If you look in the Parks Canada guide to hikes in the Banff Area, Cory Pass Loop is described as ‘the most strenuous day hike in the Banff Area’. It’s true the hike does take a fair while to do and it is very much an uphill struggle for the first section of the hike. But if you have the time and the enthusiasm it is a worthwhile hike to do.
The trailhead is at the Fireside Picnic Area just on the Bow Valley Parkway – when I did the hike we cycled along the Legacy Trail from Banff which took about 15 minutes or so from downtown.
The trail starts out fairly flat for a very short section and then the climb begins! There are a lot of switchbacks going up and some sections where the trail just heads straight uphill. It seems best to make lots of water and snack breaks as this section is such a slog, but you’ll get there in the end!
Once you’ve done the steepest section of the climb up, there’s a short down section and then a more gentle climb up to Cory Pass. From this short downhill section to the summit of Cory Pass does take a fair while as you slowly climb out of the forest and into the alpine.
We stopped at the summit of Cory Pass to enjoy our lunch and then take some photos. Even though it was a sunny day it was pretty windy up there so it’s a good idea to bring some spare layers. From here you’ll be able to see Mounts Cory, Edith and Louis.
If you’re completing the loop as we did you’ll then need to descend down the other side of Cory Pass on a trail which goes over very loose scree (Parks Canada has a trail guide which gives a good description for this part of the hike). This part of the trail isn’t very clear so it’s a good idea to bring a detailed map with you.
When you’ve regained the well-built trail and it will level off a fair bit (though still has a couple of undulations), you’ll follow it around Mount Edith mostly through forest. However there are a number of scree slopes which you’ll cross offering views over towards Mount Norquay.
After a while the trail then begins to descend through dense forest and meanders around, continuing in a circuit of Mount Edith. The shade of the forest is a relief after the the haul up to Cory Pass. Eventually the trail will head back towards the Fireside Picnic Area where we started the hike. After this we had the short cycle back into Banff along the Legacy trail, we took our time and took some photos at the Vermilion Lakes along the way.
In all, the total distance for the loop is 13 kilometres (approximately 8 miles) and an elevation gain of 921 metres (roughly 3000 feet).
© RockiesOutdoors 2015.