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Canadian Rockies

John B

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I just returned from a two week backpacking trip in the Canadian Rockies (the parks west of Calgary between Banff and Jasper).  This was my eighth trip to the area since 1995.  If you have never been, you need to go!  The canadian parks system has made it much easier to reserve front country campsites, which can be done thru their website at: www.parkscanada.gc.ca.  I have found that backpacking trips (for me) are much more fun if doing them as a series of "mini trips" of 3-4 days followed by a quick break for laundry and shower.  Guess I'm getting older and still like some creature comforts.  Thus, myself and friends planned (3) goals on this 2 week valley:  1. Skoki Valley, an area just east of Lake Louise, accessed from the fish creek trailhead.  The best maps for the canadian rockies are from GemTrek publishing--they can be found on Amazon.   After flying in to Calgary on Sunday July 17, we got a rental car, and arrived that afternoon at the Lake Louise frontcountry campground, and slept among the tourists.  Monday the 18th found us at the fish creek trailhead by 8:30am, and the start of 4 days and 3 nights in Skoki Valley.  Back country permits were required for all 3 areas we visited on this trip--they can be obtained by calling the park 3 months to the day ahead of the date you are targeting.  We had a fairly easy hike in to our first night camp at Baker Lake (about 1800 of vertical and 8.5 miles) .  We had a bit of rain and muddy trails the first two days, but things improved on the last two days.  Did a great circle route, staying at Baker Lake the first night, Red Deer Lakes on second night, and Merlin Meadows on third day.  We took a side trip on day 3 to the Skoki lodge (back country lodge where we were able to obtain a light lunch including some carrot cake to die for!).  Also took a side jaunt to Merlin lake which was well worth the trip.

Came out on the 21st, and got showers and laundry at Lake Louise--we much prefer this area to the town of Banff for back country needs--the Samson mall there has: small grocery, 2 restaurants, gift shop, outdoor shop (where fuel and bear spray can be obtained), along with a parks center and bookstore.  There is also a liquor store for those who imbibe.  Stayed at Lake Louise campground the night of 21st, then on to our second goal on the morning of 22nd: Mt Assiniboine.  As the hike in is 14 miles (one way) we chose to take a helicopter in and out as a time saver.  While I am retired, and time isn't an issue, my friends are not.  There is a backcountry lodge at Lake Magog for those who prefer luxury.  We chose the campground at the far side of the lake for the next two nights.  I will mention that all of the backcountry campsites we stayed at have bear hangs for your food, which is appreciated.  We saw rain the afternoon and evening we arrived, and also the following day.  Not deterred, we hiked up to a local viewpoint of the area's major attraction (Mt Assiniboine).  However, all we got was views of the clouds, and the lower half of Assiniboine.  Sunday morning dawned finally with good weather--blue skies and hardly a cloud.  Our copter flight out was at noon, so we were up and on the trail at 6:30am--headed back up to a local ridge called Nub peak where beautiful views Assiniboine can be had in such weather--got some amazing pictures, scurried back down to our camp, broke camp and hiked back to the other side of the lake (where the lodge and helipad are located)--arrived 15 minutes before our flight out!

That night (24th) found us back down near Banff at two jacks front country campground--got showers and laundry done again.  The 25th we were off to our third goal: Goodsir pass and views of Mt Goodsir.  This entailed a 9 mile hike in to helmut creek backcountry campground, where we stayed the next two nights.  Got in a quick hike up to goodsir pass the day we hiked in, which made it a 15 mile day-good fund?!  26th found us hiking back up to goodsir pass, and then to a local/unnamed peak at 8100ft elevations--the weather was perfect for us, as was the view of the Goodsirs (they have a north and south tower of the peaks, which are considered separate peaks).  Both towers are over 11,000 feet--the Canadian rockies have 54 11ers, coincidentally the same number as there are fourteeners in Colorado, my home state!  After hanging out for several hours enjoying the 360 views of nothing but incredible canadian peaks, we were back at our campsite for the second night.  Hiked out on the 27th, again got a front country campsite near Banff, and showers (I'm sure the folks on our return flight to Denver appreciated that).  Got our flight back to Denver on the 28th, arriving safe and sound after a perfectly executed trip!

Here are some pictures.  Complete pictures at: https://picasaweb.google.com/102393818060897668441/6312898319211612785?authuser=0&feat=directlink













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Great pictures, my wife and I drove to Alaska 10 years ago and passed through the Canadian Rockies. The Icefields Parkway between Banff and Jasper was an amazing drive and the little bit of dayhiking we did made me want to get deep into the woods like you did. One day, I'll make it back there :)

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Aaron Zagrodnick

That's some amazing scenery, thanks for sharing John!

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