July 16, 2020. A scenic hike in Kootenay National Park, featuring glaciers, cliffs, boulders and waterfalls.
- Region: Kootenay National Park. Traditional territory of the Ktunaxa, Tsuu T’ina, and Blackfoot First Nations.
- Distance: 11 km round-trip
- Total Ascent: 395 m
- Total Time: 3h 55m
After an absence of several years, my family returned to Kootenay National Park this summer to check out a recommended hike for kids in Nugara’s Family Walks and Hikes in the Canadian Rockies Volume 1: Stanley Glacier.
Anticipating a crowded parking lot, as well as some precipitation in the afternoon, we got to the trailhead early and enjoyed great conditions for a hike, though this trail might be an option in light rain if everyone in the party is sure-footed.
Access is via Hwy 93. A turn-off about 3.4 km southbound from the Alberta/BC border leads to a parking lot with an information kiosk and pit toilet facilities. Click here for the Google Map. The trail starts off by crossing a sturdy bridge over a broad creek before gently switch-backing up towards the deeply carved hanging valley below the Stanley Glacier. The region has experienced some major fires over the years, which has resulted in a refreshingly open feeling while hiking up the first part of the trail. Rather than being hemmed in by an old, tall forest, the trail is surrounded by short young trees. The air moves freely and the views are largely uninterrupted.
At the top of the switchbacks, the trail crosses a small bridge and proceeds along a more level grade, but on slightly more rocky terrain. After some more time in the trees, the trail emerges into more open terrain. Views into the hanging valley slowly get better and better. The sheer walls of Stanley Peak are to the right as you climb. Slowly, you can make out a few towering waterfalls coming down from the glacier. Eventually the official trail ends in the midst of boulders, cliffs, and great views into the heart of the hanging valley.
Some of our crew ran out of steam before the final portion of the trail and I carried on with one of my kids to finish the trail and check out a particularly big boulder. It is possible to continue to a very obvious plateau deeper in the valley beyond the end of the official trail, but on this occasion we didn’t want to split the party for too long, so we saved that trip for another day.
This was definitely a worthwhile trip. Our youngest hiker was 8 and she managed this trail without much difficulty. We took plenty of breaks and enjoyed looking at some up-close scenery. The wildflowers were abundant, and we also encountered a boreal toad!
Click on the pictures below to access full-sized images.