The Stanley Glacier hike in Kootenay National Park, British Columbia is a nice day hike that takes you through an old burnt area from the 2003 Vermilion Valley fire and into an impressive canyon. Highlights of the hike include beautiful wildflowers that thrive in the post-burn environment, waterfalls, towering rock cliffs and mountains, and Stanley Glacier.
Despite being within the boundary of Kootenay National Park, the Stanley Glacier hike can be easily done while visiting Banff National Park, especially if you stay in the Banff or Lake Louise area. The trailhead is about 45 km (28 mi) or about 30-min drive from Banff. We arrived at the trailhead around 3 pm. There were a few available spots in the parking lot, but there were many cars parked on the side of the road, indicating parking overflow during peak times. Something to keep in mind when planning your hike.
As we were entering the canyon, a helicopter appeared from the direction of Banff and started circling in and out of the canyon. We stopped to look at where the helicopter was going for about 5 minutes. Hikers we met who were heading back to the trailhead didn’t know anything about emergency rescue that might be happening. Later that day, I checked the internet but didn’t find any mention about emergency rescue at Stanley Glacier.
The trail was dotted with flowers in early July. Although it’s too early for fireweed, I saw many of them developing some flowers on the trail.
The final section in the forest was a short climb until we emerged from the tree line. The trail then crossed rock and boulder fields. We had uninterrupted view of mountains, waterfalls, and glacier around us. It’s a beautiful place.
Soon we came to a sign that indicated the end of a maintained trail. We walked a bit further to find a place to have lunch. In the center right of a picture below, you can see a trail on a slope on the other side of the canyon. Apparently, you could explore beyond the end-of-trail sign. I didn’t do my research for options to continue further. If you’re interested in doing this hike, be sure to check out this post from Out and About with the GeoKs who did the hike from the other side of the canyon (I don’t think it’s an official park’s trail however). I wished I did.
- Date hiked: July 3, 2017
- Hiking time: 3h 47m
- Distance: Approx. 5.6 mi round-trip (out and back)
- Elevation change: Approx. 1,134 ft gain