Total distance: 43.5 km
Total elevation gain: 2015 m
Trailhead to Twin Lakes camp: 7.5 km, 715 m
Twin Lakes camp to Ball Pass camp: 12 km, 310 m
Ball Pass camp to Egypt Lake camp, including detour to Scarab and Mummy Lakes: 11.5 km, 650 m (8.7 km, 370 m without detour)
Egypt Lake camp to Sunshine parking area: 12.5 km, 340 m
This is a reasonably scenic backpacking trip with a little of everything - big mountains, lakes, wildflowers, and glaciers. We did it in a leisurely four days, camping at small campgrounds (5 sites) at Upper Twin Lake and Ball Pass Junction and the large campground at Egypt Lake. Trail conditions varied throughout the hike, but in general the trial is muddy, rocky, and rooty and we ended up spending a fair amount of time watching our step instead of the scenery. Mosquitoes were also voracious and thick, so be certain to bring some sort of protection from them. As a one-way trip from the Vista Lake trailhead off highway 93S to the Sunshine Meadows parking lot, two cars are required for this trek. I'd also recommend doing the hike in this direction as it will mean the steepest sections will be done as descents rather than ascents and the final day - hiking out along Healy Creek - will be very easy.
The trek begins with a steep descent to Vista Lake followed by the longest ascent of the hike (585 m) through a decades-old regenerating burn. Arnica Lake is reached at the top of this climb with Upper Twin Lake and campground lying over the hill to the south (a 130 m ascent). From Upper Twin Lake descend to Lower Twin Lake, then gently ascend to Gibbon Pass. The pass is wonderful and is the first time you've been out of the trees for a significant length since beginning the trip. The trail then descends steeply from Gibbon Pass to Shadow Lake Lodge, then meanders to Shadow Lake. There is a nice bench at the outlet stream and a bridge, both of which are great places to relax and one of the few places on the hike where a breeze might keep the mosquitoes at bay. From here to Ball Pass camp the tail is generally flat. Energy permitting, a quick dayhike up Ball Pass is worthwhile.
Departing Ball Pass camp, the trail initially ascends very steeply before becoming fairly level. Pass a mosquito-breeding pond, then reach beautiful Haiduk Lake. From the lake ascend to Whistling Pass, watching for marmots along the way. The initially steep ascent from the lake quickly becomes more bearable. The views from Whistling Pass are one of the highlights of the trip and the descent towards Egypt Lake will take you through flower and marmot-filled meadows. About halfway to Egypt Lake camp from the pass, reach a signed junction for Scarab and Mummy Lakes. While this detour is only about 3 km with 300 m of elevation gain you will be doing it with a full pack, but is definitely worth it if you have the energy. Re-ascending to this point from Egypt Lake camp with a light pack is less attractive as this would involve a very steep ascent.
Egypt Lake camp is the largest campsite in the area and includes a minimally-equipped cabin that can be reserved in advance if you're tired of tenting by this point. You'll have a dozen others cramped in next to you, however. There are many other lakes in the vicinity of the campground and all would make nice evening hike destinations, but we choose to relax by the stream instead. Departing Egypt Lake involves the second longest continuous ascent of the trek - 340 m - but the views and meadows of Healy Pass more than make up for it. The trail from the meadows to the Sunshine parking lot is the best section of trail on the entire hike, and with the exception of the first few kilometers is gently graded, thus allowing for a speedy exit.
Category:Lifestyle and Recreation
Keywords:Arnica Lake, Banff National Park, Egypt Lake, Gibbon Pass, Haiduk Lake, Healy Pass, Mummy Lake, Scarab Lake, Shadow Lake, Twin Lakes, Vista Lake, Whistling Pass, backpacking, hiking