Recommended by the Banff tourist office personnel, we did a 12km hike in the Sunshine Meadows, about 10 km away from Banff.
The Sunshine Village is a well-known ski resort and the whole installation smelled like a rather chic ski destination with nice ski lifts, modern buildings and leather sofa in the waiting area.
The shuttle bus took us to the starting point of 2,200m. With a bunch of family hikers we started our hike under the intense sun – around 30 degree. Among those who looked like just they came for a picnic, we met a young couple each carrying a big backpack equipped with sleeping mats and a set of bear spray. They were going for the famous 5-day trek to Mountain Assiniboine, which is considered Canada’s Matterhorn. I was envious but I am also afraid of bears!
After a short uphill walk, we reached that postcard picture idyllic view of Lake of Rock Isle. It is the most published picture of Canada’s nature. And pretty it is. A small forested island floating on the lake in front of the perfect Rockies mountain panorama. Hard to beat.
The next point after another short uphill walk, was the Standish Viewpoint, where the elevated platform gave us a 360-degree view. The sky was blue and it was a beautiful day. The view of the Rock Isle Lake which we just saw as well as another two lakes, surrounding mountain ranges, is fabulous! The Assiniboine (3’618m), Canadian Matterhorn, was far beyond.
We lingered there for a long time, just enjoying the spectacular scenery and some wind. After having our sandwiches, we headed to go around the Larix Lake and part of Grizzly Lake (no Grizzly bear, fortunately). The trail was pretty with a stream, forest and peaceful lakes, and many marmots appeared here and there, unafraid of hikers. However, a lot of mosquitos were also there and the moment we stopped, they came to swarm around us and prevented us from eating our second sandwich in peace : (( Apparently it is the mosquito season! We were armed with mosquito repellent, but Korean hikers ahead of us were heavily stung (they said).
On the return we took 4.4km Twin Cairns/Meadow Trail. In contrast to the first part, there was almost no one on the trail – only marmots were running left and right. It was above the tree line and we could enjoy the view of spectacular rocky mountain range on both sides. We could really understand why they call “the Rockies”. The beautiful wildflowers were all over and Yasuko was busy looking and taking photos.
An interesting fact is that the Continental Divide runs right through Sunshine Meadows. If you stand exactly on that divide looking north, the rain pouring down on your left ends up in the Pacific Ocean, the rain on your right in the Atlantic. Interesting, isn’t it?
We were on the Continental Divide in the cloud forest of Costa Rica earlier this year so we could make the connection.