The Banff Gondola is a scenic cable car ride that takes visitors to the summit of Sulphur Mountain at 2,281 meters (7,486 ft). From the top, you’ll enjoy 360˚ views of the surrounding mountains and valleys and you’ll have access to hiking trails and interpretive displays.
Taking the Banff Gondola means a quick and easy way to the top of Sulphur Mountain. It’s an excellent way of enjoying the summit’s views if you’re on a tight schedule. You could easily spend a few hours at the top.
If that’s you, or you just like the convenience of taking the Banff Gondola to the top, this article is for you. Let’s have a look at everything Banff Gondola and more.
Table of Contents
How Much Does it Cost to Ride the Banff Gondola?
The Banff Gondola’s ticket costs are dynamic, which means they change every day. As of 2023, the adult rate ranges between CAD 55 and CAD 70. The senior rate starts around CAD 50, and the youth rate (ages 6-17) starts around CAD 25. Children aged five or younger ride for free but require a ticket.
On weekends prices are higher, but if you hiked to the top, you can take the Gondola back down for half price.
Check the official Banff Gondola website for the most up-to-date pricing information. If you want the cheapest prices, book early months in advance. Buying your tickets at the ticket window is more expensive.
Coming with a group? If you’re with 15 or more people you qualify for a group rate.
If paying 70 dollars for an 8-minute trip up a mountain seems excessive, you might want to consider purchasing the Ultimate Explorer’s Pass. The Banff Gondola, the Lake Minnewanka Cruise, the Columbia Icefield, and the Skywalk are all included for CAD 208 per person (value CAD 384).
Where Is the Banff Gondola?
The Banff Gondola is situated at the base of Sulphur Mountain, at the end of Mountain Avenue in Banff. The lower terminal is about 2.5 kilometers (1.55 mi) south of the town of Banff.
To get to the Banff Gondola from the town of Banff, head south on Banff Avenue, cross the Bow River Bridge and turn left onto Spray Avenue. Then turn right onto Mountain Avenue and drive down this road until you reach the Banff Gondola parking lot.
The Banff Gondola base station borders the parking lot.
Parking at the Banff Gondola
Depending on the season, the parking area for the Banff Gondola can become congested. As the Banff Gondola shares its parking lot with the Banff Hot Springs, which is also on Sulphur Mountain, it fills up quickly in summer, sometimes even resulting in a traffic jam on Mountain Avenue.
If you want to avoid parking difficulties in summer, you can use public transport, see the paragraph below.
Public Transport to the Banff Gondola
You can take the Roam Transit public bus (Route 1) to the Banff Gondola. Get in on Banff Avenue. The service runs every 50 minutes. One-way fares are CAD 2 for adults. Children under the age of 12 years travel for free. Seniors and teenagers (12-18) pay CAD 1.
You can ride back to town for free in the winter by showing your Banff Gondola ticket.
Check the Roam Transit website for schedules and route information.
Take a taxi
You could also take a taxi to the Banff Gondola. However, taxi service in the park is limited.
Banff has two cab services:
• Banff Taxi (+1 403 – 762 4444)
• Taxi Taxi (+1 403 – 762 0000)
Do You Need to Book in Advance?
Yes, depending on the time of the year, it’s wise to book your Banff Gondola ride in advance. Not only to ensure your place but it also gets you a better rate (see above). From June until September, slots fill up quickly. Please note that changes are possible up to 48 hours before your visit. You can give the Gondola staff a call at +1 866 – 756 1904.
How Long Is the Ride?
The Banff Gondola Ride lasts approximately 8 minutes. It covers a distance of roughly 1.5 kilometers (0.9 mi) from the base to the summit and rises 698 meters (2,290 ft) at an average incline of 51 percent.
The lower terminal is at 1,583 meters (5,194 ft), and the terminal at the summit sits at 2,281 meters (7,486 ft).
What’s the Best Time to Ride the Gondola?
While the Banff Gondola is open year-round, the best time of the year is the summer. You can enjoy warm weather and longer daylight hours, and the temperatures at the summit are most likely still acceptable.
Regarding the time of the day in summer, I’d suggest you come early in the morning (say 7 am) or early in the evening (after 6 pm) to avoid the big crowds.
In the winter, the Gondola provides scenic views of a snowy Banff winter wonderland, which makes for a whole different experience.
Riding the Banff Gondola in the fall is also very much worth it. Going up Sulphur Mountain at this time of the year offers scenic views of changing foliage and beautiful fall colors, providing a stunning backdrop for your gondola ride.
TIP: Whenever you go up, check the weather and other conditions before riding the Banff Gondola. While forecasts are just that, a forecast, the weather at the summit can be chilly or worse.
Is the Ride Worth it?
I must say it provides stunning views of the Canadian Rockies and the Bow Valley. However, the ride is expensive, to say the least, so for some people, it may not give them enough bang for their buck. Besides, there are better places to view Banff and the Bow Valley from above.
To be honest with you, I think the admission rate is a rip-off. Yes, that’s blunt, not a friendly way of putting it, but around CAD 50 (up to about CAD 70 in summer) for an 8-minutes ride? Seriously?
Hiking up to the summit is much more fun. Yes, it requires some effort, but the hike is well worth it. It takes about two hours to get to the top (see below). The only disadvantage is that the views during the hike are not as good as the view you get from the Banff Gondola.
Is the Banff Gondola Wheelchair Accessible?
Yes, it is. Wheelchair users, senior people, and others with disabilities can easily access the Banff Gondola facilities.
There’s disabled parking within 30 meters of the entrance and ramp access inside the facility. The 4-story building at the summit has elevator access to all levels and seating is available everywhere.
