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
Walking and hiking in the Canadian Rocky Mountains is inherent with risk due to a number of constantly changing conditions. These conditions include (but are not limited to) unpredictable weather, rain, flash floods, falling rocks, mudslides, falling trees and more.
Other dangers include (but are not limited to) wild animals such as black and grizzly bears, elk, sheep, goats and insects, all of which can be aggressive.
These hiking descriptions are designed to provide you with a good idea of what the hike will have to offer and some general guidelines about the hike. You are responsible for your own safety and well being while hiking! While these details have been put together through research by local professionals, you may encounter conditions not mentioned in the hike descriptions. Trail heads, signage, parking, etc. are also subject to change as well.
In order to get the most recent conditions and details for any hike you undertake we strongly recommend that you contact Parks Canada at the Banff Information Centre prior to your hike and they will provide you with the most current conditions and hike details for your enjoyment and safety of your hike.
Parks Canada can be found at The Banff Information Centre at 224 Banff Avenue and is open from 9AM to 7PM in the Summer. They can be reached by calling 403.762.1550.