One of the finest hikes in the Banff National Park is Healy Pass. The hike starting point is a short drive from the town of Banff and climbs a gradual pass until unveiling a pristine alpine meadow.
The meadow is resplendent for hiking and famed for wildflowers in the summer and larch trees in the fall. There are quite a few storybook vistas in the park, but Healy Pass rivals the best of them.
Healy Pass Hike Information
4 – 8 hours
Sunshine Village Parking
Healy Pass Route Description
This is a beautiful hike that is sure to be loved by all who set out on the journey — easily one of the best hikes in Banff. Healy Pass peaks twice a year, first in the early summer when the valley flooded with millions of wildflowers and again in fall when the larch trees turn gold.
Once hikers reach the pass, they are afforded stunning views of the surrounding peaks and Egypt Lake.
Parks Canada maintains the trail, and it remains one of the most popular hikes in Banff National Park.
The trail begins at the Sunshine Village parking lot, and the trailhead is located behind the main building. It’s a quick 20-minute drive from the town of Banff and a tremendous option for a day hike for visitors looking to get out on the trail.
The trail has a gradual climb through a lush shaded forest at its start. Due to the elevation grade, the elevation gain on this hike feels much more manageable for novice hikers.
As hikers work their way through the woods, they cross a series of bridges, creeks, avalanche paths, and one infrequently used backcountry campsite. There have been some complaints about the monotony of a long approach through the trees, but we find it relaxing.
Once you’re in the alpine meadow, the hike provides expansive views of lakes, fields of wildflowers, rolling hills, and towering peaks in the distance. There are two peak windows to enjoy the meadow.
Wildflowers on Healy Pass
Typically around the first week of July, the flowers reach their peak as millions of yellow glacier lilies dot the meadows. However, be warned the glacier lilies have a short window and typically disappear after two weeks.
Nonetheless, the rest of the summer months supply an incredible multitude of native flowers such as paintbrushes, white mountain avens, saxifrage, forget-me-nots, and anemones.
Larches on Healy Pass
The next peak season comes around mid to late September when the larch trees in the meadow turn to a brilliant golden hue. The trail works amongst the trees until you reach the pass, where you’re afforded a brilliant view of the meadow full of larch trees. Hiking Healy Pass is easily one of the best things to do in Banff in the fall.
Past the meadow is the apex of the trail Healy Pass which provides fantastic views out to the surrounding peaks. In the distance, you can see one of the most picturesque mountains in Banff, Mount Assiniboine. The trail from here continues onto Egypt Lake, which presents backcountry camping opportunities or an extended day hike for a keen hiker.
If you’re after a peak, continue to the North of the Pass up to Healy Pass Peak. The summit is a popular snowshoe objective and a great spot to enjoy lunch and the views around the surrounding region. It’s genuinely one of the most spectacular sections of Banff National Park. Another option is to add on is to hike the Monarch Ramparts to the West of the meadow.
To return, the most common route is to follow the same trail back out or a small detour can be made around the Simpson Pass Route that reconnects with the Healy Pass trail.
Advice on the Healy Pass Trail
Healy Pass Peak or the Monarch Ramparts are great additions that many forgo, but the view from both are superb. We’ve explored plenty of the park and still consider Healy Pass one of the most spectacular areas in the park.
If there is one negative, it’s the long approach to this hike. As you walk through the forest for nearly 8km, it can feel a bit like a slog. In wet weather, the forest can also be very muddy, so wear high ankle boots if hiking in the early season or if raining.
Try to time hike for early July or late September to catch the meadow in the most brilliant times of the year.
Gear We Recommend for the Rockies
The vast majority of hikes and easy scrambles in the Rockies, you’ll find us in our trusty Salomon Speedcross.
Arc’teryx Cerium is our pick for the best down jacket. It’s incredibly light, and we bring it on almost every hike in the Rockies.
This nifty clip from Peak Design secures a camera to my backpack strap for easy reach. No more digging in the backpack!
A pair of durable and lightweight hiking poles are a great asset on the hiking trail.
20L feels like the ideal size for quick hikes and scrambles. We love the Nano from Gregory with a hydration reservoir.
There is not much cell service in the Canadian Rockies. In case of emergencies, we carry an emergency beacon with GPS.
How Hard is Healy Pass Trail?
As experienced hikers, we found Healy Pass to be very easy. However, there is some real distance here with over 20 km and a decent amount of elevation gain at 890 meters.
That being said, it’s a gradual climb, so unlike many other high elevation gain hikes in the Canadian Rockies, this is manageable for most people at an average fitness level.
Be prepared to be on your feet for at least 5 hours at a leisurely walking pace. We’d rate this as a moderate to hard hike that feels suitable for older adults, children, and dogs with previous hiking experience.
How Long Does Hiking Healy Pass Take?
The duration of the Healy Pass can vary significantly as there are so many options to extend the hike. If you stick to the classic Healy Pass trail, I would plan for the hike to take between 4-7 hours.
Make sure to pack a great lunch to enjoy in the meadow or from the top of Healy Pass. Of course, everyone’s hiking time varies, but an average pace falls in the middle of the suggested hike times.
When Can You Hike Healy Pass?
