Sunshine Meadows Hike

August 6, 2019

Kirstie Tweed/Orange Girl

Today Kevin and I took the Sunshine Gondola up to visit Sunshine Meadows and we were in awe of our experience there. Many people are familiar with Sunshine Village from skiing but it is also  a must visit in summer. Sunshine Meadows in Banff boasts an incredible display of wildflowers and we were very lucky to time our visit perfectly for peak wildflower peeping. It used to be if you wanted to visit Sunshine Meadows you took a big yellow school bus from the Sunshine parking lot up a dusty, bumpy, tailbone crushing road. In the last few years Sunshine has starting running their gondola for summer operation allowing you to experience a peaceful 25 minute sightseeing gondola up to the village and then from the village you can take the Standish Chairlift to reach Sunshine Meadows. The views that greet you the moment you step off the chairlift are stunning! I was thrilled to see the recent trail work that has been done which gives even greater access to this beautiful place while protecting this treasure. I was impressed to see how much effort is put into educating visitors about staying on the trail and not picking the wildflowers. We were told there is a wildflower that can take up to 10 years to bloom!

The view from the Standish viewing deck is just steps away from the chairlift and offers incredible views of Rock Isle Lake below. Honestly even if all you did was ride the chairlift and take in the views on the viewing deck you would leave happy.

We were gifted one of the most incredible wildlife sightings I have ever seen in my life when we spotted a Mama grizzly and her teenage youngster way below us enjoying a pond drink together. This photo was taken with a long lens and then I cropped WAY in to show it to you. What made the sighting so spectacular is that the bears were far enough away that they couldn't sense the commotion that their sighting created and they went about their day dipping in the pond and running through the mountain meadow together. Getting to see a bear undisturbed in it's habitat is an incredible gift.

These views are what greet you the moment you step off the Standish chairlift. 

The Indian Paintbrush were in full bloom and were shown in a vast array of colours.

One of my favourite alpine creatures to spot is a Hoary Marmot. This one found a rather lovely rock to relax on.

This chipmunk and Richardson's Ground Squirrel were posing for us at Rock Isle Lake.

The photos really can't do this place justice. The trails were bursting with wildflowers on either side. You have to experience it for yourself as it's truly memorable.

As we hiked down towards Grizzly Lake we were greeted by Sunshine staff who informed us that the grizzly bears were nearby and as a precaution they were closing the trail temporarily to give the bears the space they need. I was really impressed by staff who moved quickly to close the trail and inform hikers about the closure and offer alternate routes to enjoy. Especially since some tourists upon hearing the words "bears in the area" starting running towards the trail with selfie sticks and iPhones at the ready. A trail closure is necessary because not all tourists act appropriately when a bear is nearby. As we reached Rock Isle Lake the young grizzly could be spotted in the distance climbing the rocks and then jumping into the lake for a leisurely swim. It was a once in a lifetime sighting to be able to see a grizzly taking an afternoon swim in a mountain lake unaware of hikers standing in awe.

The photo below was taken using a long lens and then zooming WAY in so the quality is not great.


Hello my name is Kirstie and I am a wedding photographer who specializes in photographing weddings & elopements in Banff, Canmore, Lake Louise & Emerald Lake. I’ve been photographing mountain weddings since 2004 and feel very lucky to call this place home. I live in Canmore with my husband Kevin and our 2 rescue dogs Leroy & Mabel.