The Only Way to Backpack Assiniboine

Updated: Sep 26, 2020

A product of hindsight, my gift to you. Not a guide for alpinists.

This is only an itinerary and should not be considered a comprehensive guide to backpacking the Citadel Pass, Mt. Assiniboine Provincial Park, and Bryant Creek Backcountry. Many other resources already cover this VERY EXTENSIVELY.

The only thing we did right was starting at the Citadel Pass Trailhead located adjacent to the strawberry chairlift in the upper Sunshine Village Resort area and finished at the Mt. Shark Trailhead. Starting from Mt. Shark is for uphill enthusiasts. My errors in trip planning stemmed from a lack of vacancy at Og and Magog campsites. I assumed camping at porcupine/ BR 17 Allenby junctions was a nearby, suitable alternative. They are much further then anticipated and offer NONE of the views found at Og or Magog. Our itinerary with packs was as follows:

Night 1 - SU8 Howard Douglas - 10.8 km - 1000m elevation gain (no gondola)

Night 2 - Porcupine (switched to Magog thanks to trail friend leaving early) 21.7 km - 1000m elevation gain

Night 3 - BR17 Allenby Junction via Assiniboine Pass 9km - 261m of elevation gain

Night 4 - BR17 Allenby Junction (switched to Marvel Lake) 4.5 km - 175m of elevation gain

To Mt. Shark Trail Head: 12.9 km - 469 m of elevation gain

Total distance - 58.9 km

Total elevation gain - 2906m

It half turned out due to questionable backcountry ethics that luckily didn't backfire on us. The two nights in Bryant creek were an entirely uneventful and uninteresting. The areas explored around the first two campsites was the bread and butter of the trip. My recommendation is 5 to 6 nights focusing on these campsites in order of PRIORITY. MAGOG LAKE, HOWARD DOUGLAS LAKE, AND OG LAKE. I would advise strongly against going if Magog is unavailable. These sites are reserved through different entities. Magog and Og are reserved through BC Parks and are bookable 2 months in advanced. The remaining sites in the area are booked through Parks Canada's backcountry reservation system. Porcupine is free, for a reason.

The following is my recommended 5 - 6 night itinerary:

Night 1 - SU8 Howard Douglas via Sunshine Village gondola 5.7 km- 461 m

Night 2 - SU8 Howard Douglas

Night 3 - Og Lake 15.2 km -794 m

Night 4 - Magog Lake 6.6 km - 284 m

Night 5 - Magog Lake

Night 6 - Marvel Lake via Wonder Pass 14 km - 601 m of elevation gain

Marvel Lake to Mt. Shark trailhead 12.9 km - 469 m

Total Distance - 54.4 km

Total Elevation Gain - 2609 m

Night 1 & 2 - SU8 Howard Douglas

(5 sites)

Wow. Expansive alpine meadows and terrific peak access in every direction around this site. The lake is also a stellar trout fishery (catch and release only) and has a sand beach

visible on the right side of the photo. The father and son seen in the first photo caught 23 trout in one night! The lake is situated in a treed bowl high in the alpine. The ridge immediately to the north boasts fantastic views of the lake, surrounding mountains, and the objective Assiniboine in the distance!

The site is only 5.5 km from the upper Sunshine Village chalet, making it an awesome site to partner up with a travel day. I recommend two nights here to really take in the surrounding peaks and meadows.

Night 3 - Og Lake

This is an ideal spot to split the distance. The scenery justifies spending a night, but the surrounding area lacks the excitement and trail network of Magog. A 15.2 km trek from Howard Douglas with 794 m of elevation gain. Do not stay at the free site near Citadel Pass named Porcupine. You lose tons of elevation and it is really out of the way.

Night 4 & 5 - Magog Lake

(too many sites to count... and a lodge, and helicopters, and cabins)

View from the Nub

You made it!

The campground at Magog is not lake front, busy, and a little underwhelming. The area however.. well lets just say a well equipped person wouldn't want to leave. If you packed light and paced yourself on the way here, you'll have tons of energy for day hikes like the nub and scrambles in the area.

I won't go into detail for this segment because I only had the time and energy for the nub unfortunately, but there is an overwhelming amount of other resources for this core area. Zooming into it on gives you an idea of just how complex the trail network in the area is.

The hike from Og Lake to Magog Lake is a short and very scenic 6.6 km with 264 m of elevation gain, leaving you tons of day and energy to explore Magog!

Night 6 - Marvel Lake Via Wonder Pass

Assiniboine pass consists of less elevation gain - but takes a massive sacrifice on scenery. From the Magog campsite, it is 14.1 km with 601 m of elevation gain It's worth taking wonder pass, you'll want to hike the two km from the campsite to the lake anyway. Swimming is forbidden due to whirling disease concerns.

The lake is a true rockies marvel, but doesn't look that special from the shore closest to the campground. Backlighting doesn't show its colour very well. This is another important reason to take the Wonder Pass route.

Backlit view of Marvel Lake from the north shore closest to the campground (1st week of September).

Water source at the campground. There is 2 or 3 sites alongside it.

Mt. Shark Trailhead

This segment of the trail was hardly photo worthy, and shifted width to accommodate bikes as well as xc ski trails. From Marvel Lake it is 12.9 km with 469 m of elevation gain. This day and all days before this (on the exception of wonder pass) are more downhill then up, despite the statistics I mentioned, unless you don't take the gondola. Two cars or a planned shuttle is the only way to do this itinerary. It tacks on roughly three hours of driving, but is worth it to keep seeing new trail. Beware of mice in vehicles at both trail heads. Leave no oatmeal behind!

Thanks for reading. I hope this itinerary guide assisted in planning a dreamy Rockies trip!

Here is a video of ours.

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