks

Hiking Wenkchemna Pass with Kids

If you are visiting Banff with kids, we feel that the hike to Eiffel Lake is a great (perhaps challenging) family hike in the Moraine Lake area. The added distance and elevation gain may preclude some families from continuing on all the way to Wenkchemna Pass, but regular hikers with older kids ought to be able to do it.

a mother hikes through a boulder field with golden larch trees on the Wenkchemna Pass trail

We haven’t hiked to Wenkchemna Pass with our kids (7 and 9 years old) yet, but we recently hiked to Lake O’Brien, which has very similar stats.

Don’t miss these other best Banff day-hikes with kids.

Where to Stop for Lunch or a Break

There are several choices for a place to stop for lunch on this Moraine Lake hike:

  • the bench at the Larch Valley & Eiffel Lake trail junction is quite scenic in larch season
  • grab a rock to sit on and enjoy the elevated views of Eiffel Lake
  • But the best spot is along the continental divide at the top of the pass. The 360-degree views from up here are simply breathtaking.
the view from the top of Wenkchemna Pass includes views of Eiffel Lake and Mount Temple

Wenkchemna Pass Hiking Safety

There are not many hiking hazards along the Eiffel Lake trail, but you’ll need to do some minor scrambling to get to the top of Wenkchemna Pass. The final stretch includes walking over large and unstable rocks, which will challenge your balance.

larch trees glow on the Wenkchemna Pass trail in the fall

As with most areas of Banff National Park, you need to prepare yourself in case of an encounter with any of the park’s large animals. This means carrying bear spray (in a holster, not in your bag), hiking in a group and makings lots of noise.

We also recommend you read the following Parks Canada wildlife publications:

Your chances of encountering a dangerous wild animal in Banff are very low, but you want to be prepared just in case.

We recommend you consult the Wenkchemna Pass trail report (found under the Moraine Lake Area) for current trail conditions, wildlife warnings and possible closures before you head out.

a meadow of golden larch trees in front of Deltaform Mountain - one of the Ten Peaks around Moraine Lake

Wenkchemna Pass Trail Logistics

  • On-leash dogs are allowed.
  • Mountain biking is not allowed anywhere on the trail network to get to Wenkchemna Pass.
  • There are toilets in the Moraine Lake parking lot.
  • Plan to pack plenty of water and snacks for this hike. Fill your hydration packs before you leave.
  • There is no cell service in the Moraine Lake area, so please don’t count on it for your safety.
a forest of larch trees provides beautiful fall colors on the Wenkchemna Pass hike

What to Bring for Hiking Wenkchemna Pass Trail

We recommend you consult our list of Banff hiking essentials with the gear and clothing we recommend for your outing. In particular, here are a few items we recommend bringing:

  • Bear spray is a must. Cannisters are available to buy or rent at many locations in Canmore and Banff. Carry your bear spray in an easily accessible location (not in your bag).

  • Water – this is a long hike with multiple uphill sections. 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 long, hard hike in Banff.

  • Dress in layers. The weather can be quite variable hiking in the Banff mountains, no matter the season. For hiking in Banff, we typically wear convertible hiking pantsT-shirts, a fleece top and rain jackets. Bring a daybag as you can expect to put on and take off layers all day. For fall hiking, a toque, mitts, and jacket may be necessary.

  • We don’t often use trekking poles, but they can help with balance and to take pressure off knees on the descent.
a prepared hiker enjoys a difficult Banff hike to Wenkchemna Pass

Wenkchemna Pass Footwear Recommendation

Although you can get by with hiking shoes to Eiffel Lake, if you want to make it all the way to the top of Wenkchemna Pass, we recommend hiking boots due to the uneven footing and loose rocks near the top.

The Wenkchemna Pass hike is an excellent extension to the Eiffel Lake trail. You’ll love the views of the Valley of the Ten Peaks and a chance to stand atop the continental divide!

Other Banff Hikes near Moraine Lake