Banff Backpack – Sunshine to Egypt Lake

August, 1998
August 20, 2018

This trip holds very special memories for me. This was my very first backpack way back in 1998, and it was a real test because I had only completed 4 or 5 hikes before attempting this. I had to borrow or rent most of the gear, and I had no idea how much food or clothing to pack. There was doubt too, not knowing if I had what it took to complete such a big step up.

This was also the very first trip with my husband and partner in adventure, Mike. I had heard about Mike for years from my friends, but had only met him the week prior. It was a last minute decision for Mike to join in on this backpack, and we have been together ever since.

Mike and I did this route a second time 20 years later because some friends asked us to take them out. They had not backpacked before, and wanted to learn. I hope this Trip Report inspires you to try something new, whether it’s backpacking or something else.

Backpacking and Weight

When backpacking, it’s important to travel as light as possible. The lighter the pack, the faster you travel. The faster you travel, the less time you have with a big load on your back. This means you still have some gas left in the tank when you get into camp, or if something happens on the trail.

The nice thing about this trip is the abundance of water. If you have a pump or a UV filter, there’s no need to carry more than a litre, as the next stream is just around the corner.


This is a three day backpacking trip from Sunshine Village to Vista Lake. This Trip Report is for Day One – Sunshine to Egypt Lake campground. Park in the Sunshine Village Ski Resort parking lot, and head up the trail. Turn right at the junction to Healy Pass. From the pass, head down towards Egypt Lake. Cross the stream, and the campground is on the other side.

Trail Head

As this was a three day traverse, the first order of business was the vehicle drop at Vista Lake. After ensuring this vehicle had enough room for everyone and all our gear for the trip back, we backtracked to Sunshine Village Ski Resort. It felt very decadent to have a trail head with running water, flush toilets, and access to coffee…

Twenty years ago, the trail started on the right, well beyond the lift area. The trail has been re-routed, and you now start at the Ski Out, which is to the left of the gondola.

Main Trail

Once on the Ski Out, we continued on this wide track for about 1 km. We came to a junction on our right that took us off the Ski Out, and back onto the original trail, which is noticeably narrower.

At around 3 km is a creek crossing. It is another 10 km from here to Egypt Lake, so if you are sucking back the water, this is a great spot to fill up.

Day 1 - 1

Crystal clear water from the previous night’s rain. So thankful for the rain to clear the air and douse the forest fires raging nearby.

From here, the navigation is straight-forward. We stayed on the main trail to Healy Pass. There are some other trails crossing this to other destinations, but the signage is very good with no worries about getting misdirected.

We finally gained enough elevation to break out of the trees, and to get some views.

Day 1 - 2

Once we broke out of the trees, we were treated to this gorgeous meadow of wildflowers. The Monarch Ramparts ridge is on the horizon.

2018 was a horrendous year for forest fires in Banff and Kootenay National Parks. The smoke was intense, and many areas were shut down. We had hot dry weather for weeks, which kept the fires raging and the smoke in place. However, we were incredibly lucky because it rained the night before we left. This meant the fires were doused a bit, and the smoke was somewhat cleared from the sky.

Day 1 - 3

As we gain elevation, it is now Larch territory. Healy Pass is ahead, at the tail end of the ridge on the right.

Healy Pass is about 10 km from the trail head, and 681 m elevation gain. We arrived in 3 hours and 35 minutes (including a ~20 minute lunch break at the 7.5 km mark).

Healy Pass is marked by a giant boulder, is a very popular day hike destination, and unfortunately, it shows. I have to say, people are none too kind to this environment. There are beaten down paths crisscrossing everywhere, despite signs to stay on the main trail.

Day 1 - 4

The Rock at Healy Pass. Mike is hamming it up, trying to replicate the “Rob” pose from Wind Ridge. In the background is a “No Hiking” sign blocking off a random trail. Does that stop people? Heck no! There were several groups going up and down during our brief stop.

From Healy Pass, it is 3.2 km of steady descent through the forest to the Egypt Lake campground. I put on my knee braces before heading down, and I was glad I did.

Day 1 - 5

With the intense smoke this year, I was happy to get this much of a view. Scarab Lake is above, and Egypt Lake is directly below. The impressive hump on the left is The Sphinx. The wall of rock in the background is the Ball Range. Pharaoh Peak is the steep ridge on the right.

The end of the long descent from Healy Pass is marked by a small bridge over Pharaoh Creek. This is the water source for the campground, which is a short walk up from the creek. If you are out of jam, I suggest filling all your water bottles now and save yourself a trip back here before dinner.

Day 1 - 6

So close! The Egypt Lake campground is to the left and up on the bench. Pharaoh Peak is directly above. I’ll be seeing you tomorrow!

There is a shelter at Egypt Lake, but I have yet to be tempted. After setting up our tent and making dinner, we whiled away the evening hours with a stroll over to Egypt Lake.

Day 1 - 7

Egypt Lake with The Sphinx putting on a fine show.

Once at the lake, we went along the right shoreline to explore. If you’re here early, there are several large boulders to stretch out on for an afternoon nap.

Day 1 - 8

End of the line. We ran out of shoreline. To access the climbing routes of the surrounding mountains, follow the trail towards Pharaoh Peak (towards Shadow Lake). From there, you can head left to access Scarab Lake and The Sphinx.

Day 1 Totals – Tracked on Strava

Date:   August 20, 2018
Group:  Four (Alisen, Mike and two others)
Distance:   13.3 km
Elevation:  681 m (2,249′)
Time:  5 hours 50 minutes (includes two breaks totaling about 40 minutes)

Day 1 Map

Day One starts at the Green dot (Sunshine Village), and ends at the White dot (Egypt Lake campground). I tracked the entire three day backpack from Sunshine Village to Vista Lake as one long trip on Strava. I separated the days manually on the map and profile images. Day 3 (Shadow Lake to Vista Lake) shows the entire route and elevation profiles.

Day 1 Profile

This is a snapshot of Day One’s elevation gain. It is a gradual gain for most of the day, but does get very steep as you ascend Healy Pass. As you can see, the descent down to Egypt Lake is equally steep.

Day 2 – Egypt Lake to Shadow Lake

Continue the adventure for Day Two as we go from Egypt Lake to Shadow Lake. We also climb Pharaoh peak and get some amazing views of lakes and mountains. On Day Three,we see three different lakes as we travel over two passes from Shadow Lake to Vista Lake.

If you found this Trip Report useful, please “Like” and Follow my blog. You can also visit my facebook page Al’s Adventurers and like my page.

To see all my Trip Reports and other adventures you can do, please visit my Mountain Adventures Page.




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Posted in Adventures, Backpacking
9 comments on “Banff Backpack – Sunshine to Egypt Lake
  1. Abirbhav says:

    Beautiful pictures Madam..!!
    Can’t wait to make a serious travel plan dedicated exclusively to Banff.. 😊
    And be careful while venturing out into the valley of Pharoahs and Sphinxes. Don’t try to wake up a hideous Mummy from his/her long slumber encompassing 5 Millennia..!! 💀👻

  2. Thanks for sharing! I need to put this hike on my to do list!

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