Healy Pass and Simpson Pass, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

We spent Saturday (our Sabbath) in Canmore, enjoying a nice walk through downtown in the afternoon. When we had checked into our room on Monday afternoon, I noticed a black and white rabbit hopping around outside, and correctly inferred that it was a domestic rabbit, as wild rabbits are brown (other than the winter morph of the snowshoe hare).  On Saturday afternoon, I noticed additional rabbits hopping around town, and saw some establishments that had placed pans of water out for them. I later learned that the rabbits date from the 1980s, when someone released them. They are considered undesirable, out of fear that predators will enter Canmore to eat the rabbits, and possibly then endanger dogs or even people.

Canmore is allegedly trying to eradicate the rabbits, but their efforts haven’t accomplished much other than waste money, and there are many rabbit lovers who oppose the efforts.

On Sunday, we returned to Banff, driving again to Sunshine Village. This time, we weren’t contemplating taking the shuttle bus to the easy Garden Path Trail, but instead had set our sights on the moderate/difficult Healy Pass and Simpson Pass hike.

We began hiking southwest on the Healy Pass Trail:

Healy Pass Trail, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Healy Pass Trail

The trail began passing through a wooded area:

Woods adjacent to Healy Pass Trail, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Woods adjacent to Healy Pass Trail

We soon crossed over Sunshine Creek:

Sunshine Creek, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Sunshine Creek

Another view:

Sunshine Creek, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Sunshine Creek

There were a few colorful wildflowers, as can be seen in this (mostly-unfocused) photograph:

Wildflowers, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Wildflowers

The trail continued, running parallel with Healy Creek, though the water wasn’t always visible. After 5.9 km (3.7 miles), we came to the junction with the Lower Simpson Pass Trail, but we continued on the Healy Pass Trail. Over the next 1.8 km (1.1 mile), when we reached another junction, with the Simpson Pass Trail, the trees began to thin out, offering more expansive views.

We continued on the Healy Pass Trail, now hiking northwest. Here is a stitched panorama from the Healy Pass Trail:

Stitched panorama from Healy Pass Trail, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Stitched panorama from Healy Pass Trail

Another stitched panorama

Stitched panorama from Healy Pass Trail, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Stitched panorama from Healy Pass Trail

The Healy Lakes were visible, but the smoke from the British Columbia fires continued to plague us:

Healy Lakes, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Healy Lakes

Batya on the Healy Pass Trail:

Batya on the Healy Pass Trail, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Batya on the Healy Pass Trail

We were not the faster hikers, and were always courteous to allow others to pass, whether they were going in the same direction as us, or in the opposite direction. As we reached the Healy Pass, we allowed one group of German men to pass us.

After about another mile, we finally reached a large boulder which presumably marked Healy Pass, but the German men who had passed us had planted themselves on the boulder. In fact, as we approached, they grabbed their backpacks and put them on the boulder next to themselves, blocking any possibility for us to sit down. We instead had to sit on the ground nearby, and to each lunch there.

View from Healy Pass, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

View from Healy Pass

I said that I imagined that the boulder marked the location of the Healy Pass. I was surprised that there was no explicit signage to confirm this. There also seemed to be two trails continuing on from this point, whereas the National Geographic map that I had brought only showed one: the Healy Pass Trail continuing to Egypt Lake. Those continuing on were most likely going to be spending at least one night camping. We were only interested in a day hike, so we continued no further.

We retraced our steps southeast on the Healy Pass Trail, and when we reached the junction, we turned south onto the Simpson Trail. At Healy Creek, I spotted a few small fish in the water, which I think are cuthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii):

Cutthroat trout, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Cutthroat trout

The Simpson Pass Trail offered a number of nice meadows, many with streams or ponds, and with mountains in the background:

Meadow on Simpson Pass Trail, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Meadow on Simpson Pass Trail

Another:

Meadow on Simpson Pass Trail, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Meadow on Simpson Pass Trail

Wildflowers:

Wildflowers, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Wildflowers

Another meadow:

Meadow on Simpson Pass Trail, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Meadow on Simpson Pass Trail

More scenery on the Simpson Pass Trail. This appeared to be a small lake, though it is not named on my map:

Lake off Simpson Pass Trail, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Lake off Simpson Pass Trail

This clearing looked like an inviting place to take a nap, but we had miles to go:

A clearing off the Simpson Pass Trail, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

A clearing off the Simpson Pass Trail

The Simpson Pass Trail finally left the meadows and clearings behind, and for a while entered a more forested area:

Simpson Pass Trail, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Simpson Pass Trail

After 2.3 km (1.4 miles), we reached the Simpson Pass. Unlike the Healy Pass, the Simpson Pass did not offer a spectacular view, but it marked the boundary between Banff and Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park, as well as the boundary between Alberta and British Columbia:

Border between Banff (in Alberta) and Mt. Assiniboine Provincial Park (in British Columbia), Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Border between Banff (in Alberta) and Mt. Assiniboine Provincial Park (in British Columbia)

Batya at the border between the provinces:

Batya at the border between Alberta and British Columbia, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Batya at the border between Alberta and British Columbia

A chubby Columbian ground squirrel (Urocitellus columbianus) was welcoming visitors at the border:

Columbian ground squirrel, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Columbian ground squirrel

We then turned north onto the Lower Simpson Pass Trail:

Lower Simpson Pass Trail, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Lower Simpson Pass Trail

View from Lower Simpson Pass Trail:

View from Lower Simpson Pass Trail, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

View from Lower Simpson Pass Trail

Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja miniata):

Indian Paintbrush, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Indian Paintbrush

After 1.3 km (0.8 miles), the Lower Simpson Pass Trail ended at the intersection with the Healy Pass Trail. Here Batya crosses a narrow footbridge at the junction:

Batya crossing bridge at junction of Healy Pass Trail and Lower Simpson Pass Trail, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Batya crossing bridge at junction of Healy Pass Trail and Lower Simpson Pass Trail

We then retraced our steps northeast for 5.9 km (3.7 miles) on the Healy Pass Trail, until we arrived back at Sunshine Village. The hike was 19 km (11.8 miles), said to have an elevation gain of about 959 m (3,100′). I’m not sure the elevation gain is accurate, as while it was a challenging hike, the distance was more challenging than the elevation change.

Next: Sulphur Pass and the Town of Banff!

 

This entry was posted in Hikes, Vacations and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Share your thoughts!