Backpacking trails in Canada
Is backpacking in Canada on your bucket list? This vast, beautiful country has so much to offer when it comes to trekking, with expansive areas of pristine countryside, untouched by human hands. In fact, Canada has a little bit of everything, from dense forests to snow-capped mountains, stunning coastline, and tranquil lakes. Backpackers in this part of the world can expect some pretty mind-blowing scenery!
Canada is a huge country, with many regions that offer great opportunities for backpacking. The Rocky Mountains stretch over British Columbia and Alberta, and are filled with jaw-dropping peaks, crystal lakes, imposing glaciers and wide meadows littered with alpine flowers. What’s more, it’s the perfect place for multi-day treks, with well-attended campsites and accessible trails.
If you’re looking for the best places to go backpacking in Canada, look no further! We’ve put together some of the best backpacking trails across the country, with plenty of tips to help you to make the most of your trip. Happy travelling!
Types Of Backpacking Trails In Canada
Arguably one of the best destinations in the world for hiking, there are countless different types of backpacking trails in Canada. If you’re looking for a short weekend break or a quick getaway, British Columbia offers some excellent possibilities for backpacking just a stone’s throw from Vancouver. You’ll find easy, accessible trails and beautiful landscapes.
Canada is also the ideal place for a family backpacking trip. There are many easy, low-elevation routes that kids and adults can enjoy, and younger hikers are sure to love swimming in some of the pristine alpine lakes of the Rockies.
However, for the more adventurous of spirit, Canada boasts some of the most challenging and exciting backpacking trails in the world, with the opportunity to head deep into the wilderness and really get away from it all. Whatever you’re looking for, Canada has a backpacking trail for you!
Easy Backpacking Trails In Canada
- Rae Lake Backpacking Trail: If time is short and you’re looking for a quick and easy overnight backpacking trail in Canada, why not try the Rae Lake Backpacking Trail? This easy route can be done in a day, but if you camp out overnight, you can enjoy a relaxing swim in the lake and enjoy the beautiful views of the larch forest in the morning. This peaceful trail is the perfect option if you’re looking for an easy backpacking trail in Kananaskis Country.
- Big Elbow Loop Backpacking Trail: This is an accessible, easy, circular route that covers some magnificent scenery in Kananaskis Country. The trail passes through lush forests and offers some fun opportunities for scrambling! What’s more, the campsites next to the Elbow River make for a wonderful pit stop in a truly gorgeous setting.
Family Backpacking Trails In Canada
- Elk Lakes and Petain Basin Backpacking Trail: If your family loves waterfalls, this two or three-day hike to one of the largest waterfalls in the Rockies is sure to delight! The Elk Lakes and Petain Basin backpacking trail offers an easy trek, accessible for the entire family, but still takes in some of the most impressive mountains in the Rockies. You’ll find plenty to enjoy in the Petain Basin, and this is a great way to get kids excited about backpacking!
- Elbow Lake Backpacking Trail: For beginner backpackers, you can’t do better than a hike around Elbow Lake. This two to three-day route is a favorite among families, taking you through some impressive scenery without too much effort. The Elbow Lake Backcountry campground is well equipped, and this is an excellent opportunity to introduce younger kids to the delights of backpacking! The route circumnavigates the stunning lake, with plenty of opportunities to relax by the water.
- Floe Lake and Numa Pass Backpacking Trail: There are plenty of good family backpacking trails in Canada, and the Floe Lake and Numa Pass backpacking trail is one of the best. It’s a two-day trek to take in both Floe Lake and Numa Pass, and kids are sure to love the experience of being out in some of Canada’s finest terrain. Come in autumn to see the larch forests in all their dazzling colors.
- Lake Minnewanka Backpacking Trail: Want to get away with the kids for the weekend? Look no further than this classic Banff backpacking trail at Lake Minnewanka. The route traverses the north side of the lake, passing by Stewart Canyon and offering beautiful views over the water. Kids will love this trail, which offers plenty of opportunities for wildlife spotting. Lake Minnewanka backpacking trail is one of our favorites and a great weekend escape from the city.
