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Banff National Park of Canada

Backcountry Trip Planner

Trip Descriptions

Healy Pass, Banff National Park Healy Pass
© Parks Canada

Described here are a just a few of the many backcountry trips available in Banff National Pak. It is always possible to add more days to your trip in any given area. The number of nights given is a recommended minimum.

Two Day Trips
Three Day Trips
Four Day Trips
Five Day Trips Plus
Backcountry Visitor's Guide

Two Day Trips

Lake Minnewanka

8 km one way elevation gain: nil
A popular early or late season hike or bike along the lakeshore. The trail departs from the trailhead at the Lake Minnewanka day use area and returns by the same route. During the summer, Lake Minnewanka is a popular destination for motorboats. Stay an extra night and explore Aylmer Pass or Aylmer Lookout.

Please note: From late July / early August (date depending on start of berry season) until October 31, the Aylmer Pass trail will be closed from the Lake Minnewanka trail to the Park boundary. Learn more.....

Check trail report for current conditions.

Glacier Lake
8.9 km one way; elevation gain: 210 m
A popular early season hike that departs from a trailhead north of Saskatchewan Crossing on the Icefields Parkway and brings travellers to a campsite at one of the largest backcountry lakes in Banff National Park.
Twin Lakes
8.7 km one way; elevation gain: 605 m
Twin Lakes can be reached by two trails. The first departs from the Vista Lake viewpoint on Highway 93 and continues over Arnica summit. The second begins at Altrude Creek just off the Trans Canada Highway and follows a less strenuous, and less scenic, route.
Elk Lake Summit
11.5 km one way; elevation gain: 610 m
Departing from the Mt. Norquay ski area, the first few km of the trail climbs through dense forest. The campsite is located in the open subalpine meadow of Elk Lake Pass, about 2km before Elk Lake.
Fish Lakes
14.8 km one way; elevation gain: 760 m
This trail begins at the Mosquito Creek trailhead (off the Icefields Parkway) and climbs over North Molar Pass through some of the most extensive alpine meadows in Banff National Park. Camp only in the campground. Fishing and fires are not permitted.

Three Day Trips

All distances are approximate round trips, and elevation gains identified are based on the direction of travel as described. Be sure to consider the day trips you are planning for additional distances and elevation changes.

Egypt Lake

12.4 km one way; elevation gain: 655 m
A trip can be made from the Sunshine Village ski area parking lot, via Healy Creek, to the Egypt Lake campground or trail shelter and back, passing over Healy Pass. Stay two nights if possible to further explore the wonders of the area.

Bryant Creek area

45 km total distance; elevation gain: 455 m
Beginning at the Mt. Shark trailhead in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, this trail brings hikers to two campgrounds, and a trail shelter. Day trips can then be made to Wonder, Allenby or Assiniboine Passes. Be prepared for noise from helicopters.

Note: From late July / early August  - October 31, "restricted access" will be in effect for the Allenby Pass area.

Learn more.........

Elk Lake Summit-Cascade River Valley
36 km; elevation gain: 610 m
The Upper Bankhead picnic area on Lake Minnewanka Road serves as the trailhead for this trip, which begins with a hike up the old Cascade fire road. At Stony Creek the trail heads up over Elk Lake Summit, with a side trip to Elk Lake. The trail exists at the Mt. Norquay ski area. This trip may be completed from either direction.
Palliser Pass
54 km; elevation gain: 400 m
Departing from the Mt. Shark trailhead in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, this trip follows the upper reaches of the Spray River, through subalpine meadows to the campground. Enjoy Palliser Pass as a day hike, and return via the same route to Mt. Shark.
Mystic Pass
37 km; elevation gain: 580 m
From the trailhead at the Mt. Norquay ski area, the first part of the trail follows the rushing waters of Forty Mile Creek. On the second day, pass by Mystic Lake and ascend toward the open alpine country of Mystic Pass (where snow may linger late into the summer). After joining the Johnston Creek trail, enjoy a relatively easy hike out to Johnston Canyon on the Bow Valley Parkway, via the Ink Pots.
Skoki Loop
34 km; elevation gain:1,136 m
Beginning at the Fish Creek trailhead (next to the Lake Louise ski area) this trip starts with a 4 km hike up the Skiing Louise limited access maintenance road. Climb over aptly named Boulder Pass and pass by Ptarmigan Lake before descending to Baker Lake. The second day involves travelling around Fossil mountain and past the National Historic site of Skoki Lodge to Merlin Meadows. After climbing Deception Pass, re-join the access trail at Ptarmigan Lake.

Four Day Trips

Assiniboine Loop
Mount Assiniboine Mount Assiniboine
© Parks Canada

55 km; elevation gain: 545 m
The trail begins and ends at the Mt. Shark trailhead in Kananaskis Country, Alberta. Travel through three contiguous protected areas and behold the beauty of the sixth highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies (Mt. Assiniboine).

Note: From late July / early August  - October 31, "restricted access" will be in effect for the Allenby Pass area. Learn more.........

Sunshine – Assiniboine – Bryant Creek

55.7 km; elevation gain: 660 m
This trip is best suited to parties with two vehicles. Mt. Assiniboine can also be reached from the Sunshine Village ski area via the rambling alpine meadows of Citadel Pass. Either walk up the Sunshine Village limited access ski area maintenance road or ride the privately run shuttle up the 6.5 km to the base village. The trip exits via Bryant Creek at the Mt. Shark trailhead in Kananaskis Country, Alberta.

Note: From late July / early August  - October 31, "restricted access" will be in effect for the Allenby Pass area. Learn more.........

Sunshine / Vista Lake
40 km; elevation gain: 1390 m
This trail covers a small section of the ‘Great Divide Trail' which parallels the peaks of the continental divide. You will see glaciated peaks, numerous lakes and alpine meadows. From the crest of Healy Pass expect spectacular views of Mt. Assiniboine to the south and Mt. Hector to the north. The trail starts amongst subalpine fir and spruce forests and winds through immense open alpine meadows carpeted with wildflowers in the summer months.

Five Days Plus

Sawback Trail

74 km; elevation gain: 734 m
This trip takes you over three spectacular mountain passes. The trail traverses a good portion of Banff National Park, linking the town of Banff with the hamlet of Lake Louise. Trailheads are located at Mt. Norquay ski area and the Fish Creek trailhead. Portions of this area are frequented by commercially guided horse trips.

Mystic Pass – Flint's Park - Badger Pass
76.4 km; elevation gain: 2175 m
Allow about seven days for this journey which begins and ends at Johnston Canyon. Enjoy the subalpine meadows en route to Flint's Park and climb over remote Mystic and Badger Passes. Badger Pass can be blocked with a snow cornice well into the summer months. This area is frequented by commercially guided horse trips.