Thursday, October 02, 2014

Sunshine Meadows - One of Canada's Top Hikes

We've hiked through all of the national parks in the Canadian Rockies and have tackled many of the easy family-friendly trails over the past 5 years.  Hiking the "premier" trails is harder though because they tend to be longer and way too difficult for families with young kids.  This would be for good reason too because most premier hikes take you way up high in the alpine above tree line and there aren't a whole lot of  gondolas available here to ferry passengers to the mountain tops.  If you want the views, the summits, the alpine, and the gorgeous flower meadows, you typically have to climb for your reward.

Premier Hiking in the Canadian Rockies

Enter Sunshine Meadows to save the day!  Rated as one of the top hikes in all of Canada, my son first visited the meadows when he was 2 years old.  Dad carried him on one visit, and I pushed him in a MEC stroller on another visit.  And nothing says easy hiking like stroller-friendly!

Hiking with a Stroller in the High Alpine
Toddler-Friendly Sunshine Meadows

Sunshine Meadows isn't just some cutesy little toddler trail either.  It's the real deal!  It's alpine, it's flower meadows in summer and golden larch trees in fall, it's lakes and mountains, and it's premier hiking.  Premier hiking that even a small child can do!

Rock Isle Lake at Sunshine Meadows

 

Accessing Sunshine Meadows


Sunshine Meadows is located on the Continental Divide at the Sunshine Village Ski Hill in Banff and is a short walk from the Upper Gondola Terminal and Chair lifts that service the area in winter.  In summer, there is no gondola but White Mountain Adventures operates buses to transport visitors to the top of the village.  And thank goodness for that, or else you'd be walking 11km up the winter ski-out to reach the village!

Autumn at Sunshine Meadows

From the Upper Village, it is a short 1.4km walk to the first viewpoint over Rock Isle Lake.  Beyond  this picturesque lake, it is roughly  another kilometre to the back of the lake on a pleasant little trail bordered by golden larch trees.  Benches are plentiful and there's even a bathroom near the lake so this is family-friendly hiking at its finest!  If hiking with a stroller, you can get to Rock Isle Lake but you'll have to park it here because there are a few stairs beyond the lake.

Note, you should ask about bringing your stroller in advance because if the bus is full, there may not be room for it on board.  We had to go mid-week in order to get a stroller on the bus when my son was a toddler and it had to be fully collapsed with wheels taken off.

Rock Isle Lake in late September

This Year's Fall Trip to Sunshine Meadows


We love to come up to Sunshine Meadows at least once a year and this year we went at the end of September to see the golden larch trees.  The weather wasn't quite as perfect as in some of the pictures I've already shown but we finally got to do the full 8km loop to Grizzly and Larix Lakes as a family without a child carrier and it was splendid!

Hiking towards Rock Isle Lake

Reaching the first View Point for Rock Isle Lake

The rest of this story is going to be devoted to sharing this year's journey through photos.  To see the map of where we hiked, click on this link to the Sunshine Meadows Hiking Map.  We did the full loop to all three lakes and hiked back the same way.  Next time we'll do the BIG 11km loop and come back on the Meadow Park Trail.  Kids didn't quite have the energy for that this time though.

Rock Isle Lake


Resting at the View Point for Rock Isle Lake
This is a good turn around point for young kids

 

Hiking to the Back of the Lake

 

This is always my favourite part of the hike
Larch Trees aplenty
My Mini-Mountain Man
Larch Trees have very soft needles.
Always a good photo opp. at the back of the lake

 

Hiking to Grizzly Lake 

 

The Stairs down from Rock Isle Lake
This area is full of flowers in summer
Lots of bridges that the kids LOVED!
Larch Trees Everywhere

Grizzly Lake


Finally reached Grizzly Lake - with more bridges
This would make a fun place to stop and play

 Larix Lake

Hiking around Larix Lake on more little bridges
Best Kids Hike Ever with all the cute bridges
Tired kids holding hands.

Back to the Village

 

It's not a hike until we've  done a little yoga
Back at the Divide
Crossing the Continental Divide
Have You Hugged a Larch Tree yet this fall?

To make a reservation, visit the Sunshine Meadows website.   We took the 11am bus and had plenty of time to do the full 8km loop but families wanting to spend more time playing at the lakes may want to take an earlier bus.  You definitely don't want to miss the last bus down.

See You on the Trails! 


Disclaimer:  Our bus tickets were provided by White Mountain Adventures in partnership with Banff Lake Louise Tourism.  As always, all thoughts,  words and opinions are my own and I was not paid for this story.

1 comment:

  1. Gorgeous!! Wish Canada was bit closer... Although that said, there are plenty of beautiful hikes here in Norway too :)

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