Route: Sawback Trail

Submitted by chrisinbanff on Mon, 09/11/2023 - 05:56pm
Alberta, CA
73.5 km
Vertical Gain
2,472 m

This route travels through the Sawback Range in world famous Banff National Park, between Lake Louise Ski Resort (Fish Creek Trailhead) and Mount Norquay Ski Resort (the edge of the car drop-off in front of Cascade Lodge).


The route is more commonly done as a multi-night backpacking route spanning 3-6 days. I’m not sure which direction is most popular when backpacking but I think West to East is a more favourable direction for running. You’ll run through three mountains passes en route (Boulder, Pulsatilla, and Mystic). At the first pass you’ll run alongside the gorgeous Ptarmigan Lake and Baker Lake. Then it’s the incredibly beautiful and isolated Pulsatilla Lake on top of your second pass. From there until Larry’s Camp you’ll be following the oath of Johnston Creek. Then after Mystic Pass the trail follows Forty Mile Creek. There are optional but short, and worthwhile, add-ons to Luellen Lake and Mystic Lake, as well. You’ll run through or very close to seven backcountry campgrounds (Baker Lake, Wildflower Creek, Badger Pass Junction, Johnston Creek, Larry’s Camp, Mystic Valley, and Mount Cockscomb) that all have outhouses and natural water sources. Also because of the number of backcountry campgrounds this route connects, it’s in very good shape. Steep climbs up the passes but a lot of very runnable terrain on the more gradual descents. 

There is no cell service other than at the start and end so make sure you have some way contacting help in case of an emergency. It’s also prime Grizzly Bear habitat so carry bear spray. Despite the number of campgrounds en route, you won’t see very many people between Baker Lake and Mystic Valley camps.