Paget Lookout & Paget Peak

Paget Peak is located just north of Wapta Lake in Yoho National Park. Standing at 8,400 feet (2,560 m) in elevation, the unassuming peak is somewhat dwarfed by its southerly neighbors, Cathedral Mountain (10,463’) and Mt. Victoria (11,365’). Despite its smaller stature, the rock-strewn peak offers a fun scramble with some really great views of the surrounding, snow-capped summits.

The trail for Paget Peak begins at the Sherbrooke Lake Trailhead, just off the westbound side Trans-Canada Highway. The trail is thickly wooded for the first mile and a half (2.4 km), until it opens onto a lightly-treed ridge. After getting a quick look at the sheer eastern face of Mt. Ogden towering above Sherbrooke Lake, the trail continues popping in and out of the foliage for the next half mile. Two miles (3.2 km) from the trailhead, the path suddenly opens up at the site of historic Paget Lookout.

The oldest surviving lookout in Canada’s mountain national parks, Paget Lookout was named for Reverend Dean Paget of Calgary – a founding member of the Alpine Club of Canada and first on record to summit the peak in 1904. The eponymous lookout was built in 1944 and was used for wildfire detection until the 1970s, when air patrol and satellite technologies eventually obsoleted the humble post.

Perched at an elevation of around 6,750 feet (2,060 m), the lookout offers sweeping views to the south of Wapta Lake, Narao Peak, the glaciated north face of Mt. Victoria, Mt. Huber and Wiwaxy Peaks. To the west, you can see the Trans-Canada Highway wind through the Kicking Horse Valley at the base of Cathedral Mountain and Mt. Stephen. A small bench made out of old snowboards provides the perfect spot to pause and take it all in.

While the trail to the Paget Lookout is moderate and well-defined, it becomes much more challenging from here to Paget Peak’s summit. The well-worn dirt path quickly gives way to a small boulder field and ultimately a steep scree slope. There’s nothing technical about the ascent, but it is over steep and loose terrain. To give some perspective on grade, it’s about two miles (3 km) and 1,400 feet (430 m) of vertical gain to the lookout. From the lookout to the summit, the trail gains 1,700 vertical feet (520 m) in just one mile (1.5 km).

The trail to the top is discernible in most places, though there are a few areas of rock scrambling where it helps to keep an eye out for the cairns – which seemed to be well-placed. After one last scramble up some rock, the trail eventually pops out atop a false summit. While it looks like you’ve arrived at the top, GPS shows that the actual summit is just a few hundred meters further north. The ridge to Paget’s true summit is easy to follow, though there is a short two-meter downclimb from the false summit. It’s a little edgy, and if you’re not a fan of exposure (like me), these few steps could seem a little unnerving.

Whether you choose to stop at the false summit or continue up a quarter-mile to sign the register, the views from the top are pretty outstanding. In addition to the soaring peaks of Mt. Victoria, Cathedral Mountain, Cathedral Crags, and Mt. Stephen, you get a bird’s-eye view of Mt. Ogden and Sherbrooke Lake. To the north, there’s a beautiful panorama of Mt. Niles, Mt. Balfour, and Mt. Bosworth. When we hiked the last week of June, a few large snow cornices added a bit of drama to the alpine landscape.

Whether you stop at the lookout or continue the scramble to the summit, this is a really awesome trail. Either spot guarantees you a spectacular view, and the lookout itself is a cool piece of history.

Total distance:  5.9 miles (9.5 km)
Elevation gain:  3,173 feet (970 m)
Scramble rating: Easy (Kane)

Alternative options

  • If you want some more time on the trail, you can add an optional out-and-back to Sherbrooke Lake. From the junction with the Paget Lookout Trail, an extension to the lake would add about 2.5 miles (4 km) onto the trip with very little vertical gain (less than 200 m). The summit + lake would be about 8.5 miles (13.5 km) total.
  • If you’re not interested in a steep scree scramble, you can simply hike the well-graded trail to Paget Lookout. This roundtrip hike clocks in at just over 4 miles (7 km) with about 1,400 feet (430 m) of vertical gain.
  • Want to skip the peak and just do the lookout and lake? That option would be 6.5 miles (10.5 km) with just under 2,000 feet (600 m) of elevation gain.

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