There’s one big but, however. The boardwalk at the summit consists of 368 small steps each way, limiting your maneuvering space if you’re a wheelchair user.
Can You Take a Stroller on the Gondola?
While the official Banff Gondola website doesn’t say a strict “no” to strollers in the Gondola, it says they’re “not recommended“.
What about Pets?
A firm no here from the Gondola’s management. Unless you’re coming with a service dog. But only if you present an appropriate accreditation.
How Many People Can Fit in the Banff Gondola?
Each gondola cabin in the Banff Gondola can accommodate up to 4 people.
Is the Banff Gondola Heated?
No, the gondola cabins in the Banff Gondola are not heated. Despite being in a closed cabin which protects you from the wind, make sure you dress well if you take the gondola to the top in the fall, winter and even spring.
Do You Tip the Gondola Driver?
It’s uncommon to provide tips to gondola drivers. However, you may leave a tip if you feel the service was extraordinary and you want to express your gratitude. It’s up to you how much to tip. Tips are usually paid in cash.
Can You See Lake Louise from the Gondola?
Unfortunately, you can’t see Lake Louise from the Banff Gondola. Lake Louise is located in a different park area at a higher altitude and surrounded by mountains. You’ll need to drive there to Lake Louise to see it.
Sulphur Mountain is the home of the Banff Gondola and it has a significant place in Banff’s history. The discovery of hot springs on its flanks sparked the idea of creating a national park.
As a result of this discovery, the current Cave and Basin location and the hot springs pool nearby the lower Banff Gondola terminal were developed.
Soon after the park’s establishment in 1885, tourism increased, and in 1902 a meteorological station was put in place atop Sulphur Mountain. The information gained throughout time was crucial in establishing the climate of the Rocky Mountains.
The Sulphur Mountain Observatory weather station has been designated a federal cultural property. At the peak of the mountain, there is a sizable stairway system that leads directly to the distinctive small building. It is not in service anymore.
Is it Cold at the Top?
The temperature at the top of the Banff Gondola will be cooler than at the base, as it is higher in elevation. I advise you to dress in layers, as the temperature can fluctuate and the weather can change quickly as you’re in the mountains.
Windy conditions can also make it feel cooler at the top. You should be prepared for varying weather conditions and check the forecast before visiting.
What Activities to Enjoy at the Top?
You can obviously enjoy scenic views of the Canadian Rockies – that’s why you would want to visit the summit after all – and take in the natural beauty of the surrounding landscape.
The view of the town of Banff you get from Sulphur has become iconic, so make sure you bring your camera and smartphone to take your own version of this famous snapshot.
There is also a restaurant, the Sky Bistro, a gift shop, and several outdoor viewing platforms, including one near the old Banff Weather Station.
Visitors can also take guided walks and attend interpretive programs. Other activities available at the summit may vary seasonally, like the Sunset Festival at the summit, including live music.
Here’s a list of things to do at the summit of Sulphur Mountain:
- Walk the Sanson Peak boardwalk
- Visit the Above Banff Theatre
- Take the famous pic of Banff and the Bow Valley (and many other snapshots)
- Attend an interpretive program at the Banff Interpretive Centre
- Play Agents of Discovery (interactive exploring game for kids)
- Visit the Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station
- Have a drink, or have lunch or dinner at the Sky Bistro, Northern Lights Alpine Kitchen or the Peak Patio (reservations highly recommended in summer)
- Visit the Rooftop Observation Deck
- Watch sunrise or sunset at the summit
- Buy souvenirs
- Attend a summit event (depending on the time of the year)
You can find a thorough description of all these activities in the post Adventure at Sulphur Mountain Summit: Activities Galore!
How Long Do You Spend at the Top?
On average, most visitors spend 1-2 hours at the top of the Gondola. It obviously depends on individual preferences and plans.
If you want to eat lunch or dinner at the Sky Bistro, you may spend several hours there. However, if all you want to do is take some gorgeous pictures, you might be done in less than 40 minutes.
Is There Hiking at the Top?
Yes, there is. At the summit, the Sanson Peak boardwalk leads to several observation decks. They allow you to enjoy different views from several locations.
Additionally, there are two trails to descend the mountain. See the paragraph below for more information.
Can I Hike to the Summit?
You sure can. Two trails lead to the top of Sulphur Mountain. The most well-known is the Sulphur Mountain Trail. It’s a 10.1 kilometers out and back route, including many switchbacks, and has an elevation gain of 759 meters (2,490 ft). It takes about 4.5 hours to complete and starts at the Banff Gondola and Hot Springs parking lot. It’s a year-round hike.
The other one is the challenging Sulphur Mountain Westside Trail. This 16.6 kilometers (10.3 mi) out-and-back trail goes through the beautiful Sundance Canyon beyond the Cave and Basin site. The trail has an elevation gain of 988 meters (3,241 ft) and takes about 6.5 hours to complete.
The best times to visit Sulphur Mountain Westside are May through October, though the bottom part of the trail is good for snowshoeing.
How Long Does the Hike Down Take?
Depending on your pace, it takes up to 2 hours to hike down the 5-kilometer (3.11 mi) trail to the Banff Gondola parking lot. It’s a wide trail for the most part, and in summer, it’s usually very busy.
History of the Banff Gondola
Want to know where to stay in Banff? Read the ultimate overview to hotels in Banff.
One thought on “Reach New Heights With the Banff Gondola: a Complete Guide (2023)”
Parkeren met een camper ,?
In de maand Mei 2023
Is dat mogelijk bij de ..Gondola….