We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.
We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Help with planning backpacking trip in Banff, Yoho and Jaspe

Jerusalem, Israel
9 posts
Save Topic
Help with planning backpacking trip in Banff, Yoho and Jaspe

Hello,

I am planning a backpacking trip in Banff, Yoho and Jasper national parks and am arriving to Banff on June 24th, and want to move out of the hostel into my first trail on the 26th. My general time frame for the entire Rockies area in about 3 weeks, and I am very flexible.

Due to the fact that I have a limited budget, I can only take hikes that are accessible via public transport or on foot (no car). Also, this will be my first major backpacking hiking trip so I could really use any information you could provide or advance preparations that are necessary. I feel that I am in good enough shape to tackle the intermediate trails, and perhaps some of the more "sane" difficult ones.

Also, I would highly appreciate you assistance with the following:

1. What trails would you recommend in each of these parks that are accessible via public transport or walking?

2. could you help in plotting a general recommended route to include must see places in the parks, recommended trails and sleeping arrangements (interested in campsites or hostels)?

3. To the best of your knowledge, what do I need to reserve in advance with regard to brewster drives, wilderness passes and campsites? I am finding it difficult to per-plan since I want to have flexibility to change my plans during my stay

4. I am very interested in going on the sawback trail. What preparations need to be made for it? Where can I find information on what service are provided by the campgrounds on the trail in order to figure out what supplies to brings?

Many thanks!

Calgary, Canada
Destination Expert
for Calgary
Level Contributor
25,213 posts
82 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: Help with planning backpacking trip in Banff, Yoho and Jaspe

Welcome to the TripAdvisor forums, Omer!

I wish I could give you more specific help, but all I can do at the moment is suggest you read this recent thread:

tripadvisor.ca/ShowTopic-g154911-i221-k65003…

Hopefully Krp329 or banff, who are much more knowledgeable about backpacking in the mountain parks than I am, can give you some additional help. But I think you'll find that link sheds some valuable light on the situation.

Vancouver, Canada
Level Contributor
24,707 posts
59 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: Help with planning backpacking trip in Banff, Yoho and Jaspe

Again, krp will be your best resource for this one, but I will say that you are too early for good hiking in June. There will still be lots of snow and I would expect that all of the high elevations trails will still be closed. August/September is the best time for hiking in the Rockies.

Also, this is a really, really bad plan for your first ever backpacking trip! This is difficult and remote terrain and NOT at all the right place to try to learn how to backpack. Perhaps you can find a group to go with so that you can learn from them.

Kootenays, British...
Level Contributor
405 posts
66 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: Help with planning backpacking trip in Banff, Yoho and Jaspe

I don't generally hike in the Canadian National Parks so I can't be too specific. I also want to be positive about your plans. However, I live fairly close to the area you're discussing in the 'rocky mountains' at about 3000 feet. We had snow yesterday and it is still on the ground. Temperature is 1'C. By the end of June, if the weather behaves normally, you will still have snow above about 5-6000 feet. That doesn't mean you can't hike and even camp there - but you've got to be ready for the conditions.

Check out Mountain Equipment Co-op's trip partner section and you might be able to link up with a group: mec.ca/AST/…Hiking.jsp .

Edited: 1:29 pm, May 23, 2013
Jasper, Canada
Destination Expert
for Jasper, Jasper National Park, Canadian Rockies
Level Contributor
17,935 posts
107 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: Help with planning backpacking trip in Banff, Yoho and Jaspe

Hi Omer, and welcome to the TA forums! I'll be happy to respond to your questions later, but I have just returned home after a short holiday away (waving to V67, whom I visited in Vancouver!) and don't have the time at the moment to write a lot of info. In the meantime, I'll direct you at the following recent similar topic thread:

tripadvisor.ca/…49555771

You could also try putting "hiking" or "backpacking" in the search box for the forum, to find other discussions about both day hikes and multi-day backpacking treks.

Jerusalem, Israel
9 posts
Save Reply
5. Re: Help with planning backpacking trip in Banff, Yoho and Jaspe

hey everyone, thanks a lot for your advice so far! I read through that other thread you linked me to and it helped me :)

However, I still have a lot of questions as my trip plan is quite different than the guys in the other thread... The main major difference is that I am planning on staying in the Rockies area for about 3 weeks (this is actually just a part of a 2.5 trip I am doing in Canada. Coming from Toronto via Calgary and moving on to BC and YT). I just know that I am starting off in Banff but from there I can be very flexible and change my plans as needed. Because of this I really need to know what sort of general plan would be good for this time frame, that would also allow for a learning curve to compensate for my inexperience. Also, on the weather issue - I read in the weather article that was referenced in the other thread that late June is actually quite recommended, so I wanted to hear your different opinions on this. My main concern is that if I leave my options open for too long, I will have a hard time getting wilderness passes and campsites - so, please advise on the necessity of pre-booking !

Can you recommend on a list of different trail options taking into account the learning curve, public transport access and weather conditions?

