A few weeks ago I had the chance to finally hike in Sunshine Meadows, a beautiful alpine setting located slightly Southwest of Banff. Sunshine Meadows has been closed since the beginning of COVID, two and a half years ago.
To get to Sunshine Meadows you take a gondola from the base (1659 masl) to the Sunshine Village Terminal (2159 masl). The 4.5km gondola ride is fairly unique because it has two curves, and a mid-station, all while staying on the same cable! The highest point of the gondola is 40 metres (130 feet). The gondola was opened in 2001, and includes 165 8-passenger cabins, four garbage carriers, and one work carrier. A few fun facts, are that there was an accident in 2016 when two empty gondola cars came off the cable in high winds and crashed to the ground, and in June 2013 nine of their cabins were washed away during the Alberta Flood that occurred because they were getting painted, and were washed away. They were all found, and one nearly had made its way all the way to Canmore!
After arriving at Sunshine Village you’re given a quick orientation on the trail system, and then you’re off on your own. After a seven minute ride on the Standish Chairlift you arrive at the very top of the hike, where you’re presented with gorgeous 360 degree views of the mountains surrounding you. There’s beautiful alpine flowers all around!
Normally my hikes start at the lowest point, and end up on a mountain peak, but this hike is the inverse of that. The 2.5 hour hike starts with a steep descent towards Rock Isle Lake, before continuing on a loop around Grizzly Lake and Laryx Lake, before heading back up to the top. It’s amazing at how much the scenery changes as you progress through he hike.
The was one of my favourite hikes that I’ve done in Canada, and is a great family friendly hike, that isn’t too difficult. The 2.5 hour hike has 316 metres of elevation differential over 8.0 kilometres.