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Sawback - Skoki traverse (Johnston Canyon to Lake Louise via Skoki)

This itinerary starts not far away from Banff and takes us all the way to the region of Lake Louise in the famous Skoki Area. You will be stunned by the alpine meadows and lakes and the indisputable beauty of the Subalpine region. Don't miss out on this prime adventure in the Canadian Rockies.


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. See cancelation policy. 

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 6 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 18 kms per day with some elevation gain up to 670 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.).

All trails are generally in good shape but we will travel on rugged terrain.

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.


Difficulty: Moderate

Duration: 4 nights/5 days

Map: Banff and Mt. Assiniboine, Lake louise and Yoho


Day 1: Great start - Johnston's Canyon trailhead to Luellen Lake

At 7 am we will meet at a prearranged location in Banff. We will go over the last details with you and go over a checklist of the gear before leaving for the trailhead. Drive: 40 mins.


This journey starts at the popular Johnston’s canyon trailhead. Thanks to our early start, we will skip the crowds and enjoy this beautiful canyon on our way. You will be amazed by a series of waterfalls that have eroded this gorge through time. We will then ascend slowly in the forest before visiting the unique Ink Pots which is another natural beauty. We are now in an open meadow that reveals the peaks around us. We will then follow Johnston Creek all the way to our beautiful campground: Luellen lake. After a long day, we will enjoy some rest, the views and a great meal.

Distance: 17,4 kms.

Elevation gain: 670 m

Estimated Time: 6-7 hours.


Day 2: Badger Pass - Luellen Lake to Badger Pass Junction

We can take it easy this morning and enjoy the pretty lake. When we are ready, we will move our camp only 6 kms away to Badger Pass Junction. We now have the highly suggested option to do a side trip to Badger Pass with daypack weight only. This alpine pass is worth the sweat to make it up there. We will spend as much time as we can before returning to our campsite and enjoy a great night. Let’s hope the sky is clear and the stars are bright. 

Distance: 16,3 kms.

Elevation gain: 545m, 610m loss 

Estimated Time: 7-9 hours.


Day 3: Pulsatilla Pass - Badger Pass Junction to Baker lake

There’s another great day ahead of us! After a well deserved breakfast, we will head to one of the most beautiful sections of this trip: Pulsatilla Pass and lake. This beautiful col will take your breath away as we travel through pretty alpine meadows and we will take some time to enjoy it as much as we can. We will then lose some elevation, follow a couple of creeks before ending our journey at the Baker Lake Campground which will be our home for the night.

Distance: 16,4 kms.

Elevation gain: 320m, 100m loss

Estimated Time: 5-7 hours.


Day 4: Skoki - Baker Lake to Merlin Meadows

Here’s another morning where time is not an issue and we can enjoy our “day home''. We can take some time at the lake then slowly make our way to our next campground: Merlin Meadows. We will get to discover this epic area named Skoki. We will walk by the famous Skoki Lodge that is used in the summer and the winter time and we will take time to explore the area a little.

It’s a great day to take it easy and enjoy our last night within the mighty mountains.

Distance: 8,1 kms.

Elevation gain/loss: inconsiderable

Estimated Time: 3 hours.


Day 5: The last leg - Merlin Meadows to Fish Creek trailhead

Our day starts with a mellow climb into the alpine towards Deception Pass. We will enjoy the view above the treeline before a steady descent taking us by Ptarmigan lake. We are now walking over the last Pass of this trip: Boulder pass. We will go back below the treeline where we will remain for the whole remaining leg of this journey and we will stroll by Halfway Hut. The last 4 kms is basically a road/skiout run wide enough to walk side by side and chat. After a great effort and 5 days of enjoying the wilderness, we finally make it back to the vehicle. Great Work!

Distance: 15,8 kms.

Elevation gain: 375m, 785m loss.

Estimated Time: 7-9 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.

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. 


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.


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:

  • 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 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.


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.​​​

  • 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.

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