Cory and Edith Pass Loop: The Toughest Hike in Banff National Park
Cory and Edith Pass Loop was the toughest hike we did in Banff National Park and overall in the Canadian Rockies. The trek offers excellent views you only need to work for them a bit. Read our guide on how to hike Cory and Edith Pass Loop including tips on where to start, where to stay before the trek and how to stay safe.
We had a chance to travel in the Canadian Rockies twice, and as we love hiking, we truly enjoyed the opportunity to explore many trails in the mountains.
Banff National Park offers stunning beauty and vistas wherever you look, towering mountains, crystal clear lakes, and thick forests. Simply, every nature and outdoor enthusiast will find here a paradise. The Canadian Rockies were always considered one of the top world's destinations, but in the past few years the star of the Rockies shines even more brightly, and it is hard to find a place without crowds.
Luckily, we found one of the best trails in the Banff National Park, where you can savor the majestic atmosphere of the great outdoors almost alone. The hike is called Cory and Edith Pass Loop, however there is one teeny-tiny problem.
You need to work for the privilege of enjoying this place a bit.
Honestly, for us, Cory & Edith Pass Loop was one of the toughest and more challenging one-day treks in the Rockies, but we think that every moderately fit person should be able to complete it without a problem.
CORY AND EDITH PASS LOOP
You might have already noticed that this hike has two sides - Cory side and Edith side.
We will describe here how to hike the full loop because it does not make much sense to trek only one side when it is possible to make a loop unless you are caught by bad weather.
We parked our rental car on the parking lot, put water, snacks, and an extra layer of clothes to the daypack, and set off.
The first kilometer was easy. We walked on a well-trodden path in the forest until we reached a fork.
Here you can decide to go either left or right. We thought it didn’t matter because we had to gain the elevation either way.
Without much thinking, we turned left and started climbing to the Cory Pass (later we found out this side is a bit steeper, but it is probably better for your knees to walk it uphill rather than downhill).
Here we will tell you some numbers.
The full loop is 15 kilometers long, it should take you anything between six and eight hours to complete, and you will gain 1075 meters (the highest point of the trek is 2350 meters above sea level).
The trail ascended steeply, and we quickly gained 450 meters before knowing it. We had splendid views of Banff township, Mount Cory, and Mount Louis, there were many wildflowers along the way, and we still had quite a lot of energy to continue. Later we reached a section where we were not that exposed to the sun, and the trail was almost flat.
Sometimes we went up and down, but it was not anything steep.
But at this point, we started to feel our legs.
Then we walked out of the forest and emerged on a rocky path, which led sharply uphill again. This section was completely exposed, and the wind was cold. We pushed ourselves to keep moving as we knew the Cory Pass is not far away.
Here along the way you can enjoy wonderful views of Mount Cory, admire the changing landscape, and amazing views of the Gargoyle Valley. This part of the hike was our favorite because the vistas were simply splendid, and we could see some wildlife in distance as well.
We reached Cory Pass pretty tired, but couldn't believe our luck that we didn't have to share the beauty with many people. As the dark clouds started to roll in, we only snapped a couple of photos, had some snack, and started descending.
The descent via Edith Pass was quite difficult, not only because our legs were already sore, but we had to walk downhill several kilometers on loose scree which was challenging, and we had to focus all the time not to fall (we recommend you to walk zig-zag).
The path was clear because conditions were dry before the hike, but when you cannot see it clearly, you can orientate yourself thanks to stone cairns.
After some time we reached treeline again, and from now on the views disappeared, and we continued on a forest path, which was pretty wide. Watch out for wildlife here, especially for bears, because this section of the trail is an area where you can encounter them during berry season.
We did not see bears here but spotted places near trees with their fur on the ground.
We won't lie to you, we walked pretty quickly here.
The trail widens gradually here, and it did not take long, and we reached the fork where we turned left in the morning. After one kilometer, we found ourselves on the parking lot.
Tired, but incredibly grateful!
Planning Guide for Traveling in the Canadian Rockies
Columbia Icefields Parkway - A Guide to the Perfect Road Trip
Lake O'Hara Guide: Hiking in Yoho National Park
How to Stay Safe in Bear Country
5 Most Beautiful Lakes in the Canadian Rockies
Garibaldi Lake and Panorama Ridge Trek: Hiking in British Columbia
Wells Gray Provincial Park - In the Land of Waterfalls
HOW TO GET TO CORY & EDITH PASS LOOP TRAILHEAD
No matter if you spent a night in Banff, Lake Louise or Calgary, you need to drive Trans-Canada Highway and then turn off to road 1A Bow Valley Parkway (on the first crossroad turn right) in order to get to the hike's trailhead named Fireside Picnic Area. When traveling from Calgary or Banff, you need to drive in direction to Lake Louise, when coming from Lake Louise, follow the highway in the opposite direction.
The trailhead is only 9 kilometers from Banff and 53 kilometers from Lake Louise, but 133 kilometers from Calgary are also doable to make this one-day trip.
We traveled in the Canadian Rockies two times, and both times rented a car, and cannot imagine a better way how to explore this beautiful part of Canada.
Make your rental car reservation well in advance, especially when planning your visit during summer time
WHERE TO STAY BEFORE HIKING CORY & EDITH PASS LOOP
It depends on your travel itinerary in the Canadian Rockies, but you can spend a night before hiking the loop in either Lake Louise, Banff or even in Calgary. Hotels and hostels are packed in this area both in summer and winter, so make your reservation well in advance.
We've handpicked accommodation in every location so you can focus only on enjoying the beautiful nature around.
Lake Louise | Fairmont Château Lake Louise - There is not a more iconic hotel in the Rockies than this one standing on the shore of Lake Louise. If you find a room available, grab your chance.
Banff | Canalta Lodge - The cozy lodge close to the center of Banff offers beautifully appointed rooms and great atmosphere.
Calgary | Aloft Calgary University - Well-rated modern hotel near C-train is easily accessible from the city center or when you want to drive to the Canadian Rockies.
WHAT TO PACK FOR CORY & EDITH PASS HIKE
Do not overpack for only a one-day hike, but remember that weather in the Canadian Rockies is unpredictable and can change quickly. Here are 5 essential things you should pack with you to enjoy a comfortable trek.
Bear Spray | Remember that you are in a bear country. Encounter with bears are rare, but we saw quite a lot of them when hiking in the Rockies, and for your safety, it is better to carry bear spray. It is much cheaper to buy it online than on spot.
Hiking Poles | We used hiking poles for the first time in Nepal, and since than pack them for every longer trek because they help us keep pace, plus our knees feel much better.
Rain Poncho | Weather in the mountains is unpredictable. We always pack rain poncho no matter how great the forecast looks like.
You can read a more detailed all season packing list we've created for the Canadian Rockies.
WEATHER IN THE CANADIAN ROCKIES
Only a few words about the weather, which can hugely affect your planned hike.
Weather in the Canadian Rockies is unpredictable, and you can experience rain and snow storms even in the summer.
One thing is to hike well-equipped the other thing is not to risk. Both passes are often under the snow even in late June, so always make sure in advance that the trail is passable. Both Lake Louise and Banff have excellent information centers with knowledgeable staff who know everything about current situation.
In case you find out that the trail could be dangerous, turn around and come back another time.
It is just not worth it.
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