Egypt Lake 12km Each Way (Moderate)
Author: Sarah Thacker
The Egypt Lake Trail starts from the Sunshine Village parking lot in Banff National Park. You would definitely want to do it as a multiday hike so you can do some of the day trips that begin at the Egypt Lake campground. When you start you have the option of walking up the Healy Creek trail from the Sunshine Village parking lot or taking the gondola up and walking from there. The distance is about the same, but the big differences are that if you walk from the bottom your elevation gain will be greater, whereas if you take the gondola the cost of the trip will be much higher. However, if you are like us and everyone in your group forgets a camera memory card, you will be forced to pay the gondola fee and ride up to the top in order to purchase one up there. I would actually recommend taking the gondola anyways as it makes the trail much more interesting.
Sunshine Village to Monarch Viewpoint (1.6km)
After you purchase your memory cards from the Sunshine Village store your hike can begin. You will follow signs for Monarch Viewpoint. This first section of the hike is a short uphill climb that took us 45 minutes. The climb is definitely worth it as the view that you get is spectacular.
This viewpoint is one of the reasons why I highly suggest going from the top rather than the bottom (if you go from the bottom, you will not pass Monarch Viewpoint).
Monarch Viewpoint to Simpson Pass (4.0km)
From the viewpoint your uphill climb will quickly become null and void as you descend into a valley to skirt around a rock slide along the Simpson Pass trail. This part of the trail is generally uninspiring in my opinion. You stay in the woods the whole time going up and down a couple of times. Just when your hiking partner thinks you have led them down the wrong trail a beacon of hope will emerge. The beacon is actually the first provincial border marker you will come across. The trail skirts right along the BC/Alberta border so there are a few of these markers along this stretch. Sarah and I stopped and had snacks in separate provinces. From there it's only a short jog to Simpson Pass. We decided to have lunch here but I would highly recommend holding off for just a second. It took us an hour and twenty minutes to do this section.
Simpson Pass to Healy Pass (3.5km)
I think that this stretch of the trail is the nicest. Of course it would also be the most technical section on the hike. From Simpson Pass you have a short yet steep climb (we chose to take a slightly longer route that meets up with the Healy Pass trail in 2.0km instead of 1.3km). In the last section I recommended holding off on lunch until after Simpson Pass. The reason being that after your short climb you will come into a paradise land of lakes, mountains, and meadows. This section is generally uphill but with some flat sections to recover and to take in the views. Along the way there will be a T style trail junction with a sign. This is where the trail meets up from the parking lot if you chose to go that way. From there it is a last big push that nearly ended me to get to Healy Pass. Once you get to the top you have 180 degree views of different valleys in the mountains. You can also see Egypt lake with Scarab Lake above. It took us two hours to get from Simpson Pass to Healy Pass, but that did include lunch.
Healy Pass to Egypt Lake Campground (2.9km)
So you know all that hard work you just did to get up to Healy Pass. Well it means nothing. The rest of the trail goes seemingly straight down the mountain. I felt I was cheated and was also thinking about the climb that we would have to do in order to get back up when going home. When you get to the bottom there will be a ranger station before you reach the Healy Creek crossing which doubles as the entrance to the campground. It took us an hour to get to the campground from Healy Pass (Sarah note: and my knees were burning!).
Egypt Lake Campground to Egypt Lake (0.8km)
We camped overnight at the Egypt Lake campground. I would recommend doing some reconnaissance before selecting a site, as some of the best protected ones were quite hidden! Egypt Lake is an easy 0.8km hike from the campground, and well worth it. The two times we walked to Egypt Lake on this trip we were the only people there. It is a beautiful spot, and you can just glimpse a waterfall crashing into the lake.
Egypt Lake Campground to Pharaoh Lake (1.3km)
The next day we set off for a day hike to the Whistling Pass. This hike was highly recommended by my guidebook and friends, however it just wasn’t meant to be. The trail report had said “not recommended” the day we started our trip, and when we started on the trail I came to the same conclusion. The trail was covered in deep snow. I have never hiked in snow like that before, so decided I didn’t feel comfortable doing the hike. We turned around and spent some time at Egypt Lake (we had also sat by the lake the night before).
After lunch we decided to hike to Pharaoh Lake. Follow the Pharaoh Creek trail 0.5km downstream of the campground to the trail junction then take the trail leading off to the left. From here, it was 0.8km of uphill through the trees to Pharaoh Lake. While uninspiring, it didn’t take us long to reach Pharaoh Lake, which was very inspiring! (Braedyn Note: Pharaoh Lake was the highlight of the trip for me)The lake sits in a bowl bordered by mountains and is such a beautiful blue colour! We had the lake all to ourselves, except for a nice marmot friend named Wilfred (look at him, clearly he is a Wilfred!). We chose not to continue on to Black Rock Lake (1.1km past Pharaoh Lake), and returned to the campground where we stayed a second night.
Egypt Lake Campground to Sunshine Village Parking Lot (12.1km)
We awoke early the next morning after a night full of rain and lightning, ate breakfast, packed up, and hit the trail! We expected the hike back up to Healy Pass to be gruelling, and it was. Although I must say we reached Healy Pass sooner than I expected (at least it felt relatively quick). We stopped at the pass for a snack and some photos.
We continued back on the trail we had come in on, but this time at the T intersection we took the Healy Creek trail (note: on the signpost at the intersection the Healy Creek trail is called Bourgeau - don’t be scared, it will take you to the parking lot!). The trail was pretty uninteresting as it was all through trees, but at least we were going downhill. Along the way we were stopped by some hikers who had seen a bear on the trail! We passed some very large groups of hikers who said there had been three bears, but they were scared off by the people. I was completely freaked out by this, and Braedyn and I basically power hiked down to the parking lot (Braedyn note: at one point I even twisted my ankle, but we were not allowed to stop for a small recovery) (I may have overreacted…).
Overall, we had a great time! I would consider doing this trail later in the season so that the Whistling Pass would be more accessible! I would highly recommend taking the gondola up as it is a much more scenic route.