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Rockies :: Banff-Louise :: Healy Pass Alpine Hikes

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Healy pass environs from Monarch Ramparts.  Simpson pass center left, Monarch right.  Mt. Assinibioine far in the distance

Abstract

Overall Difficulty D3/4 Gentle trail hiking.  Moderate steep part above Healy creek campground.  Brief talus section on Ramparts; gentle ridge on Healy Pass Peak.
Snow Factor S3 Frequently done on skis or snowshoes in winter.  Some avalanche risk from couple of gullies extending from Mt. Bourgeau between km 4 and km 5 of Healy Pass trail
Scenery Far reaching views on both sides of continental divide.  Several well-known peaks including Mt. Assiniboine and Mt. Ball.  Alpine tarns and meadows. Profusion of wildflowers in summer;  one of best places to see golden larches in the fall
Trail/Marking Very Good Official Park trail with signposts to Healy Pass and Eohippus Lake.  Well defined trail on the Ramparts.  Off-trail ascent of Healy Pass Peak (way is obvious). 
Suggested Time 7 - 9 hr Return time for Healy Pass/Monarch Ramparts or Healy Pass/Healy Pass Peak.  Loop return via Simpson Pass will add ~1hr.  Add 1-2hrs if including "Healy Pass Peak" together with Ramparts, or Eohippus - Ramparts loop
Elevation

Start: 1700m     Max: 2450 m    Total: ~800 m   (Monarch Ramparts)

Round Trip: ~25 km  (Highpoint of Monarch Ramparts)
Start: 1700m     Max: 2570 m    Total: ~950 m   (Healy Pass Peak) Round Trip: ~22 km (Healy Pass Peak)
Start: 1700m     Max: 2450 m    Total: ~1100 m  (Eohippus Loop) Round Trip: ~30km (Eohippus - Ramparts loop)
Gear Day hikers are sufficient for summer trips. Skis or snowshoes in winter 
Water Healy creek and several seasonal streams in Healy Pass environs. Carry 1-1.5L
Dog Friendly Yes Pets need to be under control. Trail is busy and Healy Pass is prime grizzly habitat

 

 

Gallery (Monarch Ramparts via Healy Pass)

Delightful alpine hiking below Healy Pass

Views south towards the Ramparts from Healy Pass

Abundance of Indian Paintbrush in alpine meadows in summer

Telephoto of Egypt Lake area from Healy Pass

View south from the Pass.  "Monarch Lake" in the center

North end of the Ramparts with view of "Healy Pass Peak"

Panoramic views of Healy Pass alpine from the Ramparts

Continental Divide marker on high-point of the Ramparts

South End of the Ramparts.  Eohippus lake behind

Two Alpine Eyes below Monarch Ramparts

More wildflowers in alpine meadows by "Monarch Lake"

Terrific hiking by "Monarch Lake" on return to main trail

 

 

Summary

 

Healy Pass is exceptional alpine area lying on continental divide along Alberta/BC provincial border.  In the fall it is one of best places to see golden larches;  in summer, meadows full of wildflowers are prime example of what summer hiking in Canadian Rockies can offer.  Access trail stays below treeline most of the way but it can be done fast and trudge is small price to pay for scenic awards that follow.  Some people just day-hike to the pass, but for more energetic hikers Monarch Ramparts extending south along the continental divide is one of best ridgewalks in Banff National Park.  Another option is ascent of "Healy Pass Peak" NE of the Pass.  Both can be included at the same time, or to experience area in different seasons - you can do Ramparts in summer and Peak in winter (or the other way around).  Loop return via Simpson Pass to upper Sunshine Area is great full-day choice for strong hikers.

 

Drive Sunshine access road branching west from Trans-Canada highway some 10 minutes north of Banff townsite;  park here.  Healy Pass trail starts along the ski run behind the day-lodge. You can also follow upper complex access road, then transfer down as it curls left (south).  This is the trailhead, with post showing direction and distances.  Follow well-defined trail along south side of Healy creek, then cross on good bridge to the north side. Healy Creek campground and lower Simpson Pass junction are around 5km mark; continue on the main trail.  Next couple of kilometers are bit steeper with bit of roots but going is still easy. You reach alpine meadows around 8km mark near bridged creek crossing and upper Simpson Pass junction. Trail sign informs you that there are still 1.5 km to the pass.  Abundance of larches or wildflowers -- depending on the season -- makes this last bit exceptionally scenic! Beware though, this is also prime grizzly bear habitat;  on my visit in the fall of 2006 I've seen huge bruin roaming in the meadows directly below the trail! From the pass main trail drops on the other side and descends towards Egypt Lake area (about 3km away).

