What an amazing day! After travelling on the Moose bus for a while, I hopped off in Banff for a week. One of the other Moose girls was also staying there for a while. She stayed in a different hostel and I found myself walking there almost every day. On one sunny day we decided to tackle Sulphur mountain. Through my Moose friend I met one of her Canadian roommates, who came along. He brought his German friend. That guy brought one of his friends. And one of my Whistler mates happened to be in town as well. So the six of us took the free bus to the Banff gondola.
Of course you can go up the mountain by gondola, but for a better experience and a better budget you can also climb the zigzagging path to the top. The trail is fairly strenuous with 5,5km and 655m elevation gain. A series of switchbacks takes you on a well maintained path through the forest. Every time I thought it had finally flattened out a bit, the gradient would increase again. You are constantly reminded that there is also a gondola going up as you pass underneath it quite frequently. This gives you a good chance to enjoy the view while you catch your breath. Be aware though, the lazier tourists have their iPads ready to take photos of you.
Emerging out of the forest at the top you can immediately feel the chill of the wind. At 2281m it is suddenly cold. As we were walking up we could already see the dark clouds rolling in over the surrounding mountains and we saw the rain in the distance. Luckily it was still dry when we reached the boardwalk at the top. The path ends where the gondola arrives. From here there is a 1km long boardwalk to an old weather station. There is small sign that explains about the station and if you peak through the windows you get an idea of what it was like. Besides this there are of course amazing views in all directions. We saw mountains with some snow on the peaks, the town of Banff, Minnewanka lake and the Bow river. Suddenly the Tunnel mountains looks like a bump in the landscape. Just as we turned around to take the gondola down, it started snowing and hailing.
Sulphur mountain got its name for the hot springs at the base of the mountain. After a long walk and a snowstorm it was thus very rewarding to soak in the 40 degree water. At first it hurt my body, but soon it was very relaxing. You can’t stay in very long though, but being warm again it was lovely to sit on the edge of the pool with my legs dangling in the water. The sun had come out again and lit the mountains in the background. I tried to dip in every now and again, but the heat was just too much. Nevertheless we stayed for about two hours before making our way back to town on the bus. It was the perfect day; just enough exercise, hanging out with other travellers and a rewarding dip in the hot springs.