Sunshine to Assiniboine

World → North AmericaRockiesSunshine to Assiniboine

One of the best hikes in the world is the

Sunshine to Mt Assiniboine

Our favourite hike in the Canadian Rockies.

Nublet Jungmann

The red dot is BANFF National Park.

AT A GLANCE

banff_map

  • one of our top 10 hikes in the world
  • recommended route 6 days, 5 nights. Shorter is possible.
  • 56km (34.8mi) depending on side trips
  • July to mid-September
  • moderate difficulty

Why We Like This Hike

Alpenglow

Compare Matterhorn (Switzerland) and Mt. Assiniboine (Canada).

Visit the prettiest peak in the Rockies, Canada’s Matterhorn 3618m (11,870ft). This is our favourite hike in the Canadian Rockies.

    • Assiniboine accessed only on foot or by helicopter
    • good chance to see mountain goats, bighorn sheep, elk and mule deer, pikas, chipmunks & hoary marmots
    • Sunshine Meadows is home to hordes of Columbian and mantled ground squirrels.
    • leashed pets are allowed, but discouraged
    • huge, heavenly alpine meadows
    • Assiniboine Lodge is a treat. The restaurant is open to all.
    • colourful wild flowers
    • walk the continental divide
    • Magog Lake is the most popular camping area for good reason. Even the overflow campsites are fantastic. Mule deer sometimes wander between the tents.
    • Wonder Pass to Marvel Lake is wondrous and marvelous

Les Assiniboine

Extend this hike with awesome sidetrips and scrambles:

  • Sunburst Valley / Nub loop sidetrip 6.7km (4.2mi)
  • Og Pass/ Windy Ridge sidetrip 8.7km (5.4mi)
  • Wonder Peak scramble
  • the scary scramble from Magog up to Hind Hut,  bivouac for mountaineers climbing Assiniboine

Hind HutMountaineers come to climb Assiniboine 3618m (11,871ft). 

Considerations

  • this is a very popular hike
  • budget for a series of fees — hiking is not cheap in Canadian National Parks
  • if you want to camp overnight in Banff National Park, you need a Wilderness Pass
  • camping in Assiniboine Provincial Park is first come first serve
  • biting insects can be a nuisance at times
  • pit toilets at every campsite
  • trails sometimes closed due to bear
  • bears are a concern
  • the weather is highly variable. It can snow any day of the year. Or it can be 30°C (86°F).
  • drinking water is provided at the Lake Magog Campground and at Naiset Cabins.  Treat everything else.

Cost

  • Assiniboine Lodge, erected 1928, the first ski lodge in the Canadian Rockies, offers hotel services and a gourmet restaurant in one of the most gorgeous locations anywhere.

The Lodge is expensive. We’ve only rarely stayed there. But right next door are the 5 inexpensive Naiset Huts  built by Alpine Club of Canada founder A.O. Wheeler in 1925. Those can be reserved at (403) 678-2883 or fax (403) 678-4877, not online.

A recommended heli-hike option shortens the trip.

Helicopter one way Assiniboine Lodge to Mt Shark was $150.00 per person per flight + 5% tax in 2013. To Canmore it was $170.00 per person per flight + 5% tax. We’ve enjoyed both options, over the years.

chopperWe’ve also shipped our backpacks out by helicopter on the last day. $2.25 per pound per flight (includes tax) in 2013.

If you walk, it’s quite inexpensive.

Routes

Assiniboine Lodge recommends these options:

  • ASSINIBOINE LODGE VIA BRYANT CREEK AND ASSINIBOINE PASS
  • ASSINIBOINE LODGE TO THE MOUNT SHARK TRIALHEAD VIA WONDER PASS AND BRYANT CREEK
  • ASSINIBOINE LODGE VIA SUNSHINE

route We recommend this route as the best hike.

Sunshine to Mt Shark
… Mt. Assiniboine can … be reached from the Sunshine Village ski area via the rambling alpine meadows of Citadel Pass.

Either walk up the Sunshine Village limited access ski area maintenance road or ride the privately run shuttle up the 6.5 km to the base village. The trip exits via Bryant Creek at the Mt. Shark trailhead in Kananaskis Country, Alberta. Seasonal trail restrictions on Allenby Pass and Assiniboine Pass during buffalo berry season. …

Parks Canada – Sunshine – Assiniboine – Bryant Creek (55.7km)

It is a bit complicated because you could be dealing with 3 different management organizations:

  • Banff National Park
  • BC Parks
  • Mt. Assiniboine Lodge

Each has different sets of regulations.