 

For Ramparts, turn left and follow good trail ascending semi-open ridge towards Monarch Ramparts.  This trail is well defined, but way is obvious.  Above (unofficially named) "Monarch Lake" transfer to upper ridge and continue for couple of kilometers towards Monarch Peak.  Hiking is exceptional to say the least!  Continental Divide marker at high-point is logical turnaround spot, but you can also continue to south end and descend to Eohippus Lake, then return along the meadows below the Ramparts.  Shortcut (off-trail) around "Monarch Lake" brings you back to Healy Pass trail just above upper Simpson Pass junction.

 

For Healy Pass Peak turn right from the pass and ascend gentle ridge through stunts of larch trees and later low pine towards obvious high-point above. Going is easy and ridge wide. It takes 30-40 minutes from the pass to the "summit" that hosts large cairn (but usually no register).  Fabulous views unfold north and you can study length of Pharaoh Creek between Egypt and Shadow Lake.  To the right are Pilot and Mt. Brett -- both Kane scrambles;  Bourgeau is further to the right. In the distance is host of familiar peaks of Lake Louise area.   Much further exploration is possible as ridge is gentle and several lower bumps can also be visited;  when your sense of adventure has been satisfied simply drop south and reconnect with Healy Pass trail.

 

Loop return via Simpson Pass will undoubtedly prove more scenic than the way in -- almost entire way is in the alpine! Be aware though that you must descend 5-6 km and 400m of Sunshine access road at the end, and it will feel like a slog to end the day.  Otherwise return the same way.

 

Gallery (Healy Pass Peak - winter trip)

Bridge shortly after Sunshine ski out junction

Lovely winter scenery ~2km mark as trail crosses Healy creek

Avalanche gully coming off Mt. Bourgeau ~5km mark

Snow "mushrooms" as trail starts ascent ~6km mark

Multitude of ski tracks below Healy Pass

Bare larch trees just above Healy Pass

Fabulous panorama behind; Monarch and Ramparts right

Final bit of windswept ridge just below summit block

Views east towards peaks above Sunshine Core area

Late afternoon sun casting long shadows just below the summit

Panoramic view south from Healy Pass Peak

Panoramic view north from Healy Pass Peak

Pilot (L) and Brett (R) - both Kane Scrambles

Mt. Bourgeau - easiest 1500m you will ever do in Kane book

Egypt Lake area; Pharoah peak right (easy scramble)

Low cloud setting over Sphinx above Egypt Lake

Telephoto of Mt. Assiniboine - "Matterhorn of the Rockies"

Monarch looks fabulous lit by setting sun

Sweeping panorama south on descent back to Healy Pass

Low clouds moving as sun has set behind Monarch

Telephoto of Mt. Assiniboine - "Matterhorn of the Rockies"

Beautiful alpine glow toward Sunshine Core area

Assiniboine (L) and Monarch (R) look amazing

Below Healy Pass;  hike out is easily done with headlamp

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Gallery (Eohippus Lake)

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 Official Eohippus Lake trail branches off Simpson Pass trail near Healy Pass alpine meadows. This junction is marked.  Easiest and fastest way is to hike standard Healy Pass trail, then branch off to Simpson past km 5 junction -- or hike Simpson from Sunshine upper area which is more scenic, but does lose elevation.  Either way, hike is very scenic past this junction as it traverses expansive alpine meadows dotted with larches as well as one large lake (pic 1 in gallery).  Trail rises a bit past this lake, then descends to Eohippus.   You can return the same way, but recommended is to hike up to south end of Monarch Ramparts then loop back via Healy Pass trail.  This is fairly long day (~30km), but the most rewarding trip in the area, specially in the fall when larches are turning golden.   Way is obvious and good trail exists, but if snow covered simply climb lower bench above Eohippus and hike this gentle ramp to the top.   Kane scramblers would now drop into talus basin to access ascent gully;  hikers simply continue north for one of best alpine hikes Banff NP offers.  This loop can also be done in reverse and there is little benefit in choosing one over the other

Unnamed lake ~15min past Simpson/Eohippus Junction

Hiking Alpine Meadows towards Eohippus Lake

Eohippus Lake looking east to Sunshine Core area

Panoramic View of Eohippus Lake unofficial trail to Monarch Ramparts is to the right

Talus bench between Eohippus Lake and Monarch Ramparts

Eohippus Lake from south end of Monarch Ramparts

Looking back to Monarch while looping back to Healy Pass

Healy Pass Environs;  Healy Pass Peak upper center left