Also, a few more question that occurred to me:

1. Can you give more info on the sp6 campsite and what trails are around it? Didn't find it online.

2. should I count on drinking water being available in backcountry campsites or is boiling water found on the trail my best option?

3. I currently have a sleeping bag with minus 2 C comfort temperature, and minus 7 extreme. Do you think an upgrade is necessary?

4. Do you think that for me to go on the sawback trail is a major bad idea in late June \ early July

thanks again everyone!

Jasper, Canada
Destination Expert
for Jasper, Jasper National Park, Canadian Rockies
Level Contributor
17,935 posts
107 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: Help with planning backpacking trip in Banff, Yoho and Jaspe

Hi again! To answer your last batch of questions:

1. Can you give more info about the sp6 campsite? I suspect people who may be able to give you information may know it by another name and not its park designator.

2. To be safe, you should either boil your water (3 minutes, I believe it is, but you can check that online - note that the boiling temperature of water is lower at higher elevations) or else filter it. There is a parasite called "giardia" ( http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/giardia/ ) that may be in surface water (among others). It is colloquially called "beaver fever" although it is not caused by beavers, but by contamination by humans, and dogs. Water may look pristine, but you have no way knowing if it is free of bacteria and parasites, or whether there is a dead animal laying in it upstream. :-P

3. I have been using a synthetic sleeping bag rated -7C for years, and it does me fine for 3-season camping in the Canadian Rockies (spring, summer, fall). A sleeping mat is also required, so that you are not directly on the cold ground. Here are some ways to extend the warmth rating of your sleeping bag - I always pack a set of lightweight synthetic long underwear, in case I need emergency layers to keep warm, and I use them as pajamas, as well as putting on a pair of dry socks (not the ones you have hiked in that day - clothing that has sweat in it will be a bit damp and make you cold). If your sleeping bag doesn't have a hood (and even if it does), wear a knit toque to keep your head warm, since you will lose quite a lot of heat through your head. Finally, although it seems contrary, open the vents at either end of your tent a little bit for ventilation through the night, otherwise the vapour in your breath will condense on the cold tent walls overnight and drip on you, making you damp (and cold).

4. I am not familiar with the Sawback Trail so I looked it up in my copy of Patton and Robinson's "Canadian Rockies Trail Guide". Two things jump out at me... firstly, since this is a 73 km trek with a suggested time of four to six days and you have indicated you are inexperienced at wilderness backpacking, I would recommend that you do at least one shorter trip first. Secondly, the Sawback Trail crosses several passes, the highest at 2345 metres, or 7700 feet. Some of these passes will still be snowbound in late June, especially on the north sides or approaches to them. I would strongly suggest contacting the Banff National Park trail office (they have contact information for park staff on the BNP website www.pc.gc.ca/banff ) for further information. It will be impossible at this point to say how conditions will be then, since it depends on the weather, but they can give you an indication of how trail conditions are on average at that time of year, and whether your trip is advisable or not. They can also advise as to how quickly the campsites book up and suggest how far ahead you should reserve.

Now, going back to your first post and the questions in it ...

1. Here in Jasper National Park, Maligne Tours operates a shuttle to Maligne Lake, so it is possible to access the Skyline Trail with public transportation. The other end of the trail is near Maligne Canyon, about 11 km from town, and a shuttle or taxi pick up can be arranged.

However, the Skyline has one of the highest points served by maintained trail in all of the Canadian Rockies' national parks at a high pass called "The Notch", and hiking through this pass is usually not recommended until about mid-July, and even then it can be a bit "hairy" since it is accessed on the north side via a very steep slope .... losing your footing is not an option. (And better to be ascending that slope in snow, than descending.)

Unfortunately, there is not much for public transportation in Jasper National Park. Some of the taxi companies offer trail shuttle services. Some people hitch-hike. However, both wilderness backpacking and hitch-hiking are probably safer done with a companion. I suspect you will also find it tricky to get around in Yoho NP, since Field is a very small village with only about 300 people.

Regarding trails that are accessible from town - the towns are at lower elevations, so the trails that are nearby are also lower elevation trails. They may eventually lead to higher elevations, but you have to "work" more for the elevation gain than if you are starting at a trailhead that is already up high. However, as mentioned earlier, hiking some higher elevation areas can be iffy at that time of year.

Here in Jasper, the "Saturday Night Lake loop" is accessible right from town. This is a loop of approximately 15 miles/25 km that winds its way past several lakes on the Pyramid Bench (a glacial terrace) which is the backdrop to Jasper townsite. The highest elevation is a bit over 1600 metres, and the entire route is in forest. Even though it is almost literally on my doorstep, I have never hiked the entire loop - I often hike either end of it, going in a few kilometres, and do occasionally meet people obviously loaded up for an overnight trip, especially early in the season when other trails are not accessible, but most whom I know who do the entire loop do it either as a mountain bike outing, or a long run. Personally, if I am going to do a backpacking trip, I want to get up to higher elevations, to see subalpine meadows and walk on ridges and cross high passes ... so I do my backpacking trips from mid- July at the earliest through late September. (By the way, my last mid-July trip got snowed out and we opted to pack up and head out, which was a wise decision since ultimately over a foot of snow fell at the elevation we had been camped at, which was about 6800 ft or about 2100m. You do have to be prepared for basically any kind of weather!)

