The Stanley Glacier hike in beautiful Kootenay National Park is a true delight. The trail goes from burnt forest with mesmerizing wildflowers, to alpine meadow, to the amazing Stanley Glacier. This gentle climb has it all – complete with beautiful cascading waterfalls too!
Going west along the Trans-Canada Highway from Banff, turn south at Castle Junction towards Radium highway 93. The Stanley Glacier parking lot is on the left side of the road, four kilometers from the provincial border.
Total Gain: 568m
|Type of Hike||Out and Back|
|When to Do||June through October|
Proceed over the Vermillion River Footbridge and start up the trail. The burnt forest characterizes the beginning of the trail, as it was struck by lightning in 1968. The amazing wildflowers that grow in this area are truly stunning, and the lack of foliage allows for more frequent viewpoints. Watch out if you are attempting this hike during high winds, as the tree branches are brittle and can break off.
Climb steadily up switchbacks until you reach a river formed by the runoff of the Stanley Glacier –this is roughly 2km into the hike. Cross the creek then continue beside it as the forest around you slims. The climbing is not as strenuous as you enter a pristine alpine meadow with incredible views in all directions. Many waterfalls run down to either side of the valley in spring and early summer. The trail from here continues ahead, with the wonderful Stanley Glacier on your right-hand side.
You can see a path rising on both sides of the valley up ahead. This is an optional ascent to a great viewing area, which adds 3km and 240m onto the hike (the GPS track shows this route). You reach the decision point 4.2km into the trail, and the sign denotes that the end of the maintained route has arrived. If you want to continue, immediately enter a boulder field and start to climb up. It’s steep, but the views make it worthwhile.
The highest point you will reach is a group of trees on a plateau. From here you can choose to turn back and return the way you came or continue through the trees, across a stream and down the other side of the valley. We prefer the circuit as it gives different views of the side walked up. Rejoin the main path and continue down the way you came up, enjoying great scenery across the main valley to Mount Whymper.
If you don’t do the extension, then this is a perfect hike for the youngsters in the group. It is not too long, has plenty of scenery changes, and great views.
- Stop off or stay at the wonderful Storm Mountain Lodge. The food is delicious and the historic cabins are usually reasonable.