Sunshine Meadows (Rock Isle, Grizzly and Larix Lake)
The Sunshine Meadows hike is the easiest way to get into the alpine in the Canadian Rockies. The trail starts at the base of Sunshine Ski hill, and you can take the bus or Gondola to the Sunshine Ski village and hike from there. Rock Isle Lake is truly stunning!
Drive 7.7km west of Banff on Trans-Canada Highway and take the Sunshine Village exit. Drive 8.2km on this lovely road to Sunshine Village ski resort. Pick up your bus or gondola ticket from the main building.
|When to do|
June to early October
At trailhead, on trail
Getting to Sunshine Village is via gondola Friday thru Monday or a bus shuttle on Tuesday thru Thursday. It’s worthwhile to book your ticket in advance on the Sunshine Meadows website.
To start this hike, you’ll need to buy a gondola ticket or bus ticket from Sunshine Village. We prefer going by Gondola, as it provides nice views.
Once off the Gondola (or bus) you’re in the base village of Sunshine Village, a popular ski hill known for the legendary powder snow. In summer, the village is much quieter, as summer is the off-season.
From the gondola head over to the Standish Chair Lift, and take it up to the top. Once you get off, take either path forward as you head towards the Standish Viewing Deck. You’re greeted with a simply stunning view of Rock Isle, Grizzly and Larix Lakes below you.
From the viewing deck, head down on the stairs to the right and follow the path as it heads towards Rock Isle Lake. This is a good path and you will often see Sunshine Village employees on the path to answer questions you may have. Due to the sensitivity of this alpine meadow, please stay on the path and don’t cut across, as it can damage the vegetation.
You will come to a T-Junction roughly 700m from the Standish lift. Go Left here, sign-posted for Rock Isle Lake. Continue along this path for another 425m, until you get to another junction. Go right here on a path that goes around Rock Isle Lake (it’s on your left) and then the trail goes past Rock Isle Lake where you get a wonderful reward of more incredible views.
Continue on the path until you reach a set of stairs. Here you can decide which direction for your circuit of Grizzly and Larix Lakes. We recommend going counter-clockwise and descending towards Grizzly Lake on a very lovely path.
Soon after Grizzly Lake watch out for Simpson Viewpoint (4.3km), a wonderful place to view the entire valley opening up below.
You will then approach Larix Lake, where you contour around the far edge of the lake. There are spectacular views along this path, as well as great spots for a rest and some contemplation. Soon you are back at the point to ascend back to Rock Isle Lake. Go back following the trail you ascended contouring around Rock Isle Lake.
When you reach the junction with the trail back to the top of the Standish chairlift, we recommend going right and continuing to go around the northern shore of Rock Isle Lake, as the best views are from this part of the hike.
Follow the trail as it goes north, away from Rock Isle Lake. When you reach a junction, continue heading north towards the ski hill. You will eventually come down a hill into the village area, where you can grab a coffee in Sunshine Mountain Lodge or some nachos and a beer at Mad Trappers and enjoy the end of a great, family-friendly hike.
ALTERNATE APPROACH TO ROCK ISLE LAKE
You can also Hike to Rock Isle Lake if you don’t want to take the chairlift.
This hiking route is more difficult, and the first km isn’t great for views. That said, if the winds are too high or the chairlift isn’t running, you can still get to Rock Isle Lake.
To take this route head off uphill to the left of Strawberry Chair on a clear gravel path towards the divide. After about 1.0km, the path flattens and as you pass into the province of British Columbia you’ll be rewarded with views of Rock Isle Lake. Enjoy the views as they unfold while you pass along the lake. Many people are content to come here and return – a 5.0km round trip.
As you continue along the lake you’ll come to a junction, with the right-hand side offering a view up to the lovely Standish Viewpoint. Go left and join the rest of the hike down to Grizzly and Larix Lakes.
Book your bus or gondola ticket ahead of time on www.sunshinemeadowsbanff.com/.
Enjoy a burger and a beer at the Mad Trappers while you wait to get on the bus.
Consider spending a night at Sunshine Mountain Lodge and enjoy a dawn or dusk hike to have the stunning beauty of Rock Isle Lake to yourself.
Check out our YouTube video on this great family hike.
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