Brilliant green grasses + a perfectly triangulated mountain peak upthrust through the landscape the way a child would draw it, its jagged slabs wrenched and lifted upright from the clutches of the earth + a steep alpine meadow in full bloom + a peaceful and oblivious black bear + a series of rock pillars standing like bizarre rocky sentinels… all this made for stellar ingredients in one of my favourite hikes that we did this summer. A 15km trek, it took us up a lush mountain slope, over a rocky pass and down onto the dry side of the mountain. It was a circuit hike full of contrasts and it was spectacular!
Our day began, hiking with great friends through the forest of a mountain slope, a mere spitting distance from the Banff townsite, yet miles away from the spirit of Banff Avenue, a highly congested, highly touristed shopping street in the beautiful mountain town of Banff, Canada. The contrast didn’t escape us, and we were thrilled to have the route seemingly to ourselves.
We followed the course of a beautiful stream with its lush mosses and almost BC-like humidity and feel. Dappled light broke through the aspen & fir tree canopy, encouraging a lot of plant growth on the forest floor, and the grasses that grew there were surprisingly long and a such brilliant emerald green. Combined with the new leaves leafing out on the trees, it was spectacular: a green-infused landscape that was a forest and a meadow all in one.
As we rounded a corner in the trail, we saw the glossy black fur of a black bear, rooting around through the grasses, feeding away on the roots and shoots and berries that grew there. The contrast of his coal-black fur and the lime green of the forest floor was mesmerizing. The scene was quiet and serene, and though we had dogs with us, we felt peaceful and at ease. In fact, the dogs didn’t even notice the bear (very unusual) and the bear took no notice of us! It was almost surreal!
The trail emerged through the forest and headed out across steep avalanche slopes and scree fields, and through what was my absolute favourite part… a narrow path in the scree between the mountain peaks of Mount Louis and Mount Edith. It was dramatic. It was above the tree line. It was barren and rugged and ever so beautiful!
The dogs LOVED the spots of snow that remained, even on a hot day, at the end of June, trailside. They’d bite it, roll in it and slide down it, like kids on a toboggan hill. It was so fun to see them play. I loved Mount Louis itself (in the centre of this pic). It was such a tall, triangular, majestic peak, topping out at 2682m. Our path became a winding up & down trail that bent to the left and crossed a massive scree field between the peaks.
Once we entered the shadow of the mountain, we layered up. It was getting cold up there!
Part of the Sawback Range, it’s a little like the Dolomites in its shape. I’m always amazed, thinking of the forces involved in turning massive rock layers that were once horizontal, up onto their end like those in this mountain! Wow.
This pic gives a sense of the immensity of this incredible landscape! And if you look closely, you can see the trail, snaking off into the distance on the right hand side of the photo.
The Rundle Range with its slanted, skyward reaching slabbed peaks is off to the far left. If you’ve seen promotional photos of Banff, you’ve seen this mountain and its recognizable ramp-like shape. Then come the green slopes of Sulphur Mountain in the middle (a gondola can take you up to its peak). I loved the way the valleys and peaks stretched out as far as the eye could see from this spot. The slopes of those valleys can look so graceful, from a distance.
We came out at Cory Pass and stopped to have lunch, taking in the incredible views. We’d gained 1000m of elevation and, feeling on top of the world, could see Banff and Sulphur Mountain, far below us.
The mountains looked different from down slope, about two thirds of the way down the mountain (that’s the Rundle Range in the middle… seen from the backside like this, I always think it looks like a cresting surf wave, just starting to break). The green snake in the middle of the pic is the Bow River.
This was such a super fun day. Just over 15km, 1000m of elevation gain, and about 6 hours to do, with breaks. A terrific circuit hike.