1006Elevation Gain (m)
Due to its proximity to Chateau Lake Louise, its relative ease and more than fair views, this is one of the most hiked scrambles in the area. Possibly because of these features, this seems to be a gathering place for amateur hikers from all over the world. A true delight. The name, of course, describes the views from this stout mountain. It was, and still is, used as a warm-up climb for mountaineers in the spring while waiting for snow to leave the higher, more “important” mountains. The panorama from the summit is surprisingly amazing for such a short, easy climb, providing proof that sometimes life’s small efforts yield great returns.

Don Brown hanging out on a ledge on Mount Fairview. Actually, this is an illusion as he is sitting on a wide, flat plateau.

The climb is straightforward, as the trail begins by rolling gradually up toward Saddleback Pass. Saddleback Pass is a col between Saddle Mountain and Fairview Mountain that gains 595 m in altitude within 3.7 km. The trail starts in a forest of lodgepole pine and spruce, and within 30–40 minutes emerges from the forest to a more severe grade of switchbacks. The openness of the switchbacks has the benefit of revealing superb views of both mountains. At the approach of the pass and its meadows, Mount Temple looms magnificently to the south (left) and Sheol Mountain directly ahead with a summit elevation of 2780 m.

At the apex of Saddleback Pass the trail splits in three directions, going left up Saddle Mountain, straight descending into Paradise Valley and right (northwest) resuming the way to Fairview’s summit. There is a sign here marking the correct route. Stop at this pass and enjoy the sights and the international tourists before climbing the remaining 411 m.

The trail cuts back into a small growth of trees, quickly giving way to a steep, rocky slope that begins to wind back and forth up the side of Fairview Mountain. This section is the most laborious part of the outing, as it climbs relentlessly on exposed switchbacks for the last stretch. There is no shame in stopping to catch one’s breath, as well as the spectacular scenery, while plodding up this slope of rubble. Too often we feel the urge to accomplish these scrambles in record time or to keep ahead of the group behind us. It is surprising to see how many people turn their wrist to look at their watch while climbing up such mountains. Although awareness of the time of day is necessary to avoid being caught in the dark, try hiking with your watch in your pack instead of on your wrist. It is not a race; go at your own pace.

Soon enough the summit is reached and the reason for the mountain’s name becomes clear. Mount Victoria is clearly visible 6.3 km to the southwest and Sheol Mountain 1.8 km directly south. Across the opposite side of Lake Louise are the peaks of Mounts St. Piran and Niblock. The prize on this hike, however, is the outstanding sight of Mount Temple. Avoid the temptation to descend the north face of Fairview Mountain summit, as it becomes steep with narrow ledges and many cliffs. Many day hikers have become trapped here over the years, and sadly one climber was killed in 1992 while going down this shortcut to Lake Louise.


Drive 5 km up Lake Louise Road from the Lake Louise townsite toward the Chateau. Turn left into the public parking lot just before the private access to the Chateau. The trailhead is signed as “Saddleback Pass” and is on the south shore of Lake Louise toward the boathouse.

Hike Map
Gerry Shea

Gerry Shea

Gerry Shea lives in Kamloops with his wife and children and he is also the author of The Aspiring Hiker’s Guide 2: Mountain Treks in British Columbia.

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