5 Tips for Your Sunshine Meadows Wildflower Hike

Are you headed to Banff National Park looking for a unique hike? The Sunshine Meadows hike is not to be missed!

At Sunshine Meadows, you not only get gorgeous mountain views along the Continental Divide, you get alpine meadows filled with wildflowers.

Sunshine Meadows Wildflower Hike
Some of the gorgeous alpine wildflowers you’ll see at Sunshine Meadows.

My husband and I did a guided Sunshine Meadows hike on our recent visit to the Canadian Rockies, and it is something not to miss! We spent a beautiful sunny July day taking in all the wildflowers in bloom along the hiking trail.

Summer is the perfect time to go wildflower hunting in the national parks of Alberta and British Columbia, and Sunshine Meadows is one of the best places to find them. Here is where you’ll find lush wildflower meadows including subalpine species and those that grow in the high alpine areas above the tree line.

Be sure to get my Top 20 Banff Wildflowers Checklist to print out and take with you to check off the wildflowers as you spot them!

View of Rock Isle Lake at Sunshine Meadows
View of Rock Isle Lake, one of three pristine alpine lakes at Sunshine Meadows.

Sunshine Meadows is located at 7,000 feet above sea level at the Sunshine Village Ski Resort, a short 20-minute drive from the town of Banff via the Trans-Canada Highway. There is also a free shuttle bus from Banff that operates in the summer!

Here are my top 5 tips to make the most of a day hike at Banff Sunshine Meadows:

5 Tips for a Sunshine Meadows Wildflower Hike

1) Take the gondola ride

While you can hike to the Sunshine Meadows via a long dirt road from the parking lot at Sunshine Village, it is worth the money to take the scenic 15-minute gondola ride up to the lodge, then a separate chair lift up to Rock Isle Lake and the meadows.

Sunshine Valley Ski Resort

The gondola cost $65 CAD per adult when we visited. By taking the gondola, you save time, and you save your energy for the best views at the top! 

2) Book a guided hike for the morning

For a minimal additional extra cost beyond the gondola ticket, you can take a guided tour of Sunshine Meadows along with an experienced guide.

When we visited it cost $79 CAD for a one-hour tour, and $99 CAD for a two-hour tour, both of which include the price of the gondola ($65 CAD on its own).

We opted for the two-hour tour that started at 9:30 am and were lucky to have the guide to ourselves!

Sunshine Meadows guided hike
A hole left by a bear digging for food (left) and a sign marking the Continental Divide (right).

Booking a guided hike gives you a good reason to get to the mountain early and enjoy the entire day there. Our friendly guide took us on the walking trail to the Standish Viewing Deck and Rock Isle Lake, one of three pristine alpine lakes at Sunshine Meadows.

During the leisurely hike, our guide told us about the early exploration of the mountain, the geology, and plants and animals that call it home. We saw evidence of bears digging for food in the soil (see photo above).

While grizzly bears are in the area, we didn’t see any. One animal you are sure to see on the hike are the cute little ground squirrels that make a distinctive call.

Sunshine Meadows Hike
View from Standish viewpoint overlooking Rock Isle Lake (left) and another beautiful alpine lookout (right).

3) Grab lunch at Sunshine Lodge

Unlike the summer season crowds of Lake Louise, you don’t have to wait in line anywhere on Sunshine Mountain! When we were there the third week of July, it had an uncrowded and relaxing vibe.

After our guided hike ended at 11:30, we headed to the restaurant at the Sunshine Mountain Lodge for a delicious burger and sweet potato fries! If you’re going to spend a full day on the mountain, it is great to have a sit-down place to eat.

Sunshine Meadows Wildflower Hike
Relaxing at Sunshine Lodge with my new shirt (left). Don’t forget to stop by the Interpretive Center (right).

The separate coffee shop is a perfect place for a rest stop and a sweet treat in the afternoon. Finally, don’t miss the gift shop on the way out. That’s where I picked up a cute Sunshine Meadows shirt!

4) Do the Grizzly Lake hike in the afternoon

After lunch, we headed out to do the Grizzly Lake and Laryx Lake Loop hike. The hike starting from the top of the Standish chairlift is about 3.5 miles and a 3-hour round trip.

20 Banff Wildflowers
Some of the many beautiful native Canadian wildflowers spotted on the Grizzly Loop hike.

There is spectacular scenery throughout the hike to the picturesque lake, with the most lush wildflower meadows to be found on the way. Check out my Top 20 Canadian Wildflowers post to learn more about the flowers you’ll see.

In addition to wildflowers, don’t miss the  Views of Mt Assiniboine, one of the Rockies’ highest peaks. and the Simpson Viewpoint (see below).

Simpson Viewpoint at Sunshine Meadows
Simpson Viewpoint

5) Come prepared for a great day!

Since you’ll be spending plenty of time on the mountain it helps to come prepared! Bring a backpack with the following things:

  • Lots of layers – it can be cool on top of the mountain even in the summer
  • Refillable water bottle
  • Bear spray 
  • Sunshine Meadows trail map (available at the Interpretive Center)
  • Banff wildflower checklist

Get this checklist for your Sunshine Meadows hike!

You can get this handy photo checklist to download and bring with you on your Sunshine Meadows hike (or any hike in the Canadian Rockies!). It includes a photo, common name, and scientific name of 20 common Banff wildflowers.

Canadian Wildflower Checklist Printable

I hope you enjoy a day Sunshine Ski Resort finding ALL the wildflowers and taking in the spectacular views!

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