The Seven Best Multi Day Backpacking Trips in the Canadian Rockies

For every trek I complete in the Canadian Rockies I add another two to my list. Either thanks to other avid hikers whom I meet on the trails, through guide books recommendations or photos I come across online.

The hiking season in the Rockies lasts only 3-4 months, so prioritising and picking a backcountry trip suitable to your abilities and time restrictions is important. 

The backcountry trails and campsites in Canada’s national and provincial parks are well looked after and contain everything you need to ensure an enjoyable and safe trip.

Heading into the backcountry will allow you to experience the mountains in a more intimate way. 

Bear in mind though, that backpacking experiences are well sought after and you may have to spend a few hours on the phone or online trying to reserve the campsites.

Some book out more than 6 months in advance so planning ahead is not only recommended but necessary!

If you are coming to Canada with an intention to road trip around the Rockies and want to include a multiday backpacking trip in your itinerary, make sure to book the latter first and plan the rest of your holidays around it.  

What are the best overnight hikes and excursions in the Canadian Rockies?

1. Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park

Sunburst lake in Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park. Best multiday hikes in the Canadian Rockies

If I was playing word association with someone and they said “Canadian Rockies” then “Mount Assiniboine” would be my reply. Mount Assiniboine owes its popularity not only to its beauty, but also to its accessibility. 

You can reach it by foot, by helicopter, on horseback or skis in the Winter and I covered the first two options in my Photography and Outdoor Guide to Mount Assiniboine.

It has 3 different accommodation options ranging from over 500$ per person per night at the Assiniboine lodge to 10$ per person per night at the campsite. 

September is popular time to visit, particularly amongst photography enthusiasts, when the larch trees turn yellow and the peaks are covered by fresh snow. 

Location: 45km south of Banff

Distance: 3 different hiking options between 25km and 30km one-way

Days recommended: 3 – 5

2. Berg Lake Trail

Berg Lake from Mumm Basin route in Mount Robson Provincial Park

When the Berg Glacier calves into Berg Lake during the night, you sit alert up right, in your tent wondering what on Earth is going on. An experience most people have never had in their lifetime.

This hike is amazing for several other reasons though. The path follows the aptly named Valley of a Thousand Falls eventually ending at Berg Lake where a myriad of extensions can be completed, including one to the summit of Mount Robson – the highest peak of the Canadian Rockies!

Ticking off this peak however is a whole other ball park involving 3000m of pure ascent, requiring mountaineering experience.

Hikers like me should stick to easier trails including Mumm Basin and Snowbird Pass to name a few. To find out more about this trail visit my Berg Lake Trail Guide.

Location: Mount Robson Provincial Park, 60km west of Jasper

Distance: 42km return to Berg Lake + extensions 

Days recommended: 3 – 5

3. Rockwall Trail

Floe Lake and the Rockwall Trail in the Kooteney Provincial Park

One of the harder backpacking trips on this list due to the crazy amount of elevation changes, the Rockwall Trail has all the usual backcountry views, glistening glaciers that flow down into clear glacial lakes, alpine meadows and lots of wildlife.

What sets the Rockwall apart from the others though is the famous Rockwall itself. A sheer cliff that stretches along the majority of the undulating trail with hanging glaciers precariously clinging to its steep face. 

Location: Kootenay National Park 

Distance: 54km 

Days recommended: 4 – 5

4. Skyline Trail

The Skyline Trail in Jasper National Park. View from the Notch

This famous relocation hike along the Maligne Range in Jasper National Park tackles three major passes. The Skyline Trail is certainly one of of the most sought after hikes in Jasper NP.

It’s highest point, The Notch can hold snow until the end of August! Mount Tekarra is another prominent view along the trail that encompasses several creek crossings, alpine tarns and a lot of time spent above the tree line and amongst the peaks. 

Visit my Skyline Trail Guide to plan your excursion! 

Location: Jasper National Park

Distance: 44km

Days recommended: 2 – 4

5. Tonquin Valley

The Ramparts in the Tonquin Valley. Best Multiday Backpacking Trips in the Rockies.

The Rampart Mountain Range runs along the Great Divide marking the border between Alberta and British Columbia. The highlight of the trail, the Amethyst Lakes lie just below these jagged peaks.

An endangered species of Woodland Caribou, that are numbered less than 500 in Jasper National Park frequent the area, as well as several grizzly sows and numerous moose.

Tonquin valley holds a dark secret though. In July swarms of mosquitoes frequent the area making it impossible to enjoy the hike. If you choose to backpack the Tonquin valley make sure to plan it no earlier than August or September. 

Location: Jasper National Park

Distance: 44km

Days recommended: 3 – 5

6. Maligne Lake

Maligne lake paddle trip. Best multiday backpacking trip in the Canadian Rockies

A paddling, not a hiking excursion on Maligne Lake can be as easy or as challenging as you make it. The focus for most people is Spirit Island, one of the most photogenic spots in Jasper, located 1km away from the campsite at Fishermans Bay.

From here the view into the Valley of the Gods is breathtaking.

There are cruises that can take you to this spot every half an hour, but they only give you a short glimpse of what the lake has to offer.

Additionally the cruises cannot get you beyond the Spirit Island. If you inner explorer yearns for more, you must choose to paddle. Follow my guide for Maligne Lake and Spirit Island to learn more. 

Location: Jasper National Park

Distance: 46km return to Coronet Creek, 26km return to Fishermans Bay 

Days recommended: 2 – 4

7. Lake O’hara

Lake O'hara from the Opabin Lookout.

Lake O’hara is a perfect option for someone who is looking for an introduction to backcountry camping. With that said the campsite at Lake O’hara is the hardest to reserve on this list. When bookings open for the summer season, the call line is flooded!

It’s easy to understand why. It’s in the backcountry but has a lot of the amenities of a front-country campsite. You can get a bus in and out, the toilets are serviced daily, there’s several cooking shelters and even a little shop!!!

Similarly to Mount Assiniboine, it also has 3 different types of accommodation, the Lake O’Hara Lodge, the famous Elizabeth Parker huts and the best maintained backcountry campsite in the Canadian Rockies!

There’s a multitude of trails in the area which range from lakeside strolls to difficult scrambles, something for every fitness level with any budget. I cover all the options in my Lake O’Hara Guide. 

Location: Yoho National Park

Distance: Bus in/out  (or 11km one way hike, 22km return)

Minimum days recommended: 3 

Tips on Multi-Day Backcountry Camping in the Canadian Rockies

Stay up to date with reservation timelines

Make sure you stay up to date about the reservation timelines. Even being a few days late could ruin your plans.

Pack for the worst possible conditions

That way, no matter what the weather does, you’ll be prepared. Make sure you shoes are broken in. 

Expect wildlife encounters

Take bear spray and expect wildlife encounters. Know what to do and how to act with each creature. It could save your life.

Search for cancellations

Even if the campsites are fully booked, it’s always a good idea to call the reservation lines to see if any cancellations have occurred. They are very common, so if you’re flexible, you may still be able to go. 

Know your limits

If you push yourself too hard you might put yourself and others into danger. 

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