Pass Finder

Vermilion Pass

  • 1661 m (5450ft)
  • Naming History
  • Peaks and Rivers
51.2236N 116.0500W
Province: Alberta/BC
Park: Banff/Kootenay
Year Named: 1858?
Named by: James Hector
Named for: The pass takes its name from the reddish-brown (ochre) clays that are found on the BC side of the pass and that were used by the natives to make paint.
Mountain (NW): Boom Mountain
Mountain (SE): Storm Mountain (Banff)
Headwaters (NE): Altrude Creek
Headwaters (SW): Vermilion River

Highway #93 travels through this pass as it connects Castle MountainJames Hector and his party for they finally reached, _the first water we had seen flowing to the Pacific.? It must have been exciting for the party to begin the descent while enjoying the magnificent panorama of peaks on the western side of the Continental Divide.

Describing his climb to the pass, Hector wrote, "At first we had a tough climb up the face of a terrace of loose shingle for 150 feet, but going a little round we might have ascended it where less steep. We at first followed the brink of the valley, which the creek has cut though these superficial deposits. We then struck through the wood to the southwest which clothe the gentle sloping and wide valley that leads to the height of land. . . We had been travelling six hours though the woods when we came to he height of land, but had not made more than 12 miles."

Hector's party camped on the pass, Hector writing of the summit, "The source of the stream (now referred to as Altrude Creek) flowing to he east is from a deep lake with rocky margins...A stream of muddy water, about 12 feet broad, descends from the northwest and when within 300 yards of this lake turns off to the southwest, forming the first water we had seen flowing to the Pacific."

The slopes of Storm Mountain form the south side of the pass and the signs of the 1968 forest fire are very apparent. It burned for four days and consumed 2500 hectares of forest. The highway was, of course, closed as were parts of the Trans-Canada which was used as a landing strip for water bombers. Lodgepole Pine seeds wait for the heat of a fire to be dispersed, and so this species dominates the forest as nature renews the area.

The extent of this fire now pales in comparison to the huge fires of 2003 that burned areas farther down the valley.