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 options are possible and popular.
- 56km (34.8mi) plus side trip day hikes
- July to mid-September
- moderate difficulty
Why We Like This Hike
Isn’t it obvious? 🙂
Assiniboine is often compared with the Matterhorn in Switzerland.
We’d say this is the prettiest peak in the Rockies, Canada’s Matterhorn is3618m (11,870ft).
- Mt. Assiniboine Provincial Park accessed only on foot or by helicopter. The chopper flies to Canmore (more expensive) or Mt. Shark trailhead (less expensive)
- good chance to see mountain goats, bighorn sheep, elk and mule deer, pikas, chipmunks & hoary marmots
- you will see hordes of Columbian and mantled ground squirrels.
- leashed pets are allowed, but discouraged
- huge, heavenly alpine meadows
- Assiniboine Lodge is a treat. The pub is open to all.
- colourful wild flowers
- walk the continental divide
- Magog Lake (40 sites) is the most popular base campground for good reason. Easy access to many day hikes. But there is no longer any overflow area). 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) one way
- Og Pass/ Windy Ridge sidetrip 8.7km (5.4mi) one way
- Wonder Peak scramble
- the scary scramble from Magog up to Hind Hut, bivouac for mountaineers climbing Assiniboine
Mountaineers stay in Hind Hut 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
- 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 Lake Magog Campground and at Naiset Cabins, but it must still be treated.
For ADMISSION to Canadian National Parks we most often buy a Discovery Pass (CAD $139.40 – 12 months for up to 7 people in vehicle)
- 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. Bookings are not easy to get.
A recommended heli-hike option shortens the trip. And lightens your wallet.
Helicopter one way Assiniboine Lodge to Mt Shark was CAD$175 per person + 5% tax (one way) = $183.75 in 2017.
We’ve also shipped our backpacks / trash out by helicopter on the last day. $3 per pound per flight (includes tax) in 2017. That process was very disorganized. Bring your gear to the lodge early.
Walking your gear out is free.
Tenting is the least expensive option.
- Tenting in Banff National Park
- Tenting in Assiniboine Provincial Park
For TENTING in the National Parks backcountry you also need a Wilderness Pass.
In 2020 the Wilderness pass to tent cost CAD $10.02 / person / night. To make a reservation is CAD $11.96 for up to 10 people, 5 tents. (If you telephone to reserve it costs CAD $13.50)
If you plan to tent 7 nights or more in National Parks during one season, ask about the Annual Wilderness Pass.
Cost is reasonable but varies depending on campsite and number of people. There’s also a reservation fee. Try for Magog first. Og lake second if Magog not available for the dates you want.
YES. It’s way too complicated. Parks Canada will explain it, however, when you make a reservation. Don’t panic at the complexity.
Purchase permit online or call 1-877-RESERVE (1-877-737-3783).
Phone if the online process is too confusing.
Assiniboine Lodge recommends these options:
- ASSINIBOINE LODGE hiking via WONDER PASS or ASSINIBOINE PASS
- ASSINIBOINE LODGE via SUNSHINE
If you have the time, Sunshine to Assiniboine is the best hike. Exit by helicopter — or you could walk back out to Sunshine — or walk out to the Mt. Shark trailhead.
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 Provincial Parks
- Mt. Assiniboine Lodge
Each has different sets of regulations.
Book campsites as early as possible. (Most difficult campground to book is likely Howard Douglas.)
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. You can hike up, ride a bus or take a gondola. 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 gear store in the world.
- you can hike either direction. We’ve done both. It’s easy to get into and out of Sunshine Meadows. It’s not easy to get to the Mt. Shark trailhead without your own vehicle.
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.
- Don’t Waste Your Time In The Canadian Rockies: The Opinionated Hiking Guide
- Canadian Rockies Trail Guide (2009)
- Canadian Rockies SuperGuide – Graeme Pole, 2004
- Classic Hikes in the Canadian Rockies – Graeme Pole
Best Travel Guidebooks
Compare the rest against Lonely Planet and Moon. Be sure to get the most recent edition.
- Lonely Planet Banff, Jasper and Glacier National Parks
- Lonely Planet British Columbia & the Canadian Rockies
- Moon Canadian Rockies (2013)
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
Best Trip Reports
- 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 !
- Karen & David Crowe – Mt. Assiniboine Provincial Park photos
- Thomas Mt. Shark to Assiniboine loop
- Assiniboine Lodge fantastic high resolution pics
Click PLAY or watch World Wild Hearts on YouTube.
Click PLAY or watch Outdoor Gypsy on YouTube. (2019)
Click PLAY or Jeromet Ryan’s 2012 hike on YouTube.
Click PLAY or watch our 2020 Nub Peak climb on YouTube.
Click PLAY or watch our 2017 Nub Peak on YouTube.