Shadow Lake (Banff)
Shadow Lake (Banff)

Shadow Lake backpacking trail

Banff National Park
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Shadow Lake (Banff)

Shadow Lake backpacking trail

Distance: 17.1mi
Elevation: 1,444ft
Time: 2 days

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The backpacking route to Shadow Lake follows Redearth creek and can be modified in many ways. There is a straightforward trail that leads hikers to the Shadow Lake campground. Another campground exists at the 3.7mi marker along Lost Horse Creek if families wish to break up the route. This is a great out-and-back overnight that is rewarded by jaw-dropping scenery.

Shadow Lake Backpack Map

Getting there

Take the Trans-Canada Highway from Banff, travelling westbound. Stay on the highway for 12.2mi until you see a sign for Red Earth Creek. You will need to merge into the left lane and pull into a highway crossing lane. Cross safely and continue across both lanes into the parking lot. This is the entrance for Red Earth Creek trail to Shadow Lake.

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When to do

June to September

Backcountry Campsites

Shadow Lake Re16

Pets allowed

Yes - On Leash

Family friendly


Route Signage


Crowd Levels


Route Type

Out and back

Shadow Lake
Elevation Graph

Shadow Lake Trail Description

Shadow Lake is known for its luxury historic backcountry lodge, similar to Skoki Lodge. The lodge is built along the shores of the crystal blue Shadow Lake that sees the grand shadow of Mount Ball as it rises high above. This area is connected to trails through Egypt Lake, Twin and Arnica Lakes, and even across the Great Divide into Kootenay National Park. It is a popular area for those on longer backpacking routes to cross through, though it is great for an overnight up Redearth Creek.

Day 1: Trailhead to Shadow Lake

Starting from the Redearth Creek parking lot, enter the gate and be sure to latch it behind you. Begin up the slope to the right. The first 6.5mi of this trail follows an old fire road to the Pharaoh Creek Junction. Many people choose to ride bikes along this section due to its multi-use designation. Bikes are welcome on this trail until the signed junction, where you can lock your bike up to the bike racks and proceed to your camp.

The fire road follows the creek and gains elevation slowly. At roughly 4.3mi, there is a bridge to a small campground called Lost Horse Creek. This is a great modified option for families. When you reach the junction at 6.5mi, stay to the right. The trail to the left takes you to Redearth Warden Cabin and a bridge to the Pharaoh Creek trail. The path is a little bit steep after the junction. It levels out quickly and remains level for the last section. Your campground is not right on the lake like the lodge is. The campground will appear unexpectedly with no lake to be seen. You’ll have to continue past the campground to enjoy the lake, but it is just a short walk.

Shadow Lake

The Shadow Lake campground rests in the forest just south of Shadow Lake itself. It is a well-maintained campground equipped with regular amenities by Parks Canada. You’ll find bear lockers, a cook area, picnic seating, pit toilets, and structured tent pads. Five tent pads are spread out through the forest, so you will be able to find some solitude.

Campground details

  • Tent pads: 5
  • It costs $11.96 to reserve in advance
  • Site Fee: $10.02 per person/night
  • Fire pit: No
  • Dogs allowed: Yes
  • Campfire allowed: No
  • Maximum stay: 3 nights
  • Maximum group size: 10
  • Allowed per tent pad: 6 people

Day 2: Shadow Lake to Trailhead

After a relaxing night in the wilderness, and hopefully some time spent walking around the shores of Shadow Lake and enjoying some scenery, it is time to return to the trailhead. Be sure to pack up and leave camp by the 11am checkout time to make room for other hikers. Follow the same trail you hiked in on and if you left your bike locked up, you will sure be thanking yourself now! If you didn’t bike in, try not to cringe too hard when cyclists whizz past you.

Sample Itinerary:

  • Day 1
    Trailhead Shadow Lake
    Distance: 8.8mi
    Elevation gain: 1444ft
    Campground: Shadow Lake
  • Day 2
    Shadow Lake to Trailhead
    Distance: 8.8mi
    Elevation gain: 1444ft loss

Backpacking Trail Highlights

Shadow Lake

Shadow Lake holds a lot of history in Banff National Park, so making the trip for an overnight is extra special. The lodge itself was built in 1930 by Canadian Pacific Rail workers. It was constructed with the goal to be able to connect other backcountry cabins by horseback. CPR sold off properties, and the lodge was taken over by the Brewster family and their local travel company. They began hosting guests in 1991. The lodge is now operated by the Alpine Club of Canada.

Be sure to walk up to the lakeshore and explore the cabins. Look for the original cabin which now serves as a guest lounge. Shadow Lake is a lot more than just scenery.

Frequently Asked Questions about Shadow Lake Backpacking Trail

How do I get to Shadow Lake?

Use our route guide for directions on how to get to Shadow Lake. The best way to get there is via the Redearth Creek trail near Banff, AB. There are other backpacking routes that lead to Shadow Lake but require lots of fitness and experience.

Insider Hints

  • Ride your bike to the Pharaoh Creek junction to save some time and energy on the way out

  • Book in advance with Parks Canada reservations

  • Walk up to Shadow Lake and take the lakeshore trail for a scenic stroll around the magical lake

  • Take in some history by exploring the lodge area by the lake



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