August 17, 2020
Healy Pass is a classic Banff National Park hike. It’s a good long walk with gradual elevation gain. The scenery is always stunning, and if you time it right, the wildflowers are gorgeous.
This is the third time I’ve been to Healy Pass. The previous two times were for backpacks into Egypt Lake and beyond. I have to say I felt a small pang of jealousy watching all the backpackers make their way in.
Although, I was NOT jealous of the people who got to the trail head late. With Covid, the Sunshine parking lot is closed. This means there are only a few dozen spots available at the small parking lot. Once that is filled, the gate is closed! We met two backpack parties around 2:00 pm who were JUST starting out. This is because they had to park at the start of the Sunshine Road, and walk the extra 7 KM to the trail head!
Hiking boots, poles, and your usual day pack kit.
Park at the base of Sunshine Village. Walk behind the lodge. On the left is the trail head. At the first junction, turn right to Healy Pass. Continue straight, past the campground. At the Junction to Simpson Pass, turn right. Go straight up to Healy Pass. Return the way you came.
DISTANCES!!!: Please note that all my distances are taken from the FAR end of the Sunshine parking lot, If you are here during a non-Covid year, you can park next to the lodge, so take off 500 m of distance.
For us oldies, the trail head to Healy Pass has changed. It used to be behind the Sunshine base lodge on the right side of the parking lot. It is now on the left. Walk behind the lodge, and the trail head is immediately on the left and well marked.
Please do not be tempted to go up the Ski Out, which is in front of the lodge. We saw a party on the upper road. This is where the vehicles drive, and is a dusty mess.
Once on the main trail, hike for about 1.3 km. At the first junction, turn right at the sign.
Follow this trail to cross Sunshine Creek, where we found a sketchy bridge.
At about 3.5 km, cross the bridge over Healy Creek. This is a gorgeous creek. Take your time here to explore up and down stream of the bridge.
After the bridge, you are again in the trees for some time. Bring bug spray and a light, long sleeve shirt. We were harassed by black flies and horse flies the whole way.
We passed several small bridges. In July, most of these seasonal creeks were dry, but I imagine they are flowing quite good in the spring and after a solid rain.
For winter ski travel, be aware of the avalanche slope path. The run-out will completely cover the trail, so cross one at a time.
Around 5.5 km, we passed the Healy Creek backcountry campground. Why would anyone stay here? It’s a great spot to drop your heavy backpack, and then go hike Wawa Ridge.
At about 6.4 km, we passed the first turnoff to Simpson Pass. This is a loop that connects back into the main Healy Trail. I didn’t really know this section existed. If I ever go again, I will take this loop on the way in, and then take the main Healy Trail back out.
After the Simpson Pass junction, the trail gains elevation in earnest. The trail changes to rocky steps for a while, and then back to soft ground.
This was our first glimpse at Wawa Ridge on our left. Most people see the other side of this while skiing at Sunshine Village.
At 8.2 km, we came to the second Simpson Pass sign. This is the other end of the Simpson Pass loop. Turn Right here to continue the final 1.5 km to Healy Pass.
After the Simpson Pass junction, we were finally at a high enough elevation to break out of the tight spruce trees, and enter the realm of larch trees. Larch only grow at higher elevations, and don’t like to be crowded. This means more open spaces for the wildflower meadows we came to see.
This last kilometre to Healy Pass is by far the nicest section of the trail. Healy Pass sits in a low saddle between Wawa Ridge and Healy Ridge, and is marked by a giant bolder.
Healy Ridge is on the other side of Healy Pass from Wawa Ridge. It looks to be an easily accessible summit. If I were to backpack this again, I might drop my pack here, and nab that before heading down to Egypt Lake.
The distance to Healy Pass from the far end of the Sunshine Parking lot is 9.9 KM. The elevation at the pass is 2,508 m. According to Gaia, the elevation gain was 760 m (while Strava recorded it as 690). It took us 2 hrs 24 min.
While the view from Healy Pass is gorgeous, it is also worthwhile to walk a few metres down the trail towards Egypt Lake. From here, there are amazing views of Egypt Lake (below), Scarab Lake, and Haiduk Peak towering above. The pyramid shaped mountain to the right is Pharaoh Peak. Egypt Lake campground is directly below Pharaoh Peak. If you want to backpack there, and climb Pharaoh Peak, then click HERE to see the route.
It was such a warm and beautiful day, so we had a good long summit lounge. We watched a pair of marmots keep a close eye on the hikers and their domain, avoiding the time when we had to descend again into the woods and flies.
Healy Pass Return
The return route is the same, unless you want to take the Simpson Pass detour. We chose to stay on the main trail to get our fill of the spectacular views while they lasted.
Before we entered the forest, we were treated to a view of Mt Bourgeau’s summit ridge.
Healy Pass is one of the classic Banff day hikes. At almost 20 km, it is a long day, but not difficult or technical. This hike is great all summer long and into the fall to view the larches changing colour.
Totals – Tracked on Strava
Date: August 17, 2020
Group: Five (Alisen, Nancy and three friends)
Distance: 19.89 km
Elevation: 690 m (2,277′)
Time: 5 hours 45 minutes (includes a 45 minute lunch)