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Trip Report: Fish Lakes, Banff National Park

TRIP REPORT: FISH LAKES,
BANFF NATIONAL PARK

By Juliette Recompsat

Some trips are about the destination, others are about the journey. The backcountry trips that stick with us most are the ones that captivate us every step of the way. A hike connecting North Molar Pass, Fish Lakes and Molar Pass (also known as South Molar) is one such unforgettable adventure. Expansive alpine meadows, impressive rock headwalls and encircling peaks will have you spinning round and round in slow-motion 360’s as you soak up the infinite views.


Molar Pass, view towards Mosquito Creek. Photo by Page Two Travel/Shannon Martin.

SUGGESTED ITINERARY

Day 1

  • A comfortable stroll through subalpine forest to Mo5 Mosquito Creek Campground (6.6 km).

Day 2

  • Hike over North Molar Pass and descend to upper Fish Lake and the Mo18 lakeside campground (8.2 km).
  • Shed your pack and explore the meadows and larches around Lower Fish Lake (0.9 km between the lakes).

Day 3

  • Retrace your steps up from Fish Lakes, but before reaching North Molar Pass, branch away to the south and scramble up and over the saddle ridge and across tarn-dappled meadows to join the Molar Pass trail back to Mosquito Creek Campground and the Icefields Parkway (15.5 km).

View of Upper Fish Lakes. Photo by Meghan J. Ward.

Love This/

  • This loop route can be completed in 2.5 days – an achievable weekend escape.
  • North Molar Pass is the third highest pass accessible by trail in Banff National Park. The approach is steep, but the rare treat of such sustained hiking above treeline makes every foot of elevation gain count.
  • Visit in summer for the vivid blanket of wildflowers along Mosquito Creek and at North Molar Pass. In autumn, golden larches dot the shoreline at Fish Lakes.
  • Fish Lakes are just that – a habitat of cutthroat trout where licensed anglers can cast a line (Note: fishing is catch-and-release only in the mountain parks; also only allowed at the upper lake).

Making the climb up towards North Molar Pass. Photo by Page Two Travel/Shannon Martin.

Consider This/

  • Like many of the serene backcountry campgrounds in Banff National Park, Mosquito Creek and Fish Lakes have only 5 sites each. Book early or consider a mid-week trip to guarantee a spot.
  • The traverse between North Molar and Molar Passes is a cross-country route that is most enjoyable for hikers with route-finding experience and a level of comfort with alpine scrambles.
  • As long as there are no fire bans in place, campfires are permitted in designated fireplaces at Mosquito Creek Campground. S’mores, anyone?

Get there at the right time and you’ll be treated to fields of wildflowers. Photo by Meghan J. Ward.

Variations/

  • North Molar Pass and Molar Pass are both inviting day trips from the Icefields Parkway. You would be hard-pressed to choose one over the other, so put them both on your list!
  • If you’re lucky enough to have a few more days of backcountry playtime, extend this trip into an unforgettable 5-day excursion following the Pipestone Highline trail to Devon Lakes and on to Isabella Lake and Helen Lake.
  • A longer route from North Molar Pass to Molar Pass takes you down the Pipestone Valley and up Molar Creek on largely unmaintained trail. Be ready for an adventure and some route-finding should you venture down there!
  • A more advanced scramble option is available for those looking to channel their inner mountain goat. From North Molar Pass, ascend directly up the southwest ridge past the orange pinnacles of “Molar Castle” to the rocky summit known as the “Hound’s Tooth”.

Resources//

Info and reservations through Parks Canada

Canadian Rockies Trail Guide, Brian Patton and Bart Robinson

A NOTE FROM CROWFOOT MEDIA: You, the reader, are responsible for your own safety and gathering the information you require to tackle these hikes and trips. Please adventure safely and use these suggestions as just that: suggestions. 


Raised in the Rockies, Juliette Recompsat travelled to every continent before her roots drew her back to the mountains. Home is where the peaks are!

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