Most importantly, BC Provincial Park campgrounds are first-come, first-served.  Banff National Park campgrounds must be reserved.

Check fees and booking – Banff National Park as early as possible to discuss what campgrounds you might want to reserve. You can  make a reservation up to 90 days in advance. (Most difficult campground to book is Howard Douglas.)

In 2013, reservations can be made by phone, fax, or in person at Park Information Centres. Not online.

If you are going to spend more than 7 nights camping in Canadian National Parks, the Annual Wilderness Pass is cheaper than paying night-by-night.
There are plenty of campgrounds to choose from in Assiniboine including Lake Magog and Og Lake in the core area of the Park, Porcupine Camp near Citadel Pass, Mitchell Meadows and Rock Lake near Ferro Pass, and Scoup Camp located along the Simpson River at its confluence with the North Simpson River.  MAP (PDF)

Trekking Guides

Logistics

It’s easy to get to our recommended start at Sunshine Meadows. The big problem on this adventure is how to get out.

If transportation is a problem, backtrack to to Sunshine and ride the bus back to Banff. Otherwise you’ll need to arrange transport from Mt Shark … or fly to Canmore by helicopter.

  • buy fuel & rent gear, if needed, at Mountain Equipment Co-op in Calgary. MEC is our favourite company in the world.
  • you can hike in either direction. We’ve done both. It’s easy to get into and out of Sunshine Meadows. You’ll need to arrange a vehicle to Mt Shark. Or Helicopter to or from Canmore on the main highway.

Local Information

Our best source of information for decades has been Banff National Park rangers.

Best Trekking Guidebooks

There are many good hiking guidebooks. But we love Graeme Pole’s innovative binder editions where we can remove just the relevant pages for our hike, carrying them in a protective plastic slipcover. Brilliant!

Be SURE to get the most recent edition of guidebooks.

Best Travel Guidebooks

Compare the rest against Lonely Planet and Moon. Be sure to get the most recent edition.

You can probably use any guidebook to travel the Canadian Rockies. The tourist infrastructure is excellent.

Other Recommended Books

Gadd is our bible in the Rockies: flowers, plants, animals, birds, fish, geology, history and much more.

Best Maps

You’re not like to get lost. It’s wide open up there. Any guidebook will be sufficient for navigation.

photo Warren Long

photo Warren Long

Best Web Pages

Proof the Rockies were once under the sea. horn coral, easily found between the lodge and Wonder Pass.

Proof the Rockies were once under the sea. horn coral, easily found between the lodge and Wonder Pass.

Best Trip Reports

Movies

Click PLAY or Jeromet Ryan’s 2012 hike on YouTube.

Questions? Suggestions? Leave a REPLY on this page. Our editors will reply.

6 thoughts on “Sunshine to Assiniboine

  1. Hi my partner and I are coming to Canada in June this year for 4wks and we’re overwhelmed by the choice of walks… We are moderate to experienced walkers… Usually do 4-6day walks with 16-18kilo packs… Fairly fit and in our 40s… Do you have any advice about which walks to do? We’re looking at the sunshine to Assiniboine and the west coast trail… We’re not keen on self navigation(ie compass/GPS type style)… would really appreciate your help… Thanks claire

    • Start with trying to get a booking on the West Coast Trail.

      IF that works, plan your trip around those dates.

      Next organize the Canadian Rockies, about 12 hour drive away by car.

      Best is Sunshine / Assiniboine, but there are many, many good alternatives close by.

      Next, look to add Waterton National Park in Alberta. The snow will be gone sooner there. It’s about 4 hours drive from Banff down to Waterton, Alberta.

      Have FUN>

  2. thanks so much for responding rick… we really appreciate it! we had actually narrowed it down to west coast trail and the sunshine walk… we were a little nervous because when you read about the west coast trail there are a lot of warnings and they make it sound quite dangerous and intrepid… what are your thoughts? how intrepid is it? we are reasonably fit and adventurous but we want to be sensible being 2 ladies in our 40s!

      • Hey rick just getting ready to put in our registration for the wct… Trying to work it all out… Do you have a recommendation for where to start? We’re planning on doing the full trail… Thanks Claire

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