Saved the best hike till last! Well.. in my opinion the best hikes are the summit hikes because in many cases they provide the biggest rewards. The Cory Pass Trail in Banff National Park did not let me down one single bit. But first lets talk about my previous 4 days researching Banff Village.
Like a good little researcher I played tourist. I spent my first day walking the streets of Banff taking in the sights and shops. Not my thing, but a necessary part of my job. I walked along the Bow River. I took in the Bow Falls. I visited Central Park and Cascade Gardens. Oh.. I failed to mention I also bought myself a new backpack for my camera equipment. It is so awesome. What a difference it makes for researching.
The following day I begin to hike and research some of the shorter trails and drove to some of the local hot spots in the region. I started the morning hiking to Sundance Canyon. It was a bit deceiving as I figured it was a short explore but the trail seemed not to cooperate as it ended up being under 5 kilometres.
Finished the day at Johnson Lake. Mmmm .. great people scenery here. Then drove to Lake Minnewanka and hiked to Stewart Canyon. Minnewanka was a hot spot for boating, swimming, scuba diving and picnicking. It was packed. Stewart Canyon was a let down as the trail follows high up on a ridge and eventually leads to the mouth of the canyon so you never get to see the canyon itself very well.
The next day gets better as I begin to hike the bigger trails. The two trails which got my blood pumping were the power climbs up Sulphur Mountain (5 km up and 5 km down) to a Cosmic Research Lookout and the hike up Tunnel Mountain leading to views looking out over Banff. Both leg Burners. Sulphur Mountain was all switchbacks. Many people looked in rough shape on this one as I passed them on the trail. Tunnel Mountain is a good little uphill hike with great views. It was a pleasant surprise.
Today, I saved the best to last. I call it my “treat hike” . It is the hike which I want to do in a big way but can only do it if I have the time. Being that they are usually long haul hikes time needs to be available and planned. Hate to be caught in the dark in the middle of nowhere.
The Cory Pass Hike is said to be the hardest hike in Banff. Just reading about it gave me goose bumps. It is a total of 13 kilometres, enjoys an elevation gain just under 1000 metres and leads to a summit, snow patches, hoodoos, rock slides and massive cliffs. What is there not to like here I ask myself.
The first part of the hike is all uphill. Lucky me! There were switchbacks after switchbacks. I was side stepping boulders, exposed tree roots and watching my footing. Finally the trail leveled out – at least I thought it did. Wrong again. Soon after the death climb up I found my self crossing a massive rock slide – uphill again – to a summit. Uphill on rock slides is very slippery stuff.
All the sweat was worth it. The summit views were amazing. The valley below me stretched out for miles. There were mountains, valleys, rock slides, alpine flowers and cliffs sprawled out my front window and there were hoodoos reaching for the sky behind me. I was surrounded by nature and 6 other people. Not many people but it is understandable as the hike was challenging.
From the summit the trail drops down into a valley of rock slides and loops behind Mount Edith. It was crazy beautiful. Every footstep was crucial as the slope of the slide and the loose rocks made it a slippery route. The only markings to guide hikers were the cairns (rock piles) built up on massive boulders. Eventually the cairns led me to a trail sign entering into the forests and connecting to the Edith Pass Trail. The loop back begins.
This part was a breeze. All down hill in the shade of trees. It was a welcome relief from the sun. But I was getting sad as I knew my hike was almost over. I was on the downward slope of the hike. Before I knew it I was back at my jeep driving away with the biggest smile and full of self accomplishment. What a great day to be alive!