Hiking the Stunning Stanley Glacier Trail

Nestled within the rugged beauty of the Canadian Rockies, Kootenay National Park beckons adventurers with its awe-inspiring landscapes and captivating trails. Among its many wonders, hiking the Stanley Glacier Trail is a must-do experience for hikers seeking to immerse themselves in nature’s grandeur. This hike is my favourite Kootenay trail and is a perfect way to spend the day.

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Pin for the Stanley Glacier Hike with a hiker on the well worn trail in the rocks and mountains in the distance
Épingle pour la randonnée du glacier Stangley avec un randonneur sur le sentier et les montagnes au loin

Stanley Glacier Trail Highlights and Insights

Length

11 km return

Level

Moderate

Trailhead

Hwy 93
Kootenay NP

Gain

600 m

Time

4 hours

Children

experienced little hikers

Fee

Park Pass

Dogs

Not allowed

  • Geological Marvels: Keep an eye out for ancient fossil beds and glacial features that dot the landscape, offering glimpses into the Earth’s geological history.
  • Wildlife Encounters: From cascading waterfalls to vibrant wildflowers (in season), the trail teems with life, providing opportunities to spot native wildlife.
  • Permits: Day hiking in Kootenay National Park requires a day pass or the Discovery Pass from Parks Canada.
  • Pet Policy: To preserve the park’s fragile ecosystems, pets are not permitted on the Stanley Glacier Trail.
  • Seasonal Considerations: While the trail is typically accessible from late spring to early fall, conditions may vary depending on snowmelt and trail maintenance. Check with Parks Canada for up-to-date information on trail accessibility.
  • Crowd Management: To avoid crowds and secure parking, consider starting your hike early in the day, allowing ample time to savour the journey at your own pace.

Preparation Tips

To ensure a safe and enjoyable journey, consider the following preparations:

  • Weather Awareness: Check weather forecasts before your hike and dress accordingly, layering clothing to adapt to changing conditions.
  • Essential Gear: Sturdy hiking boots, sunscreen, sunglasses, and a waterproof jacket are essential items to pack, along with ample water and high-energy snacks.
  • Leave No Trace: Practice Leave No Trace principles by minimizing your environmental impact, packing out all trash, and respecting wildlife and natural habitats.

Getting There

In British Columbia, Kootenay National Park is easily accessible via the Banff-Windermere Highway, where the Stanley Glacier Trailhead awaits eager hikers. 

From Calgary, AB: Follow the Trans-Canada Highway 1 West for 145 kilometres and exit on Highway 93 South for 13 kilometres to the Stanley Glacier parking lot. Depending on traffic, you can easily reach the trailhead in 2 hours.

From Golden, BC: Follow the Trans-Canada Highway 1 East for approximately 100 kilometres. Take the exit for Highway 93 South for 13 kilometres to the Stanley Glacier parking lot. This is a 1 hour and 30-minute ride to the trailhead.

Stanley Glacier Hike Description

Trailhead

The Stanley Glacier parking lot and trailhead for the Stanley Glacier Hike are accessed from the Bannf-Windmere Highway (the 93) in Kootenay National Park, approximately 90 kilometres north of Radium Springs.

On the Trail

The hike starts on a well-maintained path through tall trees, providing a picturesque setting to begin your adventure. As you ascend, the slope remains gentle, allowing for a steady and manageable climb.

Along the trail, hikers will encounter rapids and waterfalls, adding to the enchanting ambience of the journey. A small footbridge crosses a swift yet shallow river, offering a delightful view.

clear stream bordered by tall conifers with mountain in the backdrop on the Stanley Glacier Hike

The 2003 forest fire, known as the Vermilion Pass Fire, left a significant mark on the landscape. It was one of the largest wildfires in Kootenay National Park and the history of surrounding areas. While nature has begun to reclaim the scorched earth in the years since the fire, the lasting impact is still evident along certain sections of the Stanley Glacier Trail.

As elevation is gained, the lush trees give way to alpine scenery, revealing breathtaking vistas of the surrounding landscape.

Hiker on a worn path in the scree heading towards the valley and the Stanley Glacier

While the official trail ends at the 4.4-kilometre mark, the adventure doesn’t have to stop there. Continuing for another kilometre rewards hikers with awe-inspiring views worth the extra effort.

Stanley Glacier amoung the mountain peaks as seen from the trail

Multiple routes diverge beyond the official trail’s end, inviting hikers to explore. Worn paths in the scree provide guidance as you make your way towards the glacier. Keep an eye out for hidden waterfalls along the way. While some may require scrambling to reach, the reward is well worth the effort.

thin but high waterfall cascading down a rock wall

The glacier’s tip overlooks a serene meadow with a rushing stream—a perfect spot to pause, enjoy a snack, and soak in the mountain scenery. Remember to pack out all waste and leave the natural surroundings undisturbed for others to enjoy.

Stanley Glacier nestle between two peaks
alpine meadow with stream winding down and mountains in the back at the end of the Stanley Glacier Hike

The Return

The return trip follows the same path, offering opportunities to revisit favourite spots and savour the glacier views and waterfalls up close before returning.

Final Thoughts

The Stanley Glacier Hike promises a memorable adventure through towering forests, alpine landscapes, and captivating natural features. With each step, discover the splendour of Kootenay National Park, leaving behind only footprints and taking cherished memories of the experience with you. To keep exploring the park, Marble Canyon to Paint Pots Trail is another fun adventure.

FAQ about Stanley Glacier Hike

How long is the Stanley Glacier Hike?

The Stanley Glacier Hike is approximately 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) round trip.

How difficult is the Stanley Glacier Hike?

The hike is rated as moderate and suitable for hikers with a moderate level of fitness. It features a steady ascent and some rocky terrain.

How long does it take to complete the Stanley Glacier Hike?

Hikers typically spend about 4-6 hours to complete the hike, including time for breaks, sightseeing, and exploring.

When is the best time to hike the Stanley Glacier Trail?

The trail is usually accessible from late spring to early fall, depending on snow conditions. It’s recommended to check with Parks Canada for trail status and closures before planning your hike.

Are there any facilities along the Stanley Glacier Trail?

There are restroom facilities at the trailhead but no amenities along the trail. Hikers should come prepared with water, snacks, and any other necessities.

Do I need a permit to hike the Stanley Glacier Trail?

To hike the Stanley Glacier Trail, you will need a park day pass or the Discovery Pass for Kootenay National Park.

Are pets allowed on the Stanley Glacier Trail?

Pets are not permitted on the Stanley Glacier Trail to preserve the natural habitat and minimize disturbance to wildlife.

Are there any safety considerations for the Stanley Glacier Hike?

Hikers should be prepared for changing weather conditions, wear appropriate footwear, and carry essentials such as water, sunscreen, and a map. It’s also advisable to hike with a buddy or group and let someone know your hiking plans.

Can I camp along the Stanley Glacier Trail?

Camping is not permitted along the Stanley Glacier Trail. There are designated campgrounds in Kootenay National Park for overnight stays.

What are some highlights of the Stanley Glacier Hike?

Highlights of the hike include stunning views of Stanley Glacier, waterfalls, wildflowers in season, and opportunities for wildlife sightings.

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