Elk Lake Backpacking Trail

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This reflects the estimated time the majority of users will take on this trail. If you are slower, add time to the top-end figure. If you are fast, then you may complete this route faster than this time range.
2 days
This reflects the return distance of this route as measured by the GPS file.
26.2 km
This reflects the total elevation gained throughout this route as measured by the GPS file. This includes all ascents and descents, and is higher than what is quoted in most route guides, which simply measure the distance between the starting-point and high-point of the route.
677 m
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Directions to Trailhead
Elk Lake Backpacking Trail

The Elk Lake Trail begins at a popular trailhead for Cascade Mountain Scramble and the Cascade Amphitheatre Hike. It might seem like a busy trail at the beginning but once you reach the Elk Lake Junction, the day hikers will disappear, and you will find the peace of the forest soon after.

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Route Description for Elk Lake Backpacking Trail

Elk Lake is most often reached from the Mount Norquay trailhead; however, there is an option to make a horseshoe loop by hiking over a small pass and descending to the other side of Cascade Mountain to the Cascade River and Cascade Fire Road Trail. This is an option to extend your hike and add a touch more adventure. Our route guide will take you on an out-and-back.

From the Mount Norquay parking lot, make your way towards the ski lodge and walk past it on the main path. You will pass the first chairlift called the Cascade Chair before reaching the Mystic Chair. From here, follow signs to the right for Cascade Amphitheatre and Elk Lake. You will descend a steep hill to Forty Mile Creek. Cross the large bridge and take in the views from the flowing creek. The trail veers to the right after the bridge and switchbacks around again as it begins to climb. You will reach a junction where you take the trail to the right for Elk Lake. This is where you will escape the day hikers and most likely have the trail to yourself.

After the junction, you will cross three small streams. Be careful in the spring as these can be flowing swiftly and require some technical skill. After 10.1 km, take the junction to your left to Elk Lake and Elk Lake Campground.

Sample Itinerary:

  • Day 1
    Mount Norquay Trailhead to Elk Lake
    Distance: 13.1 km
    Elevation gain: 677 m
    Campground: Elk Lake Ek13
  • Day 2
    Elk Lake to Mount Norquay Trailhead
    Distance: 13.1 km
    Elevation gain: 0 m
    Campground: None

Getting to the Elk Lake Backpacking Trail Trailhead

From the Town of Banff take Lynx Street towards the Trans-Canada Highway. Cross the train tracks and the highway as the road becomes Mount Norquay Road. Make your way up the steep switchbacks watching for wildlife. You may see bears or bighorn sheep here! Drive up the road until you reach the Mount Norquay parking lot.

Route Information

  • When to do


  • Backcountry Campsites

    Elk Lake Ek13

  • Pets allowed

    Yes - On Leash

  • Family friendly

    Older Children only

  • Route Signage


  • Crowd Levels


  • Route Type

    Out and back

Elk Lake Backpacking Trail Elevation Graph

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Elk Lake Backpacking Trail Reviews

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