Some of the best backcountry hiking options lie in the Egypt Lake area, accessible from the Sunshine Village car park, with good side-trails radiating from the lake’s campground. Elsewhere in the backcountry around Banff the choice of trails is huge. Classics include routes that lead from Banff to Lake Louise – the Sawback Trail and the Bow Valley Highline – or the tracks in the Upper Spray and Bryant Creek Valley south of town. You’ll need a specialist guidebook and topographic maps before tackling any of these.
Wherever you choose to hike in the backcountry, your first step should be to pick up the Banff National Park Backcountry Visitors’ Guide at a park visitor centre, or download it from the park website (w pc.gc.ca/pn-np/ab/banff/activ/activ33.aspx). Then you’ll need to come up with a planned hike with dates and book the relevant backcountry campgrounds ($11.70 booking fee, plus $9.80/night) up to three months in advance by phone or in person at the Banff or Lake Louise visitor centres. This per-night fee is variously called a Backcountry Permit or a Wilderness Pass, and you’re best off picking it up just before your hike so you can easily check the very latest on trail conditions and closures. The sooner you book your spot, the better, as the most popular of the fifty-odd backcountry campgrounds fill up well in advance; reserve ahead in particular for Marvel Lake, Egypt Lake, Luellen Lake, Aylmer Pass, Mystic Meadow, Fish Lakes, Paradise Valley, Hidden Lake, Baker Lake, Merlin Meadows, Red Deer Lakes and Mount Rundle.