[14-Mystic Lake - click to enlarge]
The Sawback Trail goes from the town of Banff to Lake Louise following the rugged Sawback range over a distance of 74km (about 45 miles). Many hikers take this as a four to five day hike, although this series of posts will reflect a more leisurely hike with frequent stops. There are campgrounds in convenient locations to allow the hiker to stay an extra day to explore other trails that branch off the main trail. I should note here that some of the trails are not well marked except for the main trail and the horse trail. It is recommended that hikers carry a compass and obtain the relevant maps for the areas they will be hiking in from Gem Trek . Topographic maps: 82 O/4, 82 O/5.
Maximum elevation: 2345m (7700 ft)
Minimum elevation: 1615m (5300 ft)
On Day 3 the hike covers a distance of about 10.6 km with the trail leaving the Mystic Lake campground at the 18.6 km mark. For the less fit hiker this is an adequate distance due to the rugged terrain covered.
After walking the 0.5km to return to the main trail where it climbs for another 3.6km until Mystic Pass is reached at 22.7km (2285m). Be warned that snow can remain on the pass until well into the summer.
[15 - On the trail - Click to enlarge]
As a reminder where visibility is poor please make noise to alert any bears that may be in the area. This will allow them to move away. Groups of three or more hikers are less likely to be charged or attacked by a bear.
[16- Trail - click to enlarge]
[17- Alpine aster]
[18 - Pine Marten - click to enlarge]
Pine Martens belong to the weasel family. They can be sneak thieves around campsites.
[19 - Mountains near Mystic Pass - click to enlarge]
[20 - Mystic Pass view - click to enlarge]
[21 - Mystic Pass - click to enlarge]
Enroute to Mystic Pass the trees become sparse resulting in improved views.
[22 - Rest near top of Mystic Pass - click to enlarge]
[23 - Mystic Pass - click to enlarge]
[24 - Mystic Pass - click to enlarge]
[25 - Black bear]
[26 - View from Mystic Pass - click to enlarge]
[27 - Toad - click to enlarge]
From Mystic Pass to Larry’s Campground (Jo9 on map below) the distance is approximately 6.5 km.
Care must be taken as the trail descends steeply from Mystic Pass with the hiker traversing rockslides, avalanche paths, and passing waterfalls.
[28 - Rockslide - click to enlarge]
[29 - Rockslide - click to enlarge]
[30 - Hiking on rockslide - click to enlarge]
[31 - Cairns mark the way on rockslide - click to enlarge]
[32 - Pheasant - click to enlarge]
The photographer called this bird a pheasant though it looks like a grouse to me. What kind of bird do you think it is?
[33 - Bridge and Johnston Creek - click to enlarge]
At the bottom of the valley after crossing over Johnston Creek is the junction to Larry’s Campground (Jo9) at approximately the 29.3km mark with an elevation of 1680m. Keep right to remain on the Sawback trail.
The opposite direction leads to Johnston Canyon and Moose Meadows should the hiker wish to end the hike here; though next week the Sawback Trail continues on to Lluellen Lake.
The campground is beside Johnston Creek in a forested area, where camp fires are permitted.
At the campground this little visitor is certain to appear.
[34 - Chipmunk - click to enlarge]
Several of the photographs in this hiking trail series are those Mike Warren took. He is an avid outdoorsman and took the time on flickr to provide information on the type of food he takes on his mountain excursions. The following is a list of food ingredients to pack on a spring traverse consisting of 7 nights and 8 days:
7 cups granola+dried fruit+powdered milk
7 caffinated tea bags
7 non-caffinated tea bags
4 boil-in-a-bag dinners
3 potato-flake + cheese + nuts + flavouring dinners
21 oatcakes, 7 cubes of cheddar
2 miso soups, broth powder, corn chowder soup powder
4 mini bars dark chocolate
11 cliff bars
14 fruit bars
3 C trail mix
14 shortbread cookies
[35 - Food for 7 nights and 8 days]
I would add dried figs to this list as they are almost a perfect food and easy to carry.
NOTE: ParksCanada has an important announcement on their website about BEARS on part of the Sawback Trail area here. This hiking series covering the Sawback Trail will pass through to Lake Louise in PRIME GRIZZLY BEAR TERRITORY. Any reader thinking of taking this trail please read this notice. It could save your life.
ParksCanada – Banff
ParksCanada Backcountry Overview
ParksCanada Trail Conditions
ParksCanada Backpacking Equipment Checklist
Gem Trek maps for Lake Louise and Skoki
Gem Trek maps for Banff and Mount Assiniboine
HI Hostels Intl Survival Guide
Photo Credits: -meganpru CC=nc-flickr, -Kris Griffon CC=nc-sa-flickr, -withrow CC=nc-flickr,  yathin CC=nc-nd-flickr, -Shane Huang CC=nc-sa-flickr,  Strange Ones CC=flickr,  mikewarren CC=nc-sa-flickr.