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 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, 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 located in the lower terminal.
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 board walks. You might even see Big Horn Mountain Sheep.
- 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.
Update: The Banff Gondola will closed to the public for a major renovation and upgrade from October 26, 2015 through April 30, 2016. There’s also a few other dates in October that it will be closed. Check their schedule before you make plans to go.
For a unique evening experience you can purchase a ticket that covers the cost of the gondola ride and dinner. This will allow you to see the scenic lights of Banff town site.
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.
Note: The gondola ride down is no longer free. You need to purchase a one way ticket.
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?
- Banff’s Roam Transit is cheapest option and will take you right to the gondola. Take Bus Route #1, the fare is $2.00
- 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