In more popular and accessible areas of Banff’s backcountry, you will find maintained hiking trails and designated campsites with outhouses, tent pads, food storage cables, picnic tables and metal fire rings where fires are allowed. More remote areas of the park provide a greater opportunity for solitude, although trails may not be regularly maintained and hikers must be self-reliant. Route finding and navigation skills are required and hikers should be prepared to safely ford streams. Pre-trip planning and preparedness is essential for travel in the backcountry.
Where to go
To see a map of Banff’s backcountry trails and campground locations, use the brochure Backcountry Trails in Banff National Park to help you plan the best trip for you and your group.
Two day trips
Lake Minnewanka Shoreline
8 km, 9 km or 11 km one way
Campsites: Aylmer Pass Junction (Lm8), Aylmer Canyon (Lm9), Mt. Inglismaldie (Lm11)
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. Stay an extra night and explore Aylmer Pass or Aylmer Lookout. During the summer, Lake Minnewanka is a popular destination for motorboats. If paddling to these campgrounds, be aware of strong unexpected winds which can make travel difficult or dangerous.
8.9 km one way
Campsite: Glacier Lake (Gl9)
Saskatchewan Crossing. A popular early season hike that departs from a trailhead north of Saskatchewan Crossing on the Icefields Parkway (93N) which brings hikers to a campsite at one of the largest backcountry lakes in Banff National Park.
Three day trips
12.4 km one way
Campsite: Egypt Lake (E13) or Egypt Lake trail shelter
Hike from the Sunshine Village ski area parking lot via Healy Pass to the Egypt Lake Campground or trail shelter. Stay two nights if possible to explore the wonders of the area.
Campsites: Night 1 – Baker Lake (Sk11); Night 2 – Merlin Meadows (Sk18)
Beginning at the Fish Creek trailhead (near the Lake Louise ski area) this trip starts with a 4 km hike up the Temple access road (no vehicle access). 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 Skoki Lodge National Historic Site to Merlin Meadows. After climbing Deception Pass, re-join the access trail at Ptarmigan Lake.
Four day or longer trips
Campsites: Night 1 – Mosquito Creek (Mo5); Night 2 – Fish Lakes (Mo18); Night 3 – Molar Creek (Mo16)
This trail begins at the Mosquito Creek trailhead (along the Icefields Parkway) and takes you over two mountain passes with spectacular views of some of the most extensive alpine meadows in Banff National Park. Hiked in either direction, this loop offers a truly wilderness experience passing crystalline lakes and dominating views of Molar Mountain. Route finding might be required.
Sunshine – Assiniboine – Bryant Creek
53 to 56 km
Campsites: Night 1 - Howard Douglas Lake (Su8); Night 2 - Lake Magog Campground, Mt. Assiniboine Provincial Park, where separate BC Provincial Park campground fees will be collected on-site; Night 3 - Marvel Lake (Br13) or McBride’s Camp (Br14)
This is an iconic trip, which follows a section of the Great Divide Trail. The trailhead at Sunshine Village ski area can be reached by taking the privately run shuttle bus or by riding the ski area gondola. Be careful to stay on the trail as you hike through the ecologically-sensitive alpine area to Howard Douglas Lake campground. On day two, prepare for a long journey to Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park via Citadel Pass. Hike over Assiniboine Pass or Wonder Pass to arrive back in Banff National Park and camp at either Marvel Lake or McBride’s Camp on night three. The trip exits via Bryant Creek at the Mt. Shark trailhead in Spray Valley Provincial Park.
Sunshine - Egypt Lake - Vista Lake
Campsites: Night 1 – Egypt Lake (E13); Night 2 – Ball Pass Junction (Re21); Night 3 - Twin Lakes (Tw7)
A series of beautiful, high country trails link the Sunshine Village ski area (access by taking the privately run shuttle bus or by riding the ski area gondola) to the Vista Lake viewpoint on Highway 93S. Explore the alpine lakes of Simpson Pass, Healy Pass and the Egypt Lake area en route. Hike to the Ball Pass Junction campground, along a majestic section of the Great Divide Trail, which travels over Whistling Pass. This area boasts incredible views of the Ball Range and be sure to listen for the whistle of the local hoary marmots! Make your way over Gibbon Pass to a quiet campground at Twin Lakes. The remainder of the trail meanders past a series of scenic lakes before the final descent to the highway.
Campsites: Night 1 - Mystic Junction (Fm19); Night 2 - Larry’s Camp (Jo9); Night 3 - Johnston Creek (Jo18) or Luellen Lake (Jo19); Night 4 - Badger Pass Junction (Jo29); Night 5 - Wildflower Creek (Ba15); Night 6 - Baker Lake (Sk11)
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 (near the Lake Louise ski area). Portions of this area are frequented by commercially guided horse trips. Various routes are possible, a suggested 7-day itinerary is provided above.
Where to stay
To see a map of Banff’s campground locations, use the brochure Backcountry Trails in Banff National Park to help you plan the best trip for you and your group.
Rustic trail shelters located at Egypt Lake and Bryant Creek can be booked online (reservation.pc.gc.ca) or by calling: 1-877-RESERVE (1-877-737-3783). They can be booked in the same way as campsites with an added surcharge per person per night. Dogs are not permitted in backcountry shelters.
Random camping is permitted in designated areas only. In remote areas of the park, be prepared for fewer maintained trails and to be more self-reliant. Pre-trip planning and preparedness essential for travel in the backcountry. Make sure you camp 5 km or more from either the trailhead or any designated campground. Pitch your tent at least 50 m from the trail and at least 70 m away from the nearest water source. Cook and store food well away from your tent. Remember to bring a stove and fuel as campﬁres are not permitted in random camping areas.
A backcountry permit is required for random camping and can be only obtained in person at Parks Canada visitor centres in Banff and Lake Louise, or by calling 403-762-1556 in Banff or 403-522-1264 in Lake Louise.
Alpine huts maintained by the Alpine Club of Canada are available to club members and non-club members. For information and reservations, visit the Alpine Club of Canada.
Beyond park boundaries
Continuing beyond park boundaries? Find out more about backcountry opportunities in areas connected to Banff National Park.