A Smoky Hike to the Mount Bourgeau Summit in Banff

The Mount Bourgeau summit is one of the biggest, baddest hikes in Banff. This mountain peak stands at a height of 2,931m (9,620ft) and takes around 9 hours to complete. Fear not though, the Mount Bourgeau hike also features beautiful golden Larch trees and multiple lakes at a lower elevation for hikers looking to avoid the big summit.

The day I completed the Mount Bourgeau hike, I wasn’t even planning on hiking. The entire Banff area was coated in a pretty gnarly layer of wildlife smoke which was, undoubtedly, not great for the lungs. My plan to preserve my lungs and avoid hiking that day was quickly squashed though by a good friend who somehow convinced me that hiking a 26km trail over 1,700m of gain in a whole-lotta smoke was a good idea.

One of my downfalls is that I can never turn down an opportunity for adventure. So, obviously, I packed up my hiking bag and we set off to conquer the Mount Bourgeau summit hike.

Without further ado, let’s go hiking!

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Mount Bourgeau summit hike


How to get to the Mount Bourgeau Trailhead

The Mount Bourgeau trailhead is located on the Trans Canada Highway about 15 minutes from the town of Banff. The trailhead is actually located on the left side of the Highway though, so if you’re driving from the direction of Banff keep an eye out for the turnoff.

The parking lot has a decent amount of spots; you’ll be able to find parking if you arrive before noon, however its recommended you arrive early because there are multiple trailheads leading from this lot.

There are no shuttles or buses that will take you to the trailhead, so if you plan on hiking you’ll need to drive or rent a car to access the Mount Bourgeau trailhead.

Mount Bourgeau summit hike in Banff
Mount Bourgeau Trail in Banff

Mount Bourgeau summit hike

About the Mount Bourgeau Trail

  • Distance: 22.4km (potentially 26km)
  • Elevation gain: 1,751m
  • Rated: hard
  • Type of trail: out & back
  • Estimated time: 9.5 hours

The Mount Bourgeau hike is very diverse and offers something for everyone. The trail starts out in a wooded area which then turns into a forested basin containing the famous Bourgeau Lake. After this point hikers can continue on to Harvey Pass where they’ll find a few more unnamed lakes and a magnificent view overlooking Healy Pass and Sunshine Meadows. After this, the trail becomes a bit rocky and there’s a decently steep ascent to the peak.

Since the Mount Bourgeau summit is so high, hikers will find incredible and unimpeded 360 degree views from the peak. However, the entire hike offers beautiful views and you definitely don’t need to summit Mount Bourgeau to find them. In fact, it’s recommended that beginner and/or intermediate hikers only complete the Bourgeau Lake/Harvey Pass sections.

*Alltrails reports the Mount Bourgeau hike is 22km in length, however I’ve heard many reports of the trail actually being 26km from people who have tracked it themselves.

Tips for the Mount Bourgeau Hike
  • If you’re chasing Banff’s golden Larch trees, hike to Bourgeau Lake mid September.
  • If you plan to summit, hike late August. The snow will have melted and trail conditions will be best. Of course use judgement and pay attention to recent weather patterns before you start this hike.
  • At the summit you’ll experience high winds and cold weather. I always recommend wearing a waterproof jacket (men’s version) and a puffer jacket (men’s version) for both warmth and wind protection on big Rocky Mountain summits. You may also want to pack a toque and gloves.
  • Wear sturdy hiking boots. My favourite are the Scarpa Kailash (men’s version).
  • Bring lots of food! This is a massive day-hike – you’ll need at least one full meal and snacks.
  • Bring lots of water or bring a filtration system. I always bring 2L of water in my Hydrapak as well as water tablets and cheese cloth to filter more water on long hikes.
Mount Bourgeau summit hike in Banff
Mount Bourgeau Summit; Mt Temple (highest peak on the right)
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Mount Bourgeau summit hike

Summiting Mount Bourgeau

The Mount Bourgeau hike starts just beyond the metal gate at the parking lot – make sure you close the gate behind you, this is to ensure wildlife stays off the highway.

Trailhead to Bourgeau Lake

From the Mount Bourgeau trailhead to Bourgeau Lake, you can expect a 7.4km/750m (one-way) trek. The beginning of the trail is through a wooded, switchback section complete with a floor full of pine needles.

