An awesome wildflower season hike, the Helen Lake trail is also a good option for early fall. It offers great views of Crowfoot Glacier across the valley, has a relatively modest elevation gain of just under 600 meters from trailhead to lake shore, and includes a long stretch of trail with expansive views of Dolomite Peak and several unnamed ridges and peaks. Upon reaching the scenic highlight that is Helen Lake, there are a few options to extend the day, including hiking to the Cirque Peak or a nice ridge walk above the lake.
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.
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.
Our Family Day long weekend included an inside/outside day in Banff: a morning looking at photographs while wandering the galleries at Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies followed by an afternoon making photographs while exploring a new-to-us trail just outside of the Banff townsite. We accessed the easy Bow Falls to Hoodoos trail from Surprise Corner, a tiny parking…
After 20 years, we finally made a return visit to Bourgeau Lake. This time, we opted to hike beyond the popular Bourgeau Lake, pushing on to Harvey Pass and then to the summit of Mount Bourgeau. In my opinion, the unnamed tarn about 1.2 km beyond Bourgeau Lake is the scenic highlight of this route, with the views from Harvey Pass a close second. It was worth hiking all the way to the summit (once), but I’m not sure I’d do that again. This was the longest day hike we did in the Canadian Rockies in 2015, coming in at just under 25 km in just over 8 hours, with a total elevation gain of well over 1500 meters.