Paradise Valley and Sentinel Pass: In the Presence of Giants

Located in Banff National Park, this hike explored Paradise Valley, including Lake Annette and the Giant Steps, before scrambling over Sentinel Pass to Moraine Lake. We hiked 22 kms (14 miles) with 1160 meters (3805 feet) elevation gain. The difficult scramble over Sentinel Pass is the scariest we’ve ever done but thankfully we made it through unharmed.

This is not part of the official trail but is the back of the hill that is behind Lake Annette. It provides some beautiful views of the shoulder of Mount Temple and Mount Lefroy far in the distance.

Hayley looking down on Lake Annette. The huge mountain to her left is Sheol Mountain and the shorter one beyond is Saddle Peak. 

Looking down on Lake Annette with Sheol Mountain and Saddle Peak in the background. 

Looking down at Paradise Valley from the hill behind Lake Annette. The shoulder of Mount Temple is to the left in the foreground with Hungabee Mountain, Ringrose Peak, Glacier Peak, Mount Lefroy and Mount Aberdeen far in the distance (from left to right).

Hayley perched above Lake Annette with Sheol Mountain and Saddle Peak behind the lake. 

This was the quick way off the hill behind Lake Annette and was Hayley’s first time coming down a shale slope (she’s the little dot in the red circle). Due to the severe angle, she got through safely by scooting down most of the way on her butt. From the top this didn’t look as bad as it turned out to be but it did shave about an hour off our hiking time instead of returning back the way we came.

Continuing down Paradise Valley to the Giant Steps. This side of the trail along the foot of Mount Temple gave far clearer views of the valley than taking the alternate route through the forest. Far in the distance is Hungabee Mountain with Ringrose Peak to the right of it. 

Lake Annette backed by the green hill we climbed. While it doesn’t look severe from here, on it you felt like you could tumble into the lake with a poorly placed step.

On the approach to Sentinel Pass. At this point it became evident that we would be blazing our own trail.

The Giant Steps are huge rock slabs Paradise Creek hurtles over on its way down the valley. We lost and gained significant elevation in order to reach them.

At this elevation the snow was nowhere near melted on the approach to Sentinel Pass. 

Neither Hayley nor I are hugely experienced scramblers. This section took us both quite by surprise as we expected it to be more of a difficult hike than a scramble. There was no discernible trail and in certain steep sections all of the rocks were unstable, including sizable boulders. Not something we should have been attempting at 6 pm, already tired from a long, hot day.

From here we had no clue which way we were supposed to head up. As we got closer we just picked what appeared to be less crazy steep which thankfully turned out to be the correct way. We also avoided hiking below each other in case the rocks began to slide.

The reflection of Mount Temple in the Minnestimma Lakes was incredibly clear at this time of night. 

Some of the massive boulders you need to pick your way through to reach the top. 

Hayley’s feet were not happy with her. After 12 hours of hiking and scrambling we were both pretty beat. 

The view from Sentinel Pass down on to the Valley of the Ten Peaks was well worth the effort. Most astonishing was having hugely popular Larch Valley all to ourselves. This hike was a warning to me to be better prepared and far more knowledgeable about what I’m getting myself and others into.

For additional information about this hike, contact the Lake Louise Visitor Centre.

Photo Credit: Hayley Mead and Jolene Rempel

This post is part of the Banff National Park series.

About Jolene

I’m an avid gardener whose mission is to bring more beauty into the world. I believe that with the right information anyone can create their own beautiful, small garden paradise. 

When I’m not gardening you can find me exploring the Canadian Rockies. Learn more…

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