Banff’s Sightseeing Gondolas: Which One Is the Best (Compared!)

The Lake Louise sightseeing gondola just after departing from the lower terminal

Using a sightseeing gondola to view the Rocky Mountains from above is a fast and easy way to enjoy stunning vistas in Banff. The park has four gondolas, but which one gives you the most bang for your buck? In this article, I compared them. Spoiler: The Lake Louise Gondola comes out on top.

Below, you’ll find out why the Lake Louise Gondola “won” with a slight margin. While I could not wholly avoid subjectivity, I employed a points system to get an objective conclusion. 

This comparison gives you a good idea of what to expect. It allows you to make a better-informed decision when choosing between the four gondolas.

The comparison’s outcome doesn’t mean you should skip the Banff Gondola, the Sunshine Vlage Gondola, and the Mount Norquay Chairlift. By all means, try them all. 

Okay, let’s get into this.

Banff’s Sightseeing Gondolas – Facts and Figures

Below you’ll find a table listing facts and figures of all four gondolas. It allows you to find out the significant differences at a glance. 

BanffNorquayLake LouiseSunshine Village
SeasonAll yearJune-OctoberMay-OctoberJune-September
Wheelchair Access✗*✗*
Lower terminal1,583 m1,711 m1,646 m1,659 m
Upper terminal2,281 m2,085 m2,088 m2,385m ****
Elevation698 m374 m442 m726 m
Duration8 min10 min14 min25 min
PriceCAD 58 and up**CAD 45.15**CAD 60**CAD 55**
Open/ClosedClosedOpenOpen / ClosedOpen / Closed
Hiking at the Top
Free Parking
Free Shuttle

* Assistance with loading and unloading
** Ticket price for adults, excluding package deals
*** Service dogs are allowed
**** The top village terminal is at 2,159 meters, then transfer onto the Standish Chairlift, which takes you to 2,385 meters.


Below is a map with the locations of all four gondolas in Banff National Park. 

Points System Explained

Below, you’ll find nine categories in which I judged all four gondolas. The best gondola receives 4 points for a specific category, the second-best three points and so on. 

If a category can be indicated by simply stating whether the category is represented, I gave it one point in case of an affirmative answer.

The Views

The views are the main attraction of riding a gondola in the summer in Banff National Park. You can’t go wrong with any of them because they are all (very) different and stunning. 

I wrote down the highlights you can see at each gondola below. While I do have my preferences, I tried to compare all gondolas in an unbiased manner here; I don’t point them out in my attempt to compare all gondolas as objectively as possible. 

Besides, you probably have different preferences than me. Since views are the single most important reason for tourists to take a summer gondola ride, I decided not to include them in my rating at the end of this article. 

Banff Gondola

The Banff Gondola offers many beautiful views. You can see the town of Banff, the Bow and Spray Valleys, Tunnel Mountain, Cascade Mountain and many other surrounding mountains. 

You’ll also see the famous Banff Springs Hotel, Banff Springs Golf Course, Bow River, Spray River, Lake Minnewanka and Vermilion Lakes

The boardwalk at the top of Sulphur Mountain offers 360˚ views of the Rockies. You can also see Mount Rundle from here, but only from its side.

Mount Norquay Gondola

The Mount Norquay Chairlift takes tourists to the observation deck on  in summer
The Norquay Mountain Chairlift.

The Mount Norquay Gondola (photo above) is located across the Bow Valley from the Banff Gondola’s Sulphur Mountain and offers views of the town of Banff, the Bow Valley, the Spray Valley and the Bow River

You’ll also get excellent views of the Vermilion Lakes and the impressive Mount Rundle, but you won’t see Cascade Mountain in its full glory (even though you’re right next to it). The same goes for Lake Minnewanka. It’s hidden behind Cascade Mountain. However, you do have a stunning view of Mount Inglismaldie.

