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Banff Backpacking

The Front Ranges and the foothills in Banff National Park are a great introduction to what the park has to offer. These alone will satisfy you as to why people come from all over the world to travel through this spectacular park.Then, turn your attention to the Main Range, along the continental divide, where you'll find spectacular glaciers amongst the regions highest mountains. With approximately 1,600 km of trail in the park there is endless variety for everyone. In the most popular backcountry areas campsites are designated, no random camping is allowed. Within these areas, the trails are better maintained and the campsites have more amenities such as bear poles, tables, privies, and fire rings (where fires are permitted). There are 54 of these camping areas in the park. In less traveled or more remote areas you'll find that the trails are more rugged and random camping is permitted (certain restrictions apply)..

 
 

Be aware that you'll need good route finding skills if you venture into these remote areas.

Anyone entering the backcountry should be very experience in the outdoors with a good knowledge of wilderness first aid and the resources to practice it. In addition, you must leave a detailed itinerary with someone you know or sign out a safety registration with the parks service before you depart. The best months for backcountry is in mid-May to mid-October. Remember that the summer is usually warm and comfortable but weather conditions in these mountains can change in an instant. Snow has been recorded even in July.

Anyone traveling in the backcountry is required to obtain a wilderness pass. Permits can be purchased at any of the park's visitor centers. The fee for the pass goes to the maintenance of trails, bridges and campsites in the backcountry, so consider it an investment in the park. This will ensuring access to the backcountry for years to come.


 

Huts

You must pack in your own gear with the exception of that provided. Many of the access routes require expert skills in either climbiing, scrambling, mountaineering and ski mountaineering. In the winter many appoaches are through avalanche areas. Some huts are only accessibel in the summer or rarely used due to difficult acess in the winter.Consult with the various authorities regarding use, fees, gear and skills requirements before doing any planning.

Bow Hut - Sleeps 30, Wood stove, sleeping pads, Colman lanterns, utensils, Rocky Mountains, north east of St. Nicholas Creek, Wapta Ice Field, Banff National Park - Alpine Club of Canada

Balfour Hut - Sleeps 18, sleeping pads, Colman stoves, lanterns and some utensils, Rocky Moutains, near the Vulture Glaciers toe - Alpine Club of Canada

Peter and Catherine Whyte (PEYTO) Hut - Sleeps 18, sleeping pads, Colman stoves, lanterns and some utensils, Rocky Moutains, below Mount Thompson Wapta Icefields, Banff National Park - Alpine Club of Canada

Scott Duncan Hut - Sleeps 12, sleeping pads, Colman stoves, lanterns and some utensils, Rocky Mountains, Below Mount Daly, Banff National Park - Alpine Club of Canada

Neil Colgan Hut - Valley of Ten Peaks, Banff National Park - almost exclusivly summer use - Sleeps 18, sleeping pads, Colman stoves, lanterns and some utensils, Rocky Mountains, Banff National Park - Alpine Club of Canada

Abbot Pass Hut - Not recommended in the winter Mt. Victoria, Yoho and Banff National Park - Sleeps 24, sleeping pads, propane light, wood stove Rocky Mountains, Yoho and Banff National Park - Alpine Club of Canada

Castle Mountain Hut - Not used in winter Castle Mountain, Banff National Park - Sleeps 6, propane light (user supplied green Colman canister), some utenisls, Rocky Mountains, Banff National Park - Alpine Club of Canada


 

Hiking

Banff National Park has over 1,600 kilometers of trails. Even a day hike in a wilderness environment like Banff National Park can put you at risk without the proper knowledge of safety in the backcountry. Consult with the park staff about route difficulties and conditions and if you don't have the skills make a point of hiring a good guide.

 

Boulder Pass Trail
A fairly difficult trail starts at Lake Louise ski area and goes to an open alpine pass. There are spectacular views at the top of Boulder Pass. From this pass you can travel 1.3 km to Redoubt Lake or 3 km to Baker Lake. The length of trail is 8.8 km

Bow River Loop Trail
This is an easy trail follows both banks of the Bow River for 7.1 km. Both sides of the river offer excellent views of Bow Falls. Signs introduce you to the Bow River ecosystem and some of the birds and animals that live in it. You can access this trail easily from certain campgrounds hostels and also from the Banff village centre.

The Fenland Trail
Description: This is an easy 2 km loop trail that goes through marsh and forest. Beaver, birds, and other wildlife might be seen. The trail starts at the Forty Mile picnic area on the west side of Mount Norquay Drive.

The Tunnel Mountain Hoodoos Trail
This is a short trail with a 300 metre elevation gain that passes a number of viewpoints. You'll see hoodoos pillars of glacial tile. There are also great views of the Bow Valley and across to Mount Rundle. The trail starts in the parking lot on the south side of Tunnel Mountain Road, east of Tunnel Mountain Campground.

The Bankhead Trail
This is an easy 1.1 km trail starts at Lake Minnewanka loop road, 7.4 km from Banff townsite. The trail takes you through the ruins of The Bankhead coal mine that was in business 80 years ago.

The Cave and Basin Trail
An easy 0.8 km trail that takes you past the opening in the roof of the Cave and to a spring flowing out of the hillside. Signs explain the geology and human history of the area. On the marsh there is a floating boardwalk with bird blind for photographers and birdwatchers.


Johnston Canyon Trail
This trail takes you inside a canyon Along the first 1.1 km to the Lower Falls are signs describing the effects of water in creating the canyon. Another 1.6 km takes you to the Upper Falls with more waterfalls and signs describing life in the canyon.

Moraine Lake Rockpile
This trail has on of the best views of Moraine Lake and the Valley of the Ten Peaks. The trail runs to the top of the rockpile and is only 0.8 km in length.

Mistaya Canyon Trail
This is a short trail that takes you to Maligne or Marble Canyon. It is 300 metre in length down an old road where you can see into a deep, narrow canyon from the bridge spanning the Mistaya River. You must stay well back from the unfenced edge of the canyon, especially if the rock is wet.

Parker Ridge Trail
This trail takes you to an alpine ridge. You may see snow in the ridge until after June. At the summit after a climb of 240 metres you'll have mountain vistas and breathtaking views of the Saskatchewan Glacier. The trail is 2.4 km in length.


 

Horse Riding, Packing & Guest Ranches


 

Lama/Dog Packing

You keep asking and we keep looking but so far we haven't found any lama packing outfits working in the park. If you know of any let us know. Here are a few that have trips in other areas of the Rockies.

 

 

Resources

Banff

Out-There's Banff Main Page


Banff's Neighbours

 

Other Links of Interest

 

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