Day 1 Sunshine Village parking lot to Howard Douglas Campground, 12 km, 864 m Elevation Gain, 270 m Elevation Loss, 3 hrs 55 min.
Starting the hike on a weekday after teaching summer school guaranteed us a late start. We hit the trail at 1:55 pm although calling the first 6 km a trail is a stretch. Since Links was not allowed on either the gondola or the shuttle we had to walk the first 6 km up the Sunshine Village access road. We both accepted the fact the first part of the hike would be less than enthralling but knew the payoff at the top would be worth it. The road was actually quite steep. We would gain a little over 500 m in the first 6 km. Normally the temperatures in Banff NP are moderate at the best of times but on this day the Bow Valley was experiencing a heat wave and the temperature at the start of the hike was 29 C. Compounding the heat would be the reflection off of the white gravel road. I knew Siobhan and I would be okay in the heat but my concern was Links and his ability to cool himself. We set off at a good pace with the goal of getting to Sunshine Village as quickly as we could. One thing we had going for us was due to the drainage for the road there was plenty of water for Links at any time on the way up. Links was also at the tail end of recovery for a removal of a lump on his right front. If you look at the some of the pictures closely you can see tan coloured wrapping on his lower leg.
We arrived at the first of the ski runs after 90 minutes. We spied some snow lingering in the trees so Siobhan and Links make a short detour up the hill so that Links could cool off in the snow. One of Links’ favourite things was to roll in the snow on a hike.
We arrived at Sunshine Village day use lodge in just under 2 hrs. I was very happy with our progress. I felt covering 6 km up hill in the heat in 2 hrs was impressive and the temperatures had cooled off dramatically with the elevation that we had gained. We had no reason to stop at the village. A handy sandwich board pointed the way to Sunshine Meadows. After a relatively flat approach to the village I was a little shocked at how steep the trail was leaving the village although I should have expected elevation change at a ski hill. We arrived at Sunshine Meadows at 4:10 pm two hours 15 minutes since leaving the parking lot.
Passing the junction with Rock Isle Lake we had 4.6 km to go on relatively flat trail except for the 140 m climb up the east ridge of Quartz Hill near the end of the hike. The trail meandered pleasantly through the meadow for 1.8 km before a small descent to a little wetland featuring a small stream. Links took advantage of the grass off to the side of the trail to have a couple of back scratches and helped himself to a nice drink from the stream.
Just before arriving at the creek I thought it would be a good time to pull out the ice cream.
There was a lot of ice cream in the go cup so Siobhan saved some for desert after dinner. After the ice cream Links cooled off in the stream that cut through the depression.
It is just over 2 km from the stream to the campground at Howard Douglas. we made our across the meadow and headed up the last obstacle before we would arrive at the campground. The hike up to the ridge on Quartz Hill gained 140 m in just over 1 km . The trail is well graded and we hiked up at a nice comfortable pace. From the top of the ridge we had an amazing 360 degree view that included to the north of Balls Peak and a clear view south to Mt Assiniboine.
We arrived at the campground at 5:40 pm hiking 12 km in 3 hrs 45 min. We quickly set up the tent and while Siobhan chilled in the tent with Links I set about preparing dinner.
Siobhan had another treat for dinner. Instead of suffering through some re-hydrated food I brought cheese smokies and buns to make sausage dogs and baked potatoes with cheese. To prevent scurvy the sausages were decorated with some fried red pepper. We shared the dinner table with three women enjoying a slow return hike from Mt Assiniboine. What I do remember about their meal was that they had a lot of rice. My everlasting memory of the dinner was when one of the women politely asked “How do you two know each other”. I responded that I was her dad what else could I say. After dinner Siobhan finished her ice cream and headed back to the tent with Links. I packed up the stove and put away the food and instead of relaxing for the evening I made a quick dash to Citadel Pass. Just a little 6 km hike before bed.
According to my Viewranger it was about 7.2 km round trip to Citadel Pass. I hit the trail just after 7:35 pm with a small day pack (the top lid of my backpack) with some water and a Powerbar and a can of bear spray in my pocket. My hope was that I could hike close to or slightly over 5 km/h over fairly flat terrain, there was only 120 m of elevation gain, with a light backpack. I forgot to start my Viewranger so the track started 10 minutes after I left the campground.
The first part of the trail is heavily treed. I was keen for some big alpine views so I kept focused on the the trail and headed for the sunlit meadow I could spot in the distance. I burst out of the trees at 7:55 pm. I could see my trail cutting up to the left heading for the east end of Citadel Peak.
Arrived at Citadel Pass at 8:25 pm. The view across the valley was worth the hike. I only hung around for a few minutes checking out the signs and information that BC Parks had placed at the pass. During the summer this is a very busy hiking trail with hikers heading to Mt Assiniboine from Sunshine Village. There are two campgrounds for hikers before reaching Mt Assiniboine. Porcupine Campground is located just 4 km away at the bottom of the pass and Og Lake is 12 km from the pass.
I have done quite a bit of hiking along Parks Canada trails and other than at campgrounds I have never seen a backcountry display quite like the sign board at Citadel Pass. I left the pass at 8:30 pm. The sun was still quite high in the sky but I was determined to get back to the campsite as quickly as possible. A couple minutes into the return journey I realized that I had no proof I was at the pass so I stopped for a quick selfie.
The hike back was very straightforward. The slight downhill helped keep my pace high. I did stop a couple of times to take in the view of the meadows and Citadel Peak in the soft evening light.
I arrived back at the campground at 9:05 pm. A very quick evening trip covering 7.2 km in 1 hr 30 min. Once back I checked in with Siobhan then set about taking pictures of the lake and of Howard Douglas Creek in the fading evening light.
10 pm came and I decided to call it a night.