Actually, the one trail that occurs to me that might be optimal for you is the Berg Lake trail in Mt. Robson Provincial Park, just over the border in BC. It is an hour's drive from Jasper. I think you may be able to arrange to be dropped off by the Greyhound bus, but I am not sure how you would arrange pick-up... would suggest contacting the visitor centre there. …gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/mt_robson/

The reason I suggest this trail is that it starts at low elevation (about 3000 feet) and while it gains elevation steadily, Berg Lake is not that high. It is an incredibly scenic trail, and once in at Berg Lake, there are numerous options for day hikes. I would suggest at least four days for this hike; five or six would be even better.

Another trail that may be a good option for you is Mosquito Creek. The trailhead is 13 km north of Lake Louise (taxi?) on the Icefields Parkway, and there is also a wilderness hostel beside the road there. This could be a good first trip, to give you a bit of experience before doing a longer backcountry trip, and to iron out any equipment or clothing problems before you are out further from civilization. The easiest way to do this is to hike into the Mosquito Creek campground, which is an easy ~5 km hike from the road, and set up camp there, basically a "base camp", and then do day hikes from there. Two passes are available for day hikes - Molar Pass and North Molar Pass. So you would be able to hike to them, or as far as possible - both have extensive and beautiful subalpine meadows below the passes themselves, although be aware that in general, most subalpine meadows will be very wet at that time of year - and then, if it turns out the passes are snowbound and you can't get through them, it's no big deal, since you weren't planning on doing so anyway. (But both do link up to other trails.) Do be aware that the campsite at Mosquito Creek is, like many subalpine campsites, "infested" with porcupines, which love to chew on anything salty. Do not leave your hiking boots or trekking poles outside your tent overnight, or you may wake up in the morning and find they have been chewed on.

Further in regards to "critters", you are probably aware of this already but I mention it just to be sure - you should also familiarize yourself with "bear aware" hiking and camping practices.

2. Regarding frontcountry camping - without a vehicle, unless you stay at campsites near the townsites, you will have difficulty getting to and from the campgrounds, unless you are willing to hitch-hike. Also, in regards to sightseeing, the parks are very large areas, with the attractions spread out through-out them. The townsites are bases with services for visitors, but not the real attraction in themselves. Banff (town) does have attractions on the edge of town that are accessible with their ROAM public transit system. Here in Jasper, the analogy I often use to explain how things are situated is to visualize the natural and paid attractions as spokes radiating out from a hub ... the town is the hub, and the spokes are the various locations where the most popular attractions are (Miette Hot Springs, Maligne Lake, Columbia Icefields, Mt. Edith Cavell, Mt. Robson in BC etc.) ... each of the spokes is approximately a one-hour drive.

I hope this helps get you started with your planning! Please do come back with your further questions.

Jerusalem, Israel
9 posts
Save Reply
7. Re: Help with planning backpacking trip in Banff, Yoho and Jaspe

Krp thanks so much for all the info! I can't even begin to tell you how much it helps :)

I was looking at other trails around Banff (since I will be starting there) - do you think Mystic Pass is do-able for a first hike? (pending weather issues etc.) Is the Mt. Norquay trailhead really accessible via hike for Banff townsite like it looks on the map?

Jasper, Canada
Destination Expert
for Jasper, Jasper National Park, Canadian Rockies
Level Contributor
17,935 posts
107 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: Help with planning backpacking trip in Banff, Yoho and Jaspe

Since I am in Jasper and not Banff, I don't have a lot of first-hand knowledge of the trails there. I suspect that banff, one of the Banff DEs who is also a hiker, reads only the Banff and Banff Naitonal Park forums, so I will send her a PM and ask her to pop in on this thread.

Vancouver, Canada
Level Contributor
24,707 posts
59 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: Help with planning backpacking trip in Banff, Yoho and Jaspe

I'm really glad to read you can be flexible in your plans, because it really concerns me that you don't have any prior backpacking experience. I'm just thinking about my first few hikes and all the really dumb mistakes I made before I started to figure it out. I think we abandoned the first overnight hike we attempted because I had the food all wrong and we had way too much weight. Mistakes out there can cost you your life. No cell phone reception to get help.

I hope you plan to begin with some short trips (6- 15 km to a low elevation wilderness campground would be a really good start. I'm sorry, I don't know much about hiking in the Rockies specifically and can't recommend any trails) so that you can test your gear and your preparation before setting out on anything too strenuous.

Vancouver, Canada
Level Contributor
24,707 posts
59 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: Help with planning backpacking trip in Banff, Yoho and Jaspe

Perhaps you should turn things around and come to Vancouver and the coast first, and try to head into the Rockies later when the snow has melted and more of the trails are accessible. There's some really good "starter" trails around Vancouver that would allow you to hone your craft.