The best time to hike Healy Pass is the beginning of July for wildflowers or the end of September for Larch trees. The trail is best completed between the summer and fall from June – October.
In the shoulder months of June and October, hikers should expect to find snow, ice, or mud on the trail, but not enough to make navigation of the trail too difficult.
Of course, the weather is seasonal, and every year the snowmelt date is different, and it’s possible to extend into July. The route crosses several avalanche paths, so I would only recommend it to experienced snowshoes or skiers in the winter months.
How Popular is Healy Pass?
Healy Pass is one of the more popular hikes in Banff National Park, and it’s often frequented by tour groups as it’s one of the most beautiful hikes in the Rockies. That being said it’s nothing like Sulphur Mountain or Johnston Canyon nearby, and you should find plenty of solitude on the trail too.
However, none of this should detract from the walk as the 10 km (one way) trail allows for plenty of breathing room for visitors.
We’ve completed this hike on a lovely weekend summer day and also on a weekend during larch season and found ourselves on the path alone the vast majority of the hike.
Should You Bring Dogs or Kids on Healy Pass?
The trail is appropriate for most hikers who feel comfortable walking uphill, great for anyone of moderate fitness. I’d say kids from ages seven years old and up should be able to handle the trail just fine, depending on their previous hiking experience. Strollers will not work on the trail, but if you have a baby carrier, you should be fine hiking Healy Pass dependent on fitness.
Dogs should be able to handle the trail just fine. Just keep in mind the hike is around 20 km in length, so small dogs might struggle with the range while large dogs will handle the trail with ease. Please remember dogs must always be on a leash in the national park for the safety of fellow hikers, the dog, and wildlife.
Healy Pass Hike Extension Options
Once you get back on the Healy Pass trail you’ll realize there are a world of trails back here!
Egypt Lake Trail: If you have some extra gas in the tank we recommend hiking down to Egypt Lake. There are campsites back here for multi day backpacking trips, or you can add it on to your day hike. If you tack this on expect your day to be 25 km and 1,345 m of gain.
Pharaoh Peak: Bag a summit. Pharaoh Peak is past Egypt Lake so it’s best to do on a multi day trip. If you attempt this in one day expect to hike over 32.5 km with over 2000 meters of elevation gain.
Monarch Ramparts: Follow the Healy Pass trail up to the Monarch Ramparts.
Healy Pass Peak: The unofficial name for the high point located to the north of Healy Pass. Once you reach the top of the pass you’ll see a trail leading to a peak to your right (if facing Pharoah Peak). To bag Healy Pass peak from Healy Pass is only another 20 minutes of effort.
These are just a few suggestions, you'll have to study a topography map and pick up a map in Downtown Banff or Canmore to route your adventure.
Advice on Hikes in the Canadian Rockies
- If this is your first time hiking in the Rockies, take a conservative approach. Pick an adequate hike for your fitness, plan for plenty of time, pack water and food, and don’t be afraid to turn around. If you want to learn more about what to wear hiking we have a great post.
- For long hikes, set a turnaround time at the departure. Any time we set out for an objective, I determine a time at which we need to turn around in order to arrive at the parking lot or campsite by dark. I would recommend not hiking in the dark as it’s easy to get lost and it’s not fun in bear country.
- Always carry bear spray if you plan to hike in the park. We carry ours in the neighborhood and bears have been known to stroll through town and busy parking lots. When you’re on a trail, always practice wildlife awareness, and please give animals space.
- In regards to times, keep in mind your mountain fitness — different than the gym. The low end of the times in this post is a constant fast pace uphill with little to no breaks and a brisk pace downhill. Most hikers should plan for a middle of the road time with the estimated duration.
- A GPS tracker could save your life – it’s one of those backpacking essentials I like to have on me just in case I need to hit SOS. Alltrails is our favorite app to have on a hike. It shows the correct trail way, elevation, and other hiker reviews. We paid the subscription fee so that we could download all the data we need on our phones. Best $2.50 (per month) ever spent!
What to Wear On a Hike?
The most basic principle of what to wear hiking is layering. Anyone that has spent time in the wilderness or mountains can speak to the fact your temperature can fluctuate a lot on a hike. You can quickly start off cool at the base of the mountain and get hot as soon as you begin moving.
Hiking clothing aims to help regulate your body temperature, element protection, and moisture management. Temperature management is best done through a layering system. If you want to learn more about what to pack for a day hike or what to wear on a hike, you can see our full post! Here are the best hiking clothes for men and the best hiking clothes for women.
Hopefully, this Healy Pass hike guide helped you plan your trip.
If you have any other questions leave a comment or see our Canadian Rockies travel guide for more articles about photography spots, lakes, hikes, and everything else.
Plan Your Trip to the Canadian Rockies
- Travel Insurance: We don’t recommend traveling without travel insurance. We recommend checking out Safetywing or World Nomads offers competitive rates for all travelers.
- Hotels in the Rockies: There are many places to stay, from luxury hotels to wilderness cabins. See all our favorites here.
- Pack for the Rockies: See our complete Alberta packing list here.
- Get Around: We suggest either renting a car to get around or embarking on an epic campervan trip with companies like Outdoorsy.
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