Michelle Lakes (Waterfall Creek/Michelles Lakes/Pinto Lakes)

This backpacking trip is the guide's favorite. It's  off the beaten path and the scenery is as good if not better than the overcrowded popular classics. Be ready to experience the backcountry at its best visiting stunning creeks, waterfalls, alpine passes, bright blue lakes and more.

 

Price

Public booking: You can join this adventure as a solo backpacker or with friends and buy a spot into this adventure. This implies sharing your tent with other backpackers. 

$1400.00/pp. + GST (5%)

Minimum of backpackers: 3 backpackers

Maximum of backpackers: 6 backpackers (2-3 per tent)

 

Private booking: You can book this trip for yourself and take up to 5 people with you.

$3999.00/Group +GST (5%)

Group size: up to 5 people.

Is this Trip for me?

This trip is rated as difficult; based on distance, elevation gain and terrain.

We will be hiking at a regular and steady pace and we will move to a different campsite everyday.

We will travel up to 17 kms per day with some elevation gain up to 850 meters carrying a backpack weighting up to 16 kg (35 lbs.). Participants will be carrying personal clothing and gear, and equitable share of group gear and goods (food, tents, stoves, fuel, etc.).

These numbers might not seem so high but we will travel on rough terrain where the trails are not always existing. We will have to cross creeks and bushwhack a little bit. 

Prior backpacking experience is not mandatory but it is recommended. You must be in good physical condition and it it suggested that you train prior to this trip.

Itinerary

Difficulty: Difficult

Duration: 4 nights/5 days

Maps: RN Can, Cline River 83 C/2. Gemtrek, Bow Lake & Saskatchewan Crossing.

 

Day 1: Cline River to Waterfall Creek

Departure towards the beginning of the trail (trailhead). We depart from Banff and head west using the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 1) which is in the beautiful Bow Valley. We then head north using the Icefields Parkway (Route 93N). This road is recognized as one of the most beautiful in North America, even in the world. We will be able to admire glaciers as well as make a stop at the famous Bow Lake. Shortly after getting back on the road, we will take Route 11 (David Thompson Route) east and finally arrive at our destination to begin the walk.

Duration: maximum 2h30 mins. (including a stop at Bow Lake)

 

We will begin our journey with a fairly easy walk through the forest along the Cline River. We will cross beautiful streams that will give us views of the open valley. The trails takes 

We will stop our journey at a campsite at the junction of Waterfall Creek and Cline River.

This first day was just good enough to get our body used to the weight without killing it. Let’s hope for a great sunset above Waterfall creek.

Distance: 17 kms.

Cumulative gain in elevation: 517 meters.

Cumulative loss in elevation: 319 meters.

Duration: maximum 7 hours.

 

Day 2: Waterfall Meadows via Waterfall creek

Today will be a challenging one as we will follow the Waterfall Creek drainage all day. This path, when existing, is not very used, so we will have to face some obstacles on our way. Among other things, we will have to forge our way through some dense parts of the forest, we will have to cross the stream a few times and we will have to be patient as we might have to modify the route according to the changes in the terrain made by Mother Nature. Is the scenery worth the effort? Yes, every sweat is worth it and the views are amazing.

Distance: about 12 km.

Cumulative gain in elevation: about 700 meters.

Duration: maximum 9 hours.

 

Day 3: Michelle Lakes

We can take the time to admire the scenery this morning with a good and nutritious breakfast. A Great day awaits as we will visit one of the most beautiful places in the Canadian Rockies in my opinion: Michelle Lakes. We will have to overcome an imposing pass before following a ridge that will provide for spectacular views of the lakes below. The descent to the lakes is quite easy and the scenery is simply sensational. We will establish our camp near the lakes, possibly in a place well protected from the wind which can be very strong there. We should have time for a side trip to the end of the lower lake. Gorgeous!

Total distance: about 8 kilometers

Elevation gain: 518 meters.

Altitude lost: 305 meters.

Duration: maximum 4 hours.

 

Day 4: Pinto lake via Michelle Col and Pinto Col

After a nice night at the Michelle Lakes, we have to pack up and cover an imposing section of this adventure. We will have to overcome two alpine passes which will surely heat us up! We are already familiar with the first section as we used it the previous day. Once back down in the meadows, we will have to climb back up to the wonderful Pinto Pass. look for bighorn sheeps. We will then begin the long descent to Pinto Lake for our last night within the wilderness.

Total distance: 15 kilometers.

Elevation gain: 630 meters.

Altitude lost: 1200 meters.

Duration: maximum 9 hours.

 

Day 5: Last leg to Hwy 93N via Sunset Pass

This morning we can enjoy the beautiful lake while eating our breakfast. The mountains have been our home for the past 5 days but now we must return. Luckily, the return trip is just as spectacular and it starts with a steep climb  to Sunset Pass where we can admire Pinto Lake from above and the surrounding towering mountains. We will cross a vast meadow with abundant vegetation and small streams before descending on a steep path in the forest that will lead us to our vehicle. Amazing trip, good job!