Challenging Backpacking Trails In Canada
- Weary Creek Backpacking Trail: If you’re looking for one of the more challenging backpacking trails in Canada, look no further than the Weary Creek backpacking trail. This is a tough trail and requires some skill in route-finding, so only attempt it if you’re an experienced backpacker! However, it’s also one of the most rewarding routes in the Rockies, with gorgeous wildflowers, beautiful vistas, and some fun scrambles in a remote part of the Kananaskis.
- Cairn Pass Backpacking Trail: Want to really get away from it all? Try the Cairn Pass backpacking trail, where you can leave the world behind and embrace the wildness of the Canadian Rockies. The isolated Cairn Pass trail will bring you along the Medicine Tent River, and past wide meadows and glittering lakes, offering some spectacular alpine scenery. This is one of the most challenging backpacking trails in Canada, but is well worth the effort.
Best Backpacking Trails In Canada
- Turbine Canyon and Three Isle Lake Backpacking Trail: One of our favorite trails in the Rockies is the challenging route to Turbine Canyon and Three Isle Lake. This is a classic hike through the Rockies, crossing over two alpine passes, and passing by canyons, glaciers, and lakes along the way. There are many ways to reach the canyon, but our favorite takes you all the way to Hidden Lake and offers some pretty spectacular views.
- Berg Lake Backpacking Trail: Deep in the heart of Jasper National Park, the Berg Lake backpacking trail is a must for nature lovers. The trail passes through lush, green forests, expansive valleys, and gushing waterfalls until you reach the stunning Berg Lake itself. Book ahead to secure a place on this backpacking trip, as visitor numbers are limited and it is extremely popular!
- Devon Lakes Backpacking Trail: Head to Banff National Park and the Devon Lakes for one of the most rewarding hikes in Canada. This stunning trail crosses three mountain passes and is completely isolated. It’s an excellent place for nature spotting and offers some wonderful views over the expansive alpine meadows.
- Skyline Backpacking Trail: For those with a head for heights, the Skyline backpacking trail in Jasper National Park is a real adventure. This backpacking route is the highest trail in the park, with a 25km stretch above the treeline, meaning you’ll have some jaw-dropping views over the mountains. Prepare for some spectacular sights, including glacial lakes, imposing ridges, and vast alpine meadows, strewn with flowers. A real bucket list backpacking adventure.
- Nigel, Cataract and Cline Pass Backpacking Trail: The Nigel, Cataract and Cline Pass backpacking trail is one of the most stunning routes in the Canadian Rockies. This 3-day hike will take you deep into the White Goat Wilderness area, where you’ll find glaciers and glacial streams, stunning high passes, wide, wild meadows, and beautiful colored rocks. Wild camping is permitted, making this one of the best routes to leave the world behind and immerse yourself in nature.
- Rockwall Backpacking Trail: The Rockwall backpacking trail is one of the most popular multi-day hikes in Canada, and with good reason! This beautiful route has some spectacular scenery to offer with plenty of variation and some epic vistas. The trail will take you over three high passes, so it’s not for the faint of heart, but there’s some beautiful wildlife to be found along the way, not to mention many lakes, waterfalls, and glaciers. This bucket list hike should be experienced at least once in a lifetime.
- Ball Pass to Shadow Lake Backpacking Trail: British Columbia offers some wonderful backpacking routes, and this Ball Pass to Shadow Lake trail is no exception. Beginning in Kootenay National Park, the trail leads right up to Shadow Lake in Banff National Park, passing by a quiet walking trail that provides some wonderful views. You’ll get a stunning vista of the nearby mountains from Ball Pass, and if you’ve got the energy, you can extend the hike to take in the Whistling Valley too.
- Tonquin Valley Backpacking Trail: This trek is certainly one of the most unique and spectacular hiking routes in Canada. The highlight of the Tonquin Valley trail is the stunning view of the Ramparts, a series of ten castellated peaks sitting upon a towering wall of limestone. To add to the drama, the peaks are reflected in the crystal waters of the nearby Amethyst Lake, making for some truly impressive photo opportunities. This three-day route is one of the best hikes in Jasper National Park.
- Tombstone Lakes Backpacking Trail: The jagged peaks of Tombstone Mountain offer the perfect backdrop for the Tombstone Lakes backpacking trail. The Tombstone Lakes sit at the base of the mountain, creating a magnificent view and providing some stunning photo opportunities. What’s more, the route to the lakes along the Elbow River is a destination in itself – the ideal mid-level backpacking trail for those looking to get away from it all.
