Sundance Canyon Hike

Recently I visited Banff National Park and stayed there for a few days. The town of Banff is surrounded by mountains in every direction, and there’s something magical about waking up in the morning and being right next to the mountains. It’s also beautiful seeing the sun rise from behind the mountains and with the first rays of sunlight casting an orange glow over the peaks.

One does not simply stay at a national park without going hiking! While most of the trails are located throughout the park and they need to be accessed by a vehicle, there are a few trails that start right from the town. One of these trails was the Sundance Canyon hike, which starts at the Banff Cave and Basins. At the Cave and Basins you can learn about the history of Banff National Park. In fact, Banff was Canada’s first National Park, which was created when three railway workers discovered the hot springs. You can visit the cave and there is a boardwalk outside with plaques providing more information about the thermal hot springs.

The Banff Cave.

The Banff Cave.

The Sundance Canyon trail (which is about 4.3 km one way) begins right at the Cave and Basins and starts out as a paved road which weaves between the forest and along the shore of the Bow River. The views along the river are beautiful, with the peaks of different mountains visible on the north side of the river.

Bow River - Just look at how green the water is.

Bow River – Just look at how green the water is.

The paved road continues on for 2.1 km, and then splits into two trails. The paved road goes to the left, further into the forest, which is the continuation of the Sundance Canyon hike. Taking the non-paved trail to right leads to Healy Creek. The paved path continues for 1.1 km until it stops at the Sundance Canyon Picnic area. There’s an outhouse here, a place to lock bikes, and a fairly large picnic area.

This is also the start to the looped trail which goes along the canyon and comes back through the forest. This is exclusively a hiking trail, and basically what I was expecting the entire trail to look like. The loop is about 1.6 km long, and definitely worth it. While the views were nice along the paved road, they get even better on this trail!

Sundance Canyon trail  by the river.

Sundance Canyon trail by the river.

The Sundance Canyon Loop starts by going along the river and gaining some elevation (maximum elevation gain of 145 m). So it’s definitely not like climbing a mountain, but it feels great regardless. Sundance Canyon reminded me of Johnston Canyon, but it was smaller and much less busy. Occasionally we ran into some people on the trail, but we were on our own for the majority of the time. The second half of the loop was fairly flat and all through the forest. Not as picturesque as the first half, but still nice. There was a beautiful lookout near the end of the forest portion.

A lookout from the Sundance Canyon hiking trail.

A lookout from the Sundance Canyon hiking trail.

On the way back, we decided to take a little detour and go on the Marsh Loop trail, which goes right along the edge of the river.

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View from the end of the Marsh Loop Trail, right before reaching the parking lot.

Here are some more pictures from the hike:

Sundance Canyon trail map. The entire hike is about 4.3 km long, with an option of taking a longer route back through the Marsh Loop.

Sundance Canyon trail map. The entire hike is about 4.3 km long, with an option of taking a longer route back through the Marsh Loop.

Banff Cave and Basins: there used to be a pool here in the past.

Banff Cave and Basins: there used to be a pool here in the past.

The hike starts along the shore of the Bow River.

The hike starts along the shore of the Bow River.

Sundance Canyon Loop: look at the icicles on the logs. Winter is coming.

Sundance Canyon Loop: look at the icicles on the logs. Winter is coming.

This little stone staircase was part of the trail. How cute is that? It feels like something that would be in Lord of the Rings. Maybe Mirkwood Forest?

This little stone staircase was part of the trail. How cute is that? It feels like something that would be in Lord of the Rings. Maybe Mirkwood Forest?

Looking back at where we just climbed.

Looking back at where we just climbed.

Sundance Canyon.

Sundance Canyon.

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