Distance: 5.5 km (one way)
Elevation gain: 750 m View map Download GPS track
Sanson Peak, more commonly but incorrectly known as Sulfur Mountain, is an incredibly popular peak that rises above the town of Banff. I’m don’t usually enjoy hiking at such popular places and had been saving this one for a blah day when I had nothing better to do, and with cold and cloud (apparently) dominating the Rockies I figured today was the day for this hike.
A fairly easy drive through Banff brought me to the parking lot for the hiking trail, just below the upper hot springs, where I started hiking at 8:45 am. It was just a tad warmer than -20 C, but the trail was packed solid and being solo I was able to set and maintain a very brisk pace to keep warm, eventually shedding every layer but my base layer. The trail was perfectly graded and after just 1h20 min of pleasant hiking I reached the upper gondola terminal, having seen no one on my way up. Nearly the whole ascent had been in the forest, but openings along the gondola route and in a few other spots provided just enough scenery that I didn’t find it monotonous.
After packing away my microspikes I walked along the boardwalk to the summit of Sanson Peak, 600 m north of the terminal and about 40 m higher. I’d been expecting mediocre views and simply tolerable weather, but the skies were brilliantly clear, there was hardly a breeze at all, and the views were wonderful! Best of all, I had the entire peak to myself, having arrived just before the first tourists began heading up by the gondola.
Back at the gondola terminal I walked up to the third floor of the very impressive building and had lunch in the huge cafeteria. With just one couple in the huge seating area it was very peaceful, cozy warm, and the views were absolutely stunning. Rarely is eating so pleasant on a winter hike! There is a very good chance I may return here on a winter weekday to just sit and read for a few hours.
Eventually a few more tourists arrived and I started to feel a tad out of place, and so headed back down to the gondola area, got a free ride down in my own gondola car, then decided to hike up Tunnel Mountain
. This was a far more pleasant hike than I’d been expecting, although I imagine it would be rather crowded on a warmer day or in the summer.