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.

Crossing the Vermilion River at the start of the hike. You can see cars parked on the side of the road in this picture.
After crossing the river, the trail ascended immediately through a burnt area from the 2003 Vermilion Valley fire. The new forest was thriving. There were plenty of views all around us.
The trail became more level for a while as it entered the canyon toward the headwall.
Helicopter at Stanley Glacier

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.

Crossing Stanley Creek
Emerged from the forest to an amazing view of Mount Stanley. You can see hikers in front of us in the bottom left of this picture.
Waterfalls plunging over a rock cliff across the canyon
Start of rock slope crossing

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.

Paused to take in the view
There was some snow lingered on the trail when we hiked on July 3.
Our visitor during lunch
Hikers having lunch in the shadow of the rock cliff
Mount Whymper stood prominently in the afternoon light during the return hike.
Descended through the old burnt area
From the trail, a stunning view of Vermillion Valley with Castle Mountain in Banff National Park in the far background
  • 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

5 thoughts

  1. Nice photos guys. That helicopter may have just been hauling tourists over the mountains and into the valleys for a fee. I remember the steep grades heading west on 93 thru Radium Hot Springs on the way home, east through Crowsnest Pass, more than a few years ago. Gotta love Canada!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That must be it, Mike. On our way into Canada, we took the route from ID into BC. The section through Fernie and Crowsnest Pass was a nice appetizer for the remaining of the trip.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yup. I’m with Mike… that must’ve been a tourist helicopter (unless it was toting a body cage… like a caged stretcher they use to cart off injured hikers/climbers). They do routes like that regularly… kinda like what you did in Alaska (without touching down). Great photos. Glad you did this hike while you were here. It’s a beauty!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is an absolutely stunning park, Keng. The Canadian Rockies are so glorious, and these photos reflect just how amazing they are. That first photo with the slopes, valley, and Vermilion River is breathtaking. All the photos are great, not only for the vistas and clarity, but also for lending perspective with the tiny ant-size people you point out. I always enjoy your hikes, thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the kind comment, Jet. It’s such a gorgeous country up there in the Rockies. Posting about them helped me to relive the experience. I’m happy to hear that you enjoy them.


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