- Baker Lake and Skoki Region Backpacking Trail: The Skoki region in Banff National Park is one of the most popular backpacking destinations in Canada, and with good reason. This Baker Lake and Skoki Region backpacking trail is one of our favorite backpacking routes with spectacular views and plenty of variety over the three or four days that it takes to complete. You’ll find scenic valley meadows, tranquil lakes, high alpine passes, and some fun opportunities for scrambling, in addition to plenty of chances for wildlife-spotting.
- Gibbon, Whistling and Healy Pass Backpacking Trail: For one of the best hikes in Canada, head to the Rockies and complete the Gibbon, Whistling and Healy Pass backpacking trail. This five-day trek crosses three beautiful mountain passes, littered with alpine flowers. You’ll see ancient forests, towering rocky peaks, and impressive glaciers along the way.
When Is The Best Time To Go Backpacking In Canada?
Canadian winters are notoriously long, cold and harsh, meaning that the backpacking season is mainly confined to the summer months. In Alberta and British Columbia, the backpacking season begins in June and continues until early fall, depending on the weather. Even in early June, you may find snow lingering on the higher peaks, so try and choose lower elevation trails.
The best time for backpacking is July and August when temperatures don’t drop too low in the evening. Although many trails are still accessible in September, and the views can be spectacular, expect some snow and cold weather, especially over higher ground.
This short season for backpacking means that the trails in Banff and Lake Louise can sometimes be crowded, so try to avoid the peak season of July and August, and make sure to reserve ahead if you want to travel to national parks where visitor numbers are restricted.
Other Activities In Canada
Canada is a paradise for backpackers, but there are also plenty of other activities you can do in this stunning country! It goes without saying that Canada offers some of the best trails in the world, and we’ve been working hard to put together a list of the best hikes in Canada. There are also many opportunities for road biking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. One thing’s for certain – in Canada, there’s an adventure around every corner, and you’ll never be short of outdoor activities!
Best Regions For Backpacking Near Canada
Most of Canada’s best backpacking routes are located in Alberta and British Columbia, home of the Canadian Rockies. In these two states, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to spectacular backpacking trips. To help you decide where to go, we’ve put together guides to all of the best regions for backpacking and trekking, including Banff, Jasper National Park, Kananaskis Country, and Kootenay National Park. Wherever you choose, you can’t go wrong!
How To Plan A Trip To Canada
Planning a backpacking trip to Canada? We’ve got everything you’ll need to know before you go. To help you plan your trip to perfection, we’ve put together expert guides to all of the major backpacking regions, including Yoho National Park, Kootenay, Banff, Lake Louise, Waterton, Kananaskis, Canmore, Jasper, and Castle Provincial Park. If you’re looking for backpacking adventures in British Columbia outside of the main Canadian Rockies corridor, don’t miss our guides to the West Kootenays, Whistler, and Strathcona.
Find Backpacking Tours or other tours in Canada
Not sure where to go in Canada, or what activity you want to do? Why not check out the hiking tours, cycling tours and winter tours on offer across Canada? If you are looking for something a bit more exotic, you can also find a range of backpacking tours all over the world.
Backpacking regions in Canada
Best Backpacking trails in Canada
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 6.0 km 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.
Wonder Pass Loop Backpacking Trail
Backpacking the Wonder Pass Loop is an excellent way to see the Mount Assiniboine area. Rather than taking a point-to-point route, many hikers choose this superb lollipop trail. Backpackers can work their way up Bryant Creek and take Assiniboine Pass right into the heart of Assiniboine Provincial Park. From here, the trail gains Wonder Pass and descends to the magnificent Marvel Lake below before rejoining Bryant Creek. The roughly 52.0 km lollipop is best spread out over four days.
Egypt Lake to Twin Lakes Backpacking Trail
Choosing the Egypt Lake to Twin Lakes route is a great way to dive into Banff’s expansive backcountry without settling for a single destination. Many hikers stop at Egypt Lake as it is one of the most sought-after destinations in the area, but continuing to Twin Lakes connects multiple passes, alpine lakes, and incredible wildflower meadows along the route. This is a must-do.
