Sunshine Meadows

by Bob Truman on August 3, 2012

in Banff, BC, Hike

Post image for Sunshine Meadows

This was the first time we’ve been to Sunshine Meadows, the ski hill famous for its wild flowers. Whether there were wild flowers here or not, it would be worth the trip since it’s so easy to get up here on the bus.

We were fortunate to have the perfect weather, about +15° celsius with a light breeze to help keep the mosquitoes at bay. The trails are totally exposed, so it would be very hot on a +24 day if the sun was beating down. We had cloud cover for 80% of the hike today which was perfect. On a totally calm day I expect the mosquitoes would be treacherous.

Rock Isle lake at Sunshine Meadows

Three beautiful mountain lakes and spectacular views make this short hike worthwhile. If the wild flowers are blooming, it’s just icing on the cake. The best display of flowers was between Rock Isle Lake and Grizzly Lake, with the remaining areas spotty at best.

Last year, around this time of August we hiked to Healy Pass and I’d have to admit the flowers were more plentiful, but it’s a 19K round trip with a net elevation gain of 655 metres. We logged 12K today which took us around the three lakes, and up to the Standish Viewpoint. The net elevation gain was less than 300 metres.

Hikers at Sunshine Meadows. The feathery plants are the western anemones which have gone to seed.

The most common flower which we saw today along most of the hike was valerian. As we descended the trail from Rock Isle to Grizzy lake, we were rewarded with an abundance of crimson paintbrush, a plethora of bright yellow arnica and buttercups, a smattering of dainty blue forget-me-nots, purple fleabane, and one of my favourites, pink mountain heather. The plentiful western anemones have had their day already and turned into feathery seedheads. Occasionally we spotted white camas and globeflowers.

A spectacular display of wild flowers along the trails in Sunshine Meadows

I found the bus ride back down to be quite fascinating. The driver kept the old school bus in bull low all the way down the 5.7K gravel road which was narrow and switchbacked, letting the motor’s compression do the work of slowing us down, revving like crazy.  I’d love to know how long the motors in those buses last.

Did you know that most of Sunshine Meadows is actually located in the province of BC?

Sunshine Meadows is a magnificent place for sightseeing and it’s easy to get to. If I only had time to do one or the other, however, I would choose Healy Pass rather than Sunshine Meadows for the flowers and the relative solitude. I can’t speak for this year’s flowers at Healy Pass, but they were substantially more plentiful last year than what we saw today. If you like to be around people, you’ll have lots of company at Sunshine Meadows. The round trip bus ride costs $26.00 and you can make reservations here Sunshine meadows shuttle. If you’re ambitious, fit, and have lots of time, you can also hike up from the sunshine ski area parking lot.

I’ve never seen so many ground squirrels, and with a smorgasbord of vegetation to eat, they were all really plump.

Three lakes and Mt Assiniboine are visible from the Standish viewpoint

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Iggy August 16, 2012 at 1:00 pm

Thanks for this summer report, Bob—-very informative…I’ve been to this area at least a dozen times over the years. It has stunning scenery for sure. The wildflower aspect is, however, a little overrated. I usually go as far as Quartz Ridge and have found some nice flowers off-trail while ridge walking, but on the main trails where the tourists are corralled, there is very little.

I was up there yesterday and saw 2 wolves two minutes into the bus ride right near the gondola station—big Wow!

ps—can’t believe that I used to walk that road to avoid the bus cost with my kids when they were young, and it was only $10 (getting too pricey today, I must say)!!

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