The Banff Gondola offers an easy year round way for visitors to see breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding mountains, the Bow Valley and the town of Banff. The views are completely different, but equally spectacular in both the summer and winter seasons.
The spectacular mountain views start along the road leading up to the parking lot for the Banff Gondola.
The glass enclosed gondola car holds four people and offers each of them a 360 degree view during the ride. In just 8 minutes you will be whisked up Sulphur Mountain to an elevation of 2281 meters (7486ft) above sea level.
As you ascend the mountain you will be treated with some incredible views into the valley.
The summit visitor center contains two restaurants and place to grab drinks and snacks to go as well as a gift shop and washroom facilities. If it’s cold out, sit in the comfort of the restaurant while enjoying the views. There are menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Or after your gondola ride get your caffeine fix at the Starbucks locatoin the lower terminal. They new renovation has seen the addition an interactive interprettive exhibit, a multi-sensory theatre and a 360 rooftop observation deck.
The observation decks at the summit complex and the various boardwalk trails offer scenic mountain views in every direction.
The Banff Springs Hotel is very recognizable. You can see the Bow River flowing behind it and along the base of Tunnel Mountain.
The Best Views From The Summit Are Along The Banff Skywalk Or Vista Trail
To get the most impressive and revealing views climb an extra kilometer along the Parks Canada Vista Trail, known as the Banff Skywalk. It’s an easy self guided interpretive walk that takes you along the summit ridge leading to Sanson’s Peak Meteorological Observatory. In the early 1900’s, Norman Sanson climbed a trail up the mountain every week. For nearly 30 years he recorded the weather data at the historic stone building that is still standing.
Keep your eye out for squirrels or marmots while walking around the boardwalks. You might even see Big Horn Mountain Sheep.
For those wanting a more adventurous hike you can take the South East Ridge Trail that runs along the ridge of the mountain to the true Summit of Sulphur Mountain.
Sulphur Mountain Gondola Tips
- The gondola might not be for those with a great fear of heights. The cable cars have a glass panel in the bottom. They gain elevation quickly and can rock when the wind is blowing.
- It’s only worth going up the gondola if it’s a clear day. High cloud cover is okay, but there’s no point if low level clouds are obscuring the views of the mountains and the town of Banff. Banff National Park webcam
- Dress appropriately. Even in the summer months it can be cold and windy at the summit.
- Allow for at least a half hour or more to walk around the trails and board walks at the top.
- If you are going to do several tourist attractions including the gondola, there are some savings in package deals through companies such as Explore Banff.
- During holidays, long weekends and busy summer months the wait for the gondola can get discouraging. Try planning for a weekday if possible. The earlier in the day the better. If you can’t be there right at opening, aim for prior to 11am.
- In off season periods such as the few weeks prior to Christmas and outside of the summer months the gondola is generally peaceful and quiet.
For a unique evening experience you can book the Sky Experience. It includes the cost of the gondola ticket valid from 4pm owwards and a 2 course meal in the Sky Bistro. This will allow you to see the scenic lights of Banff town site.
For a more casual meal try the Northern Lights Bistro, it also offers great views. Or for a drink or snack on the go there’s the Castle Mountain Coffee Company on level one of the Upper Terminal.
Hiking Up Sulphur Mountain And Taking The Gondola Down
In the summer hiking season some people prefer to make their own way up Sulphur Mountain and take the gondola back down. Take note that is it not free to ride the gondola down in the summer months. You need to purchase a one way ticket. Currently the cost of a one way ticket down is $25. It’s offered from June 1st to October 9th. If want to take the Banff Gondola up and hike down you must purchase a full price ticket.
During the winter season it is free to ride the Banff Gondola down, but hikers need to be aware that the trail will be covered in snow an dice and have appropriate hiking gear for winter conditions. It’s not recommeded if you do not have winter hiking experience.
The trail is 5.3 km’s on a series of switchbacks that keep the grade to a reasonable level. Allow for approximately 2 hours to make your way to the top.
The majority of the trail is through the forest, but views of Banff and the valley peek through occasionally along the way.
The trail head starts at the north west side of the upper parking lot.
In the spring and fall the trail can be very slippery and in the winter there are avalanche risks. Check conditions ahead of time.
After The Gondola Take A Dip In the Hot Springs
The Upper Banff Hot Springs are located right near the Banff Gondola parking area. It makes it convenient to combine the two attractions. Having a nice soak in the hot springs can be a nice way to relax after the gondola, or warm up if it’s a cold day. Banff Upper Hot Springs
Driving Directions To The Gondola
The gondola is a short 5 minute drive from downtown Banff. Head south on Banff Avenue across the Spray River bridge. Turn left onto Cave Avenue after the bridge. Shortly after the road forks, take the right onto Mountain Avenue and follow the gondola signs until you reach the parking lots and gondola terminal at the base of Sulphur Mountain.
How Can I Get To The Gondola With Out A Car?
- Free Shuttle – During the summer months there is limited parking at the Banff Gondola. They offer a free shuttle that departs every 30 minutes from the Elk Avenue Hotel at 333 Banff Avenue and from Evelyn’s Coffee World at 215 Banff Avenue. It runs between 10 am to 5pm. the last shuttle to downtown departs from the gondola at 5:30pm.
- Banff’s Roam Transit is the year round option and will take you right to the gondola. Take Bus Route #1. It runs approximately every 40 minutes.
- Banff Taxi (403) 762-4444 Taxi Taxi (403) 762-0000 Mountain Taxi (403) 762-3351
- Tours that include the gondola with pick up and drop off service at major Banff Hotels. Explore Rockies Sight Seeing Tours