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Banff’s eastern Sawback Range lakes

Sawback Lake, Banff National Park

Sawback Lake, Banff National Park

From a basecamp on Forty Mile Creek in the heart of Banff’s Sawback Range, backpackers can day hike to several, seldom-visited backcountry lakes. Canmore backpacker-photographer Zeljko Kozomara recently filed a “comment” on my posting “Banff’s Sawback Range: The Fitch Variation” (Sept 2018). Like Gavin Fitch’s take on the Sawback Trail, Zeljko’s itinerary makes total sense. Once again, this trip falls under the category of “Why didn’t I think of that?”

Why speed through the Sawback Trail, or around the Sawback Range Circuit, with a full backpack? Instead, pack to a basecamp and hike to three of the range’s spectacular lakes.

Forty Mile Creek and the 2150m (7,054 ft) Forty Mile Summit have always been good early season destinations for backpackers. And especially this year, with snow lingering on most of the high trails.

Rainbow Lake, Banff National Park

Rainbow Lake, Banff National Park

Zeljko set off on his journey from Mount Norquay a month ago, on July 11, and made it to the Fm19 campground by evening. Like so many backpackers these days, he only discovered one other campsite occupied, even though all 5 sites were listed as occupied by Parks Canada.

The next day, he headed over Forty Mile Summit to Sawback and Rainbow Lakes, where he took some excellent photographs. And on July 13th, he broke camp and headed back to Mount Norquay, taking a side trip to the more frequently visited Mystic Lake. (However, he had the lake to himself.)


Autumn Sky Photography

Photos on this page courtesy of Zeljko Kozomara. Check out Zeljko’s description of the trip Forty Mile Rainbow posting on his Autumn Sky Photography website. It provides far more useful details and photos than I can include here. And check out his entire autumnsky.zenfolio.com  site for a collection of photos and useful trail descriptions from his Canadian Rockies trips. As well as remarkable portfolios from around the world. You can spend hours exploring this website (I have).

Gem Trek Maps Banff & Mount Assiniboine

By setting a basecamp at Fm19 on Forty Mile Creek, backpackers can day hike north to Rainbow and Sawback Lakes or west to Mystic Lake. Map courtesy of Gem Trek Maps (Banff & Mt Assiniboine).



  1. Gavin Fitch

    Great photos Zeljko! I remember fondly our day hiking from Fm19 to Flint’s Park. Besides seeing Rainbow Lake I particularly remember the walk down that escarpment towards Flint’s Park. What amazing views west and north.

    Because we were hiking through we didn’t see Sawback Lake, but now definitely want to. Love the idea of using Fm19 as a basecamp for a loop taking in both Rainbow and Sawback Lakes. The only drawback to that is missing Flint’s, one of my favourite backcountry campsites anywhere.

  2. Ian Mellors

    I am considering doing a loop of the Sawback, Moose Meadows Trailhead to Badger Pass, then to Sawback Lake, then final camp at Larry’s Camp. My question is about creek crossings. I am hiking with my dog, a rescue with an unknown history, and they are not great with creek crossings. Are there any crossings I should be concerned about? I was wondering about crossing the Cascade River at Flint’s Park.

    Thank you for your help.

    • Brian

      As far as I know, the Cascade River is still bridged in Flint’s Park. And I can’t think of any other stream crossings that should be a problem. However, I never recommend taking a dog on a backpacking trip into grizzly country.

  3. Ian Mellors

    I found a reference in your guide book to a bridge over the Cascade River

  4. Ian Mellors

    Thank you your reply, I did see the reference about grizzly bear country in the guide book, not a happy thought when going solo with a dog. Appreciate the feedback


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