This piece was written in partnership with Expedia.ca – recommendations and opinions are Modern Hiker’s.
Now is the perfect time to visit Canada’s Banff National Park. Not only is the summer an incredible time to soak up those high-altitude views, but in 2017 Canada is celebrating its 150th birthday by making all Parks Canada sites free to visit!
If you’re looking for a fantastic summer trail to hike in the jaw-dropping landscape of Banff National Park, we can recommend a solid full-day dayhike in Sunshine Meadows.
Located just a bit north of Banff townsite, Sunshine Meadows spends most of its life during the year as a premiere ski resort straddling the border between Alberta and British Columbia … but in the summer and fall when snow has melted away, the resort comes to life as a must-see destination for hikers.
You can drive in or take a shuttle from Banff, and from the bottom of the ski lift you can take a long and monotonous hike up the dirt road to the trailhead or just spring for a ride on the shuttle bus to spend more time hiking in the good scenery.
There are tons of hiking options once you arrive at the upper trailhead, but for a good ‘lay of the land sampler’ we recommend a 7.4 mile figure-eight loop that rings Grizzly, Larix, and stunning Rock Isle Lake, where you’ll have commanding backdrops of the seemingly never-ending Canadian Rockies past the dense forests of pine and larch.
In the autumn, those larches put on quite a show of their own, turning the landscape a fiery orange – but in the summertime it’s the wildflowers that are the seasonal draw here. The already picturesque landscape is even more impressive when it’s punctuated by little bursts of bright, lively color.
Rock Isle Lake can be crowded at times – especially during peak hiking season – but once you get past that draw you may have long sections of the route all to yourself. Larix and Grizzly Lakes are far less traveled, and once you rejoin the trail west of Rock Isle Lake, head to the northwest to stand atop a viewing platform with sweeping panoramas.
North of the viewing platform, the crowds really thin out, and it may just be you, the trail, and the towering Twin Cairns to your west.
After passing intriguing hummock formations in the alpine soil, you’ll descend down a ski run trail through a dense forest and end back right where you started … which also just so happens to be the site of the Lookout Kitchen and Bar. It’s the perfect way to end your day hiking in Banff National Park!