Zosia Zgolak and I hooked up with our
friends, Houmaro Kone and Dorota Sokolowska, to hike up Philosopher's
Knoll in Alberta's Banff National Park on 14 June 2020. This
unofficially-named little bump sits at the north end of Sulphur Mountain,
and an ascent route is described in Mike Potter's guidebook,
Backcountry Banff. Because the climb of Philosopher's Knoll is
so short, I proposed extending the trip by hiking Healy Creek trail.
Thus, we first set up a car shuttle by leaving a vehicle at the
Healy/Brewster trailhead (on the east side of Sunshine Road near the
interchange with Trans-Canada Highway) before driving to Banff townsite
and starting our hike from Cave and Basin National Historic Site (west
end of Cave Avenue). The crux of the trip was trying to figure out
how to get into the historic site's parking lot which has some
convoluted and somewhat counter-intuitive access points. Houmaro
basically ignored all the directional arrows and drove straight to the
open parking spot closest to the trailhead.
From the parking lot, we walked past the Cave and Basin buildings and
briefly followed the paved trail to Sundance Canyon. About 300
metres west of the trailhead information sign board, we abandoned the
pavement and followed a signed horse trail climbing up into the forest to
the left. Less than a kilometre beyond this turnoff, we took a spur
trail to the right and climbed up open slopes to the top of Philosopher's
Knoll. Despite its diminutive height, the knoll grants some
fantastic views of the Bow River valley.
||The group starts the hike from
and Basin National Historic Site.
The first part of the hike follows part of the paved pathway to Sundance
The group climbs up a horse trail which branches off from the paved
Leaving the horse trail, the group climbs a beaten path going up the
south side of Philosopher's Knoll.
Sonny, Dorota, Zosia and Houmaro stand on a viewpoint near the top of
Philosopher's Knoll (1528 metres).
The viewpoint overlooks Bow River valley west of the
town of Banff.
After taking a short break on top of the knoll, we retreated to
the horse trail and continued west where we soon intersected
Cosmic Ray Road. Turning right, we
descended a short distance to a four-way intersection with the paved
Sundance Canyon trail and the east end of Healy Creek trail. We continued
west along Healy Creek trail, and although views are generally limited
along the trail, we quite enjoyed the pleasant walk and the solitude.
The northernmost peak of the Sundance Range is visible to the southwest.
Near the west end of Healy Creek trail, we took a detour to the gravel
flats alongside Brewster Creek for some nice views of the surrounding
mountains. We also stumbled upon a commercial horse outfitter's
designated lunch stop here complete with convenient benches and even an
outhouse. Returning to the main trail, we soon crossed Brewster
Creek on a very robust bridge, and after a bit of a long-winded loop
around a popular rock-climbing area, we arrived at Healy/Brewster
trailhead to complete our one-way hike.