Along the way you can also expect to find multiple creeks and waterfalls, the most impressive being the one pictured below. There is a well built bridge over the Wolverine Creek, however the other creeks are a little more technical to cross. I always recommend wearing waterproof hiking boots in the Rockies to ensure your feet stay dry during hikes like these – I never hit the trail without my Scarpa Kailash boots (men’s version).

Waterfall on the Mount Bourgeau hike in Banff
Waterfall along the Mount Bourgeau Trail in Banff

Right before you arrive at Bourgeau Lake you’ll notice the terrain levels out and you’ll enter an area full of golden Larch trees (in the fall). Shortly after you hit this flat area, you’ll find Bourgeau Lake.

Mount Bourgeau summit hike in Banff
Trekking toward Bourgeau Lake

Bourgeau Lake is the perfect place to end your hike if you’re a new hiker or if you’re not looking to have a massive day. If you do decided to continue, take a rest here and have lunch before continuing on.

Mount Bourgeau lake in Banff
Mount Bourgeau Lake in Banff
Bourgeau Lake to Harvey Pass

After Bourgeau Lake, you can expect more switchbacks up a beautiful mountain pass. Along the way you’ll cross a few unnamed lakes/ponds; aka alpine tarn.

Looking back at the pass
Harvey Pass trail in Banff
Unnamed lake on the alpine tarn
Mount Bourgeau summit hike in Banff
Unnamed lake on the Mount Bourgeau hike

After the final tarn, you’ll quickly arrive to Harvey Pass which overlooks Sunshine Village/Sunshine Meadows as well as Healy Pass; another great hike in Banff.

Sunshine Meadows in Banff
View overlooking Sunshine meadows
Mount Bourgeau summit hike in Banff
Harvey Pass to Mount Bourgeau Summit

The final “decision” hikers must make is if they want to complete the actual Bourgeau summit or not. By Harvey Pass I can assure you that your legs will be feeling it. This is a long day hike with lots of elevation.

The final ascent is about 2.7km in length, 400m in gain, and about 1 hour in time. Luckily, this summit route is actually much easier than other summit hikes in Banff. There’s no real “scramble” section or loose scree. The trail is relatively easy to follow and it isn’t one of those “holy shit I’m gonna die” steep hikes.

Mount Bourgeau summit hike in Banff
Final trek to the Mount Bourgeau summit
Mount Bourgeau summit hike in Banff
Mount Borgeau summit

At the top you’ll find a massive summit, which you can hike around and explore. My friend Greg (Greg from Banff Buzz) and I actually spent ample time and many more kilometres exploring the different views and ledges from the top.

Mount Bourgeau lake in Banff
Overlooking Bourgeau Lake from the summit
Highlights From the Mount Bourgeau Summit

Like I previously mentioned (and as you can clearly see from my photos) the day I summited Mount Bourgeau was smokyyyy. This was super unfortunate because it took away a lot of the wicked summit views, however Mount Bourgeau’s views still didn’t disappoint.

Here are the top 3 things to look for from the Mount Bourgeau summit:

  • The overhead view of Bourgeau Lake
  • The distant view of Mt. Assiniboine (The Canadian version of the Matterhorn)
  • Mount Temple – the ULTIMATE hike in Banff
Mount Bourgeau lake & summit in Banff
Mount Bourgeau Lake from above
Return Hike

I won’t lie, the return hike is absolutely gruelling. After trekking 12km+ over 1700m of gain to the summit, the last thing you’ll want to do is hike another 12km+ back to the trailhead. But, this is what you sign up for when you decide to summit Mount Bourgeau.

So, buckle up because the return hike will murder your feet. Not even being dramatic, by the end of the day I could barely walk my feet hurt so bad. I was essentially running back to the trailhead hahaha.

All things considered this is an incredible hike, and if you have a good level of fitness I would 100% recommend (although maybe don’t hike this trail in the midst of thick wildfire smoke).

Happy hiking!


Looking for More Banff Adventures?

Banff is an adventurer’s & view seeker’s paradise. If you’re planning a trip to this gorgeous Canadian Park, you can start with this step-by-step guide designed to help you plan the perfect Banff itinerary.

Alternatively, check out this page with all my Banff resources.

Banff Hiking Resources

On this page you can find all my Banff trail guides. A few signature hikes in Banff are these easy trails, Tunnel Mountain, Sulphur Mountain, Lake Louise, and Johnston Canyon. If you’re only in Banff for a few days, start with those!

A few of my personal favourite hikes in Banff are Mount Bourgeau, Sentinel Pass, Tower of Babel, the Banff Skoki Loop, and the Sulphur Mountain Traverse Route.

