Kootenay National Park
Another well-used trail in the Rocky Mountains - an early morning start is best. This hike encompasses a myriad of nature's work: remnants of a forest fire, a hanging valley, high peaks (Stanley Peak, Storm Mtn., Mt. Whymper and Boom Mtn.) and the receding Stanley Glacier.
Time: Half-day trip
Distance: 4.2 km (2.6 miles) one-way
Level of Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation Gain: 365 m (1200 feet)
Map: Mount Goodsir, 82 N/1 East
Starting Point: Drive west from Banff on the Trans-Canada Hwy. At Castle Junction, head south on the Banff-Radium Hwy (#93) to Stanley Glacier parking area (on the left side, 3.5 km/2.2 miles west of the Alberta-British Columbia boundary). The footbridge over the Vermilion River marks the start of the trail.
Summary: The first half of the hike leads up switchbacks through a huge burn, an area that fell victim to a lightening strike in 1968. It's easy to assume a place destroyed by fire is not worth visiting. Think again. Wildflowers prevail, as does reforested Lodgepole pine.
The second part of the hike is marked by crossing over a creek (runoff from the Stanley Glacier). As the trail continues alongside the creek, the forest thins and gives way to the open Stanley basin. The trail peters out among a boulder field in the basin, but leaves the option of exploring the immediate area.
For those with extra energy and sturdy boots, continue up the valley over rocky terrain to a high meadow about 1 km beyond the end of the obvious trail. The toe of the Stanley Glacier can be seen from here.
Keep in Mind:
This hike is not recommended on a day of high winds. Dry timber in the burn area may fall easily in strong gusts.
Bring a flower book - the burn has allowed for the growth of many a wildflower to identify.
Bring a water bottle and snack. Quick water stops are important every 20-30 minutes (more often if it is hot), especially if you are not used to higher elevations.
You are in the mountains - always carry an extra layer of clothing and rain gear.
Slow your pace; slow your breathing. Smell the flowers; spot the wildlife (marmots and pikas in the boulder field); and in the higher basin, turn over a rock or two in search of early Cambrian fossils.
Plan your trip
Stay on marked trails
Pack garbage out
Be cautious of wildlife
Be safe, be smart - hike within your limits