With three gondola choices within Banff and Jasper National Parks, people often wonder which one is the best. We have taken all three and can honestly say we have enjoyed them all. They each have their own charms and differences, but they all share the commonality of offering spectacular views. If you have a fat wallet don’t hesitate to take them all!
Two Factors That Might Make Your Decision For You
Time Of Year – The Jasper gondola only operates from the last week of April to the first week of October. If visiting outside of those times your choices are the Banff Gondola or paying for a lift only ticket for the Lake Louise ski hill.
Weather – The weather can be unpredictable in the Rocky Mountains at any time of year, including the summer months. There is no point taking a gondola ride if the views are obscured by low cloud cover or fog. Sometimes the best gondola choice is the one you are near on a clear day.
Jasper, Banff And Lake Louise Gondola Overviews
We can offer some advice to help you make your gondola choice, but it’s always a matter of opinion and personal preference. People may like one gondola over another for a variety of reasons.
The Jasper Tramway
- Large tram car with some seating, can have over 25 people in busy times, not everyone will get a proper window view
- Elevation – 2277 meters or 7472 feet, ride time 7 minutes
- Cost adult $30.95 children 6-15 $15.48 children (5 and under free) Family package $77.42 (2 adults, 2 children)
- Wheelchair accessible cable car and boardwalks at upper terminal
- Operation – last week of April to first week of October
- Ride and dinner packages and early bird breakfast packages
- Reservation can be made 24 hours ahead (online only) for specific date and time to avoid line ups
- Tram guide giving interpretative talk about the areas points of interest, history and wildlife during the accent
From the top of the Jasper gondola you are very high up, the views are a bit more like what you would experience from an airplane. Some people do not like that, others enjoy it because the distance you can see is much more expansive.
Where we feel the Jasper experience really excels is if you have the ability to hike up to the top of Whistlers Mountain. The gondola only goes part way up. The views are amazing, but there are limited areas to walk around the upper terminal. If you have the time and stamina to hike up the steep trail to the summit you will be rewarded with 360 degree mountain views. It truly feels like you are on top of the world.
There’s usually a marmot or two running around the upper terminal area and more at the summit of the mountain. Other wildlife that may be present are White-tailed Ptarmigan, Ground Squirrels, Pikas and occasionally Bighorn Sheep.
The Banff Gondola
- 4 person seated cable car with 360 degree views for each person, glass panel in the bottom
- Elevation 2281 meters or 7486 feet, ride time 8 minutes
- Cost adult $29.95 child 6-15 $14.95, (5 and under free)
- wheelchair accessible
- Operation – year round
- February to October Saturday evenings 5-9pm Alpine lights dinner and gondola experience
- several wooden boardwalk areas at the summit that make it easy to navigate around and get different views
From the Banff Gondola the views are still quite high, but lower than Jasper and not as expansive. They are more like a bird’s eye view over the town of Banff, the Bow Valley and surrounding mountains. You can still see several mountain ranges and get a great perspective of the town of Banff. You can even clearly make out the famous Banff Springs Hotel down below you.
In winter months we feel the Banff gondola is the better choice over the lift only ticket for the Lake Louise ski hill. There are more possibilities for walking around the observation decks and boardwalks. There is a possibility of seeing Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep, ground squirrels, Hoary marmots, Clark’s nutcracker and the Canada Gray jay.
The Lake Louise Gondola
- 4 person seated cable car or open chair lift in warmer months
- Elevation 2088 meters or 6850 feet, ride time 14 minutes
- Cost during sight-seeing season (May 15 through September) adult $26.75 child $13.40, (5 and under free)
- Cost for lift only ticket during ski season (October to beginning of May) adult $20.25 child $13.75, (5 and under free)
- Operation, Interpretative center and pre-ride orientation May 15 to beginning of October
- Lift only ticket during ski season, October to first week of May
Extra Features (available from May 15 through September)
- Award winning Natural Heritage Interpretation Program offering indoor presentations and visitor center to view at your leisure
- access to many hiking trails from easy to more strenuous
- Guided walks $5
- pre-ride welcome orientation
- September 1st to beginning of October, lift and lunch or breakfast with guided tour to see the larch trees
- other summer ride and dine packages
- opportunity to see bears during warmer months
The Lake Louise Gondola offers views similar to Banff, you can see Lake Louise in the distance with the tiny appearance of the Chateau Hotel sitting at its shore. There are views in both directions looking through the Bow Valley and several mountain ranges. It is very pretty, but in the winter there is limited area to walk around at the top of the ski hill. You can watch the snowboarders and skiers for a while and snap some photos of the pretty views in the distance.
There are opportunities to see wildlife at each gondola, but in the warmer months the Lake Louise Gondola has the advantage in this aspect. The ski runs turn into grassy slopes that make the perfect grazing spot for bears. You can often look down at them while on the gondola. Other wildlife sightings include cougars, lynx, wolves, mountain goats, elk, mule whitetail deer and big horn sheep. The tour operators keep a calendar of major animal sightings, in some months they can occur almost daily.
If you are into hiking the Lake Louise gondola is probably the one to excel in giving the most options. The trails range from easy strolls to more strenuous and adventurous hikes.