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Philosopher’s Knoll and Sundance Canyon
Banff, Alberta
September 3, 2020

Distance: 12.1 km
Cumulative Elevation Gain: 337 m

Philosopher's Knoll is a small hill with big views of Bow Valley, but from Cave and Basin, it's an absurdly short hike. To lengthen it, Sonny and his friends hiked up and over the knoll and continued along a trail to a second vehicle at Brewster Creek trailhead.

Dinah and I didn't have the luxury of a second vehicle, so our trip would be out and back. To extend it, we included a hike up Sundance Canyon. To make it quicker, we added bikes. We could cycle the 4 km paved trail that passes the trailhead for Philosopher's Knoll before reaching Sundance Canyon. For Dinah, who was limiting her activities due to knee problems, the easy trip was a welcomed change from her walks in Fish Creek Park.

We set out for Philosopher's Knoll first. From Cave and Basin, we coasted downhill on our bikes. Less than a kilometre from the parking lot, where the pavement turns right, a dirt path continues straight ahead. We stashed our bikes and set off on foot. The short path ends where it intersects a horse trail. The rough trail gradually climbs to the base of Philosopher's Knoll before continuing down the other side. At the top of the rise, however, a slight path runs up the knoll. We hiked to the summit.

We took photos but spent no time on the knoll philosophizing. As we started down, six equestrians – a guide and five riders – passed below. In her spiel, the guide pointed out the hill, calling it “Windy Knoll.” She added that hikers often climb it and then exclaimed, “Oh, there's one now!” Dinah had conveniently come into view.

Dinah and I returned to the horse trail and, remarkably, caught up to the horses. We slowed down until the riders turned on the horse trail, and we could continue down the hiking path to our bikes.

We cycled the asphalt trail as it runs alongside Bow River before gently climbing to the trailhead for Sundance Canyon. After securing our bikes to a rack, we started up the path.

I expect most people walk up the picturesque canyon a short distance before returning the same way, but Dinah and I hiked the 2 km loop. After leaving the canyon, the trail keeps climbing before going down to the trailhead. But along the way, we investigated a side trail. After a short climb, we reached an overlook with an amazing, vertiginous view of the canyon far below.

When we returned to the trailhead, we again switched back to our bikes. The ride down the pavement to Bow River and back up to Cave and Basin went fast and smooth. It put a fine finish to our little outing.

KML and GPX Tracks

Dinah passes Cave and Basin

One kilometre later, we've stashed our bikes and started up the trail

We soon hit the horse trail

Starting up the side trail for Philosopher's Knoll

The trail gently ascends the knoll

We soon had views to the west

On the summit

The area south of the knoll is a restricted wildlife corridor

Mount Cory and Mount Edith

The last of six riders turned down the horse trail leaving us to continue straight ahead

Dinah rides down the path to the main trail (mouse over to read the signs)

Cycling to Sundance Canyon

While locking up our bikes, I noticed a morning cloak butterfly

Starting up the trail (mouse over to read the plaque at the trailhead)

The trail follows the canyon

Climbing stone steps above the bridge

Crossing another bridge

Looking back from the bridge

The canyon ends and the trail veers away from the creek

The trail takes a sharp turn and heads back to the start

Guard rails were added for safety

A side trail leads to a canyon overlook

Peering down at the canyon from the overlook

Looking at Cory and Edith from the overlook

Cycling back, we stopped at the ponds. Mount Norquay in the centre.

While cycling back along Bow River, canoeists challenged us to a race!

82 O/04 Banff

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