Overall, there aren’t as many lookouts as on Sulphur Mountain, but the views are still stunning. Interestingly enough, the best views are actually on the way down.

Lake Louise Gondola

The Lake Louise Gondola offers stunning views of the area around Lake Louise Village and the Bow Valley, Lake Louise itself, the impressive Victoria Glacier above the lake and mountains such as the imposing Mount Temple, Mount Aberdeen and Mount St Piran. 

You will soar over fields of wildflowers on your ascent, and for the real treat, you may see black and grizzly bears foraging during your gondola ride. The Lake Louise Gondola is famous for this, which gives it a spectacular edge over other gondolas that aren’t known for bear sightings.

Sunshine Village Gondola

At the top of the Sunshine Village Gondola, you’ll have stunning views of Rock Isle Lake, Grizzly Lake and Larix Lake at Sunshine Meadows

You’ll see mountains as far as the eye can see, including the highest peak in the area: Mount Assiniboine (3,618 meters / 11,870 ft). 

There’s no sign of civilization here except for the wooden viewing platform and the trail to one of the lakes. It makes this view different from the other three.


The good news is that all four gondolas have free parking. You should have no problem parking near the gondola at Lake Louise, Sunshine Village, and Norquay Mountain

Unfortunately, parking at the Banff Gondola is a different story. It shares its parking lot with the Banff Hot Springs, and although it’s a large lot, it fills up quickly in the summer. 

Sometimes there are even traffic jams on Mountain Avenue, the cul-de-sac that leads to the Banff Gondola parking lot. In that case, it’s probably wise to turn around and take the Roam Transit bus to the gondola or the free shuttle service. 

Lake Louise Gondola: 1 point
Norquay Mountain Chairlift: 1 point
Sunshine Village Gondola: 1 point
Banff Gondola: 0 points


The Lake Louise Gondola offers gorgeous views on the Bow Valley, Lake Louise and the surrounding mountains
The Lake Louise Gondola. In the distance Lake Louise.

Gondola accessibility varies by location. The Banff and Lake Louise gondolas are the most accessible as they are close to Banff and Lake Louise, respectively. 

Of those two, the Lake Louise Gondola is closest to the nearest town, in this case, Lake Louise.  

However, the Mount Norquay Chairlift is only 2.9 kilometers farther than the Banff Gondola.  

The only gondola that’s a little farther is the Sunshine Village Gondola. It’s still not far, considering it’s only a 15-minute drive from Banff and a 40-minute drive from Lake Louise.

See the distance chart at the end of this article for the exact distances from Banff and Lake Louise to the four gondolas.

Lake Louise Gondola: 4 points
Banff Gondola: 3 points
Norquay Mountain Chairlift: 2 points
Sunshine Village Gondola: 1 point

Wheelchair Access

Any good park attraction should be wheelchair accessible. Unfortunately, the only gondola with proper wheelchair access is the Banff Gondola

However, your movement is limited once you get to the top of the gondola because the walkway has many steps. There is no ramp. 

Lake Louise and Sunshine Village do not have true wheelchair access. Staff will assist people with disabilities with loading and unloading. This may be sufficient in many cases, but it’s not perfect. 

If you have a foldable wheelchair, Lake Louise allows you to board the gondola with it. There is also a wheelchair ramp on the observation deck. 

Norquay Mountain does not have wheelchair access.

Banff Gondola: 4 points
Lake Louise Gondola: 3 points
Sunshine Village Gondola: 2 points
Norquay Mountain Chairlift: 1 point

The Banff Gondola is open year-round, even in the middle of winter
The Banff Gondola.

Elevation Gain

If the maximum elevation is important for a gondola ride, the Sunshine Village Gondola wins. At 2,385 meters, it’s by far the highest gondola lift in Banff National Park. 

Sunshine Village Gondola: 4 points
Banff Gondola: 3 points
Lake Louise Gondola: 2 points
Mount Norquay Chairlift: 1 point


In general, it’s safe to say that people don’t like to visit crowded places. So for this comparison, the least crowded gondola gets the most points. 

