Making The Most Of The Banff Gondola Experience

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.

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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.

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As you ascend the mountain you will be treated with some incredible views into the valley.

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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.

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The Banff Springs Hotel is very recognizable. You can see the Bow River flowing behind it and along the base of Tunnel Mountain.

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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.

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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.

Banff Gondola Hours And Rates

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.

Banff Alpine Lights Mountain Top Evening Experience

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

Comments

  1. says

    I love taking the gondola to the top and actually prefer it in the winter when we can quite possibly be the only people up there. This past winter we went up and it was snowy and blowy at the top showing the power of Mother Nature. Then we took the gondola down and warmed up in the hot springs. Perfect.

    • Audrey says

      Ahhh, there’s nothing like warming up in the hot springs. It’s nice to be in a popular tourist place when you can have it all to yourself!

  2. Ellie says

    Planning a trip to Banff in Sept. Noticed the Banff Alpine Light Dinner Package. Was hoping I could get more information… I noticed that there are seatings at 5 pm and 7 pm. What time should we arrive at the base of the Gondola to make sure we make our dinner reservation? Also, how much earlier can we arrive so that we can walk around at the top before our meal? Would you recommend the 5 pm or 7 pm seating? Any other information that you could recommend would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

    • Audrey says

      Hello there,

      We haven’t actually done the Alpine Lights Dinner ourselves, but we have gone up the gondola several times. I looked up the sunset times for September in Banff. At the beginning of the month it says it is around 8:30pm and as you get towards the end of the month it is closer to 7:30pm. You can go up the gondola as early as you would like prior to your meal time. It depends on how much time you want for taking photos and walking around, but I would recommend taking the gondola up at least an hour or more prior to your meal.

      I would imagine if you take the 5pm seating that the sun will be getting close to setting as you are finishing your meal then you can go out on the boardwalks to enjoy it finish setting. If you do the 7pm seating you will be enjoying the sunset views during your meal. Either way you can go up earlier than the meal time and enjoy walking around to take in the views in the daylight.

      There is a toll free number to call the gondola 1-800-760-6934. I will call it myself tomorrow and ask how the lift tickets work when you have a dinner reservation. I would assume you get priority boarding if it is busy, but I will check to clarify that.

      Cheers,
      Audrey

      • Ellie says

        Hi Audrey,
        Thanks for the info.
        I wonder how far in advance we should book our reservations for the Alpine Dinner Lights? We plan to go on Sept. 22.
        If you do get a chance to call the 1-800 number, could you please share any information you get from them? Thanks a bunch…

        • Audrey says

          I contacted the 1-800 number, it is through the company Explore Rockies that the bookings are done. They said it is best to book a while in advance if you know there is a specific date you want to do it. It can sell out sometimes weeks in advance, and other times there may be spots still available. It sounds like you would be safe to hold off for a while since it’s not until the end of September. She said the experience of the lights is more in the winter months when it is getting dark by 5pm. If you wanted to have a chance of seeing the sunset and the lights of Banff then definitely book the 7pm seating. If you don’t like booking things in advance there is always the option of taking a chance and leaving it until you arrive. You would still be able to go up the gondola anytime you want, but the dinner option could sell out.

          The price is $49 plus 5%tax per person. That includes the gondola and the prime rib dinner, but it does not include transportation to the gondola. You would need to do that on your own by car or the Roam bus. It’s easy to catch from most hotels and does run until 11pm. There is always the option of a taxi as well which would not cost that much.

          I did confirm you can go up whenever you want. It’s only for one time so you would not want to go up really early in the day and then come back again, you would have to pay twice. To get on the gondola is still first come first serve with your tickets, but it should not be a problem in the afternoon and at that time of the year. September can still be busy, but nothing like the months of July and August.

          Hope that helps you out, if I can help you with anything else feel free to ask.
          Cheers

          • Ellie says

            Thanks Audrey… The information you provided was great.
            I don’t mind booking things in advance.
            We’ll probably do the hot springs and then take the Gondola and have the meal.
            We’re renting a car. We’re actually going to make a 11 day trip out of this. Fly into Edmonton from Ontario stay there for a couple days, head to Calgary, then to Banff, up to Jasper, and then back to Edmonton and then fly back to Ontario.

          • Audrey says

            Sounds like a great trip that you have planned. Glad to hear you are going to Jasper as well. It’s a beautiful part of the Rockies and you will get to travel along the stunning Columbia Icefields Parkway from the Lake Louise area up to Jasper.

  3. Albert CHAN says

    Shall appreciate to know the average temperature at the Summit of Sulphur Mountain in mid June of the year.

    Thanks.

    • Audrey says

      The weather and temperature can and does jump all over the map, especially at this time of year. If you look up the average weather temperatures for June it ranges anywhere from 5.C. to 19.C. On the top of Sulphur mountain it can be windy and cooler than down below, or it can be sunny and hot as well. You will need to be prepared for a variety of temperatures. Your best bet is to go by the weather when you arrive and on the day you plan to go up the gondola. I would suggest a rain jacket and some kind of sweater or fleece for extra warmth if it is cooler and you need it. Today the temperature is currently at 8.C in Banff, but then supposed to get up to 15.C tomorrow.

      June is the month with the most rain in Banff and we are certainly experiencing it now. There is actually a flood warning in place for much of the Bow Valley, including Banff and Canmore, there have been roads washing out etc. Hopefully this heavy rain will taper off by the time of your trip if it is in mid-June.

      Cheers,
      Audrey

  4. rachel says

    We’re planning to visit Banff on August 21st – 24th with our kids (10, 17). We want to take the Gondola on Friday . Is the meal is a good option for kids these ages?
    What is the preffered hour to go up and see the view as well as the sunset?
    Are all the tables in the restaurant facing a window?, or should I make reservation for a table with a view? and last question: Is the reservation for the restaurant is refundable? what is the policy of cancellation? I’ll appreciate your answer,

    • Audrey says

      I have not personally had the meal at the Banff Gondola myself. I know it is a bit expensive. I googled the sunset times during your visit in August it will be setting at 8:50pm. I would go up at least 2 hours before hand. It looks like they have a summer discount if you book your ride up for 6pm or later.

      For other questions about reservations for dinner, refunds etc. you would need to contact the Banff Gondola for those answers. Here is the link to their site, they have a toll free phone number, or I’m sure they would answer your queries by email as well.

      http://www.explorerockies.com/banff-gondola/hours-rates.aspx

      Sorry I couldn’t be of more help. I’m sure you will enjoy the spectacular views regardless of whether you decide to do the dinner experience or not.

      Cheers,
      Audrey

  5. Peter says

    Hi,
    I am planning to go to Banff in April first week. Is it a good idea to take a four year old kid to lake Louise and sulphur mountain?

    • Audrey says

      I’m not sure if you mean take them to Lake Louise itself or the gondola at Lake Louise? I wouldn’t take a 4 year old up the Lake Louise gondola in winter, there’s not much to do other than see the view and then come back down.

      Whether you take them on the gondola at Sulphur Mountain depends on your individual child. You are certainly allowed to take children up there. Obviously they wouldn’t be too thrilled with the gondola ride if they are afraid of heights. It can be bitterly cold and windy when walking around up top, you would need to bundle them up warmly. The views are pretty, you can walk around on the boardwalk areas for a bit and then go to the restaurant for something to eat. Whether your particular 4 year old would enjoy it or not, I couldn’t say.
      Cheers,
      Audrey

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