One of the best hikes in the world is the
Sunshine to Mt Assiniboine
The red dot is BANFF National Park.
AT A GLANCE
- 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
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
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
Mountaineers come to climb Assiniboine 3618m (11,871ft).
- 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.
- 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.
If you walk, it’s quite inexpensive.
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
We recommend this route as the best hike.
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)
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.
Our best source of information for decades has been Banff National Park rangers.
- Backcountry Trip Planner – Banff National Park
- fees and booking – Banff National Park
- hiking hazards – Banff National Park
- bear safety – Banff National Park
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.
- Don’t Waste Your Time In The Canadian Rockies: The Opinionated Hiking Guide
- Canadian Rockies Trail Guide (2009)
- Canadian Rockies SuperGuide – Graeme Pole, 2004
Best Travel Guidebooks
Compare the rest against Lonely Planet and Moon. Be sure to get the most recent edition.
- Moon Canadian Rockies (2013)
- Lonely Planet Banff, Jasper and Glacier National Parks (2012)
- Lonely Planet British Columbia & the Canadian Rockies (2011)
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.
- Handbook of the Canadian Rockies – Ben Gadd
- Banff – Assiniboine: A Beautiful World. Scenes, Tales, Trails (1993)
- Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies – Alan Kane, 1999
- Ridgewalks in the Canadian Rockies – Mike Potter, 2001
- The Backpacker’s Handbook – Chris Townsend, 2004
- High Summer: Backpacking the Canadian Rockies – Chris Townsend
- Northern Rocky Mountain Wildflowers – Phillips
- Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance – Herrero
- Mammals of the Rocky Mountains – Pattie, Fisher & Hartson
- Plants of the Rocky Mountains – Kershaw, Pojar & MacKinnon
- The Canadian Rockies – photographer Douglas Leighton
- Great Lodges of the Canadian Rockies – 1999
- How To Photograph The Canadian Rockies and Dances with Light – Darwin Wiggett.
- Raven’s End by Ben Gadd
- Switchbacks: True Stories from the Canadian Rockies by Sid Marty
- Mountain Madness: An Historical Miscellany by Cavell & Whyte
- GemTrek Banff and Mount Assiniboine 1:100,000
- NTS: 82 0/4, and 82 J/13, and 82 J/14
You’re not like to get lost. It’s wide open up there. Any guidebook will be sufficient for navigation.
Best Web Pages
- Outbound Collective – Backpack Mount Assiniboine: Sunshine Village to Mount Shark
- White Mtn Adventures – Sunshine Meadows Shuttle
- Helicopter Reservations
- Naiset Hut rentals – reserve Assiniboine cabins
- Trip Advisor – Assiniboine Lodge reviews
- Calgary – Banff Airport Shuttle – Brewster
- private transport – Rocky Mountain Sky Shuttle
- private transport – Mountain Connector
- Mt. Assiniboine – Wikipedia
- Mt. Assiniboine – Peak Finder
- Mt. Assiniboine – Trail Peak
- Mt. Assiniboine – Great Wild Spaces
Best Trip Reports
- Virtual Hiker – Mount Assiniboine Region (2012)
- Friends of Banff – Sunshine to Assiniboine (2011)
- Digital Diary – Sunshine to Assiniboine (2010)
- Gili – Life in Magic Land – Banff-Assiniboine: A Journey Into the Centre of the Rockies (2012) … Griz !
- Assiniboine Lodge photos
- Karen & David Crowe – Mt. Assiniboine Provincial Park photos
- Mark Glaser Assiniboine 2003
- Rick McCharles Assiniboine 2003
- Rick McCharles Assiniboine 2004
- Thomas Mt. Shark to Assiniboine loop
- Assiniboine Lodge fantastic high resolution pics
Click PLAY or Jeromet Ryan’s 2012 hike on YouTube.