The Banff Gondola is by far the most crowded in the park. This is not surprising, as it is the only dedicated sightseeing ride—the other three double as ski gondolas. 

The Lake Louise Gondola comes in second. 

I couldn’t determine the numbers three and four because I didn’t get the official visitor numbers for the Norquay Mountain and Sunshine Village gondolas. All I know is that both are significantly less busy than the previous two. I gave them both three points.

Mount Norquay Chairlift: 3 points
Sunshine Village Gondola: 3 points
Lake Louise Gondola: 2 points
Banff Gondola: 1 point


Prices vary, but not as much as you might expect. It’s probably not surprising that the Banff Gondola is the most expensive. 

While it’s true that you can get tickets for CAD 58 in the winter, prices are generally much higher in the summer. This is due to the dynamic pricing system, which changes prices daily. Expect to pay around CAD 70 in the summer.  

Lake Louise has a fixed price for the summer sightseeing gondola. At CAD 60, it’s the second most expensive. The cheapest is the Norquay Mountain Chairlift at CAD 45.15.

Norquay Mountain Chairlift: 4 points
Sunshine Village Gondola: 3 points
Lake Louise Gondola: 2 points
Banff Gondola: 1 point 

Amenities at the Top

The Banff Gondola has a clear lead with amenities such as restaurants, a rooftop deck, a gift shop, an interpretive center with a theater, and an extensive boardwalk.

Lake Louise also has an interpretive center. Furthermore, there’s a safe area with an electric fence to protect you from bears, and you can have lunch or dinner at the Whitehorn Bistro while enjoying the fantastic views. 

The Sunshine Village Gondola in Banff soaring over tree tops on its way to the summit
The Sunshine Village Gondola.

Sunshine Village has several restaurants and other dining options on the slopes. While some are closed for the summer, you can still visit five establishments. There’s also a beautiful wooden overlook at Sunshine Meadows.

Norquay Mountain also has a nice observation deck. The Cliffhouse Bistro offers snacks or a simple meal.

Banff Gondola: 4 points
Sunshine Village Gondola: 3 points
Lake Louise Gondola: 2 points
Norquay Mountain Chairlift: 1 point

Wildlife Sightings

You may be lucky enough to see wildlife on all of the gondolas. But only the Lake Louise Gondola is known for bear sightings, both black bears and grizzlies. I awarded one point for this possibility.

Lake Louise Gondola: 1 point
Banff Gondola: 0 points
Norquay Mountain Chairlift: 0 points
Sunshine Village Gondola: 0 Points

Hiking at the top

Three of the four gondolas allow you to hike at or from the top. I gave them one point for this. The only one that doesn’t have this possibility is Norquay Mountain.

Banff Gondola: 1 point
Lake Louise Gondola: 1 point
Sunshine Village Gondola: 1 point
Norquay Mountain Chairlift: 0 points


I put the scores from all nine categories in the table below. Adding them all up, the Lake Louise Gondola comes out on top with a total of 19 points. 

CategoryBanffNorquayLake LouiseSunshine Village
Wheelchair Access3142
Elevation Gain3124
Amenities at the Top4123
Wildlife Sightings0010
Hiking at the Top1011
Points awarded for sightseeing gondolas in Banff National Park

Distance Table

Below you’ll find the distances from the town of Banff and the Village of Lake Louise to all four sightseeing gondolas in Banff National Park.

LOCATIONBanffNorquayLake LouiseSunshine Village
Town of Banff4.5 km7.4 km60 km18 km
Village of Lake Louise63 km63 km4 km67 km


As a former Banffite, I love writing about my favorite part of the world. I keep coming back to enjoy the park's mesmerising beauty. It never fails to impress me. With my extensive knowledge of the area, I aim to provide you with the best information on Banff that you can find on the internet.

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