Total distance: 14 kilometers.

Elevation gain: 415 meters.

Altitude lost: 725 meters.

Duration: maximum 7 hours.

What's Included

Professional Hiking Guide

Our Hiking Guide has 12 years exploring the Canadian Rocky Mountains and some other parts of the continent. He is a certified Hiking Guide of the ACMG (Association of Canadian Mountain Guides). He is also a member of the IGA (Interpretive Guide Association) and an accredited Wilderness First Responder.

Complementary certifications: ACMG Hiking Guide Winter Travel, AST1 (Avalanche Safety Training Level 1).

Your guide speaks 3 languages: French, English and Spanish.

Gear
We supply group camping and cooking equipment, as well as an emergency communication device, bear spray, water purification equipment and a backcountry emergency first-aid kit. You will need to bring personal backpacking equipment and clothing. 

Food

We provide all meals and snacks on this trip; from lunch on the first day to lunch on the last day. We make healthy and nutritious meals to keep you energized throughout the whole trip . You will be consulted for food preferences and allergies when booking.

Transportation

We provide transportation from your accommodation in Banff or Canmore to the trailhead and back. Different pick-up locations can be discussed as well. We can also offer a shuttle from Calgary to your accommodation for a reasonable rate. 

 

Camping and parks fees

The backcountry camping fees as well as the Park ‘Wilderness Pass’ are included. Also, valid entry day passes to the National Parks for the duration of the backpacking trip are covered.

Equipement List

Having the right gear is key to safety in the mountains. We have to be ready for the Rockies' unpredictable weather and also to be ready to stay warm in case of emergency. Here's a list of the gear you need to bring:

Footwear
  • Hiking boots: ​You need hiking boots with a great ankle support, good tread and sturdy soles. They also have to be waterproof. Make sure you spend time to get used to them and that they are broken in before the trip. Uncomfortable boots could literally ruin your trip. 

  • Light Footwear: Crocs, active sandals or running shoes for the occasional creek crossing and use around camp.

Gaiters(optional)
  • ​Gaiters are really helpful, especially in early and late season and when encountering snow, rain or dew. They will help keep your socks and your boots dry and they will prevent the debris from getting stuck in your boots.

Clothing

Layers, layers, layers!

  • Socks​

    • Wearing an appropriate pair of socks can make a big difference on your footwear fit and comfort during the hike.  

    • Good choice: wool hiking socks. ​

    • Bring at least 3 pairs.

  • Base layer: short or long sleeves. 

    • Good choice: merino wool, synthetic materials.​

  • Mid-layer 1: Medium weight (i.e. fleece, wool).

  • Mid-layer 2: Thick layer (i.e. thick fleece, down jacket)

  • Waterproof Jacket: with hood.

    • Good choice: Gore-Tex or equivalent.

  • Light weight pants or convertibles. 

    • Good choice: nylon.

    • No jeans.

  • Gloves or mittens.

    • Good choice: Gore-Tex or equivalent.

  • Sunhat or cap.

  • Hat/Tuque, ear warmers or Buff.

  • Waterproof pants.

    • Good choice: with side zippers, Gore-Tex or equivalent.​​​

Gear
  • Large Backpack: 55 to 75 L. Keep in mind that you will be transporting your fair share of group camping gear and food(usually 10-20L of space)

  • Pack Cover: You need to keep your gear dry at all time so a cover big enough to protect the entire outside of your pack. It is also recommended to put your gear in dry bags or whichever plastic bags.

  • Sleeping Bag: We recommend a 3 season sleeping bag with a rating of 0ºC to –9ºC. At any time of the year, it is frequent to encounter cold temperatures that can drop below freezing at night.

  • Sleeping Mat – Lightweight “Therm-a-rest” mats are recommended. They should be at least the length of you body. 

  • Pillow – A small, compressible pillow or a spare stuff sack into which you can stuff extra clothes to create a pillow.

  • Trekking poles: helps reduce impact on knees and back, specially on the way down. Must be collapsible.

  • Water Bottle/bladder: 1-2 Liters capacity.

  • Sunglasses with 100% UV protection (with a hard case recommended).

  • Headlamp: Make sure you have fresh batteries. 

  • Sunscreen and lip balm: Strong with UV protection.

  • Personal toiletries including hand sanitizer: keep to minimum and chose unscented products.
  • Mosquito repellant​​​
  • Personal First Aid Kit – Our guide carries a group first aid kit so keep this small. Band-Aids, blister care, Tylenol/ibuprofen, etc.

 

If you are missing any of the above, contact us to see if we can provide it for you.