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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.

Sawback Lake

Rainbow Lake

Once again, this trip falls under the category of “Why didn’t I think of that?”

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.

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.

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.)

Mystic Lake

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).

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 (Banff & Mt Assiniboine).

All photos courtesy of Zeljko Kozomara.