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View above Bourgeau Lake

Bourgeau Lake Hike and Harvey Pass

For the magnificent views, alpine flowers and sapphire waters, Bourgeau Lake and Harvey Pass make for a day trip from Calgary that’s well worth the effort. The 7.5 km Bourgeau Lake hike is a popular summer’s outing up to an exquisite mountain lake. Summer through fall is typically the best time but check with Banff National Park for current conditions.

Elevation gain to Bourgeau Lake is 670 m, in a gradual ascent through forest, with occasional glimpses of the surrounding mountains and Wolverine Creek. Canada Jays (gray jay or whiskey jacks), Clark’s Nutcrackers, and juncos are some of the birds you might see along the way.

View from Harvey Pass looking back towards Bourgeau Lake
View from Harvey Pass looking back towards Bourgeau Lake – Photo credit: Chuck Newyar

Bourgeau Lake hike lunch stop

At Bourgeau Lake, a good place to stop for lunch, you’ll see friendly golden-mantled ground squirrels; as well as chipmunks, which are much more shy. If you’re lucky, you might spot a pika (rock rabbit) scurrying among the boulder fields.

In his book, Banff- Assiniboine: A Beautiful World, author/photographer Don Beers sums up this hike as ‘steep trail, lakes, high pass.’ If you go on to Harvey Pass, you get good views back to Bourgeau Lake. The route takes you through a large verdant amphitheatre dominated by a giant outlier of Mt. Brett,’ writes Beers.

Enjoying Harvey Lake at Harvey Pass on the Bourgeau Lake hike
Harvey Lake at Harvey Pass – Photo credit: Chuck Newyar

Harvey Pass is another couple kilometres beyond the lake, with 430 m in elevation gain. This is an effective workout if you’re looking to burn some calories.

What makes it all worth it, are the views: of mountains, lakes, streams and alpine meadows. On the day of our hike, we saw half a dozen hoary marmots, including young of the year, lounging in the sun. Their clear whistles sound intermittently in the distance.

Hoary marmot near Harvey Pass
Hoary marmot near Harvey Pass – Photo credit: Chuck Newyar

Once at the pass, on a clear day you can look south across Harvey Lake to spot Mt. Assiniboine, ‘Matterhorn of the Rockies,’ the highest peak in Banff National Park at 3,618 m. You are also looking towards Sunshine Meadows, a spectacular hiking destination and a highlight in Banff National Park.

Sunshine is accessible by the gondola/ Standish chairlift in the summer and early fall (June 28 – September 8 in 2019). This is a good choice for people looking for a shorter, much easier way to view alpine meadows and lakes. It’s a good option for older people, and for families with small children. Reserve your seat on the shuttle here(Nearby Sunshine Village is an excellent all-round family winter destination for skiing and snowboarding.)

Unnamed lake near Harvey Pass
Unnamed lake near Harvey Pass – Photo credit: Chuck Newyar

On this summer’s day, we continue above Harvey Pass, following the gentle rocky trail toward the summit of Mt. Bourgeau along the mountain’s west ridge – but with the clouds darkening and thunder nearby, turn around a couple hundred metres from the goal. No matter! There’s always a next time to return to this enchanting place.

Mt. Bourgeau and Bourgeau Lake were named by James Hector for Eugene Bourgeau, botanist with the Palliser Expedition (1857 – 1860).

On teh Bourgeau Lake hike enjoy a view above Harvey Lake
View above Harvey Lake

Useful information for the Bourgeau Lake hike and Harvey Pass

Trailhead: The Bourgeau Lake parking area is located on the west side of the Trans-Canada Highway, 11.8 km west of Banff.

For hiking: Good things to bring along include a hiking pole, water, bear spray and the 10 essentials for hiking.

Park entry: For visitors, there’s an entry fee to Banff National Park (daily): $9.80 adult, $8.30 senior 65-plus, and $4.90, youth ages six – 16.

Further reading and information on hikes in Banff National Park

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest board.

The hike to Bourgeau Lake in Banff National Park

This post was  written by Jacqueline Louie, a Calgary-based freelance writer.

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Beautiful, beautiful views. Can you swim in the lake? Being a tropical girl, I can’t imagine going to a body of water and not swimming. 😀

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