Mystic Pass Backpacking Trail
If you are interested in the Sawback Trail but don’t have 5-7 days to complete it, try out the three-day Mystic Pass Trail. This trail begins at Mount Norquay and travels up Forty Mile Creek to summit Mystic Pass. It descends on the north side of the pass to join Johnston Creek and continue on to Johnston Canyon.
Mystic Lake Backpacking Trail
This route is a great out-and-back that can be done as a single overnight or three nights by cutting the mileage in half for a family affair. It takes up part of the Mystic Pass horseshoe circuit by starting and ending at one trailhead. Mystic Pass and Mystic Lake are the highlights of this route.
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.
Merlin Lake Backpacking Trail
The backpacking route to the Merlin Lake Trail follows the main Skoki route and covers all the popular landmarks in the area. Climb both Boulder and Deception passes and hike alongside Ptarmigan Lake on your way to the incredible Skoki Valley.
Og Lake Backpacking Trail
The Og Lake backpacking trail is a great option for those who can’t make a reservation at the busy Lake Magog campsite. The long journey to Og Lake is worth it. You will be rewarded with jaw-dropping views of Mount Assiniboine and extensive day hiking options. Consider this destination a gem of the Rockies.
Pharaoh Creek Backpacking Trail
The Pharaoh Creek backpacking trail follows the same route that many take to reach Egypt Lake and it’s cascading counterparts. The trail takes Healy Creek up and over the wildflower mecca of Healy Pass before descending to Egypt Lake and continuing along Pharaoh Creek. This is a scenic trip that has the possibility to join surrounding trails.
Snake Indian Falls Backpacking Trail
Hiking to Snake Indian Falls is an excellent backcountry trip that travels along the North Boundary Trail. It is a place of rugged wilderness and wildlife activity, frequented by horse groups. Enjoy stunning scenery en route to Snake Indian Falls on this multi-day trip.
Brazeau Loop Backpacking Trail
The rugged and wild Brazeau Loop travels along the border of Jasper National Park and White Goat Wilderness to create a lollipop route. This trail crosses three high mountain passes over roughly 80.0 km gaining and losing elevation consistently. This is reserved for those looking to step up their backpacking experience and try their best at a longer and rougher trail.
Wates-Gibson Hut Backpacking Trail
The route to the Wates-Gibson hut covers the gorgeous southern section of the Tonquin Valley in Jasper. There is an option to make a small lollipop and see some of the other landmarks in the valley on your return. Pass by Astoria campground on your way to the hut.
Mamquam Lake Backpacking Trail
The Mamquam Lake Backpacking Trail is a 40.0 km out-and-back hiking route in Garibaldi Provincial Park that takes hikers through the beautiful subalpine landscape east of Squamish to the backcountry waters of Mamquam Lake. Best done as a 2-day trip, this is a scenic hike that will allow you to experience the beautiful sights around Elfin Lakes, Mamquam Lake, the Garibaldi Mountains. This hiking route is a great multi-day option, especially if you are looking to tack on a bit of extra distance from Elfin Lakes.
Baden Powell Backpacking Trail
The Baden Powell Trail is the penultimate hiking route on Vancouver’s North Shore, stretching over 45.0 km from Horseshoe Bay to Deep Cove. While there isn’t much in terms of accommodation along this lengthy trail, it is a popular route that is most often split into manageable portions, with each section being a good day hike. No matter how you decide to tackle this trail, its stunning views and legendary reputation are sure to leave you feeling like an accomplished adventurer
Lake O’Hara Backcountry
Explore the incomparable Lake O'Hara area of Yoho National Park on this backcountry trek that totally immerses you in western Canada's backyard. This adventure-based hike has you camping for two nights in Lake O'Hara campground, propelling the authenticity of your outdoor experience. Meanwhile, the hiking trails and alpine routes lead to sparkling glacial lakes and spectacular views in the Canadian Rockies.
Yoho Valley Backpacking Route
With waterfalls, mountain lakes, and stunning views in all directions, this Yoho Valley backpacking tour is both challenging and rewarding. The terrain is rugged, but the distances each day are short enough to allow you to truly enjoy your spectacular surroundings without feeling rushed.
Other Activities in Canada
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