Sunset Pass to Pinto Lake Backpacking Trail

Difficulty
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Hard
Duration
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.
2-3 days
Distance
This reflects the return distance of this route as measured by the GPS file.
29.5 km
Elevation
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.
1,659 m
User Ratings
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Directions to Trailhead

The backpacking route over Sunset Pass to Pinto Lake is for the adventurous backpacker. If you are tired of overcrowded campsites and the headache of booking, this is a great next step. Backpackers in the White Goat Wilderness receive no amenities and are required to follow leave-no-trace policies on their own. This is a beautiful remote portion of Alberta’s backcountry.

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Route Description for Sunset Pass to Pinto Lake Backpacking Trail

Start in the parking lot at the trail kiosk and begin by making your way through the forest. The beginning of the trail is rough and rocky with a steep ascent. You will gain 545 m in the first 2.9 km, so be ready for some burn.

You will begin to hear the sounds of rushing water as you gain elevation. Take the side-trail on the 9th switchback to find a surprise viewpoint of Norman Creek Falls. This is a great place to catch your breath and admire the complex canyon carved by the falls.

Continue climbing the strenuous switchbacks until you reach a junction for Sunset Lookout. Follow signs to Sunset Pass, climbing more switchbacks and turning right at the arrow-shaped blaze. Hike along the route for a few hundred metres to an alpine meadow. Descend to Norman Creek and cross the creek to the campground. This is a great place to stay if you would like to hike less distance per day.

The trail will lead away from the campground and cross Norman Creek again under the direction of some cairns. The meadow can be rough and overgrown until it re-enters the trees on the other side. Pass through blooming wildflowers in the subalpine forest if you arrive in the right season. You will soon crest the height of the pass and arrive at the National Park Boundary.

In 0.5km, there is an excellent view of the headwaters of the Cline River and Pinto Lake. Descent into White Goat Wilderness Area to Pinto Lake. Beware, the lake is not as close as it seems. When you arrive at the lake, take the faint trail to the shore’s right to find some established campgrounds. Because this is not an equipped campground, be sure to check in with other campers and let them know where you will be storing your food and cooking.

Enjoy the solitude of this out-of-park wilderness before returning the way you came the next day.

Getting to the Sunset Pass to Pinto Lake Backpacking Trail Trailhead

From Saskatchewan River Crossing on the Icefields Parkway, set your odometer and drive 16.5 km to a pullout on your right. The Rampart Creek Wilderness Hostel and Campground are 4.5 km south of here. You will park in a small pullout on the right (east) side of the highway.

Route Information

  • When to do

    June-September

  • Backcountry Campsites

    Norman Lake No5

  • Pets allowed

    Yes - On Leash

  • Family friendly

    Older Children only

  • Route Signage

    Poor

  • Crowd Levels

    Low

  • Route Type

    Out and back

Sunset Pass to Pinto Lake Backpacking Trail Elevation Graph

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Sunset Pass to Pinto Lake Backpacking Trail Reviews

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