The top of Sulphur Mountain was breathtaking. Any direction you turn, the views were incredible. You get a bird’s eye panoramic views of the beautiful Bow Valley, the lovely town of Banff, and stunning six mountain ranges.
We hiked up Sulphur Mountain on our third day in Banff (see previous post: Lake Agnes and the Plain of Six Glaciers trail) before heading over to Jasper. The hike is 5.5 km long one way with about 655 m of elevation, where you go through a series of switchbacks to get to the summit ridge. There you will find restaurants, coffee shops, information/ learning area, and observation decks. From there you can also go on a 0.5 km informative boardwalk trail to Sanson Peak. It takes approximately 2 hours to get up, but of course this depends on the weather conditions. As an alternative to hiking, you can also take the 8 minute gondola ride up and/or down the mountain. Steve and I hiked up and took a free gondola ride down. Note that the gondola ride down is only free in the winter season.
More on Banff Gondola Rides - Click Me Other useful links: Parks Conditions Banff Trails Avalanche Conditions
It was late October and the weather that day felt a bit warmer than the previous days, at around 9 degrees. Steve and I started our hike just after 10 am. The starting path up the mountain was wide, fairly dry hard soil with traces of rocks and gravel. It was covered in pine trees most of the way, with occasional exposure to the gondola line (don’t forget to wave to the gondola riders!) and views of Mount Rundle. There were a few groups of hikers that started close to the same time as us who we also saw mid-hike, but overall it was not busy. For the most part, we were hiking alone.
As we ascended up the mountain, the path became slightly narrower but wide enough to fit at least 2 to 3 people. There was also snow and more wind the further up we hiked. The snow covered most of the path and was hard and slippery. I was really mad at myself for leaving my hiking cleats in the car. It would have been very helpful then. I walked a bit slower, being careful not to slip.
We finally got to the top of the mountain. The winds were a bit stronger and it was A LOT cooler. After taking a few “wohooo we reached the top” photos, we hurried inside the building to warm up. We spent some time soaking up some knowledge reading in the interpretive centre and then proceeded to the cafe. We shared a hearty soup and delicious sandwich to fill our energy buckets. Steve also topped out his meal with a local beer while I had my late morning coffee.
Afterwards we took the boardwalk to Sanson Peak and the Cosmic Ray Station, which is approximately 2281m or 748 ft above sea level. Now a historic site, the Cosmic Ray Station was built at Sanson Peak in 1957-1958 in order to research cosmic rays. The site was picked due to the higher elevation, and was in use until 1978.
More on the Cosmic Ray Station :Click Me
The views from the peak were spectacular. We took the gondola ride down and then headed to Jasper!