Right off the bat, I want to say, we are novices at hiking/trekking/mountain climbing...however you want to call it! And after spending a few precious months re-searching the canadian rockies, it was decided that not hiking the mountains here, would be like being in India and not visiting the TAJ !!That being said, Sulphur Mountain in Banff Townsite stood testimony to our debut hike! A well-defined and well-maintained 5.3km trail takes you all way from the Gondola parking lot down below to the summit of the mountain offering views un-paralleled along the way!
Yes - there is a Gondola ride up, for the faint-hearted!! (we can boldly say that now). But there are other advantages to not taking the Gondola, you can experience nature first hand, see sights and views on every bend and turn of the switch backs, not to mention, give yourself a good bit of cardio...and feel the exhillerating sense of achievement and accomplishment once you reach the summit.As you criss-cross underneath the Gondola ride on your way to the top, you are privy to nature's bounty in terms of wild-flowers , trickling waterfalls and foliage that is unique to this part of the world. You also have the opportunity to meet and greet fellow hikers who invariable pass you (us) by, after you have exchanged a flurry of FAQs about the height and length of the trail- remaining!
But the feeling once you reach the summit, is in-describable. The panorama of mountains, some still snow-capped (in July), awaiting you at the top is worth every second of the steep climb. The freshness of the cool crisp air on top takes away your fatigue in an instant and instead rejuvinates your mind, body and spirit. It is a spot where you can feel the power and magnificence of the mammoth mountains surrounding you.
A restaurant and gift shop are located at the summit along with a viewing platform, picnic tables and interesting interpretive signs. A wide self guided interpretive walkway leads along the top of the peak past the concrete foundation of the Cosmic Ray Station and on to the turn-of-the-century weather observatory on Sanson's Peak on which you can follow in the footsteps of Norman Sanson, who walked to the top of the mountain about every week for 30 years to check the weather! .
The trail offers breath-taking picturesque views of the valley and surrounding mountains. And this (being our 'first' conquest), gave us bragging rights for a long time to come. At 2270 m, Sulphur is the highest mountain in the Banff area with a fairly tough hiking trail to the summit. But at every point, when you stop to look, you feel you are on top of the world...and the world couldn't have been a better place.
TIP: If you chose to hike Sulphur Mtn, you can take the Gondola ride back down for half-price! Some articles have reported that the ride back-down in such instances is free, but we found that to be in-correct. Still, its a time and money-saver, no doubt.