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Marvel Lake – Wonder Pass Hike

The Marvel Lake Wonder Pass hike
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One of the truly classic areas in Canada for hiking and backpacking is the area around Lake Magog and Assiniboine Lodge in Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park. There are some truly outstanding day hikes once you get up here – though that can often take a few days in itself if you’re hiking in.

The 25 km Marvel Lake – Wonder Pass hike to Lake Magog is one of the ways to access the area. We hiked out on it – and found the last 7 – 8 km from the Bryant Creek Shelter to the parking lot to be a bit tedious but the rest of the hike was lovely.

Hiking past the Naiset Huts
Hiking past the Naiset Huts towards Marvel Lake

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How to get to the Lake Magog Area

There are three primary ways to access the Lake Magog area. Helicopter in and from what I was told you have to stay at the Naiset Huts or Assiniboine Lodge to do this, backpack in from the Sunshine Valley Ski Resort or hike in from the Mount Shark Trailhead.

John and I had helicoptered in – a good thing as we got caught in an early September snowstorm, but the plan had always been to hike back out.

Our car was near the Mount Shark trailhead, so we elected to hike over Wonder Pass instead of the less scenic Assiniboine Pass. From the Naiset Huts, a 10-minute walk from Assiniboine Lodge, it was 25.1 km to the trailhead. If you’re camping at Lake Magog, add another 1.6 km.

 I highly recommend carrying a copy of the Banff & Mt. Assiniboine map put out by Gem Trek. 

The Marvel Lake Wonder Pass part of the hike

The hike from Assiniboine Lodge down to Wonder Pass and Marvel Lake is glorious for the first 16 – 17 km. Mountain views are phenomenal and if it had been a clear day, I’m sure Marvel Lake would have dazzled us.

However, once you pass the Bryant Creek Shelter, the hiking gets less interesting. In fact the last 6 kilometres to the trailhead are on old logging roads, so the hiking is quite tedious through here – though it’s lovely for cross-country skiing.

Where to stay before, after or on the hike

Mount Engadine Lodge is the closest lodge to the Mount Shark Trailhead. I may be biased but if you want a treat I think it’s a fantastic place to stay.

For many, especially on the way in, there is the option of camping at the Marvel Lake Campground or booking a night at the Bryant Creek Shelter. That’s probably a wise thing to do if you have a fully loaded pack as 27+ kilometres is a lot to bite off in a day.

To stay at the Bryant Creek Shelter – which is open year round visit the Banff National Park website.

To make a reservation at the Marvel Lake Campground go to the backcountry permits section of the Banff National Park website.

Vertical gain on the Marvel Lake hike

Considering  the length of the Marvel Lake – Wonder Pass trail, the vertical gain/loss is a relatively easy 627 m (2,057 feet) from Wonder Pass to the Mount Shark Trailhead. From the Naiset Huts near Assiniboine Lodge to Wonder Pass there is a 220 m (722 feet) of gain or loss depending on what direction you’re hiking.

Even if you have hiked in to the Lake Magog Campground from Sunshine Village Ski Resort, it’s worth visiting Wonder Pass as part of a day hike.

Hiking towards Wonder Pass
Hiking towards Wonder Pass
Looking back in the direction of Assinboine Lodge
Looking back in the direction of Assinboine Lodge
Our colourful group of four well on our way to Wonder Pass and Marvel Lake
Our colourful group of four well on our way to Wonder Pass
Good signage on the trail
Good signage on the trail
Heading down from Wonder Pass
Heading down from Wonder Pass
Beautiful mountain scenery around Wonder Pass even in mediocre weather
Beautiful mountain scenery around Wonder Pass even in mediocre weather
Snow starts to disappear as we lose elevation
Snow starts to disappear as we lose elevation
Easy to pick out the trail
Easy to pick out the trail
A steep descent towards Marvel Lake
A steep descent towards Marvel Lake
Our first view of Marvel Lake
Our first view of Marvel Lake
Continuing the descent to Marvel Lake
Continuing the descent to Marvel Lake – but out of the snow
The meadows across from the Bryant Creek Shelter
The meadows across from the Bryant Creek Shelter
The Marvel Lake Wonder pass hike - in dense vegetation
Making our way through dense vegetation
Back in the land of green
Back in the land of green
The beautiful Spray River
The beautiful Spray River
Looking the other way down the Spray River
Looking the other way down the Spray River
Walking the final few hundred metres to the Mt Shark parking lot
Walking the final few hundred metres to the Mt Shark parking lot

For part of this hike, you are in Banff National Park so you do need to have a park pass if you sleep in the park – at one of the shelters. The Alberta – British Columbia border is at Wonder Pass.

The Marvel Lake Wonder Pass combination offers a delightful way to access Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park.

Moose seen on the drive out from the Mt Shark trailhead
Moose seen on the drive out from the Mt Shark trailhead

A few things about this hike

Always carry the 10 hiking essentials.

Leave no trace and pack out what you pack in.

You will be traveling through grizzly bear country on this hike so be sure to carry a full can of bear spray that is accessible and no more than three years old – as the propellent weakens over time.

I like something comfortable to sit on at lunch time, especially on cool or damp days. I swear by my almost weightless seat cushion.

If it’s a long hike or a steep one I like using hiking poles. Invest in a good pair that are collapsible, preferably made of carbon because of their weightless quality.

I always pack a buff as it’s a multi-purpose piece of fabric that takes up almost no room. It’s especially useful on a windy  or smoky day.

Another nice addition for those of you who love wildflowers is the book Popular Wildflowers of Alberta and the Canadian Rockies.

Further reading on things to do in the area

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

The Marvel Lake - Wonder Pass hike in Banff National Park & Mt. Assiniboine Provincial Park

 

 

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