More Banff Resources you Might Find Interesting:

Want to continue your Canadian Rockies expedition outside of Banff? Check out my trail guides & travel resources for British Columbia and Kananaskis Country as well as Jasper, Waterton, Yoho, and Kootenay National Parks 🙂



Mount Bourgeau hike Banff

Where to Stay in Banff

More: Plan Your Trip to Banff: A Step by Step Guide

The “best” place to stay in Banff depends on your price range and what you’re looking for. There are a few ways to go about finding accommodations in Banff according to each price range:

Booking.com
Tips for Saving Money on Accommodations 

I won’t lie, Banff can be a pretty expensive place to travel (but worth every penny). So, to help you offset some of the costs of your trip, here are tips for saving on accommodations in Banff:

  • Camp in town. If you don’t have camping equipment you can rent tents, cooking sets, sleeping bags, and just about everything else from Bactrax.
  • Stay at one of Banff’s hostels: the Banff International HostelSamesun BanffHI Banff Alpine Centre, or the HI Lake Louise.
  • Utilize Booking.com to compare hotel prices and amenities to ensure the hotel you book suits your needs. Some of the benefits of using Booking.com are their price match guarantee, free cancellation on almost all bookings, and clear pricing with no hidden fees.
  • Check out hotels in Canmore. Canmore often offers cheaper rates and is located only 20 minutes from Banff.

More: Plan Your Trip to Banff: A Step by Step Guide


Mount Bourgeau summit hike

Recommended Hiking Gear

The following items are some of my favourites – I never hit the trail without them!

PD Capture Clip

The Capture Clip by Peak Design is a sturdy, safe, and super convenient way to carry your camera while hiking or backpacking.

Find it on Amazon (CAD).

Find it on Peak Design (US).

Hydration Reservoir

A hydration reservoir is SO important. It holds 2L+ of water and keeps you hydrated on-trail. I use the 2L Hydrapak; it never leaks and has a detachable tube.

Day-pack

Things to look for in a good quality day-pack: sternum strap, hip belt (with pockets), and a breathable mesh system for your back. I use the Osprey Sirrus 24L pack (men’s version) and I LOVE it!


What To Wear Hiking in the Rockies

For a detailed guide on what to wear hiking in the Canadian Rockies, check out this post.

Choosing what to wear hiking can be confusing, but the secret to properly dressing for a hike is layering. You can mix and match the tops and bottoms you already own to make up your base layers, however in addition to those clothes you’ll need a few extra things:

Waterproof Jacket

A waterproof jacket is the most important layer for hiking – it keeps you warm and protects you from wind and rain. I use the Marmot Eco Precip Jacket (men’s version) which is totally a bang-for-your-buck. If rain is in the forecast, don’t forget to pack waterproof pants (men’s version) too.

Hiking Boots

A good pair of hiking boots are Gore-tex, provide ankle support, and are durable. I use the Scarpa Kailash boot (men’s version) and they’ve never let me down. You’ll also want a good quality pair of socks. I use Smartwool – they’re great quality and last an entire season.

Puffer Jacket

A puffer jacket acts as your warm layer. I use the hoodless Columbia Women’s Heavenly Jacket (men’s version). Alternatively you can use a fleece zip – I have this one (men’s version) from Columbia. Both of these options are perfect layers to keep you warm on windy, cold, or high elevation hikes.

Rocky Mountain hiking exposes you to different natural elements and conditions – it’s imperative that you’re prepared for whatever nature throws at you. Trust me, I’ve learned the hard way!

More: Day-hiking Gear Guide

More: What to Wear Hiking in the Canadian Rockies

MOUNT BOURGEAU HIKE SUMMIT


Mount Bourgeau summit hike

Happy adventuring!

Taylor ♡


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About The Author


Hey! I’m Taylor – the voice behind The Holistic Backpacker.

After moving to Banff National Park in 2020 I became an outdoor adventure enthusiast and vowed to never stop exploring.

I’m now focused on travelling the world and seeing everything our beautiful home has to offer.

I created The Holistic Backpacker so I could share my adventures and help connect people like you with the same amazing experiences.

I am also an advocate for the environment and do as much as I can to take care of our planet.

Get to know me and my story more here 🙂

I can’t wait to share my adventures with you!

Keep Up With My Adventures!

Sign up for my newsletter and stay up-to-date with my latest adventures, gear guides, and eco-resources.

Taylor ♡