While Sunshine is most well-known for skiing, the summer gondola and shuttle bus service make Sunshine Meadows one of the most accessible alpine hiking areas in the Canadian Rockies from late June through late September. For some, its a starting point for backpacking adventures to Mt. Assiniboine or the Egypt/Pharoah Lakes area. For dayhikers like us, prime times to visit Sunshine Meadows are during peak wildflower season (usually towards the end of July) and peak larch viewing season (usually towards the end of September). Our most recent larch season visit was timed just about perfectly and reaffirmed that it’s well worth the effort to do at least one golden larch hike each fall.
The theme for this month’s photo blogging challenge is actually Photographer’s Choice. With our oldest son at university for spring semester and our youngest son away at SHAD for 27 days, this was our first time being empty nesters for longer than a few days at a stretch. We opted to enjoy much of our time being out and about, hiking, biking and exploring in Canmore, Banff and Kananaskis Country. The obvious choice for this month’s post was to showcase highlights from our empty nester trial period.
We first hiked to Citadel Pass in 2009. After seven years, two things prompted us to return: first, there’s summer weekend gondola service to Sunshine Village; and second, the moderate elevation gain is something I can handle even with a torn ACL. Our late July timing was ideal. The wildflowers were fantastic! We also spotted a male Mountain Bluebird and enjoyed the company of countless Columbian Ground Squirrels. For more than half the day we enjoyed blue skies which meant great long distance viewing of the cone of Mt. Assiniboine – something cloaked by forest fire smoke during our 2009 exploration of this trail.
Construction of the High Rockies Trail is slated for completion prior to Canada’s 150th celebration in 2017. Trail runners, hikers and mountain bikers are already exploring the completed section running from Goat Creek to Buller Creek in the Spray Valley. We rode from Driftwood Day Use Area to Buller Creek and rate the High Rockies Trail two thumbs up. With multiple access points, some great views and lots of ups and downs, this trail is sure to be popular with locals and visitors alike. We’ll definitely ride it again (and again).
Constructed to celebrate the 125th anniversary of Banff National Park, the Banff Legacy Trail comprises a significant part of any bike ride between Three Sisters in Canmore and Cascade Ponds just outside of Banff. The ride west has a slight incline and is often against the wind. The ride east is a little easier. But be sure to check the weather forecast before heading out. Getting caught in a thunderstorm while riding a bike is not a great situation!
Wind Ridge is a moderately challenging half-day hike just a few minutes east of Canmore in the Bow Valley. There’s minimal noise from the TransCanada highway, a good variety of wildflowers and some fantastic views from the ridgeline – including the less familiar “back side” of the Three Sisters. Return distance = 13.6 km (8.5 miles) with total elevation gain of 945 meters (3100 ft). There is one short rock band to navigate.