Hiking with kids can really blow if you choose the wrong hike. Personally, I think the reason most people hike with their children is so they don’t have to spring for a babysitter. Yeah, yeah, you want to foster a love of nature in your offspring (and get them to eat green vegetables, too!). You just don’t want this noble parenting to ruin your day in the great outdoors. The solution? A family friendly path that delivers epic views in the high alpine. Welcome my friends to the Sunshine Meadows hike.
Sunshine Meadows Hike
Lonely Planet rated Sunshine Meadows Canada’s #1 hike, and for good reason. You’d be hard pressed to find prettier views anywhere in the Rockies. Located in Banff National Park, there are wildflowers scattered over the mountain meadow in early summer and in autumn it’s a prime spot to view the changing colours. Best is that its well developed (mostly flat) trails are a cinch for strollers or toddlers to hike on their own. Yes, it’s the hike where everybody wins!
Getting to Sunshine Meadows
The hike begins either with a bus or gondola ride to Sunshine Village. The Gondola runs Friday, Saturday and Sunday over the summer months, but closes after the September long weekend. After that (and during weekdays) it’s a bus ride up the mountain until early October.
If you’re hiking with kids and can make it this long weekend it’s worth it for the gondola ride alone. Kids often find this to be the highlight of the excursion.
Hiking in Banff National Park without the crowds
Lots of people have been grumbling about how busy Banff now gets in the summer. We hiked Sunshine Meadows last Sunday and it was relatively quiet. I counted maybe 20 people max on the trail. There were clouds in the sky and the forecast threatened rain, though none appeared. Fair weather hikers missed out!
Once you’re at the Village, you can use the facilities inside Trappers, grab a burger or get yourself a trail map. From there, head up the Standish Chairlift. Usually you have to hike up from the Village, but running Standish in summer (Friday, Saturday and Sundays) is new and very much appreciated by those hiking with wee ones. It closes after the September long weekend, though…
Hike across the Continental Divide
It’s less than a five minute walk from Standish Chairlift to Standish Lookout. From there you can see Rock Isle Lake and Laryx Lake clearly.
Then it’s down a few steps and your on the gravel pathway towards the lakes. For the very young, doing a trek around Rock Isle Lake is probably best. Estimate you’ll be walking for an hour, not including the gondola or chairlift. If you’ve got kids who don’t whine too much, go ahead and do the loop around Laryx Lake. It’ll take close to three hours round trip, but it’s not taxing.
Be sure to compensate your outdoor adventurers with plenty of carbs and chocolate. Rewarding calories is the real reason anyone hikes, isn’t it?
Have you ever hiked Sunshine Meadows? Do you know of any good day hikes near Calgary for youngsters?