The Sawback Traverse takes a beautiful route through the Banff Sawback range. What makes this trip special is the chance to get out into the wilderness of the park and it is not uncommon to see very few other hikers. The trip begins at Johnson Canyon and travels over several high alpine passes and three of the four nights are spent camping at beautiful alpine lakes. We’ll have great views on a day hike to Badger Pass and as we ascend and descend Pulsatilla Pass. You get to see a little bit of everything on this trip as we traverse through several different alpine zones.
This trip is rated as challenging because we will be carrying food for the full five days. Each person will be carrying a share of the group equipment and food, with pack weights up to 45 lbs, depending on how lightweight you can pack. We will ease into the trip by having a short second day while our packs are still heavy with food and we’ll take a break from the backpacks on day three with a day trip to Badger Pass. However, you will need to be fit enough to carry a backpack for multiple days in hilly terrain.
We will be staying in lightweight backpacking tents and in established Banff National Park backcountry campgrounds. Each campsite is equipped with outhouses and food storage facilities. You are responsible for supplying your own tent, sleeping bag and sleeping pad, however, we will arrange for rentals on your behalf if you require, extra charge will apply.
Meals will be lightweight backpacking dried food, although we will have some fresh food earlier in the trip. Each day will consist of three nutritious and tasty meals and some snacks to keep us fueled throughout the day.
Meet in Canmore the evening before the trip start date to sign waivers, discuss the logistics and to ensure everybody has appropriate equipment for the trip.
On day one, we drive to the trailhead at Johnson Canyon. Hike through the gorgeous canyon, past the Inkpots and Larry’s camp to our campsite at the beautiful Luellen Lake. The distance is 18 km, elevation at 650 meters up, 100 meters down.
On day two, we leave Luellen Lake, retrace our steps for just under a kilometer and continue up the valley through expansive subalpine views to our campsite at Badger Pass campground. We’ll get into camp early today and have time to relax and take in the views. The distance is 7 km, elevation of 150 meters up.
The next day, we’ll go for a day hike to Badger Pass with light day packs. The distance is 10 km return, 400 meters elevation gain and loss.
On day four, we’ve now got our hiking legs and with lighter packs, we will travel longer distances. From the Badger Pass campground, we will head up to Pulsatilla Pass, for truly breathtaking views in all directions. From there, we will drop down past Pulsatilla Lake and continue down to Wildflower Creek for lunch. After lunch, we will head north to Baker Lake, travelling through alpine meadows along the way. The distance is 15 km with an elevation of 650 meters up, 600 meters down.
Day five from Baker Lake, we will head up and over Boulder Pass and past several alpine lakes. Our trip will conclude at the Fish Creek parking area near Lake Louise. The distance is 14 km, elevation at 100 meters up, 700 meters down.