Cory Pass and Edith Pass trails are located west of Banff, Alberta, off the Bow Valley Parkway with the trailhead on the right almost immediately after the Parkway exit. There is a washroom facility, ample parking, and a group-use area just over the foot bridge with an attractive outdoor fireplace and several picnic tables. We took the Cory Pass trail which begins with a steady ascent, is rugged in places, and undulates along the ridge. By contrast, the Edith Pass Trail appears more gradual in its ascent for most of the trail until you get closer to the Gargoyle Valley. We took a side-trip up Mount Edith which greatly added to the challenge of this hike. Our trace does not show the entire distance we hiked but only up to near the summit of Mount Edith, which to that point was 1348m elevation gain. We continued along the Cory Pass to the snowy Gargoyle Valley in early June, which would have been around 7.5km one way and took us approximately 4.5hrs with the hike up Mount Edith.
Below is the group-use area near the trailhead.
About 1.5km from the trailhead the path separates giving you the option of Cory Pass or Edith Pass trails. Our original goal was to take the Cory Pass trail, loop through Gargoyle Valley and return along the Edith Pass trail, which would have been under 20km round trip. It is a gentle walk up to this point but becomes steady moving onward.
Not far up our ascent we met two young ladies who were on their way back. Our chat with them revealed that they had first taken the Edith trail but ran into a carcass that created concern over large carnivores. They decided next to take the Cory trail but found themselves at a dead end requiring a rock face scramble, so turned back completely and were heading elsewhere for the day. After resuming our hike up, we found ourselves on a narrow trail that we believe was the scramble that made the ladies turn back. The trail we found ourselves on was narrow with a steeper drop on our right side. We found that within a short distance we could go no further ahead and would either have to turn back or climb up a sloping rock face to rejoin the actual trail.
NOTE: we elected to follow this portion of the trail believing it was the only option to carry on, and we climbed the rock face, however, this was a choice based on our personal experience and risk tolerance. We went one at a time and it send rocks falling that could have struck the other person waiting to climb. It turns out that we missed the actual trail up, but we could not identify on the way down where we got sidetracked other than to say we zigged right when we should have zagged left. Be aware of this potentially dangerous turn of events on this trail.
The steeper portion of ascent up to the ridge is about 1km, however, the ridge continues to ascend gradually for another 2km + until the trail is underneath a smaller peak that forms the southern part of a saddle with Mount Edith.
We stopped along the ridge to eat our lunch and then dropped down into a gully via a rocky part of the path and back up onto the trail.
As the trail progresses you see the Cory Pass on the right which follows in to Mount Cory, which to us looked like quite to toboggan hill in early June.
Farther along we ran into a little water-splash that we played around for a bit. There remained plenty of snow in this area to create little water features in different areas.
We tend to use OpenStreetMap.org for our map resources and we noted a trail going up towards Mount Edith about a kilometer before the point Cory Pass meets Gargoyle Valley. Our plan was to hike up this area, which was clearly steeper than the remaining part of the pass trail, and descend on the other side along what appeared to be a gentler slope to the pass before going through Gargoyle Valley and egressing on the Edith Pass Trail. The trail up appeared visible from Cory Pass Trail and we began our ascent.
There was quite a bit of loose shale and rock on the way up, and the terrain was very steep. As is typical in the mountains, the weather changed suddenly and we were stopping to add a layer. We went from shirt sleeves to jackets by time we hit the saddle in front of the final ascent to Mount Edith.
Looking back along the trail as we climbed you could tell the contours of the ridge we’d just crossed, and largely what we had climbed prior to the ridge.
We marveled at the plants that took root in some of the nooks in this barren landscape given the temperature became noticeably colder as we gained altitude.
The hike up to the saddle below Mount Edit was challenging but we were rewarded with a view we had never seen before: a rainbow below us. Talk about over the rainbow!
This picture looks across the saddle from Mount Edith.
We hit snow in this area which filled the area of the last 50 meters to the top of Mount Edith. We could not find a way to scramble over the rocks to the top, so stopped about short of the summit and our goal of a gradual descent to the pass. It was a bit disappointing, however, we were not kitted out for any type of work on snow … taking our own advice about not pushing beyond the limits of your kit, we headed back the way we came and over to the Cory Pass.
We followed the trail for the last kilometer to the pass.
As we crested the pass we looked into the Gargoyle Valley below which contained sufficient snow at the lower areas and loose shale on the edges to give us pause about continuing around to the Edith Pass. Given we could not tell the true amount of snow, had no snow equipment, and were no longer in the mood to fight the shale, we turned around and followed the path back along the ridge. There were only a few people out at this distance on this day, two we noted up the more gradual side of Mount Edith that we’d hoped to descend on. We did not see anyone moving through the valley.
The trek out was taxing given we were tuckered out from the ascent to Mount Edith. This was one of the times that we were very pleased to be back at the boogievan and having our recovery shake. Lesson learned that we either need to take some extra gear earlier in the season, or wait until later on to run the full loop on these two trails.