The Tunnel Mountain Trail is a short hike that can be easily accessed from downtown Banff. The well-graded switchbacks make the ascent up the mountain something that most reasonably fit people can accomplish. With the exception of a few steeper spots the majority of the trail gently climbs to the summit. Although it is the smallest mountain in Banff, Tunnel Mountain offers spectacular views of the valley and panoramas over the town of Banff.
The trail immediately starts uphill on long switchbacks. As it continues to traverse up the mountain there are glimpses of the town. The trail will start to narrow, but still remains easy to walk along.
Once you get up above the treeline you start to get views of the surrounding mountains and the town of Banff.
There’s the top of Mount Rundle!
A peek at the Banff Springs Hotel through the trees.
The summit is sparsely forested. Just to the west of it there is an area of limestone slabs that overlook the town of Banff, the Vermillion Lakes and down the Bow Valley.
Wildflowers along the Tunnel Mountain hiking trail.
The Banff Springs 27 hole championship golf course winds along the Bow River and sits in the beauty of the snow-capped peaks of Sulphur Mountain and Mount Rundle. Canada’s master golf course architect Stanley Thompson designed the original 18 holes in 1928, an additional 9 holes were added in 1989.
If you follow the trail further down the east side of the summit there is an open grassy meadow that will take approximately 5 to 10 minutes to reach.
This is a great spot to sit and have a picnic while enjoying the views.
We spotted these names in the rock that were carved almost 50 years ago. You can clearly see the name Bonnie and the year 1966, but the other names is hard to make out. It could be Donald or Gerald? I wonder if they were just visitors or perhaps they lived and worked here all those years ago.
Tunnel Mountain Has No Tunnel
The original name given by the local natives was Sleeping Buffalo Mountain, which it apparently looks like when viewed from certain directions. The name Tunnel Mountain was given in 1882 when a proposed route for the CPR (Canadian Pacific Railway) was to be blasted through. An alternate route costing much less money was put around the mountain, but the name Tunnel Mountain remained.
The Tunnel Mountain Trail Is Accessible Year Round
The fact that this is a popular and busy trail is a bonus in the winter months. There is usually enough traffic to keep the snow compacted and easy to walk on. Snow shoes are only required if there has been a fresh snowfall. Before heading up in the winter, early spring or late fall you should check the current trail conditions, it can get icy.
Trail Information And Hiking Tips
- Elevation Gain: 300 meters (948 feet)
- Time: 2 to 3 hours round trip
- Distance: 4.3 km (2.7 miles) round-trip
- At higher elevations you can dehydrate quicker, carry water. You may find yourself out of breath more than normal, stop for breaks as needed.
- Check the weather before hand and know that it can change quickly in the mountains. Carry an extra layer of clothing and a rain coat if necessary.
- Wear day hiking shoes.
- The trail can get crowded in the summer and early fall months. Beat the crowds by hiking early in the morning or in the late afternoon. (make sure you have enough time to get back down before dark)
Trailhead Directions And Access
Lower Trailhead: On foot it’s an easy walk from downtown Banff. From Banff Avenue head east on Wolf Street until you come to a T intersection, turn right on Grizzly Street and stay left as it splits to St. Julien Road. Continue on for a few hundred meters past Wolverine St. A parking lot will be on your left where a sign marks the trailhead. It climbs through the forest up to the Tunnel Mountain viewpoint parking. Cross the street and continue on the upper trailhead.
Upper Trailhead: The trailhead is on the opposite side of the road from the Tunnel Mountain viewpoint parking area. You can park here to shorten the hike slightly. In the busy season it is best to use the lower parking area on St. Julien Road. The small upper parking area is meant for people to stop and take in the viewpoint while driving on Tunnel Mountain Road.